Saturday, August 31, 2013

This Is What I Signed on For...

     Almost 27 years ago, when I promised to honor my husband and to love him in sickness and in health, this is what I signed on for. He signed on for the same thing.  In the almost 3 decades that we've been together, he's seen me through two surgeries, childbirth, three bouts of pneumonia, a shattered wrist, and prolonged physical therapy on two different occasions. Phil has had one outpatient surgery, a couple of bouts with flu, one bout of pneumonia and that's about it.
    When we went to the physical therapist on Thursday, to our relief, we could see that the simple exercise Phil had to do was working.  The therapist warned us that Phil would hate him because this exercise would tax Phil's biceps to an extreme, simply because of the repetitive nature of the exercises.  Ten to fifteen every hour - more if he can stand it.
    I just expected Phil to do them while I played on the computer, read mysteries, washed clothes, cooked, and did a minimal amount of house work.  And he did do them.  Until one arm was so sore that he couldn't raise his hand to his mouth to brush his teeth.  At that point, he had extreme pain in his leg, his back, and his arms and could find no relief.  He was at the end of his rope and I was wanting to retreat further into my mystery novels simply because I didn't know how to help him.
   Then Phil's sister came over last night, brought movies, used hot towels on his back and talked with him and I could see a huge improvement in his attitude.  I was so grateful for her and still am.
   Last night was rough and neither Phil nor I got much sleep.  This morning I woke up contemplating everything that could go wrong - mostly regarding Phil's health, his job, and our health insurance.  Life seemed bleak.  As I've been trying to do for the past few weeks, I got up and sang a brief song to God.  However,  just a remarkably short time later, I  was wanting to curse everything about our situation. The words of James came to mind about how a fountain doesn't spew both bitter and fresh water, how one doesn't bless God and curse man. I wasn't cursing man but the principle still applied.  Bitter water was definitely spilling out of my heart.  For the first time since this started, I felt like nothing good would come out of it.
  And then God brought a short phrase to my rebellious mind:  This is what you signed up for...
  I thought about that as my spirit quieted down. I remembered the day when I walked down the aisle, my eyes fixed on my soon-to-be husband, my heart full of joy and anticipation.  And I  realized that this is exactly what I signed up for on that momentous day.  This and more.
  At that point, my thoughts went from total selfishness to the realization that I've not been fulfilling my part of the bargain.   I've mostly left him in the trenches alone, so to speak, thinking that getting him to the therapist, helping him walk when he's weak, and bringing him food fulfilled my part of the equation. The rest was his job.
  I wasn't approaching this as if we were one.  Yet, according to Scripture, we are.
  And this is indeed what I signed up for.
  Pain, right now is our enemy. Our enemy.  Pushing through the exercises is our way to wholeness and health.  And so today, we watched a movie together - instead of me burying my face in a book and leaving him alone in the spare bedroom with his pain.  During the movie, we  hit pause from time to time so that I could apply hot compresses before he went into the exercises.  And then  the two of us rejoiced  when he was momentarily free of pain and had slightly more range of motion than he had before.
   Once God showed me that this is our job, that this is exactly what I committed to almost 27 years ago, that these exercises are our battle, and that since He is in it with us, we can win this war, everything changed.     I don't know how 7 little words could bring about such a transformation.
   All I know is that they have.
   I'm grateful for my husband and my best friend. He is and always has been a "keeper". Not perfect :)  But a keeper....
   I'm grateful for God's grace.  Can't imagine where  we would be without it.  Seriously.
   And I'm grateful for today's God-given aha moment of insight when it really hit me:  this is what I signed up for.
    And I'm so glad I did.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Florence Nightingale, I'm Not...

Phil:  I think I know when I hurt my back the first time.  Like the therapist said, this problem has probably been in the making for a long time.
Me:  Sounds reasonable.  You've had back pain off and on for years.
Phil:  Yeah. But never like this. And never in my leg.  Man, yesterday it felt like my leg was on fire.  I've heard people describe this type of pain and now I know they weren't kidding.
Me:  I'm sorry; I know you are really hurting.
Phil:  I'm trying to figure out when I first probably hurt my back.  I think it might have been when I and two other guys lifted this huge thing of sheet metal.  Just three guys lifting sheet metal. That was stupid.
Me: How old were you?
Phil: Early twenties. But then it might have been when I lifted an oak door by myself. Not good.  I bet that's what did it.
Me: How old were you then?
Phil: Probably about 14.  I bet that's when I first hurt my back.
Me: Probably so.
Phil:   But then, it could have been the time I fell out of the back of a jeep. Did I ever tell you about that?
Me:  No, I'm pretty sure you didn't.
Phil:  Yeah.  I was riding in the back of a jeep, we were going across this open field, and we came to this dip in the ground and I fell out.
Me:  You fell out??? Of  a moving  jeep????
Phil:  Yeah. I landed on my head.
Me:  On your head!!!????
Phil:  Well, it was a big dip in the ground that we hit; it wasn't a small one.
Me:  Wow. God obviously had a plan for your life. Otherwise you wouldn't have made it this far.  What did you do?
Phil: What did I do?  Well, my friend asked me if I was okay, I said I was, and I got back in the jeep.
Me:  Men are stupid.
Phil (in pain): It's true...
Florence Nightingale, I'm not.... :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

When We're Willing to Do So...

      Right now my husband is mostly in bed, dealing with chronic numbness and/or pain to an extent that he's never experienced before.  These past few days it's been mostly pain.  Severe at times.  As in he's been on the verge of passing out three times in the past 24 hours. Make that four times - I just had to stop this blog to help him back to bed, neither of us sure that he would make it.  It's hard to see him cry, use a cane, beg for relief, and at times, break out in a sweat as he verges on passing out. Scary too.
     And that's the point of this blog.
     When there's nothing else that we can do.  Exercises.  Pain meds.  Heating pads.  Cold packs.  All that's been done and is still being done. And yet....there's still this unbearable pain that overwhelms him from time to time...
    We're finding that we  can  sing. Not always. And almost never in tune. But still, we can sing...
    Ironically enough: we don't normally sing around here - it's just not our style. Or, at least, it wasn't our style...
    This afternoon, while I was trying to catch up on rest - there hasn't been a lot of it around here the past two nights - Phil got up and was suddenly swamped with pain. He told me later he made it back to bed by singing hymns. Really???  That's a new one!
     This morning, as I waited for Phil to get ready so we could go for his first therapy session, I found an old hymn - one I was pretty sure I didn't like - welling up from my heart and bursting out of my mouth. I didn't even know I had memorized the words.  Must have been back in my granny's little country church because I could swear I haven't heard it much in the past few decades.   But this morning, those words flowed through my being like the balm of Gilead and the more I sang, the more I could let go - of my anxiety over my husband, over my concern about his job, over all the "what-if's" that have been plaguing us since this intermittent (now constant)  nerve pain started three weeks ago.
    The hymn?
    Leaning on the Everlasting Arms ...
    Truly, we are.
    Because there's nothing else we can do at this point.
    And we're finding, oddly enough, that while this is a hard place - really hard at times -  to be, still, it's not necessarily a bad place.
    I guess you don't lean until you have to.
    And right now, we have to.
    And that's maybe the one good thing we've found so far in this journey with pain: that He gives a song at the most unexpected times and that He's always there for us to lean on... when we're willing to do so.

   What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.


What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

If You Aren't... You Should...

    Once upon a time there was a war which started with an act of terrorism.

    The main loser in that war was required by the winners to establish a democratic government.  The losers tried but in the end, the democracy they didn't really want, didn't really work.  Meanwhile, the economy got out of hand and there was a horrific crash heard round the world, starting with Wall Street.

   Nothing was really settled by the first war and things were really unsettled by the economic crash and then there were disgruntled, evil men waiting in the wings to get "revenge" for the past...

    Soooo... the War that Was to End All Wars ended up leading to another war, which was worse than the first.

    And, no, this is not a story from Fractured Fairy Tales for Boys and Girls Who Watch too many Cartoons.

    The first war was called WWI and it introduced horrific weapons of mass destruction, such as poison gas canisters  and bombs from airplanes.

    The act of terrorism which started WWI was the assassination of one man, a prince, who wasn't even very popular in his own country.  But you just can't have little pip-squeak countries (Serbia in this case) going around terrorizing big, powerful empires (Austro-Hungary in this case).  In other words, a mouse can't stomp on a lion's paw and get away with it.

   Only he can if he has several allies who are more powerful than the lion that he stomped on. One pip-squeak country called Serbia can win if he has friends called Great  Britain, France, Italy,  Russia, and  the US.

   If the humiliated lion also has big friends, then the contest can get pretty bloody and be pretty drawn out.  Some if not all of the major powers can be weakened  during the fighting, but still, in the end, it is possible for a political gnat like Serbia to defeat a power house combination like Germany and Austro-Hungary.  History proves this is possible. Perhaps even more to the point, it is possible for  a "simple" conflict between a gnat and a lion, one simple act of terrorism, to lead to a world-wide conflagration that staggers the imagination.

   It all boils down in part,  not to who's your daddy? but to who's your ally?   World wars   come together through alliances, rivalries, treaties - both broken and unbroken - and a series of "small" wars eventually "threaded" together into one big nightmare.

   It also boils down to  the overall stability of the region where the initial (small) conflict originates.  Europe in the late 1800's and early 1900's was in a state of change. Dynasties were tottering, rivalries were flaring up, several "small" wars were popping up, the machine age was gearing up, ethnic groups were longing for independence, the old ways were dying out -  but the new ways had not yet been carved out.

   Ring any bells?

   If you aren't watching the Middle East right now, you should be. And a little prayer wouldn't be amiss right now either....




Monday, August 26, 2013

A Little Free Advice... :)

       Just because I eat food,  know what I like to eat, and can put a meal together,  that doesn't make me a gourmet cook.
       And just because a person has been in the classroom as a student, that doesn't make them an expert on teaching.
      Frankly, I don't consider myself to be an expert on anything.  But after 31 years of teaching high school, I hope it's okay to give a little advice to parents of teens.
      1.  Don't go into a parent/teacher conference with the words, "Why don't you like my child?" on your lips. If the teacher really doesn't like your child, which is highly doubtful, then you don't want to know why they don't like the kid.  Trust me on this.  It is a boomerang question...  In other words, teachers don't (contrary to public opinion) wake up, throw on their clothes, and bust out the front door thinking, "Man! I can't wait for third block so I can dislike Johnny some more today!"   They just don't.

      2.  Don't go into a conference and start bad-mouthing your ex-spouse.  In all likelihood, it will reveal more about you than about them.  Even if it doesn't, teachers want to focus on a solution to whatever problem exists. Most likely the ex-spouse -  especially if he/she is a bum- is not part of the solution.

   3.  Don't ask your child's teacher to spend more time after school helping them with their reading and neglect to mention that the child is on probation for stealing a car while they were high with their friends.  Teachers are worker bees (for the most part) and have chosen a "helping" profession because.. they like to help.   Extra tutorials, however, will not help Johnny if he's getting high several times a week outside of class. He needs professional help and Mrs. Jones needs to quit beating her head against a wall after school because of mis-information.  (Ditto on bad-mouthing Mrs. Jones to the principal because Johnny isn't doing well in her class when you know Johnny is running around most every night, often one step ahead of the law.  Your denial can get Mrs. Jones in hot water and put needless pressure on her while your child continues to self-destruct).

    4.  Don't go off the deep end if you check ed-line and your child has an 0 or an F on one assignment.  Ed-line is a mixed blessing.  It can help; but it can also hurt.   I graduated from high school and college with honors.  However, if ed-line had been in existence, I might never have lived long enough  to make it to college.  Even the best students can slip up from time to time. It doesn't mean they are headed to Alcatraz; if you are going to check ed-line constantly, you need to keep things in perspective.  If your identity is wrapped up in your kid's grades, then limit your time on ed-line or have your spouse check it.  Every kid messes up from time to time and their scholastic performance is not to be confused with your identity and your sense of well-being.

    5.   Don't.  Do not.  I repeat - DON'T email your child's teacher every day, every other day, or even every week.   Your teacher has a bunch of students to work with.  He or she has other parents to deal with as well as administrators.  They have a ton of paperwork to do as well, including classroom prep, grading, checking late work and absentee work.  And they have, hopefully, a life outside of school.  If your child has such a serious problem that you need to communicate frequently with his/her teachers, set up conferences. If you don't have the time to take off from work to conference  with the teacher every day, every other day, or every week, the same is true for them.  Plus, if it's not worth taking the time to go to school to talk to the staff frequently, it's not worth e-mailing about frequently. Limit your e-mails.  E-mail is not designed to soothe your angst and/or enable you to get personal feedback every day because you can't trust Johnny to keep up with his homework.  It just isn't.  If Johnny can drive a car, he can keep up with his assignments...

    6. Don't feel bad if during a conference, your stress spills over into tears.  Most teachers have a tender heart and can identify to some extent with your sorrow.   If your child is breaking your heart and you suddenly get swamped with grief and start grabbing tissues off the teacher's desk, you don't need to apologize.   That happens at conferences probably more often than most parents realize and it's legit in the majority of the cases.  Many teachers (yes, even in public schools!) will listen and then go home and pray for your child as well as make an extra effort to encourage your son or daughter whenever they can.

 7.   Don't believe your child when they come home and say they didn't know they had homework. 99.9% of the time, you will be right to toss that statement right out of the window.  (Just as teachers are right in tossing out many of the things that kids say about their parents.  It is a two-way street :).

   8.   Remember that most teachers generally do not go into this profession for the money or for the non-existent "short" hours.  They go into it because they love kids and they want to make a difference. Most teachers willingly give of their "free" time before school and after school to do the things they are trained to do - review kids over their lessons, help them develop learning skills they are lacking, and/or help them catch up with work missed while they had a prolonged illness.  While they do these things willingly, once your child goes home, the teacher still has a ton of things on their to-do list before they can call it a day.  Most of the teachers on my floor arrived at school between 6:30 and 7 a.m. every school day and almost none walked out the door by 3:30 or 4.  If they did leave "on time", they took work home with them.  So be appreciative of things your child's teacher does and look for ways to encourage them.  It won't go unnoticed, I assure you.        

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Willing Sheep...

     I've heard things like this. I wonder if you have?
     "My nephew pastors a small church.  It's tiny but, boy, is it growing! And how they love him and his wife!"
     Or  "Our church has 5,000 members and its own television ministry!  Our pastor's just written his second book and this one looks like it will be a best-seller!"
      I've never heard anyone say, "Our son pastors a church of hard-headed knuckleheads and they just hate him!  Every day he gets on his knees and begs God to send him to another pastorate but God just keeps impressing on him to stay where he is.  And, man, is that church declining!  The membership is dropping like flies!  We are so proud of him!!!"
     And, yes, this blog (which will be mercifully short) is a continuation of the last one:)
     A sort of: what God-thinks-versus-what-we-think type of blog.
     The basis is, again, the book of Isaiah.
     What a preacher he must have been! Isaiah's  book is so eloquent, so beautifully written.
    And he was so anointed!  During his ministry, Isaiah actually saw the Lord, high and lifted up!
    His calling came by way of an angel!  An angel!
    And the calling was this:
    God: Isaiah! I'm going to send you to a hardhearted, rebellious bunch of knuckle-heads who won't hear a word you say!!!  You'll preach your heart out, decade after decade, and in the end it won't make a bit of difference to them! They'll just keep on keepin' on until they get slammed with My judgment!   As for you, your ministry will outlast several kings and you'll die an old man with nothing to show for your faithful proclamation of my message!  Oh, and when you are done?  Your congregation will probably saw you in half.  But it's okay, you don't have to worry about retirement benefits...
    Isaiah:  God, I'm not worthy to serve You.  But here am I. Send me.
    Talk about a willing sheep ministering to  a bunch of hard-headed wolves...
    Again... just something to think about.
    Sometimes God  doesn't see things the way we do... (Maybe all the time...)


Matthew 10:16

English Standard Version (ESV)

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."


Friday, August 23, 2013

Something Worth Thinking About..

      The other day, I heard someone say, "No child should ever have to go through what this child has endured!"
      I thought about Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Haiti, Ghana, Bolivia... and I wondered.   Where do we get the idea that American children are entitled to a pain-free life?
      Do I want kids to suffer?
      Absolutely not!
      But do I think that this is an American right?
      No. I really don't.
      Am I grateful that we live in a country where health care is available, where the standard of living is above the norm?  Where success is an every-day story?
      Most definitely!
      But what I'm saying is that I think our affluence, our collective wealth and sophistication, has caused us to embrace a lie without realizing it.
      I hear people complain about how parts of our society are hung up on their entitlements.
      What I'm saying, as nicely as I can, is that I think we all (myself included) have a subtle entitlement mentality in this country.
      When we get burned by hot coffee, we sue McDonald's and now we've fixed the problem by labeling every commercial styrofoam cup with words to the effect that hot coffee can burn you.  That's America: you see a problem, you fix it!  This is the land where no one should ever get burned by hot coffee!  Where no child should ever suffer! Where no hard-working responsible person should ever experience failure!
    Where no one should ever really have to feel their need of God.
    This is America, Heaven on earth, where bad things should never happen and when they do, someone should have to pay for it if at all possible!
    Some of the wisest, gentlest, most loving young people I've ever met are from Rwanda.
    They almost all have horror stories, not generic horror stories but personal ones.
    But they don't seem to feel entitled. They just seem to feel grateful.
    To God.
    I find that something worth thinking about.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Sure Promise of Something Amazing

      I am one of those.
      I admit it.  Groan if you like and roll your eyes.  Still, it won't change me :)
      When others complain about how tacky it is that Christmas stuff  starts appearing  in October, I try to act wise, shake my head, and commiserate with my betters.  But secretly, I love it.
     Just as I never tired of snow days throughout my 31 years of teaching. Wiser people than I would shake their heads and say, "I don't want to make up all those days in summer!!"  But to have a really good snowfall, a beautiful blanket of white, an unexpected holiday from school,  a real (but temporary!) chill in the air containing the sweet promise of hot chocolate and a day on the couch watching Christmas movies instead of corralling recalcitrant teens.  Man! I would do just about anything for that!  Snow dance...  Childish prayers...  You name it.  Even dumping homework on the kids the day before the promised blizzard (usually an inch or so in Arkansas...) and telling them that if they had all their homework for the next day, the probability was that it would snow and we'd be out of school.  While if they didn't do their assignments and weren't prepared, it was almost guaranteed it wouldn't snow.  (I never told them that in central Arkansas, it's almost guaranteed anyway that 90% of the time forecasts for snow don't pan out, regardless of what you do or don't do).
     However, more often than not, the breathless anticipation of a real snow day, a getting-out-of-school-early-day, turned into dejected scholars and academic drudgery as snow taunted us by pelting our classroom windows, coating our cars, and then melting as soon as it hit the ground.
    What a disappointment!
    Science 101: water is not snow.  No matter how you slice it:  you don't get rain days from school.  Sad, that... :)
   Still, on those mornings, the kids would come in with updates.  "I heard Little Rock schools are getting out!"  That was usually the first buzz around our high school, implying that if LR was out, then surely we would be next. Only we almost never did get out when LR did. But still, that was the first hopeful sign.
   Then there would be bulletins by late comers.   "My car door was frozen solid this morning and the snow is coming down like crazy right now!"  (Teens... and, um, ahem... one teacher.. run to the windows and draw back the shades at this news!!)
   But these were almost always false alarms.  (The car door just was stuck because the kid had a lemon of a vehicle...)
   Over the years, I learned that the only true indicator of an early-out day was this: if a kid came in and said, "I just heard the principal tell the kitchen ladies to quit preparing lunch!" - I knew that guaranteed we were indeed getting out early.  What joy!!!   Who would have thought that a few simple words:  "Quit preparing lunch!" would bring such excitement!!!  Because that order from the principal was the real deal!  Whoo Hoo!!! We were getting a sudden break, about to bust out of the halls of Academia to do wonderful things totally out of the ordinary...  (Like drive our cars into ditches because Arkansans don't know how to drive on snow...ha!)
    Right now I'm reading through the book of Isaiah, the prince among prophets.
   I can't read it without thinking of Christmas, Handel's Messiah,  the Hallelujah Chorus, and wonderful things that are beyond imagining.
   Some of the passages, which are so beautiful, create within me an excitement, a standing-on-tiptoe, sort of  breathless  anticipation of something that will be better than a thousand snow days.  Something that, when it happens, will not disappoint.
   Some days - actually many days -  I see dark clouds, heavy and looming large over our world. Pain, suffering, violence, depravity,  famine, lawlessness, extreme poverty, and hopelessness.  And I get discouraged.
   But then I remember that those dark clouds, as awful as they may be, hold the promise of something amazing and my heart is lifted up in anticipation.
  The ultimate "snow day", if you will, is coming!

Luke 21:28

English Standard Version (ESV)
28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Isaiah 40:1-5
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that her warfare[a] is ended,
    that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord's hand
    double for all her sins.

A voice cries:[b]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

I Thessalonians 4:16-18
   16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Therefore... encourage one another with these words...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Lord, This Is Me Talking to You...

    Lord, teach me Your ways and enable me to walk in Your paths.
    I know my ways... and in a bind, they don't work...
    I know the way of anxiety; I don't know the way of complete trust and rest.  Psalms 23 eludes me.
    I know the way of grasping for the wheel, of maintaining tight control.  But not the way of truly letting go.
    I know the way of faith - as long as I can see at least part of the plan and that little bit looks doable to me.
    But standing on a rock jutting out of the sea, while ocean waves lap at my feet - Lord, that's really not for me...  (Have I told You lately that I can't swim??  Well, just in case, I haven't... Lord, this is me talking to  You and, seriously... I can't swim...  And as I stand on this rock, with no shoreline in sight, I don't think  dog-paddling is gonna cut it... this time...)
    But I digress...
    Lord, teach me Your ways and enable me to walk in Your paths.
    Because Your paths tend to be on top of the waves while mine ... tend to be under.
    And just a few inches can make a big difference when it comes to tons of  sea water.
    So, Lord, please teach me Your ways and enable me to walk Your paths this day.

Locater Map at the Mall of Difficulty:  You are here.
Not exactly soaring like an eagle...

But focused on  the Rock Who is Higher+

Lord,  please teach me Your ways....  (Isaiah 2:3b)

May all of us have a blessed day today  as we look to the One who  can cut a safe path through the storm and  who is able to calm the seas around us.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Eyes Closed; Eyes Opened...

      It's so easy to fear.
      My husband is a mechanic.  While the verdict is still out, he does have a back injury of some sort and for a mechanic, that is not good.  He can still work but, clearly, he isn't totally well.  As he puts it, he has a rolling gait now and carries an Aleve in his pocket.  So fear is a temptation knocking at my door.  Accompanied by several "what ifs".
      There are other fears as well, unrelated to Phil's accident, his ability to work, and/or to future medical issues.  Perhaps it is not the same with you but with  me,  somehow one fear never comes alone; it  always brings company.  Sort of like when Bilbo Baggins opens his door, over and over, to an endless stream of uninvited guests who come into his peaceful little Hobbit hole, make themselves at home, muddy his floors,  empty his cupboards, basically take over,  and  ignore him.
      So as soon as I woke up today, one fear after another came knocking at my door.
      Thankfully, something else came my way -  one simple instruction from three different sources.. First,  I simply opened a new Bible I had ordered in the mail - it arrived while Phil and I were out of town - and when I opened it, I saw that the passage in front of me was a narrative that I have loved since childhood. Really, it is my favorite narrative in all of Scripture. (II Kings 6:14-20).    So I started reading about Elisha's servant - a man who freaked out and rightly so.  One day he opened the front door and saw that a huge army had slipped in under cover of night and now encircled the place where he lived.  He wasn't a rocket scientist but it didn't take one to know that the chariots and horsemen had come for the Elisha and for him as well, a man close enough to be tainted by association.
      The servant ran to Elisha, the guy who hadn't gotten him in this predicament, and  basically cried out, "What on earth do we do now????  Our goose is cooked!!!"  (Arkansas translation...)
      Elisha responded:  "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And then this prophet of God prayed that the servant's eyes would be opened.   God did indeed open the servant's eyes and with that, he saw that the whole mountain was full of horses and chariots - of fire. Not your standard army.
     Okay. I got it.  "Lord, there's no need to fear. I just need for You to open my eyes."
     About an hour later, I decided to open the new hymnal I bought in Tennessee last week.  I opened it at random, looked down and saw, "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.  Open the eyes of my heart.  I want to see You..."
     Okay. I got it.  "Lord, I need You to open the eyes of my heart."
     Then I started weeding out my collection of books - I have waay too many and feel the need to downsize as I get older.  I pulled out one thin paperback volume, a book I didn't even remember buying, sad to say, and opened it at random.  The book gave short synopses of various Christians who have stood out from the crowd for one reason or another.  I saw that the book had opened to the chapter about John and Betty Stam, a story I'm familiar with already so I decided to flip through the book and see if there were any other stories that I might want to read.  However, as I glanced at the page, something arrested my attention.  I saw in the top left-hand corner a few lines from a poem:
     "Open my eyes, that I may see
      This one and that one needing Thee..."
       Three times now. In the space of about 2 hours.  From three separate sources.  "Open my eyes that I may see..."
       Okay, Lord. Maybe I'm not getting it...
       Or maybe this was all just coincidence - like when you buy a new car and suddenly you see that same model everywhere you look.   (I just now looked in the book, Amazing Faith: Stories of Christians in Defining Moments in order to find out whether the quote was from a poem, a hymn or what.  When I turned back a page, I saw that Betty had written the verses when she was a freshman at Moody Bible Institute and had titled it, "Open My Eyes."  Okay. So maybe not a coincidence...)
      Next,  I thought about each of the three phrases as they appeared in context.
      The first narrative deals directly with fear.  The servant in the story is freaked out until God draws back the curtain, so to speak, and shows this frightened man that he is not outnumbered and that there is help all around him, invisible to the unaided human eye, but real nonetheless.  In other words, he's not toast.  God's got his back.
       On the other hand, the hymn deals with something that goes beyond putting a band-aid on human fear; it deals with a longing to see God Himself, "shining in the light of His glory,"  a deep heart-cry to see the One we love - a desire, if you will,  to be like Moses who, "...not fearing the wrath of the king... endured, as seeing Him who is unseen." (Heb. 11:27)      
       The third reference was a plea from a young woman, asking God to open her  eyes so that she would be motivated to serve others.  Basically she was asking God to help her see others the way He sees them, so that she would be drawn to help them the way He is drawn to help them.
        I hate it when my glasses get wet; I can't see anything.  Fear is like that - when it clogs my vision, all I can see are myriad droplets of "what if's" and "yes, buts..."   Today I realized that my greatest need is not for my husband to be well, although I pray for that, but  for God to open my eyes so that I can see that He is able to meet our needs - physical, emotional, financial, spiritual.   That He can give us wisdom and endurance as well as a stronger faith; whatever we need, He can supply it.
        So when I started out the day, my greatest perceived need  was for God to deal with the Fears trying to gatecrash my heart -  for Him to  send them all running  with their tails tucked between their legs so to speak.  (Another great Arkansas expression!) Essentially I needed Him to open my eyes to the reality of His endless resources.  (As our son prayed today:  "Lord, do what You have to do to help us..."  I like that.)
       Beyond that, I needed to see my Savior, "high and lifted up, shining in the light of ...[His] glory..."   I didn't just need a band-aid for fear, I needed to be prepped for service.  "Seeing" God in His holiness is a prerequisite to serving Him, I think.
       Then, at this point, I was ready to have one  more spiritual cataract removed. I was ready to  ask Him to open my eyes so that I could  see the people around me with 20/20 Heavenly vision.
        He is so gracious. He knows we are but dust and deals with us where we are and often, that is in the pit of despair. But He doesn't stop there.
       Knowing that He's got this when it comes to my own fears,  I can leave all that to Him; then  having a mental imprint of His majesty fixed on my heart,I can  follow Him; and at that point, He opens my eyes to the people around me, who may be disguised as  paupers, bourgeoisie, or kings, but who in His eyes are all the same: spiritually needy and greatly loved. By Him.
      And hopefully by me.
      After all, they have fears knocking at their doors too.

Monday, August 12, 2013


      This has been a bit of a tough "working vacation".  (With Phil doing the working, poor guy, while I do the vacationing...)  The first night we were here was one of intermittent groaning as Phil tried to find respite from back pain.  (Note to self - never travel with just baby aspirin again!)
      The second night was one of intermittent getting in and out of bed as Phil tried to cater to his back pain by laying flat, which caused acid reflux to kick in, not once but four times - possibly aggravated by the Aleve he took right before bed time.
      The third night was better but by Saturday, the pain was back and he realized he'd have to stay on Aleve until we could get home and he could see a doctor.  By Sunday, Phil was feeling well enough to sit through worship and also Bible class and eat out.  But  Sunday night, after he suggested we go for a short walk, he casually mentioned that he was experiencing numbness in one of his legs.  He still is.
      This morning he asked me to pray for him before he headed out the door to a school that he was dreading, still walking somewhat stiffly.
      Frankly, we'll both be glad to get back home tomorrow night and are not sure how we'll manage his next school, which will be the Tuesday and Wed. of next week.
      To say we've been stressed would be pretty accurate.
       But there have also been good times.  Laughter, sharing, eating out, watching movies together, taking naps, hanging out at the pool (Phil sitting in a straight-backed  deck chair while I exercise), and going to church together.
       And there are mental vignettes that I think I'll carry with me for a long time:
       Phil on his knees praying even though  he was experiencing physical discomfort.
       Sitting in a strange church, listening to a down to earth pastor discuss the difference between our finite existence and what we'll experience in eternity, when real life comes.
       Us facing the window in our hotel room, singing a hymn  of praise together, off-key.
       Phil reading his Bible while waiting for the Aleve to kick in.
      The two of us discussing passages out of the Bible.
       And then the two of us listening to a neat FB testimony from a fellow traveler, sharing about her own bouts with poor health and the Sovereignty of God. How encouraging!  And how timely!
       I'm going to tell you frankly, without the prayer times, the singing, the invisible blanket of prayer around us, the encouragement, and the Bible reading- without those things,  the laughter, the sharing,  and the ability to enjoy the "good" times would not be happening.
      We've got enough "what ifs" right now to swamp our boat, having been dealing with some issues before we left home.  Or at least, that is how it seems to us.
      Knowing (and reminding ourselves) that God's got this and that we are under His Sovereign care is huge right now.  Knowing that there is also a purpose in all this is also huge.
      And being reminded of the suffering of others, our brothers and sisters in third world countries, helps to keep our much more modest troubles in perspective.
      This is how the Psalmist put it:
       "I will bless the Lord at all times.  His praise shall continually be in my mouth."  Psalms 34:1
       Yes.  Really.
       We are learning  (after all these years!) that it's the only way to travel.
       Praise and singing (even off key!).  After this trip, our advice would be: don't leave home without them!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Through a Series of Fortunate Events :)

      Sometimes life is a mystery :)
      Through a series of fortunate (as opposed to unfortunate) events, we ended up at a church this morning - a church we'd never  heard of really until last night.    The church, Christ Church in Bartlett,Tennessee, proved to be a blessing.   The way we got there proved to be intriguing and still is to us.
     About a week and a half ago, my husband asked me to cut back on spending because we  have had some extra expenses this month.
    We've been married for 27 years and he's asked me to do that before. And I have... I cut back on groceries but not on books... (Sad but true...)   Browsing at book stores is sort of my therapy and Phil, wonderful guy  that he is, has never complained about this expensive hobby of  mine.
   Two days after he asked me to watch my spending, I had a day of one frustration after another and really, really wanted to go to Lifeway for some "book-buying therapy".  But for once in our married life, I kept hearing Phil's reasonable request in the back of my mind.  So, after running my legit errands, I went home.
    Still frustrated, I decided to browse Lifeway's website to see if there were any new biographies out.  I never browse the internet for books in general, only when I have a specific title in mind.  However, this day was different.
  I ran across a newly released biography, The Insanity of God byNik Ripken,which looked interesting to me.  However, still mindful of Phil's caution about our finances and very much aware that in another week we would be at a hotel sharing the same parking lot as a LIfeway store in Tennessee- where I would undoubtedly splurge - I didn't get the book.
    The next day,I was conflicted -  still wanting the  book but  still feeling like I should at least try to be good for a bit longer ;)
     Then it  hit me that I could call Phil (at work!) and ask if it was okay to get this book - that way I could have my cake and eat  it too!  Shop without guilt!
     The poor man was most definitely surprised.  He made me repeat my request twice - clearly he hasn't heard something like that from me very often - and then, still puzzled (like: there's a trick here somewhere, right???), told me that was fine, no problem.
     I went to the store - he didn't need to tell me twice that it was okay!  But it wasn't in the biography section.  Finally I asked the manager, he looked it up, and said it was in the Christian Living section.  This may not seem significant but to me it was - I never browse on the internet for new books in general - but this time I had.  And once in the store, I almost never browse through the Christian Living Section of the store.  I always hit the biographies, the fiction, and the study Bible section.  So if I had just followed my normal routine, I would never have found Ripken's book.
     Another unusual thing.    Phil has worked at Landers for 10 years and  they have sent him to Memphis a bunch of times for training.  They send mechanics often, sometimes twice a month or even more.   This is the first time, however, that PHil has had a two-day school on Thurs. and Fri. and then another two-day school on Mon. and Tues.  IN the past decade, it's just never happened that way before.
     When we saw his schedule back in June, we immediately decided to stay over for the weekend and at that point felt we would go to Bellevue Baptist, which we knew was not far from our hotel.        As Sunday drew closer, however, we began to wonder if Phil would  be able to go to church at all because of back pain - maybe he would literally just have to rest all weekend so he could finish his schools and get us back home to Little Rock.
   Also, we felt a little intimidated at trying to navigate a big church like Bellevue.   But that was still the plan.
   Last night, as I was reading, I recalled that I had seen an ad at the back of Ripken's book, giving  a website where the reader could find other stories similar to the ones in his book.  About 9 p.m., I   found the web address:  I read some of the blogs on that page and then clicked on "resources" thinking it would lead me to a list of books.  Instead, it listed some organizations.  I had seen a similar "Resource"page in the back of his book but hadn't paid attention to it.  Now, my eyes went to the organizations that I knew:  IMB,  Open Doors, Elam MInistries.  All great ministries.
   At the top of the list, I saw three churches, two of which just had web addresses, one of which had a web address and also the name of the city and state:  Christ Church, Bartlett, Tn.    As  I looked at that, I suddenly thought, "Wait a minute!  Isn't Phil's school in Bartlett???  His school is just a couple of miles away from here! So Bartlett has to be close!"
    I went to the church's website and it sounded really good.   Phil liked it also.  I looked for directions on mapquest and it said the church was about 15 min. away from here.  We didn't have a printer so I tried to write down directions (leaving out one vital street name as it turned out...) and then, at 10 p.m. last night we headed out to make a practice run to the church.  Thirty minutes later, we were so lost that we prayed (imagine that) and then stopped at a convenience store (which had  a little window like a bank's with bars on it to protect the clerk - not good) and got directions.  We finally found the church, figured out the most  direct way to get to Christ church and returned to the hotel where Phil groaned and stretched his back and took some Aleve.  (If we hadn't made a practice run last night, we'd never have found it in time this morning).
    I went to bed thinking, "Okay. God must have some reason for us to be here on a weekend, for us to know about this church, and for us to have found it.  I really think He wants us to worship there but with Phil's back pain, I don't think it's going to happen."  So  I went to sleep reminding God that He would have to work out the details if we were going to make it to Christ Church. (Even our alarm clock, which has been working just fine, wouldn't allow us to set the alarm for this morning. Phil finally gave up on it and then I tried and finally, between the two of us, we got the alarm set for the right time)
   We made it to worship at 9:30 and God spoke to us through the sermon so we decided to stay for the Bible class at 11, which was just as good as the worship time.  IN between the two services, a pastor came over to talk to us and I mentioned finding the name of the church in the back of the book I was reading.  He looked a bit surprised but didn't comment on what I'd said; just welcomed us to the church.
    Towards the end of the Bible class, the pastor pointed us out, said we were from Arkansas, in Memphis for a short trip, and that we'd learned about them from a book and that he'd really like to know the title of it!!!! :)
    So we showed several people the book but no one was familiar with it. No one.   We talked a little bit more and came up with a tenuous possible link between the church and the book but nothing concrete.
    And that's where we are:  through a series of fortunate events,we ended up in a church where we met some sweet people, felt totally at home, sat through two hours of Bible study that blessed both of us and spoke directly to our needs, and then we let the people know that their church is listed in the back of a newly released biography:)
    It seems to us that God really went to some trouble to get us to that church. And while we received a blessing there, I feel sure there are other churches where we could have received a blessing as well.  I hope so anyway!
    So I guess, like Paul Harvey, this is the point where I should say:  And now for the rest of the story!  Only, unlike Paul, I don't have it to give!   But someday in Heaven, I think I'll hear it.
    Meanwhile, it's just nice to know that God is still in the business of orchestrating events in our lives and that He is indeed in the small stuff as well as the large. If  nothing else, it's nice to know that He watches over us while we are away from home, even going so far as to direct our steps to church in an unknown city.
    Maybe I should try to be "good" more often :)

Friday, August 9, 2013

With Dmitry's Example before Us...

     Sometimes the inexplicable happens.
     The "this-wasn't-supposed-to-happen" does.
      Right now I am in a hotel room, two and a half hours away from home. My husband is sitting in an all-day training session about a mile away,wearing a back brace (that we bought last night) and relying on Aleve (which we bought last night)  to help him make it through the day.  This morning, as I pulled his sock onto his right foot, he joked that this hadn't been done for him in 50 years. When I helped him with his shoe, he joked that "he could get used to this."  But I know he just wants to quit hurting and the humor was his way of handling a difficult situation.
      This started Wed. evening, right before we left for a 4 day workshop that we had decided to turn into a mini-vacation.   His company will pay for Thursday night and for Monday night in the hotel.  So we added 4 nights on our own tab and decided we would relax in the evenings and perhaps do a bit of sight-seeing over the weekend.
      By last night, we had scaled our plans back considerably.  After our second night of intermittent sleep, this morning I broached the possibility of finding a clinic.   He told me this has happened  before and it will get better. But I don't ever remember helping him with his socks before.
      When I first realized he was in trouble and that it wasn't going away, I did what I always do: I asked friends to pray.
     And I know people are praying, for which I am grateful.
     I'm also thinking that maybe this is why God is able to teach us through all this.
     When we left home, in the providence of God, I was about 3/4ths of the way through a book called, The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken.   It is an interesting book and I highly recommend it.  The author writes about serving in Somali land around the time of the Black Hawk Down event.  Somalia was in chaos at that time,  people were starving in record numbers, and evil was visible on a scale that Ripken had never encountered before.  They ministered among some of the worst conditions the world had ever seen, gave it their all, and then.... their sixteen year old son died.
      Yes.  They buried part of their heart in Africa literally, before returning home, spiritually battered and broken.
     It's just not supposed to happen like this,is it?
     Go to one of the worst places on the planet and then, after years of sacrificial living, lose one of your children????  What kind of a God would allow that????
     So the Ripkens licked their wounds, tried to recoup, and wondered.
     Had they even accomplished anything in Somali land?
     On one level, they had accomplished much.  They had fed tens of thousands of people daily and that is no small thing.
    On another level - the most important one - they had accomplished either not much or maybe nothing. They had not shared the Gospel.     How do you witness to people when the four believers you just had communion with are assassinated one morning, each taken out on their way to work by their own individual assassin - all killed at the same time during an obviously coordinated attack?
    So?  What about non-believers???   Do you tell them about Jesus and then watch them get killed before they even come to faith?  In places like Somalia, that is a real possibility.  What do you do???
    In an ironic twist, as the Ripkens were preparing to bury their beloved son in Kenya, their home base at that time, a Somalian co-worker, a devout Muslim, walked and hitchhiked hundreds of miles in a five day period simply to be with them for the funeral.  When Nik opened the door, to his astonishment, there was his co-laborer and sweet friend who simply said, "I have come to bury our son."  The man was worn out, just wearing the clothes on his back, but he had made it  in time for the funeral.  The Ripkens were so touched that they had him sit between them at the funeral.
    Afterwards, when they were back in Somalia  - Nik to wrap things up there before heading to the states - this  wonderful Muslim man told the other office workers that there was something he did not understand about the funeral.  The people at the funeral were sad, which he got, of course.  But they were also able to rejoice in the certainty of where the boy was now living. They knew where the boy had gone,they knew he was in Heaven.
    This amazing man asked Nik point blank,  in front of all his other Muslim co-workers,  how it was that Christians know where their deceased go and yet they have not shared this news with their Muslim friends???
    Here was an open door to sharing the Gospel.... only it came just as the Ripkens were having to pull out of the country permanently.   (They were having to leave because of circumstances within the country which made their organization no longer viable).
   It's just not supposed to happen like that!!!
   So the Ripkens wrestled with deep questions.  Can you take the Gospel to hostile places like Somalia, places where there is basically no law and no freedom?     Can faith even survive in a place like that, where you take communion one day (in secret) and a few days later you are picked off by carefully staged assassins?   And is there more than a touch of insanity in God's command to go into all the world to make disciples, all the world including places like Somali land????
    In order to find answers to their questions, the Ripkens decided to systematically talk to believers from countries where persecution had been rife.  They came up with a list of over 40 countries and decided to interview people from as many of those  countries as possible.   Their plan was to try first of all to visit each  and every country and do the interviews on location if possible. However, if they couldn't gain  access into the country, then the fallback plan was to  interview people who had moved out of country.
    They started with the former USSR  - entering Russia not too long after the collapse of communism.  And that's really where the book got my complete and total attention.  They got to interview a man named Dmitry and I wish I could tell you his whole story but I couldn't do justice to it.  However, I promise that if you get the book and read his story as well as the others, you will be blessed.
    The main thing that I got from Dmtry's testimony was this: two things enabled him to keep his faith during 17 years of imprisonment.  Okay.  Seventeen years??  Of imprisonment??  That got my attention!
     What were these two faith-strengthening things?
      The first was a practice Dmitry learned as a little child.  His father taught him to get up at dawn, stand at attention, face the East, and sing a heart song of love directly to God.  In prison, he continued to do that every morning - even though it was  NOT popular with his prison mates.  And he believed that helped him keep his faith alive  in the midst of terrible trials.  Ya reckon???
     The other thing was that whenever he found a bit of paper and some charcoal or a pencil stub, he would write down every Scripture verse, every Bible story,and every hymn that he could remember.  Then he would place that piece of paper on top of a  concrete column in his cell, the highest place he could reach, as an offering to God.  He would leave it there until the guards found it, at which time he would be beaten.  But the next time he found a piece of paper, he would do the same thing again. Writing down verses and hymns, placing them on top of that column, and then standing back respectfully, his offering of praise and sacrifice there for His Lord and King.
      Wow!  Okay!  I got that!  Stand at attention first thing in the morning, face the rising sun, and sing directly to my King and Savior.  So I tried that yesterday morning. To my surprise, I couldn't sing my favorite hymns from memory.I could only sing snatches of them.   Hmmm...
       Guess what?? Yesterday I went to Lifeway Christian book store and bought a 13.00 hymnal. This morning I was standing at the window, facing the sun,singing a hymn.  (I don't know if God is insane but I kinda hope He's tune deaf... JK).
      Which leads to the next thing.  Wherever I go, I have my Bible and some index cards.  Thankfully, I don't have to grub around in the dirt when the guards aren't looking, to try to find a bit of charcoal and a remnant of a piece of paper.   I have a habit of  writing  out verses on these cards from time to time, thinking I  will memorize the passages later. Sometimes I do get around to memorizing them but I have to admit that I've written out far  more verses than I've ever committed to memory.  Still, just writing them out has often proven to be a blessing. Now, I plan to make that part of my daily routine as well.
      So what about a vacation-turned into something that is not a vacation?
      What about pain when we expected pleasure?  Tension-filled days, sleepless nights, and worry when everyone had told us (and we had agreed!) that we needed a break!
      Well,clearly, this is not the break we had in mind /=       But after reading about Dmitry and his 17 years in prison, I don't think we'll be complaining any time soon!  Would you??
      Instead, we'll be standing at the window (it doesn't hurt so much when Phil stands still...ha!), singing off-key:   "Blessed be the name of the Lord..."
       And  we'll be writing down some lyrics or verses from memory which means we'll be intentionally memorizing the whole lyrics to our favorite hymns, God helping us.
      With Dmitry's example before us, how could we do otherwise?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Always a Fourth Man...

     Sometimes God puts us on a platform.
     Paul wrote:  "It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket.  We're something that everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street.  We're the Messiah's misfits.  You might be sure of yourselves but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties..."  The Message, I Corinthians 4:9-10
    Paul goes on to delineate situations that sound like something out of a fiction novel where the hero repeatedly gets shot, beaten up, and run over only to emerge victorious.  Only Paul got his head cut off.  Similar to what happened to John the Baptist.
   I see Christians, people who love the Lord, "captive Christians" according to George Barna - I see them frequently standing on platforms while people gawk and stare, commiserate with and/or villify, honor and at the same time question.  They must have done something wrong or God wouldn't have allowed....
  Sometimes God puts us on a platform.
  Paul, apparently, completed most of his earthly assignment feeling like a sideshow in a circus, except for the times when he was groveling on the ground in pain, which probably didn't seem much like a circus atmosphere to him at those times. Basically he was willing to be a spectacle for God, to do his best out of devotion to God and then to stand in the arena while lions circled around him and ticket holders ate their popcorn and watched to see who would win, so to speak.  (Sometimes from an earthly perspective, the lions win, just in case you wondered.)
  Sometimes God puts us on a platform.
  Rick and Kay Warren are on one right now.
  I could name others, lesser known.
  Platforms come in all shapes and sizes.
  Motorized wheel chairs early in life.
  The sudden end of a dream.
  The specter of financial ruin.
  Grown kids from good families who go down the wrong path.
  Missionaries who bury a bright, loving  child on the mission field.
  There are others...
  Maybe He didn't send the trouble that we face but He allows it.  And then there we are, under the spotlight, standing for all our friends and foes to see, afflicted, perplexed, perhaps even persecuted, maybe even struck down. (See II Cor. 4)
  So why does God allow some of His most precious followers to become spectacles?
  Many times, we don't know, we can't figure it out.
  So we just have to take God's word for it.
  "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves...  Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' "    II Cor. 4:7;  12:8-9.
   And then, there's also this....

 Once upon a time, God put His only begotten Son...  on a platform....     And He's been standing on multiple platforms ever since. In Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, North America... You get the picture...
How do I know this?
Because in Hebrews 13:5, God promised that He would never leave us and He would never desert us.  and when He promises something, He makes good on it.
So when you see Christians suddenly thrust into the limelight, whether it's in the U.S. or Nigeria  (now there's a place for platforms to abound!)  - when you see God's children standing in the arena of inexplicable suffering, placed on a platform for all to gawk at, remember that there is always a "fourth man" in the fire of affliction. (See Daniel 3)
And He is able to bring His kids out of the fire, in the final analysis, without even the faintest smell of smoke clinging to them.
Fiery platform?
A problem for us, but not for God.
While we look, not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen... (II Cor. 4:18)