My Three Hamsters

When one of my grandsons turned nine, he longed to have a pet but his parents are not all that pet friendly people.  After talking it over with them, we decided that a hamster would be a good first pet.  That led me to keeping the hamster until a transfer could be done for his birthday.  I fell in love with that hamster!

Since then, I have owned two hamsters of my own, and presently have one now.  First there was Hank.  I have many stories about Hank on this site.  Hank died a peaceful death.  I missed him, and decided to get another, Honey.  Honey was indeed a Honey of a hamster.  He was so “user friendly” but he fell into the hands of cancer and I helplessly stood by administering what I could in love and pain relief that the veterinarian prescribed.  About six weeks later, I just missed my little four ounces of life, and invested in Mr. Tipster.  I’ve had Tipster now for more than a year and he was already about four or five months old when I found him.  He is larger than my others hammies and he has a visible tail.

Recently I upgraded my computer to Windows 10 (that is a story all of its own) and my son-in-love introduced me to using my own photos for backgrounds on my desktop.  Gary started out an album for me and since then, I have tinkered with it and add pictures of both Hank and Honey.  The photos in slide show format  bring great pleasure!

These little bundles of energy are all hamsters with hamster personalities, but they are all different.  Hank was exceptionally tame.  Honey occasionally offered to bite me.  Mr. Tipster is exceptionally alert and loves to eat out of my hand.  They are all the same; yet they are different.  Just like all of God’s creation.  All of us pet lovers know that.

We are all the same; yet we are different.  Each of us has our very own DNA.  God does not love any individual differently.  After all, we all started from Adam and Eve!  Skin color, hair type, short, tall, medium, thin, chubby, blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes—all part of God’s unique design for us.  I am God’s workmanship so I should not complain about my lot in life.  Ephesians 2:10 lays out that fact of our individuality so well: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  I am designed to carry out the work of God.  You are too.  The Lord never intended for us to walk away from Him but He did give us that choice.  If you have never come to Christ, today is a good starting place.  Bow your head and heart to Him because He has some amazing plans for you. My hamsters would not get along without me.  Neither can I get along without God.  Neither can you.

Naughty or Nice

Naughty or Nice

In 2012 Mitt Romney ran a clean campaign. He was a “Mister Nice Guy” and it was so difficult for the press and the opposition to find any slime about him.  So what happened?  Too many voters stayed home and refused to vote for a Mormon.  President Obama is not a nice guy yet, he won.  He won because people did not vote at all and to not vote is to vote for the opposition.

Now, in 2016, we have a naughty race.  Both candidates cannot boast of squeaky clean records.  Once again people are going to be tempted to stay at home rather than vote for the lesser of two evils.  That would be wrong too.  A word one candidate uses repeatedly is disaster.  Everything on his primary trail was a disaster!  Well, it could be a disaster if the conservative ticket were to lose the House or the Senate by voters who refused to vote.

I usually do not “talk politics” here on the Shepherd’s Presence because I feel it should be an uplifting place.  As I stray off the path today, I hope that my words of encouragement to vote will have an impact.  To my dismay, actually, my governor, Mike Pence, did our state no favor in stepping aside to run with the Trump/Pence ticket.  Now we are left with a mess and have to scurry around to build a last—minute ticket to fill his seat in the statehouse.  The candidate I would most like to see on the ballot will have to vacate a House seat, leaving us in a scramble to fill that seat.  It is not a good thing.  We are left with a Lt. Governor in the meantime.

Christians do need to vote.  We must not sit on our hands.  We must do our homework, vote for the best candidates, and leave the rest to God.  At best, our country is run by three branches of government designed to balance powers. Those offices are filled with frail men and women to make decisions on the behalf of all of us in the republic.  Elections are not about one or two candidates.

Remember the sentence we learned in typing class years ago?  “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.”  We have the right and responsibility to vote.  We have about four months to make our choices.  Stepping into the polling place, selecting our ballot, and pushing the big green “VOTE” button is very important.

Notice, I didn’t tell you for whom to vote.  As Senator Cruz stated last night, “vote your conscience.”  That’s good advice.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” Jesus says in John 10:27.  Yes, but to hear that voice, we must shut off the din or the crowds and live in the quiet strength of God’s Word.  Is that possible?  Of course!  Turn off the television and allow your mind to focus on the principles of God’s Word.  It will give you direction and focus.  Then, vote. We are not voting for a national pastor folks, we are voting for representation that will will insure freedom.

Tolerance and Terrorism

I dream.  As in, dream while I am sleeping.  Sometimes I dream when I am awake, but not much.  I have that in-between attitude of not a pessimist; not an optimist, rather a realist. Someone advised some months ago that the essential oil, lavender would induce a good night’s sleep.  One of the pitfalls of essential oil advice is that essential oils and body chemistry interacts. Since not all bodies are the same, the results are also different.  Lavender tends to give me nightmares.

Last Thursday I had injections of Avastin in each eye.  Yes. It hurts.  Does it help?  Yes. When I have those injections, I spend the afternoon with my eyes closed.  They rebound better and faster that way.  Last night I dreamed because I did not sleep well (naps do that to me).  I thought an itsy bitsy drop of lavender might help.  Nope.

Now, I have never lived in Chattanooga, TN but that is where my dream took me.  In my dream a terrorist was forcing cars to drive over the edge of Lookout Mountain.  They were plummeting to their deaths.  It was awful.  I rolled over, and over, and over, and switched pillows, and sat on the edge of the bed, but the cars kept going over the precipice.

Friday morning, I turned on the news to find out that in far away France, a terrorist was running over people.  How uncanny can that be! Terrorism must be on my mind.  In fact, I’d guess it is on the minds of hundreds, maybe thousands of minds.  In my dream it was as if I were fastened to the ground.  Unable to move, I could do nothing except observe.  And pray.

All those souls going into eternity.  I wondered if they had heard; I wondered if they had ever made an eternal decision on Christ.  I still wonder.

Each one, tell one.  It is a good motto.  The only way our country can change and change for the better is one at a time.  Christians must be tolerant because that is the last thing a terrorist is going to be.  While the terrorist is passionate about killing infidels, the tolerant Christian is compassionate, and there lies all the difference.  Jude is a very short book written by the half-brother of Jesus (at least that is what most theologians believe) and has but 25 verses.  Verse 22 shouts from the page: “And of some having compassion, making a difference.”  Each one, tell one.  One by one, let’s make a difference. Every day, day by day.  Never stopping.  Always loving. Ever compassionate.

The Norman Green Story

A friend gave me this story as just a small paragraph.  Since I wanted to know for sure that this ever happened, I looked further, and sure enough, there was a Norman Green, and he did put himself into self-imposed imprisonment.  Here is the story and what I take away from it.

Hide and Seek. It’s a simple game we have all played one time or another or many times in our lives.  Two can play, or several can play.  Variations of the game are Cops and Robbers, Kick the Can, and of course, family rules that make up personal family games.  The familiar, “Ready or not, here I come,” rings out and the hidden hold their breath as the seeker walks by unaware.  A sneeze is a dead giveaway!  My son used to play when I was unaware of his hiding then jump out of a hamper or closet to the delight of shocked screams.  It would have been terribly disappointing had we not gone in search of him once we found he was missing. That might be called self-imprisonment.

In 1974, in a small community in England, a man did just that.  An 86-year old woman had been murdered.  The police came to Norman Green’s home, arrested him as a suspect and took him to the local jail to question him.  For lack of evidence, Mr. Green was released.  Filled with fear of being falsely accused and put into prison, Green fled because when he arrived home, he spotted a police car near his home.  He shivered in the cold and rain in a community park for three days.  In the dark of night, he sneaked back home and found refuge in a shed where his wife found him and faithfully took him tea and sandwiches for several days.  Finally, Green worked up enough courage to go into his own house and hid in a closet for three more days.   The police were combing the neighborhood and in an effort to fully hide, Green cut a hole in the floor under a secret storage bench and stayed there under the house.

Severn and a half years passed.  His wife got rid of all his clothes so a search of house would convince police that Norman Green had disappeared.  With all shades pulled and curtains closed, Green sometimes came out of his hole to visit with his six children.  Once a neighborhood child spotted him and told his parents but the story was so preposterous that no one believed the child.

In 1984 the murder was solved. Green released himself with the words, “Thank God it is over.”  His self-imposed imprisonment ended. The days of struggle for the family ended. The game of Hide and Seek came to a halt with no real victor.

So what does this prove?  Well, what imprisons you?  Is it a spirit of unforgiveness?  Or, is it a lack of surrender to an authority figure that enslaves you?  It can be any number of things that hold us back.  Sometimes it is simple, but egregious pride.  Pride carries prison bars that are stronger than actual iron bars of confinement.  Next time you say, “I can’t” it might be more accurate to say, “I won’t.”  The “I won’t” is holding you back from the blessings of service to others.  You are hiding but your seekers are unaware.

Jesus gives us liberty!  It is wise to remember that “If the Son therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”  It is sad that Norman Green lived in fear because he did not know about freedom in Christ.  I wonder if anyone ever told him about salvation through the atoning blood of Christ.

Net time you feel imprisoned, remember Norman Green.

Observations on the book: Musicophelia

Musicophelia, copyright 2007, in audiobook form consists of 9 compact discs which encompass 11 hours of listening.  The author, Oliver Sacks, is a medical doctor schooled in Oxford University, but starting in 1965 practiced medicine in the United States.  He is not only an exceptional neurologist, but also a prolific writer, and taught neurology at New York University until his death in 2015.

Rather than produce a book review that opinions on the value of this book, I am instead giving some personal observations.  This book came to my attention after I attended a recent presentation on the effects of music on dementia.  The speaker told us that music is the very last thing that our memory loses.    Upon mentioning that fact in a Facebook post, an old college friend who is now a therapist, recommended the book to me.
I borrowed my copy in audiobook format so I could listen and cook, bake, or clean at the same time.  There were times when I found myself finding a chair, however, and soaking in the information. The book covers fascination subjects in its 29 chapters.  The most fascinating chapters were on musical hallucinations.

Observation 1:  Oliver Sacks, the author has no inclination to speak of music and our spiritual connection.  He apparently is Jewish, and speaks often of the musicality of synagogue worship.  However, he does not connect the dots to our inner connection with music and God.

Observation 2:  Sacks brings out detail after detail of how music plays a role in cases of amnesia.  Dementia is a form of amnesia, thus, music plays a vital part in our aging process and the book gives many stories on that plane from his personal caseloads.

Observation 3:  Sacks made me aware that for some music is torture.  Although it is a small percentage of people there are those who hear only clashing sounds rather than music.  That knowledge made me very thankful I am not in that percentage. As Sacks described cases of Tourett’s syndrome, autism, and other maladies, I felt very normal and happy to be healthy in those respects.
Observation 4:  There are those who are mentally unable to count properly or verbalize yet can play difficult musical instruments!  That was new to me.  In my opinion, it shows that God has created us all uniquely wired and everyone has value.

Observation 5: Sacks is a wonderful story teller and used case examples of his own and of others as to how music therapy has helped in the past and continually makes strides into future use.

I rate this books as well-written and recommend it for those who already have some music training.  If you know nothing about music construction there are places the reader will be woefully lost in the weeds.  The charm of that is that one can skip to a chapter you find more interesting and still benefit from the book.

I know now more than ever, that I did the right thing when I spent the last hours of my mother’s life singing to her. I also know that I hope that if my children find me singing happy songs whether they be of Heaven or a “Bicycle Built for Two,” that they will allow me to sing, or hum to my heart’s content.  It has been my goal in life to bring good music into my life whether it is Handel’s Messiah, or show tunes from “The Sound of Music” so I doubt that I’ll sing anything that will embarrass them!  I sure hope not!

In conclusion I would be remiss not to quote from Scripture.  David wrote a majority of the Bible’s songbook and I quote Psalm 40:2-3: “He brought me up also out of the horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings and He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God:  many shall see it and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.”

 

 

When I am old and need extra care. . .

Recently I attended a lecture provided by an employee/administrator of a local assisted living/nursing home.  It was fascinating.  The lecture consisted of participation with the speaker as we filled in a four-part questionnaire.  She said, “Someday, if not already, you will be impacted by dementia.  That dementia may turn into full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.”  The most important thing you can do is be prepared.

Since I was unprepared for my mother’s own journey down that dark road of dementia that was in the end, diagnosed as Alzheimer disease, I listened earnestly and obediently filled out the questionnaire.  Someday that person could be me.  I want my children to know some things about me that they don’t think about much now.

You see, last week I had the joy of visiting with a daughter who lives nine hours away from me so we see each other infrequently, although we do communicate in other ways often.  Yet, there are things she does not know about me because things do change over the years.  At the end of our short visit, she remarked, “Mom, you are doing very well.  I am so happy for you.”  Nonetheless, I did think about that questionnaire.  At that thought, I also smiled.

The questionnaire was in four sections with three answers per section.  By now, I hope that you are curious and continue to read.

Section One:  Name three foods that you prefer.  Be specific in your answer, such as—I like chips with dip.  The dip is made with onion soup mix and sour cream.  And as an example I put one of my favorite foods as bread.  My children may not think that of me anymore because due to weight management, I seldom eat it.  I like whole wheat bread, toasted, with peanut butter, in fact.  For a real treat, put some strawberry jam on top. I never have cared for grape jam.

Section Two:  Name three songs that make you happy.  Mention the artist as well as the volume at which you like your music.  Instead of three songs, I put three genres because I like a variety of music and I do not like loud anything!  But for some of you, there may very well be a particular song that would put a smile on your face.  Make sure you put that down along with the artist you prefer.

Section three:  Name three activities that make you happy.  For some of you it may be dancing and if that is so, make sure to name the dance you like best as in waltz, polka, or tango.  I like to read so I put the genre I like best and suggested audio books.  The Bible on audio would make me very happy.  If you are happy growing things, let you children know that.  Even if your plants die, let them replace them while you are sleeping!

Section Four:  name the people that you like to be around.  This may also surprise your children.  I like to watch young children, little girls in particular, play and laugh.  I don’t even need to know them.

So there you are.  A little guide to use to fill out and make sure your children get copies of this.  Even if dementia takes you places you do not want to go, your children can bring you happiness if even for a few minutes at a time.  My mother loved to sing.  In the last two months of her life, I would visit her every night and sing with her and help put her to bed.  I made a song book just for the two of us and I was blessed that she always knew me, and always would sing with me.  She also liked poetry and I would sometimes read poetry to her and her resident roommate.  We always sang.  It was part of fulfilling the commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother.”
As a last thought I’d like to add that we are becoming who we will be.  Nothing is going to change drastically.  If you have been difficult in life, you will be difficult, very difficult in dementia.  If you have been a flexible person in life, you will be flexible in old age.  For my younger readers, I’d challenge you to remember that and change where you need to change before it is too late.  If you are grumpy in youth or middle age, you will be grumpier in old age!

Good Things can Become Bad Things

What do you do with rhubarb?  Recently I saw an episode of “Chopped” in which one of the mystery ingredients in the basket was rhubarb. Only one of the chefs knew what rhubarb tasted like or how to use it. Rhubarb is a cold weather plant and most people who like in the North or Upper Midwest know exactly what rhubarb is and how to use it.  My favorite is rhubarb pie. In fact, my grandfather called rhubarb “pie plant.”  Maybe that is what they call it in Germany.

After having lived in Tennessee, I missed this wonderfully versatile plant when I moved back to Indiana.  Someone gave me a piece of a plant to start my own again.
For some reason, it just did not flourish.  In spite of water and sunshine, it just did not like the transplant.

Discouraged with the plants, there were two of them, I let them go.  In the fall the Black-Eyed Susans I planted in another section of the flower bed self-seeded and grew up near the rhubarb the following spring.  Spindly stalks of rhubarb managed to come up, but by midsummer, the Black-Eyed Susans took over.

Now, my friend, Margaret, identified a weed as a “plant out of place.”  A flower that I enjoyed and deliberately planted was becoming a weed.  This year the rhubarb did not even make a weak attempt at emerging.  It was simply choked out.

What’s sad is that the rhubarb was not choked out by something bad.  Good things become bad if they are allowed to flourish in the wrong place.  There are so many good things we do that take over our lives and choke out the very thing we need and would enjoy the most:  a healthy relationship with Jesus.  Don’t let those good things take over.  Keep them in their place.

It is my hope that I’ll find some freshly pulled rhubarb at the local Farmer’s Market so I can have at least one pie this year.

His Plan for Me

I found these penetrating lines this morning enclosed in a sermon by L. Ravenhill.  I just felt I needed to share it.

His Plan For Me

When I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ
And He shows His plan for me,
The plan of my life as it might have been
Had He had His way – and I see
How I blocked Him here, and checked Him there,
And I would not yield my will,
Will there be grief in my Savior’s eyes,
Grief though He loves me still?
Would He have me rich and I stand there poor,
Stripped of all but His grace,
While memory runs like a hunted thing,
Down the paths I cannot retrace.
Lord, of the years that are left to me
I give them to Thy hand
Take me and break me and mold me,
To the pattern that Thou hast planned!
-Author Unknown

Let’s Sing!

This morning I heard a presentation by a woman who is head of a local nursing home unit that houses dementia patients.  In her presentation she said that the memory holds on to music until the very last of our lives.  Music is used in therapy with those suffering with end- of-life dementia.  I thought that interesting in light of yesterday’s conversation I had with long-time friends.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with some ladies that I had not seen in several years.  They live in the county next to mine and I had the honor of teaching their children in the past.  We caught up on some past experiences and how the children were doing of course, but then our conversation while we worked in a volunteer place turned to the topic of ministering to others through song.

One of the ladies, Betty, has a son-in-law that sang in the first quartet that my son sang in.  It is a good memory.  Steve was very tall and David, my son, was very short and the youngest in the group.  I’ve known Betty for many years but did not know until today that she plays the dulcimer and sings.  Our conversation included the memory of many good songs of the years our children were younger and the days of afterglow meetings at church when the teens stayed and just sang. It certainly strengthened my faith in my younger years to be part of those afterglow times.

One of the ladies in the group mused thoughts I have pondered myself in recent months.  Church music has changed.  Most churches have a mixture of the “old” songs in the well-worn hymnbooks with music that is projected on a screen via power point.  What songs will our following generation sing?  Will it be the powerful songs of Isaac Watts, that is the stately songs of theology written by saintly men?  Even Fanny Crosby songs are seldom sung today yet they are filled with messages of hope, trust, and joy.  We all hoped it will not be the songs with overpowering rhythm and endless repetitious phrases.

Let’s not let these dear old songs that spill out of our hearts in adoration disappear.  I’ve written before of the classic, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and it might be good to look back on that piece while you are on this site.  Choose a topic and think of all the songs written on that topic and let your heart be touched.

Today my topic seemed to be Calvary.  “Years I spent in vanity and pride, caring not my Lord was crucified. . .”  See, I helped you get started.  Now sing out to God as if only He is listening

Nearing Home (a book review)

Nearing Home is written by Dr. Billy Graham, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN Copyright 2011.

Graham wrote this book when he was 92 years old.  The subject, appropriately so, is on aging.  It is practical and easy to read.  The outline is sensible and easy to follow.  In my opinion, Graham, as usual, writes for the common person who seeks to gain not only information, but also inspiration.  Remarkably, I would guess that approximately one-third of the book is quoted Scripture.  Every point the writer makes is lavishly supported by Biblical position.  At the same time, it is vastly practical.

Honestly, if one has ever heard Dr. Graham preach, the reader can easily hear the voice of the writer.  Yet, the writing is not a grating or grinding sermon.  It is conversational in nature. I venture to say, the plain plan of God’s salvation for mankind is laid out in at least three places and it is not easy to miss!   Every page of the 192 pages is inspirational, yet practical information for those who are entering the “golden years” which most people over sixty years old discover is not so golden after all.

If you are planning for retirement, in your forties, or fifties, I highly recommend this book for your planning steps not only for finances, but for assessing your family legacy.  If you are over sixty, it is not too late to make use of the days ahead by reading this conversation with a great man of faith.

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