Thursday, November 29, 2012

Personal Wailing Wall

            The ring of the phone startled me.  I glanced at the caller ID and quickly lifted the receiver. “Hi Dad, what’s happening?”
            “Suzi, the hospital here in the Keys is unable to do anything more for your mother.” I could sense the helplessness in his voice. “They are ordering an ambulance to transport her to Mount Sinai Medical Center on Miami Beach tomorrow.”
            “I’ll pack today and leave for Miami first thing,” I said. “I’m bringing the kids with me, OK?”
            “I’ve arranged for you to stay with your cousins. They have plenty of room for all of us, so I’m sure it’s fine for you to bring the kids. But I’ll let them know.”
            I didn’t have the heart to tell my father why I would bring the children. My husband and I prepared for the worst. We had decided that I would drive the three children from Atlanta to Miami. He would stay home to work and fly down when I needed him.
            The kids and I finally reached Miami. Soon after settling the children in, my father and I headed for the hospital. At Mount Sinai Medical Center, we located my mother’s wing. As the automatic door whooshed open, a blast of antiseptic air met us head on. Walking towards the elevator, my desperate heart led me to look for the chapel. True to hospital pattern, a plaque on the doorframe to my left indentified the Surgical Waiting Room, and another door on the right, Chapel.
            “Hold on a second Dad,” I said. “I want to take a quick look in here.”
            My gaze drew straight ahead to the far wall, where coral rocks covered it like a fireplace surround, but without the hearth. Against the mottled beige rocks, words made of brass stood out, first in Hebrew, then in English—Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
            Many worried hearts had been there before me. Prayers written on pieces of paper and folded neatly were stuffed into the crannies of the rocks, making it a miniature Wailing Wall.
           While watching my mom experience what I consider torturous medical procedures and grave illness, I kept the picture of the personal Wailing Wall in my heart and mind. I reached depths of anguish, sorrow and heartache over and over, whether standing in front of that real mini Wailing Wall or the one I built in my mind.
           At my mother’s bedside, I saw she was so ill she could barely communicate with us. I watched my dad wring his hands. My own frustration rose.
           Dealing with my mother’s illnesses and surgeries had become a way of life for my family. I can’t count how many times she had been in the hospital. When I finally made a written list of her surgeries, because this is something hospitals and doctors want to know for their paperwork, the total came to 27.
            This visit entailed an intestinal blockage. A gall-stone the size of a Grade A extra large hen egg had made its way out of the gall bladder and into her intestines. The surgery was so rare the doctor told us he had it videotaped to be used for teaching surgeons. Nothing, however, could be considered rare with my mom. If something could go wrong or weird, it did. And this happened over and over again. I never understood why.
            At times, I compared my mom to the Biblical character Job. Job never found out why so many bad things happened to him, but in the end he learned that God can do all things and that he never wanted to be the one to obscure God’s counsel without knowledge. I learned to accept her life of constant medical challenges and God’s amazing, right on time gift of peace through each trial.
            Like Job, in the process I learned a lot of amazing things about God. Through standing by and watching my Job-like mother, God polished my character. He has convinced me that he will never leave me and I’m forever thankful he continually supports me and comforts me when I need it most. When I stand in front of my personal Wailing Wall and cry out of the depths to the Lord God of the universe, he hears and delivers his comfort and peace that passes understanding again and again.
            Because of the long distance to the Miami hospital from my parent’s retirement home in the Florida Keys, my parents decided it may be best to move to Georgia to be near my sister and me. We live northwest of Atlanta within miles of each other. Soon after this gall stone incident, the house across the street from me went up for sale. My parents really liked it and ended up buying it.
            After the move, Mom had a lengthy reprieve, not from doctors, but from hospitals. She stayed home from the hospital for almost two years. When she was up to it, her favorite thing to do was to attend church and Bible studies. My mom possessed quiet wisdom. When she did finally speak up, people would stop and listen. I’ll never forget the day in Sunday School when we were studying women of the Bible. That day we studied Esther, who at the risk of losing her own life, requested to speak to the king on behalf of her people. As we attempted to apply Esther’s bravery to our daily challenges, our class buzzed with conversation. My mom contributed with a saying we use to this day. She said, “You know, if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.” We all burst into a roar of laughter.  
            But when the day came she did have to go to the hospital for heart failure, we almost couldn’t get her to go. The medical personnel said she required what they call a “tune-up,” to remove excess fluids her weak heart could not get out of her body.
            The next two years were different—many more visits to waiting rooms, examination rooms, and hospital beds. I don’t know how I would have handled that time if my mother and father had remained in the Keys. During her last visit, one of her doctors pulled me aside and said my sweet precious Momma was in the last stages of heart failure. He didn’t give me a time frame, but in my heart I knew it would be soon. I tried to talk to my father about it, but he just would not accept the fact that she would be going home to heaven soon.
            I could sympathize with my Father, because even though I had prepared myself so many times, nothing prepares you for the actual event.
              Our last Christmas together, I got really sick. I had a case of kidney stones that sent me to the hospital twice. And afterwards I remained in pain. Come to find out, I needed a hysterectomy. The surgery went well, but during recovery I started feeling distraught and helpless. What could I do to help my mom? Without being able to lift anything, there wasn’t much I could do to take care of her. As she worsened, my dad became exhausted trying to do everything for her. As soon as I could, I walked over and just sat with her, trying to love on her as much as possible.
            Exactly three weeks after my surgery, my mother collapsed in a heap at the base of the stairs. We had tried to get her to a doctor’s appointment that day. I rode in the ambulance with her and went into this weird auto-pilot mode mixed with a little adrenaline. I don’t remember much pain and to my amazement I had energy to stay up all day and walk up and down hospital corridors, meeting every visitor and grandchild, to escort them to the emergency room bed two at a time. I took my Dad home that night, never to see my mother coherent again. Early the next morning I realized by my mom’s dire condition and the nurses quietly monitoring her, whispering to each other, that they had kept her alive with IV meds to give us the consideration of being able to say goodbye.
            Back to the Wailing Wall I went. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.” God used the tears to heal my heart. It felt strange to feel relief. My mother didn’t have to be poked or prodded ever again. I mourned the loss of my mom, but God comforted me and still does. I put my selfishness aside, because deep down I knew that I really didn’t want her to stay here any longer. It would just cause her more pain. I would have to wait to see her again in glory and oh, what a glorious day that will be.  
           Even though my mom lives perfectly healed and happy, I can’t help but miss her. Sometimes I catch myself reaching for the phone to call and chat. Through it all, I have discovered the cleansing power of tears. They wash away the hurt and pain. Visits to my personal Wailing Wall won’t ever stop. While praying, God’s children hold the key to survival in this broken world. They also receive his indescribable gifts, one of which is his sweet, soothing consolation.
My beautiful momma

Monday, July 16, 2012

Learning to Pray

“Lord, teach us to pray."
Luke 11:1 NIV

             Even though some of us can recite the Lord’s Prayer, do we follow its plan or pray the usual way? “Oh Lord bless me, my family, my church, my city, my country.” Some place in the farthest fringe of the world may get a mention in our prayers if we see or hear something crucial in the news, but for the most part, our problems and needs come first.
             Our Master teaches us to pray in the opposite order. He asks us to pray for his kingdom first, which is full of complete strangers, and then for our personal needs. Only after our prayers have crossed every far-flung continent, touched every last unreached race, after it has covered the desire and purpose God has for the entire world, are we then taught to ask for a piece of bread.
             Praying backwards as Jesus taught puts things into perspective. Maybe, when we understand that Christ’s business is the supreme concern of life and that all personal considerations are second, only then do our lives have meaning and hold the power that comes from praying, “Father, hallowed be your name . . .”
Link2Life: Pray for a stranger today.
Prayer: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. Amen.
Prayer focus: Those who are without Christ in the world.
Photo courtesy of christian



Thursday, June 7, 2012

Does God Still Speak to the Listening Heart?

            I recently heard someone say, “God does not speak to people.” What are we to do with the promise in the Bible that has guided my life for the last 25 years? God spoke to my heart through his word in Isaiah 55:3: “Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” Through this verse God revolutionized my entire life. Have you heard it before? Do you believe it?
Over the years of walking with Jesus, I have discovered countless promises that prove God still speaks to the listening heart, for instance Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT). “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.”

And then of course there are the words of our precious Lord and Savior in John 10:14-15; 27-28 (NIV). “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”

Yes, God’s voice may not be audible, but we can hear Him. Conversations with Him parallel talking with people; just like with friends and loved ones, to hear God’s voice takes time and investment. Only when both sides communicate and truly listen to each other, do real, lasting relationships grow. Are you and I making the investments and taking the time to listen to Him?

You may have heard the Bible described as God’s love letter written to us, His bride. Like a soldier at war who sends love-letters home to his sweetheart. How sad it would be if she left his letters on the shelf unopened. Does God still speak to the listening heart? You better believe He does! Open His letter and your life will never be the same.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Breaking Down Walls With the Power of Seven

          After God broke down the walls between Israel’s spies and Rahab the prostitute, he gave some unusual instructions to their leader, Joshua. In this familiar story, the Lord told Joshua to have the army, with the ark of God and seven priests with seven trumpets in the lead, march around the city once a day for six days. On day seven they had to march around the city seven times and blow their trumpets. After a long trumpet blast, Joshua commanded them to shout. The impenetrable city surrounded by 12-foot-deep walls collapsed, every man charged straight in. The Israelites conquered the city.
If you have ever felt like hearing from God is as difficult as breaking through a thick wall, please know there is a simple way to study that will demolish barriers. Using the Listening Heart's seven question method below clears the way for you to charge in and take all of the wisdom, encouragement, guidance, instruction and much, much more from the powerful word of God. You can conquer your own promise land by listening to God’s magnificent voice through his word.
            First, grab your Bible, pen, and paper and choose a passage of Scripture to study then ask and answer these seven questions:
1. What is the passage about? Make a list of facts. If it helps, write what you have read in your own words (even re-writing Scripture brings enlightenment). You can also circle, underline, or highlight text as you go. Take note of repeated phrases.
2. What do I learn from the passage? Many possibilities lie ahead for you on this one. To narrow it down, if you had to write a main truth or principle about the passage, what would it be? Besides the principle(s), is there an example to follow or not to follow?
3. How can I apply what I have learned to my life? Try to think of a current situation in your personal, home, church, or business life which is similar to what you have read. After you have thought this through, ask God to give you a way to apply it to your life. Then do it.
4. What are the warnings to heed or commands to obey? This question causes a search for two things: 1. Warnings from God to save us from harm. 2. Simple instructions to follow to stay in his will.
5. What are the promises to hold on to? Thousands of trustworthy promises fill God’s word. The answer to this question is easy to find.
6. How could I use this passage to praise God? Look for the names, attributes, and character of God as you study. Pray them back to God and praise him for who he is.
7. How could I use this passage in prayer? Can I own these verses by placing my name anywhere in this passage?  Can I place I, my, and me where the Bible has our? Write your own prayer using the passage.
            The more you practice this approach to Scripture, the more you will hear from the Lord, and gain confidence in your listening skills. May God break down walls in your life and open the way to adventure as you seek his will and grow closer to him.

photo courtesy of

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Five Ways to Say "Yes" to God's Call

A little bit like riding on a train with invisible tracks, following God’s call can be a challenge, but there are uncomplicated ways to succeed. Here are a few ideas to keep you on track:
Airplane panels come equipped with an instrument called an artificial horizon indicator. Although human senses may become confused in the murky thickness of a cloud bank, the horizon indicator is never fooled. Following its guidance, pilots are able to keep their planes safe and positioned exactly as they should be. Trying to run our own lives is like trying to fly a plane through a cloud bank without a horizon indicator. One tangible way to keep your eye on the instrument panel is to set apart time to study God’s word.
In Moses’ time, the Lord commanded the tabernacle, the place which symbolized the presence of God, to be erected at the center of Israel’s camp. To follow this idea in our high-tech world, choosing to fast can aid our focus on God. How about taking a break from the media or even from an element of it, like Facebook, for example? While fasting, choose a different attribute of God each day to ponder. This will keep Him at the center of our thoughts and actions.
We respond to God’s commands by obeying the best way we know how, but we can also ignore God’s word by not allowing it to move us into action. For the most part this disregard is unintentional. Without a course of action it just happens. Most people know that goals not written down usually don’t come to pass. Incorporate a plan by writing down some reasonable short-term and long-term goals and start pursuing them today.
One night when Robert Louis Stevenson was young, his nanny called him to bed. Oblivious to her summons, he stood staring at something outside his nursery window. The nanny asked, "Robert, what are you looking at?" He pointed to the lamplighter setting the streetlamps ablaze, "Look, Nanny! That man is putting holes in the darkness!" One way to illuminate our surroundings happens when we encounter people who are hurting or struggling, even if they are strangers, by asking, “How can I pray for you today?” What a difference this simple gesture will make.
Do you think Jesus calls us to servant-hood only because other people need our service? My experience has been more than need. He calls us to help others because of what happens to us when we serve. How about choosing a worthy cause to help out every month or quarter? Performing random acts of kindness can be lots of fun, too.

Saying “Yes” to God means we exercise our faith muscle every day. Ramona C. Carroll sums it up best when she said, “Faith is putting all your eggs in God’s basket, then counting your blessings before they hatch.” Say “Yes” and live blessed.

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

I wrote a devotional that goes a long with my resolution to pray for strangers and perform random acts of kindness.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people,
holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Colossian 3:12

I once read a story about an elderly gentleman who carried a can of oil everywhere he went. If he passed through a squeaking door, he poured his oil on the hinges. If a gate’s latch was difficult to open, he oiled it. People called him weird and eccentric, but he pressed on. He refilled his can when it became empty and oiled the rusty and creaky places he found.

Many people around us creak and groan harshly as they face difficulties. Nothing goes right for them. They desperately need healing oil applied to their hurts and troubles.

On the road called life people constantly come and go; some we only encounter once. God help us to be as diligent as the eccentric old man. When we see rough or rusty spots, let’s apply the oil of thoughtfulness. And when our oil runs out, may time spent in prayer refill us to do it again.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, Fill us with your lubricating oil. Open our eyes to the hard places in the lives of those around us so we can apply some kindness, gentleness, and compassion. Use your oil to diminish the jagged edges of many a sin-hardened life, leaving them soft, pliable, and ready to receive your redeeming grace. Amen.

Going deeper: Pray for those who have rusty, hard to open hearts and choose a random act of kindness to perform today.

photo courtesy of

Monday, January 2, 2012

About Resolutions

Not sure why, but I don't make regular New Year resolutions. But for a long time now, I have chosen one Bible verse to pray each new year (all year long) as a spiritual goal. For instance, in 2011 I prayed 2 Corinthians 5:7; that I would walk by faith, not by sight. When I chose that verse I was reading an excellent book over Christmas break, "Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows" by Ravi Zacharias. At the end of the book Ravi shares a beautiful prayer by the missionary explorer, David Livingstone. I took this prayer as my own and added it to my verse for 2011: Lord, send my anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on my, only sustain me. Sever any ties but the ties that bind me to your service and to your heart. The adventures and healing that occurred as a result of this prayer resolution inspire my writing daily, but much more than that, they have caused my faith to grow exponentially. I can truly say I'm walking by faith and not by sight like never before.

As God would have it, I read another great book over Christmas break, "Praying for Strangers" by River Jordan. She tells her amazing personal journey of uncovering the needs of the human heart as she made a resolution to pray for people she had never met before. As I read her stories, I realized how often I pray for strangers, but the big difference is that I rarely share this information with those strangers like River Jordan did. What a difference it makes! As a result, I have chosen to pray for strangers (and share that information with them) in 2012 and to purposefully perform random acts of kindness as I'm led. The theme verse I chose to go along with this is Matthew 25:40: Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

I can't wait to see what God will do in 2012 with this spiritual resolution. If you do something like this, please share your ideas with me. I would love to hear from you. And if you haven't tried this yet, won't you join the adventure and choose your own verse as a resolution for 2012 today? Happy New Year!!