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Archive for the category “God looks at the heart”

You Are Right But You May Be Wrong

A couple of weeks ago I was delivering some mail to another department in another building.  I tried to open a door to the office but it was locked.  I heard voices in the office so I knocked on the door.  When nobody came I knocked a little louder.  Suddenly someone from the office came out another door and in a mean tone told me that they don’t use that door.  After making me feel like a complete idiot she walked away only to turn around and ask what I wanted.  I handed her the envelope and before I could get away she called “this isn’t ours”.  I have to admit I was very upset at the way she treated me.  I guess she figured that I was wrong so she could make me feel small.  The fact is I was wrong on two counts.  I knocked on the wrong door and I was in the wrong place with the mail.  A person who I have befriended from other visits to the building heard the whole exchange.  Little did I know that she would report the incident to the employees supervisor.

Image result for photo knocking on a door

The reason that I told this story is to make a point.  I am sure that many of you have faced the same type of circumstances.  Maybe you felt belittled because someone raised their voice or got upset at you.  Maybe like me you were wrong.  Or you may have even been in the other persons shoes.  Maybe somebody annoyed you in some way because they were completely wrong about something.  Maybe it upset you that someone could act or think the way they do or totally disagree with you.  Maybe you could easily prove your point on GOOGLE which is how people try to settle arguments in today’s world.

I remember growing up there were two kids named Pat and Lloyd that had constant arguments.  Look out if they saw each other because they would start right in.  It didn’t matter what the topic was.  If Lloyd was for something Pat was against it and vice versa.  With voices raised they tried to make their points as to why the other one was wrong.  It was kind of comical listening to them.  Their encounters  were entertaining and funny but nobody really won.  They were always a continuing series that picked right back up the next time both were together.  Through all of those arguments I never heard one of them say to the other “you are right.”  To them admitting they were wrong would be giving power to their opponent.  In their minds it would be admitting defeat and neither wanted to do that.  At the time Lloyd and Pat were just kids.  Unfortunately these endless attempts to always be right divide us adults today.

Image result for picture of 2 boys arguing

Many times someone will make a mistake in driving.  I have made the mistake of turning wrongly onto a one way street.  We have a lot of one way streets downtown and if you are unfamiliar with them it could be easy to do.  Did the other cars plow into me?  No, I realized right away my error and quickly righted myself.  I’m sure that someone could have enlarged my situation and laid on their horn for all to realize what I did.  Fortunately they just gave me a chance to turn around.

Image result for cartoon of driving the wrong way

I remember years ago there were guys that would take the Gospel into their own hands.  They would pick a spot on campus and start preaching to all who would listen.  Their message though was not a message of love.  It was always quoting verses in the Bible and telling everyone in no uncertain terms that they were doomed to Hell if they didn’t come to God.  Of course the students would be on the defensive and would come out firing questions to their accuser.  It turned into an argument that nobody would win and created bad feelings all around.

Image result for campus preacher photo

Maybe these examples of bringing on arguments and hurt could be turned around.  Perhaps kindness, compassion, and a caring voice could have helped my situation. What if that lady sweetly said to me with a smile “I’m sorry, we didn’t come to the door. Actually we don’t use this door anymore.  How can I help you?”  Instead of being happy that I was in the wrong place what if she stated with compassion “Oh I hate to have you walk all the way up to the fourth floor but this is actually for another department.”  I would have said with a smile “Oh dear, I must have got my departments goofed up.  No problem, thank you for your help!”  It wouldn’t have taken much of an effort to be nice and compassionate which helps everyone feel better about the situation!

Years ago I was attending a church where a drifter came in and started disruption.  He showed no compassion as in a Sunday School class he stated that people were not healed because they lacked faith.  Of course he had Bible verses to prove his point.  His attitude and accusing comments touched a nerve with the pastors wife.  She was suffering from serious breathing problems and had been praying fervently along with the rest of the church for her healing.  After a couple of weeks the drifter left and never came back.  He stayed just enough to cause discourse.  On a side note it was discovered a long time later that the parsonage was spewing poisonous air which was causing the pastors wife to be sick all of the time.  Once that problem was solved so was her sickness.

Many of us even as Christians are spewing bad air.  We are making others literally sick with our attitudes.  Many times we can justify it by stating that we were right.  I have learned that being right is very overrated.  There is an old saying that states “You can draw more flies with sugar than with vinegar.”  Be kind and compassionate.  Think about how you would feel if you were walking in the other persons shoes.  Look for the good in people and show love always even if they are totally wrong.  If you do that you will find that not only will they be happier but you will be too!

If you're wrong in the way you're right, you're wrong even if you're right. - James MacDonald

 

 

The Window Cleaner

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Imagine that you have rented a room in a skyscraper as a get away vacation.  The view was advertised as miraculous and the place immaculate.  After unpacking your bags you decide to open the curtains to see the great view.  When you do you are furious because the window is a dirty mess and you can barely see out.  The sun that should make a glistening clear picture is hurting your eyes and illuminating the dirty window.  Wouldn’t it be awful if the view from these magnificent buildings were hidden by a grimy mess on the windows?

Now imagine that you are on that same vacation.  You open the curtains to see the magnificent view.  Instead you encounter someone looking right back at you.  Your reaction might be to scream as the surprise is likely to scare you.  Then you realize that it isn’t someone who will harm you or steal from you, it is a window washer.  They are trained to go to new heights to keep the windows clean.

Obviously windows need to be cleaned once in awhile.  In a big city with all of the stuff blowing around in the air they need to be done even more often.  The job is a little different from cleaning your windows at home.  Professional equipment is used of course, but the main difference is being situated many stories above the ground.  It reminds me of a tight rope walker.  Even you and I could probably be trained to walk a tight rope if the rope is hung one foot over the ground.  Attempting it like they do in the circus hundreds of feet in the air would create all kinds of fears and anxieties.  Sometimes in the circus a safety net is provided that can calm fears because if they mess up they just fall to safety.  Window washers have safety equipment too.

Tragically in the old days the window washing job was far more dangerous and many fell to their death.  Today with modern equipment the window washers can do their job with much less worry.  A typical window cleaner’s equipment consists of a rope protector, a safety rope, a rope-grabbing tool, a descent mechanism, lanyard and suction cups. These tools not only protect workers from any unfortunate incidents, but also help them clean a building’s facade at a rapid speed with great efficiency.

While working on the outside of a building, the worker is attached to an anchor, that is mounted on the roof. This anchor enables the workers to clean windows as they descend vertically. You might have noticed that window cleaners don’t descend smoothly; their journey to the next, lower floors makes it appear as though they are ‘dropping’ through each floor one at a time. The height of a single drop – the measurement of one vertical cleaning operation from the roof to the floor below – varies according to the buildings windows they are working on.

Our walk through life can be compared to the adventures of a window washer.  The good news is that God has given us all that we need to complete our mission.  Like the window washers equipment and precise settings, God will put you and me exactly where we are supposed to be if we will only trust him.  We should never be afraid because he is our anchor and our safety net.

Someone asked a window washer if they ever looked down?  The answer was no but it wasn’t for the reason I would have guessed.  They said that they just concentrated on the job they were there to do.  They concentrated on the next window on their mission.  It reminds me of the story of Peter walking on the water.  In Matthew 14 verses 25-31 the story is told.

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25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

You see Jesus doesn’t want us walking in fear.  As long as Peter had his mind on Jesus and the mission at hand he was fine.  When fear and doubt crept in he sank.  The lesson from the window washer profession is the same.  As long as they keep their mind on the mission at hand, knowing that their anchor and ropes are in place there is nothing to fear.

So Jesus is our anchor but he is so much more.  The buildings windows could represent eyes.  The view could represent the beautiful view that God has offered us.  Most people are looking at that view through grimy windows.  Our job is to introduce them to Jesus so that he can clean up their view of life.  When they open up that curtain they won’t dwell on the ugly sight they used to see, but on the beauty that they see now!

Building On The Rock

Bill Parcells is a builder.  Not your typical builder as in building buildings.  Parcells made a career out of building football teams.  When he got his first coaching job with the New York Giants in 1983 his team wasn’t very good.  He survived a 3 win season and it was there that he decided that if he could survive that experience he would coach on his terms.  He wasn’t fired and he was able to use his agonizing experience as a building block.  In most buildings you start with the basement.  That is what Parcells started with.  After finishing in the basement he went on building other floors to his football team until at long last he won two Super Bowls.

Parcells was asked if he thought that he should have a say in the players that were brought in for him to coach.  Parcells in his matter of fact reaction said “Well if they expect you to cook the dinner you need to have a say in the grocery shopping.”  Typical Parcells, a straight forward answer with a little comparison in there.  It was a lot like how he grew up in New Jersey.  His basketball coach in high school was complimenting him on what a great game he played.  The team had lost a close game but Parcells made it close by his great play.  “It wasn’t enough”, he told the coach,  “we lost.”  His coach always remembered him saying those words and then disappearing into the night.  When Parcells eventually got into coaching winning and losing would be defined as Pat Riley once quoted. “There is winning and there is misery.

Curtis Martin was in the bathroom one time and had a talk with his coach Bill Parcell who just happened to be there.  Martin had the admiration of his coach who affectionately nicknamed him”The Boy Wonder.”   Parcells had earlier told Martin “I think you finally get it!”  “Always remember that you will always be the hardest person on yourself.” As he was standing there washing his hands he looked in the mirror and Parcells was right behind him.  It made a perfect picture in his mind of the thought he was just given.   Parcells has a favorite poem and he has carried it with him since he was a teenager.  It is a poem by an anonymous writer called “The Man In The Glass”

When you get what you want in your struggle for self
and the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
and see what that man has to say

For it isn’t your father or mother or wife
who judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts the most in your life
is the one staring back from the glass

Some people may think you a straight-shooting chum
and call you a wonderful guy
But the guy in the glass says you’re only a bum
if you can’t look him straight in the eye

He’s the fellow to please never mind all the rest
for he’s with you clear up to the end
And you’ve passed your most dangerous difficult test
if the man in the glass is your friend

You may fool the whole world down the pathway
of life and get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartaches and
tears if you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

1998 New York Jets CURTIS MARTIN Glossy 8x10 Photo NFL Print Football Poster

What was Parcells talking about when he told Martin that you finally get it?  The “It” in Parcells mind was the team.  Doing what is best for the team and not for your individual glory.  Bill Parcells was hard on his team.  He didn’t accept short cuts and sometimes for awhile members of his team didn’t like how he treated them. 

Phi Simms was his Super Bowl winning quarterback.  Phil was not the most talented quarterback in the league but he was sold on this team thing Parcell preached.  That doesn’t mean that they didn’t have confrontations on the sideline. One time they were having one of those confrontations and the TV cameras picked it up.  The announcer mentioned that if you were just tuning in this team is leading 17-0.  To Parcells the fact that his team was winning did not cancel out a teaching moment he needed to make.

Parcells agreed completely with a statement that Pat Riley made one time about winning and losing.  “There is winning and there is misery.”  That is the bottom line in coaching.  Then again that competition is what kept Parcell going in coaching.  He called it “the juice”.  The juice is all about competition.  Who are we playing next?  That is the juice.  Thinking about that next opponent and figuring out a way to beat them.  There is a certain high that comes from a job like that which leads to admiration of the fans.  The fans though can be fickle and when things are not going well they can turn like vultures.  Parcells also refers to the juice from his growing up in Jersey.  There it means overdue interest on borrowed money.

When Parcells had his heart surgery he was very thankful to the doctor who fixed him up.  “When you are prepared for surgery your mortality goes through your mind I promise you”, he stated.  After his surgery he was thinking of how to express his gratitude to his doctor but he just couldn’t find the words.  Finally he said to his doctor, “Doctor I don’t know if it means anything to you to have gratitude but I want you to know that you have mine.”  His doctor looked him right in the eyes and said “Certainly it does!”

In the movie “The City Slickers” Billy Chrystal encounters an old man and wants to know what life is all about.  The old man tells him that you have to find the one thing that is most important as he raised his one finger.  When Billy asked him what the one thing was the old timer only told him “It’s this and lifted his one finger again.”  In his football coaching life Parcells was always looking for that one thing.  Before his team won the Super Bowl he would tell a friend “I just want to win this thing one time.”  After winning it was “I just want to win this thing one more time.”  With each victory he still had issues with the juice.  He knew that his profession was a double edged sword.  He once told someone that in a year he would be in a resting home making ceramic ash trays and wondering what time Jeopardy comes on.  Of course in a few minutes he would be talking about the future of the organization and how they needed to draft this position or get better in this area.  That was the trap he was in.  Deep down when he was out of football he wanted to be back in and when he was in he wanted to be out. His mother used to ask him “When are you going to get a real job?”  She would look at others with traditional jobs and considered them the real jobs.  It finally came to a point where Parcells was not apologetic about his profession.

For the people who really get to know him Bill Parcells legacy will be remembered in the number of lives he helped change.  There was a homeless man in Fort Lauderdale who sold newspapers.  Every day Parcells would see this man and buy a newspaper from him.  Being an avid fan this homeless guy knew who Parcells was.  They talked and developed a relationship.  Being an avid Eagles fan he asked Parcells if he knew Andy Reid?  Andy Reid was the General Manager of the Eagles.  When Parcells said he did the fan said “tell him to draft a expletive wide receiver!”  Parcells did call Reid and told him that he met one of his fans and the message he gave.  One day Parcells was getting his morning paper and he asked the guy “why he couldn’t get a real job?”  The guy looked at him and honestly said that he didn’t have a drivers license.  Drilling deeper Parcells asked why and the answer was that he didn’t have a birth certificate.  Parcells told him that maybe he could help him out so he made the appropriate phone calls and today this former homeless man is employed and much better off!  Curtis Martin (The Boy Wonder)  wrote his coach a wonderful letter one time about how thankful he was for his help and how he had made a monumental difference in his life.  His letter mentioned that he didn’t know where he would be without Parcells guidance.  When he went to Parcells office to give him the letter Parcells wasn’t there so he put it in a trophy on his desk.  That letter is one his most meaningful possessions and Parcells cherishes it!  With gratitude from his broken heart that is now repaired helping people on the way is what he considers the least he can do!

Parcells coached 4 teams and was a General Manager for another one.  Each team held it’s own set of challenges in the building process.  When he was hired to coach the Dallas Cowboys he had an established team that had parts he wasn’t used to.  His philosophy with the Giants was to have bigger linebackers and this team had smaller ones with more speed.  Parcells had to adjust his thinking to build with what he had.  Although they didn’t reach the Super Bowl Parcells managed to leave the Cowboys in a much better state than how he found them.  The same was true with all of his other stops.  Building was his thing and he knew exactly what he wanted to get the job done!

Building things and being a part of a team were very important attributes of Bill Parcells.  It is interesting that in the Bible Jesus talks about building too.

In Matthew 7 verses 24-27 Jesus said

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Perhaps you are in a profession like Bill Parcells where you feel like that there is winning and there is misery.  Maybe you have been building your life on the here and now’s successes and failures.  Take the words of Jesus seriously.  Unless you build on the solid rock your buildings will crumble.  You see everything on this earth is temporary including you and me.  We might be very successful in what we do as far as money and adulation but can we truly look in the mirror and not be reminded that something is missing?  We are and always will  be empty without Jesus.  When Bill Parcells had his heart problem he realized more than ever that life is short.  Just like the Doctor who fixed his physical heart God wants to fix our Spiritual heart.  He wants to take what we have and clean it up so that he can use us while we are here.  You see he is the one thing (the one finger of the old man in the movie!)  If we put him first in our life we will be happy and satisfied!  A simple prayer will start that process.  Pray this prayer with me!

Lord Jesus

Forgive me of my sins and save me

Come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior

Amen

If you prayed that prayer Jesus has come into your heart and your new construction has begun!  You have hired a master builder and joined a team that is on its way to victory!  As with any team there will still be plenty of highs and lows.  You might find yourself in the basement of life,  like Percells did with his football team. Know that God is now with you!  You have employed the best head coach ever in the game of life.  He is helping you  build a life that is on solid ground and will not fall in the midst of storms.  Like Parcells you will have gratitude knowing someone changed your heart as you desire to share your story .  It will be a gratitude of love as you live in peace every day.  That gratitude will be shared with others because it is the least you can do!  Your reward will be great.  Not like a building built on sinking sand that suddenly blows away, but a residence in heaven that lasts forever and ever!

 

God’s Hall of Fame

by Walt Huntley
Your name may not appear down here
In this world’s Hall of Fame,
In fact you may be so unknown
That no one knows your name;
The Oscars and the praise of men
May never come your way,
But don’t forget God has rewards
That he’ll hand out someday.
This Hall of Fame is only good
As long as time shall be;
But keep in mind, God’s Hall of Fame
Is for eternity;
To have your name inscribed up there
Is greater more by far
Than all the fame and all the praise
Of ev’ry man-made star.
This crowd on earth they soon forget
When you’re not up at the top,
They’ll cheer like mad until you fall
And then their praise will stop;
Not God, He never does forget,
And in His Hall of Fame,
By just believing on His Son,
Forever – there’s your name.
I tell you, friend, I wouldn’t trade
My name, however small,
That’s written there beyond the stars
In that celestial Hall,
For all the famous names on earth,
Or glory that they share;
I’d rather be an unknown here,
And have my name up there.

Strive to build your life to reach God’s Hall Of Fame and not on drifting dust!

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On Drifting Dust

Author Unknown

Now summer goes
And tomorrow’s snows
Will soon be deep,
And the sky of blue
Which summer knew
Sees shadows creep.

As the gleam tonight
Which is silver bright
Spans ghostly forms,
The winds rush by
With a warning cry
Of coming storms.

So the laurel fades
In the snow-swept glades
Of flying years,
And the dreams of youth
Find the bitter truth
Of pain and tears.

Through the cheering mass
Let the victors pass
To find fate’s thrust,
As tomorrow’s fame
Writes another name
On Drifting dust.

How To Prevent A Heart Attack

Every year about this time I go in for my annual health assessment.  It is a program at work where someone checks my blood pressure, finds my cholesterol levels, and measures my oxygen intake.  I also get weighed and measured to find out what my body mass index is. All of these tests are very important measurements in determining how healthy I am and what changes I need to make.  The results are compared to the previous year and I find out if my numbers are getting better or worse.  Life choices are talked about and healthy life choices are encouraged.  What foods am I putting into my body?  How much exercise am I getting?  Without these tests I might feel that I’m getting away with something.  I might get into the habit of eating the wrong foods and not getting adequate exercise.  Whatever I am doing the numbers don’t lie.  The cholesterol test intrigues me.  Originally I thought all cholesterol was bad.  I thought my cholesterol levels should always be low.  The fact that there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol surprised me.  Our good cholesterol level should be high and our bad cholesterol level should be low.  Basically in non medical terms the good cholesterol protects our heart and the bad cholesterol hinders our heart.  The bad blocks things up around our heart and the good protects that from happening.   Anyway I’m no doctor and if the explanation gets too complicated it leaves my head spinning.  However, I think that I have that concept right.

Image result for man getting his blood pressure checked photo

After my assessment advisor measures all of my results she talks to me about healthy eating habits.  The foods that I put into my body can reduce the bad cholesterol levels and increase the good ones.  Vegetable intake is encouraged and fast food is discouraged.  Eating too much salt or sugar in my diet is discouraged and having fiber is encouraged.  Although I’m not expected to be a perfect eater I am made aware of the problem and it is in my mind even if I sometimes get off track.  The fact that this test was coming up inspired me to do a little bit more exercising. It is good to be accountable to someone and the health assessment offers that someone.

Just as letting good foods into our bodies and keeping bad foods out is important it is also important in our spiritual life to let good things in and keep bad things out.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  So what does it mean to guard your heart?  It means that just like the cholesterol thing in our physical bodies we need to prevent things from dwelling in our spirit.  We need to identify what is good and what is bad and let the good in and dismiss the bad.  So what is the good that we should let in?  Paul in Philippians 4 verse 8 puts it this way  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.”  Wow, the God of peace will be with us.  That would be the Holy Spirit who gives us peace in our heart.  That is like going to the doctor and knowing that you have been doing all of the right things and the doctor confirming that because he sees  we are in good shape!

Much like the bad food we are tempted with we are also tempted spiritually by bad spirits.  Let me list some of the spirits to stay away from.

the spirit of fear
the spirit of anger
the spirit of depression
the spirit of doubt
the spirit of hate
the spirit of doom and gloom
the spirit of burden
the spirit of gossip
the spirit of offending
the spirit of getting even
the spirit of rebellion
the spirit of arguing

Notice that all of these are spirits.  Most people don’t think of them as spirits.  We have to realize that we are in a spiritual world.  Yes we have bodies and most people when they think of us think of what our bodies look like.  Actually though it is the unseen spirit that controls our actions and what we do and how spiritually healthy we are.  If you doubt this consider a funeral.  When we go to a funeral the body is there but it has no life because the spirit is gone.

So how do we keep these spirits from entering our bodies and controlling what we do, say, and how we feel?  The first thing we need to do is accept Jesus Christ into our lives.  That is a simple thing but is oh so powerful.  When we ask Jesus to come into our hearts he gives us his Holy Spirit which is the spirit of peace we talked about earlier.  The Holy Spirit is like all of the good vegetables and fiber we are encouraged to eat.  He is good for our well being and he gives us assurance with peace that we are going in the right direction.  Most people don’t realize however that even with the Holy Spirit in our lives we can and do let in spirits that shouldn’t be there.

Since God is a God of love he always gives us a choice.  We can choose which spiritual food we let in even after we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior.  So how can we stop these spirits from entering?  Some people might point out that they couldn’t help it, they were just overcome with a spirit.  Sometimes that spirit comes in when we have been hit by tragedy.  The spirit of grief is actually a good thing.  It is like the good cholesterol that helps us.  At the same time if we stay in that spirit over a period of time it turns into a bad thing.  It goes from a spirit of grief to a spirit of depression.

Image result for picture of cake

We have to realize that these bad spirits that we let in are a choice.  They are much like that cake or fast food burger we are not supposed to eat.  Let’s analyze that situation.  We are trying to watch what we eat but someone at work brings a cake in.  Or we happen to have a cake at home and decide that one piece won’t hurt anything.  This is the time that we are making a choice.  In the same way we are making spiritual choices.  So something happens and we have a choice.  Without God people usually let these spirits take control.  But with God the same thing can occur.  Remember that Bible verse that said to guard your heart?  There are times when our heart is unguarded.  Let me give you an example in the spirit of depression.  Before we get depressed we have a limited time to think about it.  We have a choice of being depressed or turning to the Spirit of God, much like when we have the choice of eating that cake or walking away.  In order to make the right choice we need to realize what is happening.  We need to be accountable much like the health assessment example.

There are times we have our spiritual health assessment exam and find out that we have let in things we shouldn’t have.  We have ate the wrong things and the results are showing.  As Christians we can ask Jesus to take these bad things out of there.  We can ask him to give us a pure heart free from things that will clog it up.  Once these things are purged it is important to be on the alert for situations where these impurities try to get back in.  That depression scenario can be nipped in the bud with this prayer.  Lord, I feel this spirit there but I’m not going to accept it.  I affirm that you love me and that my happiness and well being is what you want for me!

When I was done with the health assessment I felt better.  Not because my results were great but because I was in a plan.  I knew what I should and shouldn’t do.  I knew that things I let in my body affected how healthy I would be.  That is how it is in the health of our spirit too.  It is far more important than our bodies health because our body will eventually die, but our spirit lives forever.  Letting the good in and leaving out the bad will keep our spirits strong and peaceful.  My health assessment advisor said something very interesting that I took with me.  In her own life and food intake she said “I’ve learned that everything is a choice.”  To be happy I conclude we should always choose the good and leave out the bad.

My Spiritual Exam

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Just like I need a physical
to find out how I am
It’s time for me to ask my Lord
for a spiritual exam

He’ll ask me many questions
Can I be honest with myself?
Thinking that I’ve got it made
could be harmful to my health

Is my gear shifted into drive
or is it stuck in park?
Does my light shine on others
or do I leave them in the dark?

Is my salt being poured out
or is it all for waste?
Does it flavor when it’s poured
or has it lost its taste?

When he gives me the vision
to see how I can be
will I make excuses
or let the Lord use me?

Will my spirit be broken
so my life he then can mold?
Or have I pushed the button
to put the Lord on hold?

When I leave the great physician’s room
will I be better than I came?
Or have I made my mind up
to keep my life the same?

“…I desire to do your will, O my God,
your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:8

You Can’t Shake Hands With A Crocodile!

Has there ever been somebody in your life that you cannot please no matter how you try?  Someone who might be nice to you to your face but talks bad about you to others?  Do you try really hard to make them like you and only get frustrated?  Jesus had groups of people who had that attitude toward him.  They were called the Pharisees and the Sadducee’s.  They sat and listened to Jesus and plotted ways to kill him.  Their whole agenda was to bait him and used innocent sounding questions with traps all through them.  Matthew chapter 22 verses 15-17 states:

15 Then the Pharisees left the place where Jesus was teaching. They made plans to trap Jesus with a question. 16 They sent some of their own followers and some men from the group called Herodians.a]”>[a] These men said, “Teacher, we know that you are an honest man. We know that you teach the truth about God’s way. You are not afraid of what other people think about you. All men are the same to you. 17 So tell us what you think. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  Now what was the purpose of this question?  Was it a friendly question to help them love God more?  NO, It was designed and probably mulled over for hours as a question to ask Jesus to trap him.  If he said to not pay their taxes they could turn him over to the government on charges of treason against their country.  Jesus knew what they were trying to do and his wisdom was amazing!  In verses 18:22 he answers

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

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Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Notice how they complimented Jesus to try to get his guard down.  Notice also how the compliments led into their trap.  Jesus knew that these people were against him and didn’t fall for their trap.  He didn’t hang out with these fake followers with their fake questions.  While they were concerned about their appearance in society, he looked at their hearts.  He saw that their hearts were evil.  He saw that these were not his friends.

Jesus also looks at our heart.  He is looking for a heart of love, compassion, and forgiveness.  That is in effect the heart of God.  We are to have that kind of heart.  He told us to love our enemies.  In Matthew 5:43-48 he states 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbora]”>[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Image result for love your enemies photo

The fact that we are called to love our enemies means that we will have enemies. Many Christians will read the  passage above and conclude that they need to not only be nice to people who are against them but constantly try to change how they feel about them.  They may feel that forever trying to please them is a way to change their attitude.  A lot of energy is wasted by Christians trying to change what only God can. The old saying is true “you can’t please everyone.”  Yes, it is true we need to love our enemies.  That doesn’t mean we have to constantly be around them.  It means that in our heart we do not harbor hate and that we have a loving attitude toward them.  It means that we truly care about them no matter how they feel about us.  What it doesn’t mean is that we have to waste energy and time being what they want us to be.  We must be ourselves and follow our Godly principles and if they hate us so be it.  The old saying “Like water off of a ducks back”  applies here.  Like a duck when they feel the water hit them we need to quickly shake it off.  Common sense tells us though that it isn’t safe going over a waterfall.

You Can’t Shake Hands With A Crocodile
By Lewis Hamilton

The Crocodile is strong
and will do you harm
They have a mouth
as long as their arm

They may act friendly
but here is the deal
If you get close enough
You’ll be their next meal

Crocodiles are cunning
They live where it’s wet
They will drag you and drown you
Now that’s a safe bet

So why would you go there
and offer your hand?
Has your head forever
been trapped in the sand?

You won’t have an arm
to use or to bend
If you continue to desire
Crocodiles as your friends

So stop trying to travel
the extra furlong or mile
and quit shaking hands
with those Crocodiles

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Footnote: There used to be a guy at the church I attended who gave the hardest handshakes.  I dreaded shaking hands with him because he always crushed my hand and it was painful.  One day I talked to a friend and told him the situation and he gave me some sound advice.  When shaking his hand take the initiative and get deep into his hand with yours.  That will lesson the force he can apply to your hand.  Maybe that is the kind of advice we need for this story.  Be aware of the danger your enemies present and have a plan.

Roll Away The Stone

He has risen!  It is the story of our faith.  Without the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead our faith would be dead too.  Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and discovered that the Stone had been rolled away.  It was a massive stone that had been put in front of the opening to make sure Jesus’ body was not stolen.  So Mary goes into the tomb only to find that Jesus is not there.  She runs to John and Peter two of Jesus disciples with the sad news.  “They have taken our Lord and I don’t know where they put him.”  The two disciples run to the tomb only to find that Mary was right.  The stone is rolled away and Jesus’ body is gone.  Not knowing what to do next the disciples end up going back home.  Mary is standing outside the tomb crying.  As she wept she looked into the tomb and saw two angels dressed in white seated where Jesus’ body had been.  They asked her why she was crying?  “They have taken my Lord and I don’t know what they did with him”, she stated.  Suddenly Jesus appeared but Mary did not recognize him.  Thinking he was the gardener she said “sir, If you have carried him away tell me where you have taken him and I will go get him”.  Jesus said “Mary” and Mary realized that it was Jesus and he was alive.

The Stone Rolled Away

Like the stone blocking the tomb there is another story years before of how God symbolically used stones to give Moses a lesson for his people.  Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt and had just crossed the Red Sea that God had parted for them.  That was the miracle where he made the sea part for them to get through but roll back to swallow up their enemies that were after them.  Going through the desert they came to Mount Sinai. God called Moses to the top of the mountain so they could talk.  The rest of the people were to stay down below and clean themselves up to prepare for when Moses came back with instructions from God.  Moses went up to the top of the mountain to meet God.  He stayed for 40 days and nights.  God wrote in his own writing the 10 commandments and put them on two tablets of stone.  When Moses came down from the mountain with the two stones in his arms he noticed that the people had grown impatient and had made an altar with a brass calf.  Moses was so upset that he threw the tablets to the ground breaking them in hundreds of pieces.  God ended up having Moses chisel two more rocks down to tablet size and gave him the ten commandments again to write on them.  The commandments were never symbolized as a way to salvation.  They were given because God loved them and gave them rules to follow that would be best for them.  It’s like loving parents telling their children to get home by 11 or don’t eat all of that junk food.

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How many times do you tell your kids not to do something only to find that they disobey?  How many times in the spur of the moment do we make the wrong choice and for that moment we don’t consider the rules.  My dad used to tell me a story about a day that he was driving and came to a yellow light.  It was one of those lights where it was a 50-50 as to if he should go through or stop.  He decided to go through.  Just after he went through the light there were blinding lights in his rear view mirror.  He was getting pulled over.  When he mentioned to the officer that the light was yellow the officer told him that while he was under it the light turned red.  It was the letter of the law and the officer was determined to enforce it.  That ticket greatly affected my dad’s view of traffic lights from that time forward.  If he were driving up to a light and the light turned yellow you could bet your life his car was stopping.  Sometimes he stopped that car so suddenly it almost threw me on the floor.  This was before the time when we all wore seat belts.  One time dad made one of his stops and the car behind him rear ended his car in the back.  The driver mentioned that he thought dad was going through.

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A friend mentioned the other day of an episode with his dad.  His dad was driving with the family along narrow winding roads in the mountains of Tennessee or Kentucky.  As he was winding down the mountain he noticed the blinding lights of a police car in his rear view mirror.  The officer asked “Do you know how fast you were going?”  Truthfully the father did not know.  The officer had pulled him over in a loving way reminding him of how dangerous it is driving down the mountain.  “We have had many cars not make a turn and I just wanted to make sure you were not one of them.”  That story stayed with my friend all of these years.  The officer in his memory pulled them over because he cared about them.  He did not recite the letter of the law to them.  He did not give his father a ticket.  He just wanted to warn them to slow up and be safe.

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Almost invariably with rules there are exceptions to the rule.  If you are racing to get someone to the hospital in an emergency you might run a red light or two.  Is this lawful?  No, but it might be practical because you are doing it in love.  Even though God gave the ten commandments out of love he knew that they would be broken.  Symbolically when Moses became upset and broke the 10 commandment tablets it was like the ten commandments would be broken too.  There is a difference however in breaking a rule in love and in hate.  One day Jesus came by a pool where an invalid man had been laying on his bed by it for 38 years.  (You can find this story in the Gospel of John chapter 5 verses 5-15.)  Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made well.  The man answered saying “I have no one to put me in the pool.”  You see an angel had stirred the pool waters and anyone entering the pool would be healed.  As you can imagine there was always a stampede to get into the water.  The man however had no means to get in.  Jesus did not say “Here let me help you into the pool.”  Jesus knew the real source for healing.  What he did do was command the man to take up his bed and walk!  The man on command took up his bed and started walking.  I can imagine the excitement that came into his life and the amazement others around him were feeling.  They had seen this man laying there by the pool for years and now he was carrying his bed and walking.  After he advanced for awhile with his bed on his back the religious lawyers called Pharisees stopped him.  It happened to be the Sabbath day and they told him it was unlawful to carry his bed on the Sabbath.

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n 2013 in the United States alone 2,220,300 adults were in federal, state, or county jails.  That is almost 1% of the adult population.  Those people are in physical bondage as they are locked up with no place to go.  We can find statistics on the number of these people there are but nobody knows the statistic on how many people are in spiritual bondage.  I can only tell you that the number is in the millions.  The spiritual bondage comes from people trying to live by the rules.  You might say “Shouldn’t we live by the rules and isn’t it a good thing?”  The answer is yes but we have to realize that if our heart is in the right place the rules will take care of themselves.  When the religious rulers asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was he answered this way…37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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So my questions to you today are Do you live your life in love?   Are you concerned with others obeying the rules and holding them accountable when they don’t?  Are you willing to forgive and forget or do you hold grudges? How is playing by the rules affecting your life?  Has religion made you miserable?  Are you trying to please God because you fear him or because you love him?  Do you go to church in fear or in love?

When the stone was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb it was a sign of hope!  It was a sign that something supernatural had happened!  When we give our life to Christ something supernatural happens to us too!  No longer are we living in bondage blocked by doubt and fear with no hope.  Now instead of depending on religious rules to justify us we have a loving heart and the voice of the Holy Spirit telling us we are saved.  Our life that was once a dark tomb blocked by a large stone is now an unblocked lighted vessel for his use. Let God roll that stone that is blocking your way and let him empower you to change the world!  Go in love and peace and let his love freely shine for all to see!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Galatians 5:1

 

A Missing Light On My Computer

Yesterday throughout the United States people were looking up at the sky with special glasses on.  The glasses were designed to block the rays of the sun that the moon didn’t block.  It was one of those events that doesn’t happen often.  The moon was lined up between the sun and the earth for a limited time.  In some places it was close to a 100% blockage.  To others like where I live it was closer to 80.  Still it was a sight that people were lined up to see with glasses in place.  Some places went dark in the middle of the day.  Others like mine became dull and reminded me of the darkened horizon before the sun sets.

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This past week I have noticed a bright light missing from my computer.  I discovered the light a couple of years ago when a skinny lady from Kenya with a huge smile and a joyous attitude entered my computer world.  Her name was Lydia Jeritoch although I noticed that many people called her Jeritoch.  I wasn’t sure if I was calling her by her proper name but she assured me that either was acceptable.  One day someone shared one of my stories with Lydia and the next thing I knew there was a request on my Facebook page to accept her friendship.  Not knowing her I sent a message asking why she wanted to be my friend?  I don’t remember how she responded but I’m thinking she told me she read a story and that she was a Christian.  However it happened she became a tremendous blessing in my life, an avid supporting friend, and an enthusiastic supporter of my writing.  Although our initial meeting was somewhat dim in my memory, the light she shined since has lit up my computer screen for the last two years.

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Many months passed since that delightful time.  Lydia was thrilled when at the end of 2015 her story was the lightenload story of the year!  Since she was in Kenya and our time zones are so far apart we didn’t always see each other online.  However there were times that I woke up in the middle of the night and there she would be.  She posted about how great her God was often and I could always feel the joy in her heart.  At the end of 2015 I was having my own health issues.  They wanted to do a bunch of tests on me that left me wondering if my time here was limited.  One night I saw Lydia and asked her to pray for me.  Lydia was only too happy to and I knew that she was a friend I could count on and really cared!
A few weeks later the tests were done and I was pleased to tell Lydia the happy news that after much testing nothing was found!  If it were possible I think she was even more ecstatic than I was!  She mentioned that she was weeping with joy!  My story link is listed below.
About a week ago I happened to get on Facebook and Lydia’s picture was staring at me.  Someone was breaking the news that Lydia had passed away.  From the details I could gather she had been in the hospital for only a couple of days.  It seemed that she was having heart issues again.  Just the day before I had seen a post that Lydia made in which she was glorifying God in her typical way.  Nothing was mentioned about any discomfort she was going through.  It was obvious she had her sights on encouraging others and not complaining about her own problems.
The eclipse yesterday to me is a reminder of her.  Though her light may have seemed to diminish much like when the moon got in front of the sun it found a way to shine through.  Eventually the moon passed from the line of the sun and we realized what a wonderful beautiful gift the sun is.  That is how it is with Lydia’s light to me.  Without it being present I notice that a true friend has departed.  Although it was never going to work out where I would actually meet her in person, someday I will.  Until we meet again I will never forget the light that she gave which shined for her God to a hurting world.  Her light is physically gone now and Facebook is much dimmer, but Heaven is a little brighter.
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Secret Agent Man!

I know there are many Secret Agent’s out there!  My prayer is that you will let your light shine for all to see!

Secret Agent

By Lewis Hamilton
From the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

I keep my beliefs to myself
as much Lord, as I can
Please don’t make me testify
I’ll be your secret agent man

I‘ll mingle with my co-workers,
we have to get along
But deep down in my spirit
I’ll sing your gospel song

They’ll never know just how I feel,
I’ll hide it, that’s my plan
I won’t stand out from the rest
I’m your secret agent man

I go to church on Sunday
I hope that is enough
But talking to my fellow workers,
that would be too rough

Bless me Lord, as I sit there
as quiet as a mouse
Bless the things that I do
and everyone in my house

For you know Lord, I do my best
well almost all I can
Please don’t make me stand out
I’ll be your secret agent man

The Lord talked to me the other night
while I was sound asleep
He told me I was wrong
in the attitude I keep

He said he’d be ashamed of me
if I was ashamed of him
So there he changed my attitude
after I confessed my sins

Now I don’t cover up my light
I shine it all I can
There is no place in God’s army
for a secret agent man.

corresponding verse Mark 8:38

Cassie’s Drum

It isn’t a pretty instrument.  It is a large bongo drum with dull colors and no shine.  It doesn’t have a very loud sound.  Usually it is drowned out by more traditional instruments.  It seems that when it is played the person playing it with only their hands is totally consumed in their worship.  I was watching a young man playing the drum last Sunday.  He sat right in front of me just like Cassie used to.  His eyes were closed as he was undoubtedly feeling the closeness of God as he played along with the main worship band.

Cassie would always come with her mother.  The first thing she did when she arrived was to find the drum.  Sometimes it was in place right by where she always sat.  Other times she had to find and drag it into position.  Almost every Sunday it was common for Cassie to be gracefully slapping that drum in front of me.  I didn’t think about it at the time but that drum was a lot like Cassie.

There was nothing fake about Cassie.   She was a straight shooter as Jeremy so eloquently described her last week.  Jeremy is my non traditional pastor who has touched my life so much these last few months. Jeremy mentioned how Cassie would sometimes tell him that she had messed up and needed prayer.  Other times she would say that she was doing great!  Cassie always told it the way it was.  She was a real person and that is why the bongo drum comparison relates.  Like that drum Cassie was often pushed aside.  She was not one of these pretty people that seemingly have no faults.  She knew she needed God to keep his hand on her and she was honest enough to admit it.

Jeremy told the story of how he originally met Cassie.  His band was playing downtown and Cassie happened to be there.    For some reason Jeremy couldn’t keep his eyes off of her.  Jeremy had a strong feeling that he was supposed to talk to this lady about the lord.  After the music was done Jeremy approached and shared Jesus with her.  Cassie had been down many roads. She had a drug problem and was looking for something different in her life.  Jeremy’s words touched her and she repeated the sinners prayer that day!

It was a while before Jeremy saw Cassie again.  Then one day her and her mother walked into Jeremy’s church.  “Hey, I know you”, Cassie excitedly proclaimed!  “You are the man I met downtown!”  From that day forward Cassie and her mother were regulars. When I arrived they were established in the body and doing their part to keep the church moving ahead!

We were invited downtown a couple of months ago to a local restaurant/bar.  Jeremy and his band were making an appearance and their music rocked the place.  Jeremy accepts the invitation because he knows his music can open the door for him to share the gospel in unusual places.  In the room glad to be a part of Jeremy’s fans was Cassie.  She was dressed in her usual jean jacket and I could tell she was proud to be there supporting him.

Three weeks ago we had our usual Sunday service.  I noticed that Cassie and her mother weren’t there.  It was easy to notice because they always sat right in front of us and she played that drum.  That morning the drum was silent.  On Monday I heard the news that shocked my world.  When her mother arrived to pick her up Cassie was in her chair but Cassie wasn’t with us anymore.

The next Sunday I was supposed to speak before Jeremy gave his message.   I was prepared to talk about how Jesus is always ready to help us unlike companies of today who put us on hold and have computers telling us what to do.  It would have been a funny message that was sure to have people laughing.  Jeremy postponed my message that day as it was appropriate to discuss Cassie’s life.

Through the week last week I had a feeling in my spirit that the message I was going to give wasn’t the one the lord wanted.  I had Cassie on my mind the whole week.  We sometimes act like a memorial service takes all of the pain away from a loss of a loved one. I have found that the continued memory of that person is the greatest comfort to the ones they left behind.  As I thought about Cassie I thought about that drum again.  She got such a delight playing that drum.  I believe that although the sound didn’t stand out it did to God!  I think that he delighted in the road she was on and the sound of her praise!

I had the drum pushed in front of the podium as I talked about Cassie.  I didn’t really know Cassie but to me that drum symbolized her.  It wasn’t shiny, it wasn’t loud, it could be easily forgotten and yet it wasn’t.  God doesn’t forget about us either.  Unlike man he is not concerned about our outside appearance but looks at our hearts.  Luke 5:31-32 states that Jesus told them”It is not the healthy that need a doctor it is the sick, I have not come to call the righteous.”  Don’t we all need Jesus?  The answer of course is yes but we have to admit that we are sick.  Many are too proud to make such an admission.  Cassie was not because she was honest and real!

After I talked Jeremy gave his message.  The drum was not moved and as I listened I couldn’t help but think of Cassie again.  Looking at that drum I knew that I was right.  It isn’t a pretty instrument.  In fact it seemed to have many flaws.  When you think about it though isn’t that the way it is with us? Who can honestly say that they are not flawed?  Yet, I am convinced that something about that drum is very special to God.  In my mind I see Cassie playing it with feeling and desire.  I see her doing exactly what she felt God wanted and that made her and her drum very beautiful in his sight!

 

A Change Of Heart

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Dr. Mugisha must be some kind of a quack, Lydia thought as she left his office.  The system is set up to take money from the foreigners.  Lydia was in a foreign land attending college at Makerere University Uganda’s largest and third oldest university.  Lydia was from Kitale, Kenya an agricultural city high in the Kenyan mountains.  She had big dreams and hoped that the “Ivory Tower” would help her fulfill them.  Although Lydia had a strong desire to succeed something was fighting against her.  It was her ability to breathe especially after the slightest exertion.  Although she sometimes struggled in the daytime the nights were her nightmare.

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This was not the way it was supposed to be.  Lydia was from a land of high elevation.  She was skinny and looked to be in perfect health.  In fact she was too skinny and did her best to eat plenty on her quest to gain weight.  Her friends kidded her about her inability to climb mountains without going into a coughing frenzy. Coming from such a high elevation she was expected to swallow those mountains like milk as she put it.   It was embarrassing to her to be out of breath when her friends easily endured the journey.  Lydia was a Christian and her Christian group would pray with her about her health.  She wondered what was going on and why was she being put through this suffering?  It was terrible suffering too.  Lydia continuously had to climb hills wherever she went. “I hated climbing those hills. They sucked my strength and drained all energies off my joints. I would pant hard and gasp for breath, my chest would burn up and it left me very congested….I was ashamed but would hide all these things and try to catch up like a real champion.”  After climbing the hills there was the strain of climbing the steps to her apartment.  She lived on the second floor and climbing those steps left her completely in agony.  When she arrived she would be coughing out of control.  Naturally her roommate was alarmed as she was awoken from a sound sleep. ” Lydia,why don’t you see a doctor? You coughed really bad last night.”, Lucy would say the following morning cajoling her.
“This would bring my worst fear alive.” Often Lydia would have nosebleeds and cough up blood.  There was something seriously wrong and Lydia was sure she knew what it was.  It has to be Tuberculosis and she cringed at the thought of the treatment involved.  Lydia loathed taking pills and the remedy seemed to be to take these pills for 8 straight months without fail.  If for some reason the pills were not taken she would have to start all over.  It was a terrible thought for her and kept her from seeing a doctor.  She tried over the counter medicine for the flu thinking that would help.  After class one day she decided she couldn’t go on any longer.  Entering the University medical center she met Dr. Mugisha.

Dr. Mugisha was a dark, calm, middle aged doctor.  Lydia quickly explained to him her chest pains and coughing and added that she had the flu.  His method was pretty routine and out of date in Lydia’s mind.  He had a stethoscope and he listened to her heartbeat.  He also looked at her tongue. He asked two or three questions and that was it.  With that short examination Dr. Mugisha had his diagnosis.  In her own words the following is lydia’s story of what happened next.

“He sat down, took off his glasses , looked me in the eye and told me”, she explained, and then came the words she would never forget.  “With no doubt and from my experience, your heart is leaking. Your heartbeat shows that you have a heart problem.”

Lydia listened in disbelief. “I thought I didn’t hear him well. He continued telling me that I wasn’t adding any weight because my heart was using all the energy I had to work extra hard to support my life. He went on and on noting that the heart was the strongest muscle in the body and would be the last organ of the body to wear out. I just listened. He strongly recommended that I go for further tests first thing the following morning. He followed it up with a referral letter to Ward C, Mulago Heart Institute. He finally scribbled a long prescription of food supplements that I should buy.”

“As soon as he finished, I thanked him and left the room” “I walked lazily back to my hostel with my mind replaying all the doctor had said. I laughed! It was impossible! How could a tiny, skinny girl like me have a heart disease? There was no way! And how could he even direct me to his pharmacy to purchase very expensive drugs? I knew he was the type that made money out of unsuspecting patients, foreigners for that matter.”  “He is one of them.” I mused.

Lydia continued to go to prayer meetings hoping that she would get better through her faith. “There was no way I would believe the doctor! How could he use only a stethoscope and tell me my heart was leaking? And what would make my heart leak or sick for that matter? I wasn’t fat! Heart diseases were for fat, rich and obese people not skinny people like me!”  Lydia kept that attitude and she also was very secretive about the doctors diagnosis.  She did confide in a few friends and one of them was named Eric.  Eric was a leader in the Kenyan fellowship group and he was very concerned about Lydia.

“Lydia I know behind that beautiful smile you are hiding a lot.” He had told me very playfully one day. I don’t know what pushed me, but that evening I rang Eric to inform him of what the doctor had said. That evening he made sure he visited me in my room even though it was quite a distant location from where he stayed.  “Lydia, with the way you have been coughing and crying of weak joints when I walk with you, you’ve got to listen to the doctor.” Eric said softly but firmly.”But….” “No buts Lydia!” He cut me short and authoritatively told me that the first thing the following day we would be going to the Mulago Heart Institute. I feared Eric, but also admired and respected him inwardly, for his leadership qualities. He was stern but calm. I did not have any money with me but I did not say it either. I obeyed him.

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Eric and I quite easily found our way to Ward C of the enormous Mulago Hospital at about 7.45am that Tuesday Morning. There were a number of patients at the Heart Institute for such a morning! Some looked frail and really in bad shape. I cowed inside but bravely reached our way to the reception area.  After a few introductions here and there and with our referral letter from the University Hospital, we were told the Cardiologist whom Dr. Mugisha had suggested we see was in. We were directed to the Accounts where Eric paid the Ugx20,000. I was humbled. I had not told him that I didn’t have money. We then waited on the queue to see the cardiologist whose name mysteriously slipped out of my mind! It did not take long before we were in his office. Eric was like a father to me.  The cardiologist read through the referral letter and begun to take in my details. “What is your name?” He asked. “Jerotich Lydia.” I replied
“You come from Kenya, right?” He pried.  “Yes doctor.” I replied obediently. He took his telephone and called in the Accountant. When the Accountant came in he asked him why he had undercharged me for the Consultation fees and yet I was a foreigner. He continued that when ‘they’ visited our hospitals in Kenya for treatment, they were charged more. The cardiologist wrote down the Echo test that was to cost Ugx75,000 and the ECG test that was to cost Ugx50,000. We were dumb founded for a while, thanked him and left with the Accountant. The Accountant told us that we had to add Ugx25,000 on to the Ugx20,000 we had paid earlier for consultation! This was absurd! We were just students! We were not big business men! We promised to be back soon for the tests though and that we would top up the remaining Consultation fees. We left in a huff like a girl suffering from acute jealousy. We walked quietly back to college. Eric had a class to catch up with. I thanked him for his kindness and thoughtful sacrifice. He encouraged and motivated me and we parted ways. I was left all alone. My mind reeled from side to side. It was like I was dreaming. I did not know what or who to believe. Nothing made meaning. I walked slowly and very slowly to my residence smiling outwardly to those who greeted me on the way yet mourning deep within me. What had died? Why did people have to ‘milk’ others without caring about their backgrounds? Why would Dr. Mugisha send me to a fraud? I was right. It was all about getting money from the foreigner. “To hell with heart diseases! This is not my disease! It is for the rich and fat, not me.”

2008 passed by quite slowly. One of the toughest years for me. My health affected every area of my life. I was coughing blood! I was too weak. I was too absent minded! But I kept smiling and trying. Church was my best friend. There was hope there. There were smiles there. There were activities that kept me living there. I tried to belong there. But I could not share my plight with anyone. When I went home for holidays, I lightly joked about what Dr. Mugisha had said about my heart. My mum rebuked such evil thoughts of her daughter. Life went on as usual at home very slowly and roughly for me. I faithfully fetched water from the stream downhill, went to the farm, fed the cows, and did all the chores expected of a lady my age at home. All my nights were nightmares. I longed for mornings as a mother longed to see her new born child.My late grandfather would not hesitate to ask me what was wrong with me as I coughed a lot. I feigned wellness and tried to smile convincingly. He would then warn me not to overwork myself. One morning in 2009, I had been really unwell. A few weeks earlier I had been admitted at the University Hospital for severe Malaria and chest congestion after I had ‘lost’ memory in a test (exam), was too frail and my Business Statistics Lecturer, Mr. Nazarius had driven me in his car from old Kampala Secondary school for medical attention at the university Hospital. Surprisingly, unlike other days, Dr. Mugisha was at the hospital that morning! He received me and the lecturer explained what had happened. Dr. Mugisha examined me, told the lecturer to buy for me Fanta Orange because the sugar would give me some energy. He then admitted me as my blood sample was being tested. I remained in the hospital for a week. Coincidentally, James, one of colleagues at the kenyan fellowship was admitted that very time too! He was in an isolated ward, admitted for TB! I would visit him anyway! I wanted to learn more about TB. Eventually James was fully treated and discharged. I was discharged later that weekend after pestering the nurses that I wanted to leave the hospital. My discharge report read, “Discharged with severe Malaria.”

I was baffled!  I looked stronger, I felt better! The report was not true! I was discharged on condition that I bought some antibiotics for the chest. They were expensive but I had missed my tests (exams), I had to.  Now, this morning I’m remembering, I was really feeling bad. I hadn’t put my head down the previous night. These past few days I had been coughing so bad and could not lie down flat!    Even 3 to 4 pillows propping my head and back were not working! This particular night I sat down the whole night as I could not breathe well when lying down. My new room mate Deborah was so worried. She had called all of the neighbors on our floor to come and watch over me.  I coughed up blood, so that morning, I had called Ruth my friend and homey. She escorted me to the University hospital. I was very determined! My mind was made up, I was going to face it and treat it, the Tubercuclosis! I told them I wanted to see Dr. Mugisha.  The man directed me to room 8. I met an elderly lady doctor at the hospital whose name I have sadly forgotten. I told her straight away that I had TB. She was humble and listened. She wanted to know what made me so sure? I explained my story. She sent me to the laboratory for my sputum to be tested. Some minutes later, she called  me back to her office. She explained that my chest was clear as crystal. There were no chest infections and I didn’t have TB! ! We were mesmerized! She then immediately sent me for a chest X-ray. It was my first time. I had heard that such rays were dangerous but I wanted this ‘thing’ known. I obeyed every instruction of the technician. All my upper clothes off, my back facing him about 10 meters afar, he did what he did best,  reassuring me that the rays would not harm me. He finished and Ruth and I waited. An hour or so later, my ‘mother’ doctor called. I went in to her office. She showed me the X-ray film and gently interpreted it to me. She said I had Cardiomegaly. The word was as big as I have just spelled it! I looked.  “Lydia, ” she patted my shoulder, “this is a condition that means that your heart is enlarged. As you can see here,” she pointed at the film, “your heart margins are bulged outwards.” I was lost in thought for a second, I was reminiscing…..So Dr. Mugisha had been right all along….He was indeed an expert! Only a stethoscope and he had figured it out! He was momentarily my hero! “Lydia,” my lady doctor brought me back to her, “you need to go to the Heart Institute at Mulago Hospital the first thing tomorrow morning for further tests to ascertain the cause of your heart’s enlargement and get treated immediately.” She wrote down the referral letter…Same things I had heard and seen a year. before….. If only I had listened to Dr. Mugisha then! She handed the referral to me. I thanked her with a
big smile and left her office. I met Ruth at the waiting bay and gave her a quick explanation. She nodded understandingly. We were very hungry. We walked back to the hostel. I was now determined, convinced, ready for whatever was ahead of me. An X-ray had given some light…My church remained my closest friend. I remained a year behind my colleagues in class.

Lydia felt like the doubting Thomas in the Bible.  She had seen with her own eyes the problem and now she believed!  Her open heart surgery was done successfully on September 5, 2012 in a ‘small’ Missionary Hospital-Tenwek Hospital in Rift Valley, Kenya. She had a valve replaced. Although it took awhile for Lydia to regain her strength healing came.  The big thing for her was to find out what the problem was. Once she grasped the problem and believed the diagnosis she was able to prepare herself for what was ahead. Although it was a tough road she was on board with what needed to be done.

Today Lydia couldn’t be happier. She has energy she never dreamed she could have! She didn’t get her degree from the university, yet has found favor from God as she is employed as an administrator at one of the universities in Rwanda!  She is able to serve her God and be a light to others because of the encouragement she is able to provide. A big burden has been lifted from her (literally a load off of her chest) and she is so grateful! She encourages people to not ignore their physical condition, but to seek help and get to the bottom of their problem. The Bible verse “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” John 8:32, certainly applies to her life and attitude today!

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Lydia’s plight reminds me of where we all are or were. Something was or is spiritually wrong in our lives. Something was or is terribly wrong with us and only by embracing the reality and accepting the diagnosis can we find healing. Lydia had a change of heart. She rejected the first diagnosis from Dr. Mugisha and lived with the consequences of that rejection. Only when she had more trouble and was given a second opinion did she discover the truth he conveyed. Perhaps you have rejected God’s salvation plan in the past. Perhaps you are ashamed of the life you are now living. No matter where you have been God is there for your healing. Maybe the scars that life has caused you are painful. You will not forget the pain but God will give you peace and a helpful heart to those going down the same path. At first after the surgery Lydia detested her scars. Now she has had a change of heart. “I love my scars, they tell a story”, she proclaims “They tell my story better and clearer than none could.” “That I am a fighter, a warrior, a survivor, an over-comer and a story teller.” Let me add one more word that Lydia left out. She is an inspiration and lights up a room with her smile!  Now she puts her whole heart into all that she does for God’s glory!

A few days ago Lydia shared this thought on her face book.  It seemed to sum up her journey not only for the week but through her illness too!   “This has been a great week for me. Though I had down moments as a result of the demise of a loved one, it has been so clear to me that joy is not the absence of pain, but the presence of God through it all.

The following quote was taken from Lydia’s facebook page to inspire her and others!

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“Recently I’ve been learning that life comes down to this: God is in everything. Regardless of what difficulties I am experiencing at the moment, or what things aren’t as I would like them to be, I look at the circumstances and say, “Lord, what are you trying to teach me?””

—Catherine Marshall

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