Longing for Normal?

My conversation with my Teaching Para yesterday. This is her first year with me.

Me- I just want one normal day in school.

My Para- What is a normal day like?

Me- We had them before COVID.

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During what feels like this never ending pandemic, it is normal to wish for things to get back to normal.

But then even in the best of times, there is still that feeling that something isn’t quite right. We feel that there should be more to life than what this world has to offer.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

What is unseen is heaven our future home. Inwardly we know that this life of troubles is not meant for us. There has to be something more.

Hebrews 11 puts it this way in regards to the people of faith

 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

So while yes I do hope for an end to this pandemic and a return to the old normal, the old normal is not what I really long for in the long run. It is heaven with Jesus that I long for, but there are more people for me to share with in this life first.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Celebration of Life

This afternoon was memory lane as we celebrated the life of the mom of my best friend as a child. During the funeral as my friend Todd shared memories, it brought back memories for me. Best of all my friend Todd and his mom whose life we celebrated both know Jesus.

One of the stories shared was that in her final days on earth one of her visitors told her, “Jesus loves you,” and she smiled ear to ear.

Whenever I go to the funeral of someone who knows Jesus, I think of Psalm 116

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants

That is not a morbid or sadistic thought at all. Jesus does not relish seeing us suffer. What makes the death of his faithful servants precious to him is that our deaths are the time we come home to our eternal home with him.

Jesus knows heaven is far better for us than this life. He also wants us with him. In John 17 Jesus said:

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

It was a good afternoon spent reminiscing with friends from long ago and remembering a woman from my childhood.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

My New Short Story-Terminal Patient Meets A Man Who Died Twice — Encounters with the Ancients

“I am sorry to inform you that all of the treatments we have tried have failed. Your cancer is spreading. It is time to talk about end of life care for you.” Words that no patient ever wants to hear had just been spoken in warm sympathetic tones. “End of life? How long do I […]

Terminal Patient Meets A Man Who Died Twice — Encounters with the Ancients

Weekends with My Spanish Speaking Friends

It has been a wonderful blessing to have my weekend groups going again. I am starting small which is intentional on my part, so there is flexibility if the whole COVID situation changes. My groups have five friends who speak Spanish, two from Cuba and three from Mexico.

We have bonded quickly as a group. We have a lot of fun studying together and laughter fills in the room. They are people who normally would not be able to go to a class during the week due to work schedules, so being able to come Saturday and Sunday morning means a lot to them.

Yesterday we went out for lunch after our morning class. One would think it would have been at a Mexican restaurant, which would have been great for me, but they wanted burgers, so off we went to Red Robin and had burgers.

This morning after we practiced English for 45 minutes, I read a bible verse to them in English and then in Spanish. It is a verse from John 17 where Jesus tells God the Father that he wants us to be with him in heaven.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

“Padre, quiero que los que me has dado estén conmigo donde yo estoy. Que vean mi gloria, la gloria que me has dado porque me amaste desde antes de la creación del mundo”

Then I shared the music video What A Beautiful Name with them first in English and then in Spanish. They have asked me to remember to pray for them, which I happily do

I shared a closing thought with them that I want to share with you based on the verse in John 17. Jesus wants us, wants you in heaven with him for all eternity. It is the reason he came and died on the cross for us and defeated death for us. If we trust in him, have faith in him, he shares eternity with us.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Story Time- My New Teaching Toy

You know the saying, “the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys?” This past week that has certainly been true of me for my U.S. Citizenship classes. The Community Center I teach them for rents space from a larger Community Agency. That agency had something new installed in the conference rooms I teach in.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The new set up has a large screen TV which is connected to the internet, a cool sound system, and has a cordless keyboard and mouse. It has been so much fun this past week trying out my new toy. 🙂

The classes are blended classes with some students joining in Zoom and some students in person. We can see the Zoom students on the large 64 inch screen. They can see the whole classroom. I have been having fun exploring what I can do with this wonderful new toy. 🙂

Even with the fun new technology, the most fun for me is the diverse group of students. My students come from Burma, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iraq, Libya, Mexico and Sudan. As I teach them, I think about how they can all become Americans. We are all studying together because they each share the same goal.

Yet as wonderful as it will be when they each become citizens, it pales in comparison to the ultimate realization of diverse people coming together as one with the same purpose which will be to rejoice over being in the presence of Jesus. People from every tribe, tongue/language, nation will be there.

Another thought- no electronics, tech, toys etc in this life can compare to what we will see in heaven. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Trees

“I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.”= from Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem about trees

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, Confession time- I have a love/hate relationship with trees. Obviously the poet Joyce Kilmer didn’t have allergies.

Trees give us oxygen and clean our air. Trees give us shade in the summer time. Trees give us delicious treats like apples, oranges, and bananas. Trees provide a home for the birds who sing in the morning.

How could anyone have a love/hate relationship with trees?

Simple- I am allergic to tree pollen. The time of year when everyone else is excited to see flowers bloom on certain trees, I hope for a big thunderstorm to blow those blossoms off. For two months each spring, I wish lived in a place where trees do not bud new leaves all at once as they come back to life.

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Yes, each April and May, I HATE trees because they mean taking allergy pills and using allergy sprays. They mean sitting inside out of the pollen and checking pollen counts each day. Right now, I hate trees for making me miserable. Yes, I am complaining, but I think I needed to write this to unblock my mind and free me up from hating a beautiful part of God’s creation.

But then June comes and the trees aren’t budding anymore and it seems all of the sudden, no tree pollen. Then I love trees. I can go to the park or out for a walk and have no allergy symptoms. As the summer gets hotter I love the shade trees provide.

In the fall the leaves change color and the skyline of the city comes alive with vivid colors of red, yellow, orange, and gold. Then I love trees for their beauty.

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So I guess trees teach me something about living in this world and in this life. This life is a mixed bag of blessings and struggles. What blesses one person can make trouble for another person. So I guess I will just have to accept that for ten months of the year, I will continue to love trees and not blame them for the two months of misery

I just hope The Tree of Life in heaven does not emit tree pollen but of course there I won’t have allergies 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

When Christians Die

This morning a celebration of life will be observed for a woman who was part of my Life Group from church. She passed away and entered the presence of Jesus on Good Friday shortly before midnight. My first thought was what an Easter celebration she had. 🙂

Her final days in hospice care provided some poignant moments. One that I will never forget was bringing some grape juice and gluten free crackers to observe communion with her, her family, and a few Life Group members. I sat near her and read scripture to her, played some worships songs, and prayed as we shared communion.

When a Christian friend passes away, I am always mindful of what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 about grieving:

brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope

Even in death we have hope because of Jesus. He defeated death for us through his resurrection. The plan is already set for our resurrection which Paul wrote about in 1 Thessalonians 4:

 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

When a Christian dies, our spirit/soul enters into heaven enjoying eternal glory but we also wait for that day our bodies will be resurrected. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:8:

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

and home it is.

So as we celebrate my friend’s earthly life, I will be mindful of the truth that she lives on in heaven and is much better off than I am at the moment. I will also remember that for Christians death is not goodbye. It is see you again.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Jesus Wants Us with Him for Eternity

Yesterday I visited a dear sister in Jesus who has terminal cancer. I visited her in the hospice facility where she is being cared for in her final days. It was my third visit since Saturday. She has been part of my Life Group from my church.

I shared a short devotional with her about how Jesus will return for his church and perhaps that will be soon. That all who believe in Jesus have a wonderful eternal destiny where there is no cancer.

How can I say that Jesus wants us with him for eternity? Because he said it himself. In john 17:24

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world”

That is why he came and died for us 2,000 years ago. That is why he defeated death for us. One day he will come for us. I shared this song with my friend. One day we will dance on streets that are golden

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Jesus Gives Life- John Chapter 5

As Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders who had their manmade rules discussed last week, he clearly spoke of two separate persons- The Father and Himself. Two separate persons in perfect unity. In that sense they are one-united.

Jesus constantly spoke of God as his Father. In John 5 Jesus spoke of the workings of the Father and the Son-Jesus.

Highlights of the chapter:

The Father and Jesus give life. They give life to us in this world. They also give us eternal life if we accept Jesus.

The Father has given all judgement to the Son-Jesus. The purpose is for Jesus to be glorified.

Jesus will raise people from the dead. He will speak and the dead will rise.

We can tend to think of Christianity as a set of rules to follow that come from a strict God ready to pounce on us when we mess up.

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By contrast, Jesus speaks of Himself and the Father giving to us. They give us life. They give us eternal life. We cannot fathom how wonderful heaven is. They will even raise our bodies from the dead so we can spend eternity in glorified bodies.

Jesus came to give to us not to rob us of joy. He came to give us true joy. He came to give us peace in our souls not as the world gives.

Ask yourself

Do I think of God as being like the religious leaders with their strict manmade rules or as a Father who loves us and give to use?

Do I think of God and being ready to pounce on us when we mess up or as guiding us to a better way of living?

Do I consider how wonderful heaven is going to be?

Jesus is a giver not a robber as we will see in a later chapter.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.