Congratulations! We Survived!

Nope, just kidding! Fooled you.

We survived the Mayans' prediction of the end of the world! If you can't read this, I'm wrong.

"Nope, just kidding. Fooled you," said the Mayan priest as he smoked his wacky weed in his pipe. "I just ran out of stone to carve a new calendar. It's not like I can run out to my local market and get some."
Mayan priest smoking

Of course there have been tons of predictions as to where life as we know it will end. All of them have been proved wrong when the next day happens. Isn't that the way false prophets work? They get followers to believe that life as you know it will happen at a certain date and time, but the fact is NOBODY truly knows. This is gospel. It's in the Word. Why should you listen to false prophets? God is perfectly able to speak to you directly with Christ as the liaison, and the Holy Spirit as the real interpreter.

The Bible
Even the bible talks about the end of times, but doesn't give a specific time reference. There will be "signs." The problem with signs is that many things can be misinterpreted as signs. For generations, this calamity or that has been read as signs that the end is nigh. But in reality they were, albeit frightening, were just events that meant nothing. When the true end-is-nigh is about to occur, God will have to put it in bold, neon lights in the sky before I'll believe man's predictions.

Y2K was going to change the world as we know it. But some savvy computer programmer, <cough> like me, figured out that changing two lines of code would save computing as we know it. Financial institutions, the stock markets, and businesses all operated as normal on 1/1/00. For those that couldn't afford services like mine, they simply set their computer's internal clocks back ten or twenty years. Many cults staged mass suicides, and made pacts. But the fact is, Y2K changed virtually nothing. It came and went by.

I've got a secret
NASA assured us, in the face of the financial cliff in our economy, that no asteroid or other planet was going to hit us. There were no warning signs that the Earth was going to up end on its axis. With the technology today, surely someone would have leaked a story somehow. All the conspiracy theorists in the world projecting the end is just that theories. Even my dog can have theories of what is going to happen, and I'd trust my dog better than any stranger. That's not saying much because she will jump in the bathtub at the first rumble of thunder.

Now will bad things continue to happen? Most definitely. Someone with a gun or a knife will continue to kill innocent babies. People will still lie, cheat, and steal. The economy will be shaky, and then rise. People will become homeless, starve to death, and put through the wringer of life. Because that's what it is... life. Be thankful for this life no matter what it brings. Not everything will be sunshine, lollipops, and roses. Just like everything will not be storm clouds, rainy days, and weeds.

All I know for sure is when my Master calls I'm going home. Have a safe and joyous holiday season. See you again next year.

Retrospective and Thankful.

Since my stroke in May, I've had plenty of time to think and read other stroke survivor's blogs. I ran across THIS this week and thought I would share it with you all. It's all about what some has learned in retrospective and rarely as a person do we take time to think about it. This is wisdom born of suffering.

As a pastor, I often look at things in life retrospectively. This month being the anniversary of the birth of our Lord and Savior is a time to be thankful for the life after He assures us. Many of us are rushing around buying gifts that will be broken, used up, gathering dust,  and forgotten in the months to come, that we often forget to slow down and think how important this ultimate gift is. All the blessings we have received throughout the year that we have received.

How many of us would have carried on when we have nothing in life to look forward to than suffering, pain, persecution, and death? Christ did. If we don't value the lessons in life that He taught us along the way, isn't that another way of adding insult to injury, and a wasted life? Would you want to be the one that told Christ that He wasted His life for your salvation for a life ever after?

Not me. I won't live in fear of a wasted life. Everyday counts and even every minute counts or accounts for something. Make your life worth something. During this busy holiday season whether it's Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ashura, or Christmas, take the time to look at the lessons you've learned and be thankful.

November= Thankfulness

This is November and it almost marks six month since my stroke. It's time to be thankful for the blessings the Lord has given us. Not that everyday, you shouldn't be thankful.

Thanksgiving always reminds people of their Heavenly Father and giving thanks. I don't know about you, but once a year is not enough.

So today I'm thankful, and almost regretful that I'm still on this earth. My stroke could have killed me, but I'm still here. Damaged, but grateful because I'm still able to function in some form of ministry. Challenged, but grateful because everyday things are not my previous normal self. Paralyzed on one side, but grateful because I can still do most things within limits. Mostly, I'm grateful that I can show others by example that there can be life after a stroke even God's love and mercy.

Giving praise and glory to the Lord pleases Him. That's all being thankful really is. Although I am writing this near Thanksgiving, I suggest you plan on being thankful everyday not just one day out of a year. It magnifies His blessings.

I always speak of blessings. Otherwise the antonym is a curse. Abundant blessings have enriched my life and it should enrich yours. Have you ever been with someone who is always negative? Do you want to be? Probably not.After a very short while you start to get depressed. But speak of draw a crowd. Some will feel fortunate to be around you. They will see the blessings they may not have seen before. Yes, living a blessings filled life is not easy, but it's a choice.

So what has God done for you lately? Open you mind and your heart.

All Hallows Eve~Cussing and Leading by Example

Halloween is fast approaching. Whether you believe in spirits that walk the Earth, witches, zombies, mummies, or a one of a thousand things that go bump in the night. It's All Hallows Eve. It's a harvest festival that denotes the end of summer. Whether it's remembrances of souls past or trick or treating, it's the thought that counts.

Last year it was my honor to officiate a zombie wedding. Yes, a Christian ceremony with contemporary wording of love, commitment, and faith. It seems hard to believe, but it was truly a joining of two souls in a extra special way.

When you harvest souls for Christ it's a 24/7 job throughout the years. Leading by example is my favorite way of bringing a soul into the Kingdom. It brings to mind two of my favorite sermons. One on cussing and the other leading by example. Don't start dozing they are abbreviated.

While I still have not officially returned to my ministerial duties, I lead by example in everyday living. I'm far from perfect. I swear although I do not use God's name in vain. My previous pastor of my church constantly said, "Lord, give me strength!" While not necessarily a was the way it it said that mattered. He always used this phrase when aggravated which made it sound like a cuss statement. Even made up phrases like my favorite "razzle frazzle" is cussing.

The Good Book says to be cautious what comes out of your mouth. Remember in the movie "Star Wars" and the Ewoks. Although it sounded like a made up language, it was similar to an African dialect. Everything that comes out of your mouth even if it gibberish can be cussing. Think about it. Anything can be a cuss word or phrase. It it depends on how it is used and what it means to you inside. God only cares about you beneath the skin.

When I was leaving therapy one day last week, I saw a woman point to me and tell her friend I was her inspiration. I stopped and asked her why. She explained how she had been watching me during therapy and my strength in attempting every task they (the therapists) gave me. She went on further to say that I had a smile on my face while doing it.

Now I might not always be smiling but I am willing to learn what will help me heal and will try anything. Believe me after riding a stationary bike up and down hills for 30 minutes, the only thing I'm smiling about is getting off that blasted bike! Yes, that was a cuss!

I need to explain about this woman. She is about ten years older than I am and only has one leg. I look at her and am thankful that I only had a stroke and did not lose my leg below the knee. There by the grace of God, go I, I thought when I first saw them fit her with her prostheses. I later told her I was a minister who believes in leading by example. The glory goes to God so don't look to me for inspiration, but draw from the abundant love of the Father.

It's all about perception. Like I said about my experience in the rehab hospital, I'm a cheerleader in a five-foot, 165 lb body. No, not the cartwheel, splits, and pyramid building kind, but the praise and encouragement kind. I may or may not have walked a mile in their shoes, but I can cheer at the little accomplishment in a big way. After a few weeks in therapy, I heard others encouraging others along with me. One man serenaded us with praises in hymns. I saw people giving other virtually strangers before, talking and encouraging each other. They were spreading the love of Christ. Instead of being down trodden...they were uplifted. A renewed energy filled the therapy room then after. This is the love passed on to others. It's leading by example and it's contagious. Pass it on.

Have you shared the love of Christ today?

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I do not have many followers on this site. That's a fact,but you might have noticed that I have not posted in a long time. Some of you may know I also write a blog about writing and the writing life over at jomurphey dot blogspot dot com too. Yes, I wear many hats in this life. Original intentions for this blog was once a month. It was to be an uplifting place full of fun, faith, and life fulfilling.

That was my intention and you know what they say about good intentions. Well, it's true. Some devastating things have occurred in my personal life.

My husband's health took a turn for the worst.  When your spouse is diagnosed as terminal, every day life takes on a whole new meaning. Each day is precious because someone official says there is no hope, no chance of survival, and the only treatment left is comfort. Some times they even put a time frame based on THEIR knowledge. For my husband that date was eight years ago. Do not be concerned with man's time. It's God's time. Let me tell you that there is a big difference in the concept of time between the two. We just coast through and enjoy each other with whatever moments we have. We share each day whether it's talking about concerns we have, politics, jokes, family, but mostly faith. It is our personal assurance that God holds the reins in our lives. 

You know what Murphy's Law says...whatever can go wrong-will. I had a stroke which left me paralyzed on my dominant right side. I am currently in out patient therapy a couple days a week. It was the suddenness that shocked me. It wasn't an instant now you have it; now you don't. But a gradual loss over hours and days as brain cells starved and died which led me to where I am. But still a loss is a loss with numerous adjustments. Life is about adaptation and faith can  AND will carry you through.

I searched my soul for a reason God gave me this trial. Not all bad things are from Satan. I know that Satan may have had a hand in it but the Glory and the learning experience credit goes to God. What had I not learned in all the trials in my life...patience. I have always got the job done. Whether it was being a single mom of four, having two disabled children, taking care of passing loved ones and the families, and whatever. Faith and love I had in abundance, and still do. I see it in my grandchildren eyes or when my husband opens his eyes, realizes it's me sitting beside him, and he smiles through his pain.

I had to have my children go through my appointment book and cancel every single wedding and counseling session, classes, and book signings for the rest of the year. You see, I also lost my ability to speak and swallow. Mentally I can't spell without a spell checker working which I despise, grammar is history except for the basics, math is a thing for calculators, and when asked by a therapist (who also got some of my speech back) the opening lines of my favorite wedding...I couldn't remember although I used it over a thousand times.

In God's work, I do not go door to door or even have my own church. The Lord has a way of putting people in my path who have a need or  many. I never know in advance, they just appear before me so I'm constantly looking. My stroke was no exception. Just like a business plan there are short and long term goals. God's work is the same, and don't ever doubt it. I knew in purpose for my stroke was learning patience that was a long term goal because recovering can take years. As stubborn as I am, it might take me that long to learn it. It was the short term goal I couldn't see until four days before my release from the intensive rehab program.

During rehab session, think five hours a day of hard work, there were others who had joint replacements, accidents, strokes and all manner of problems trying to learn to do something they couldn't up until a few days or weeks me. I became the head cheerleader coaxing others to work harder, stretch further, give it their all so they could go home. You see God had already given me the previous knowledge of  what they were going through and how hard it was. I had them realize their own accomplishments. Made them acknowledge therapy was working so they could go home. I was spreading the love of the Lord to all. Sharing faith and encouragement thereby increasing my own.

Four days before I was released to go home, the patient care tech put a man at my breakfast table. Like me he'd had a stroke. Unlike me, this was his second having fully recovered from his first one years earlier. The second stroke did considerable more damage. He was unable to talk and was now wheelchair bound with no movement on one side. He was spared his dominant side unlike me. He changed the channel on the remote to a Christian station and was bobbing his head to the words spoken. This was my short term mission. Breakfast was brought in. The aide opened everything for him and I watched while they fed him the dreaded puree diet. He could nod his head yes and no but wouldn't even try to talk. In the middle of breakfast he broke down in tears. He took the towel they were using as a bib to wipe his face.

I waved the aide off with look and began talking to him. It was to be his first day of therapy. I told him it was okay to cry because he thought of himself less than a man and useless. There are times for tears, grief, and even self pity, but to limit the time to less than fifteen minutes an episode. It was time to work to get his life back and that's why he was here. He nodded and was rolled down to the therapy session. I reminded him every time I saw him break down by simply touching his arm in a gentle pat.

I had told him I was worse than him when I was admitted, but look at me now. I had learned how to swallow, mostly stopped drooling, was in underwear, I could walk with a walker but the wheelchair was quicker, But I still had  no use of my arm. I demonstrated this by picking it up with my unaffected side and dropping it on the table. While weakened he had use of two fingers and his wrist, and shoulder on his affected side. I told him that I had much farther to go than him. He gave me a lopsided smile, his first. since the stroke.

By the second day after his arrival, he was more confident. I met his wife and family, and some of his friends and pastor. They already knew I was one and the nurses had told them that I was working with him. From personal experience with my own husband, I knew the male ego is a fragile thing. I would ask what he did in therapy and he would motion, by the motions I could tell what he was doing because I had been there and done the very same thing. He would nod when I guessed right. Two things happened that were significant that morning. 1) one he made three guttural sounds for words, and 2) he tried to feed himself. These were milestones. I praised him profusely for his efforts. When the aide tried to feed him I shook my head no at her. "Let him try."  It was a messy process but I watched as he mixed his sausage into his grits, picked up the open packets of salt and pepper and pour them in clumps on his food. It was just the way he ate it at home according to his wife. He had some problems with opening his yogurt and I showed him how I did it. I picked up my spoon and punched the top allowing a bigger area the pull. It was a major accomplishment day for him. The aide sat back and watched in awe. For over a week they had been feeding this man.

By the third day, the tears had almost ceased. The confidence and pride shone in his eyes. He was actively fighting to get his life back. He also told me  his name. I already knew because I asked the nurse, but I truly hate calling people by their last name. It's respectful, but unfriendly. He was walking and eating. He was more actively engaging in things going on around him. I told to always remember...fear and faith cannot live in the same body. To not give up because like any good parent, God did not want second best for HIS children. These were the words I received in my morning prayers about him...or I thought it was about him, but they also applied to me.

The next day was my discharge day. The man had a therapy session before me. I had missed our morning meeting because of my final assisted shower. I rolled into rehab and our eyes met. "Good Morning," he said to me. I couldn't have been prouder if he had been one of my own kids. Like so many I minister to that the Lord puts in my path, I was discharged and went home never to hear any more about him. Gone, but not forgotten. My life is truly blessed and enriched by these occurrences. God knows how to use me best.

It has taken me an hour to type this blog, but I think it is worth it. I have made many friends over the years who have offered assistance. The one thing I ask for is prayers. I have the willpower and faith to recover even if it's not totally. I am after all a realist. Miracles happen every day and I believe in prayer. I have never prayed for myself in all the decades of faith, but have continually prayed for others. Why, you ask. Because God sees what I need and supplies it. It's guaranteed.

Hellish Weekend

Okay so it wasn't totally hell, but most trying. As some of you know, I'm a minister. I do quite a few wedding during the week as a job, not to mention filling in for sick or vacationing pastors, and other pastoral duties. This week and weekend was no exception. I performed ten weddings this week, eighteen hospital visitation, and services on Sunday morning in a town about 45 minutes away from home. Nothing really out of the ordinary, except for a few hitches. It was the hitches that made things go from bad to worse.

I usually confirm with my couples a couple of days before their wedding to location, time, and place. No big issues or surprises. I performed three weddings on Saturday and after a very long day I arrived at the scene for my last wedding, sunset at the lighthouse. Nothing unusual about the setting or the time. I'll go anywhere the bride and groom want. The problem was their cell phones were set to voice mail and after waiting for over an hour, they still had not showed. No explanation or anything. Now, it's Monday and still nothing. It was a waste  of my time...well not a total waste, I did get to enjoy the beach breezes.

Sunday was my first wedding at the five star resort in my county. I was excited and nervous. Yeah, I wasn't the one getting married but I was nervous. I was called thirty minutes, as I was heading out the door, before the wedding and was told that the venue had changed because of the weather. Now, I personalize the service I write for each wedding for each couple. I was scrambling to make the changes in my text.

I arrived and the valet parked my car. That's also getting lost along the way because it had been so long since I'd been over to this little island. I was met by the wedding planner for the resort. While outwardly friendly, she was very controlling which I guess was ideal for a wedding planner. It was something I did not expect at the eleventh hour. Another thing I wasn't told about was a planned sequence of service and music. Usually, when special music is involved I do hold a rehearsal so everyone can be on the same page...this was fifteen minutes before the service.  No time for anything and definitely not enough time for surprises like this. Everyone was in formal attire besides me, the minister, which made me feel even more out of place.

I do my very best to cater to my bride and groom. To let the bride have the wedding of their dreams, but really...a heads up would have been nice.

Minister Needing a Minister

This Sunday I read in the Georgia Times Union about ministers getting burned out. It's true. Many do not realize that ministry is a 24/7/365 endeavor and it lasts for decades. All hours of the day and night, the phone can ring and you'll be off to this or that place to comfort, assist, or support someone. A bride will change locations for her wedding a few days before the event or change the entire ceremony. You may have only gotten two hours of sleep in the past twenty-four hours, but it does not matter you are on call constantly. Even vacations or days off can be circumvented by someone in need. It is a selfless calling, but you, as a minister, do it without hesitation.

So how does a minister avoid burn-out? Good question. Yes, the ministry is a calling. Yes, you expect God to give you the strength to do it all, but what happens when the Spirit is willing and the body is weak?

I've spoken at length with my own minister about this very thing. Yes, even though I am a pastor, I have a pastor. This helps beyond belief. Yes, we are expected to take our problems straight to the man upstairs in prayer. Yes, I do do this, but still it is a comfort to have another human listening for that instant feedback. Sometimes Our Heavenly Father doesn't answer immediately. I am after all, human and have needs. Two true believers are better than one.

I firmly believe in the promises God made to me and reinforced by His Son. He promised a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my stomach...but there is so much more to stumble through this life besides those very basic necessities. While I have been enveloped by the Spirit during really stress-filled times like a death of a loved one, comforted beyond my wildest expectations in most's the cracks that get me.  All those gray areas which all not the food, house, and clothes issues.

All things work to the greater good. I can accept that. I have faith enough to move mountains, but there is a human physical frailty of which I speak. What happens when a minister has health issues? What happens when a minister has family issues? Depend on the Heavenly Father to remove these issues. Stand on the Rock of His promise to love and care for you just as your Earthly father did.

So what helps you?

December's Blessings

Imagine white Christmas lights and evergreens swagged around a round enclosed gazebo, a small table with candles, wine and the customary wine glass, an older bride and groom and you have my Christmas wedding. The couple flew in from Rhode Island to Jekyll Island and wanted to get married.

They had a hard time finding a minister who would marry them on Christmas Day. For me with a house full of family, I didn't give it a second thought, yes I would officiate. Love knows no holidays or boundaries. For a minister Christmas is no exception. There are no days off. This was a special service the nuptial couple and I came up with to encompass both of their faiths, Jewish and Christian. It had elements of both faiths in the whole service.

I performed ten weddings during the month of December. Not a landmark number, but with family, gift buying and the host of other things which go on during the was enough.

I married three military couples who either flew in from distance lands (Japan, Italy, Iraq) or were leaving soon to do their duty to keep our country secure. I can appreciate each of them and feel honored to support these unions. Imagine getting married one day and flying off the next for several months of separation. This takes commitment and a solidly based love. These people are my heroes. They are the no-so-white knights who protect my freedom and keep me safe.

Love one another and treat each other as you would want to be treated.