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July 16

Tuesday, July 16th, 2024

One last devotion…(I think). 🙂

The past week or so of devotions here at “Shadow” I have been writing and telling you about a book that had a profound impact on me-Out of the Blue by Greg Murtha. (Those dates are July 9, 10, 11, and 15). At the age of 46, Greg, a healthy runner and athlete, go-to leader, husband and father, was stricken with Agressive Stage III Colon Cancer. He endured 95 chemo treatments over 5 years, but on June 22, 2017 he “moved to the front of the line” to use his words. He completed his book on June 15th in room 8637 of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s CCU.

As I finished reading his book for the second time (the first I barely remember), I was overwhelmed with emotion. I shed some tears for a life well-lived, but also because it struck close to home. Not me. I just lost a friend to cancer and another has brain cancer. This book chronicling his thoughts and actions of the last 5 years of his life deeply and profoundly impacted me and caused me to stop and evaluate my own life.

I once read that Joni, the well-known Christ-follower who has been a quadriplegic for over 50 years, was once asked if she would change anything. She said, “No. I thank God for the accident and my wheelchair.” (edited by me). Several times Greg said virtually the same thing, i.e. he was thankful for the cancer that totally changed his life. It slowed him down. It woke him to the needs of others. It brought him to the point of listening to God. He would go for treatment, into a store, into a room and notice people most would miss-people who needed a hug, or who were hurting, had tears in their eyes, or simply needed a word of encouragement, or a prayer. And he was not ashamed to offer that.

He wrote the following:

“I’m learning that being present in the moment is what is important. Being the church wherever I am-that’s what matters. Listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit is paramount to living a life of adventure.” (p. 160)

I’ll close by simply saying that I want that. Healthy or not I want to be present in the moment. I want to be the church, a representative of Christ, where I am and to whomever I come across. Will you join me?

June 27

Thursday, June 27th, 2024

All people matter to God, therefore they should matter to us.

Lately I’ve been reading a book on dementia entitled  Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia by John Dunlop, MD. Because it seems to be becoming a bigger issue these days, I thought I’d read up on it and learn more. It has been an eye-opening book (in a good way). Over and over Dr Dunlop has emphasized the importance of dignity for the dementia sufferer, as well as it’s kissing cousin, Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Dunlop is a committed Christ-follower so his perspective is different than many in the medical field. Instead of writing them off as a “nuisance” and a “bother” for others, especially their caregivers, he pushes the belief that showing them dignity is first and foremost. One very helpful section is found on pages 123-125 where he gives a number of practical way we can express dignity. He does it from the perspective of entering their “world.”

But this devotion is not a book review. While he has obviously focused his attention on the dementia patient, I couldn’t help but make the correlation to others in our sphere on influence. Each person we come in contact with should be deemed a person who matters. Whether it is the same sex, ethnicity, color, position in life, or social status, we need to, no, we must see them as people who hold special importance in God’s eye. As a Christ-follower that means they must hold importance in my eyes as well. We may not always agree, we may not always get along, we may butt heads from time to time, but that should not change how much each of us should matter.

In James 2 James warns the church about choosing sides and showing preference to one group over another. He says it is a shame and a black mark to do so (my loose translation). Jesus Himself told the parable of the Good Samaritan and showed how a man who was hated because of his ethnicity was actually more of a brother than the so-called “religious people.”

We have all seen people snubbed because of political affiliation. We have all seen people snubbed because of color. We have all seen people snubbed because of sexual orientation. We have all seen people snubbed because of status. We have all seen people snubbed because of a medical condition. It is ugly. Like I said, I may not agree with someone’s opinion or lifestyle, and can’t compromise the truth, but at the same time that gives me NO RIGHT to denigrate or write someone off as being persona non grata because we are different.

Dementia patients deserve loving treatment. We all do. Let’s begin to give dignity to others. Let’s begin to treat others as we would like to be treated. 

June 11

Tuesday, June 11th, 2024

Truth disclosure: I am writing this on Monday afternoon.  You will see why in just a moment.

I just spent an incredible couple of hours with some inspiring people. I met Gavin probably close to 10 years or so ago at the Y.  Just a few days prior to that he had just lost his sister when a box truck mowed her down while cycling.  Until then I did not know him or his sister.

Fast forward to the middle of 2023 and in walk Gavin, Jenna and their children to a church service. I knew they were going to another church and my philosophy/policy is never to be accused of being a “sheep stealer.” They were accompanied by their other children who immediately went to our children’s department and loved it! In their arms was a little girl they named Gigi. Oh, I forgot to tell you that they have three biological children (all boys), adopted two children they had fostered, were fostering another cute little girl and were also fostering Gigi. The one was given back to mom within the past month, but Gigi was a special child. In more ways than one. She is one of most smiling children I have ever seen with the brightest blue eyes you will lay eyes on (pun intended). Those bright blue eyes have a special trait which identifies her as a child with Williams Syndrome (I encourage you to look it up on your own).  Thanks to Jenna’s fighting for her, Gigi was given a fighting chance to live. And live she does! She is two years old now-a little small for her age but quickly developing a personality all her own and slowly learning to walk and talk. When Gavin and Jenna began attending the church I pastor (Owen Valley Christian Fellowship) we immediately began praying for her and for them.

This morning at 10:00, Gigi officially became Gloria Jane (_____). “Gloria” because she is a light to the world. “Jane” because that is her birth mother’s middle name. What a joy it was to be there and to witness the love they have for her, but also her sibling’s love for her. They asked if I would support them in prayer since Gavin’s mother, who is a medical doctor and the pastor of a local church, could not be there. I was honored to do so. And then I noticed she was able to make it and whether they had asked or not, I would have gladly stepped aside for her to pray. Afterwards, Jo and I were invited to a cookout at their house. It was fun meeting some of their friends and extended family.

Gavin and Jenna are perfect examples of Christ-followers who feel about children the way Jesus feels. There is no doubt that Jesus had a warm, tender heart toward children that knew no bounds. The way we treat children today has to truly break His heart. To see children thrown away as unwanted has to make Him cringe. And weep. To see them abused and mistreated surely makes His blood boil. Thank you Gavin and Jenna for showing Jesus by loving children and making them your own.  I’m glad I was able to be a witness to this act of love.

May 22

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024

Do any of these sound familiar?

You walk into a room to ask a question and whoever is in the room (spouse, son, daughter) is locked onto a TV screen and their fingers are moving at warp speed.

You speak to someone and they see but don’t really see you. You feel as though their eyes are looking at you but their mind is elsewhere.

You speak to someone who acts as though they didn’t hear you (because they probably didn’t). When you shake them or wave your hand in front of them or call their name they act like they awakening from a stupor.

The scenarios are multiple but the problem is the same in all…preoccupation. I’m going to go out on a limb here and saw we live in a preoccupied world. I know myself if someone comes to speak to me I have to put down what I’m reading; turn away from the computer screen; stop looking/texting on my phone; even turn and face that person in order not to be distracted and give my full attention. I was visiting someone just the other day when I asked where she wanted to talk and shey said, “Anywhere.” I told her I needed to be away from the distraction (TV) and its entertainment (a certain country female singer-who shall remain nameless-whom I have NEVER liked, even when I listened CM over 20+ years ago). Anyway…

I read of a woman who went to see her doctor with two burnt ears.

Doctor: In all my years of practice I have never seen this. How?

Woman: I was ironing (remember what that is? 🙂 ) and watching TV when someone called. I picked up the iron instead of the phone.

D: That’s horrible! But how did you burn the other ear?

W: Can you believe it? The idiot called back!

We can laugh, chuckle, and even roll our eyes, but that is the way of many of us. Preoccupied. Distracted.

Try this: next time someone comes to you wanting your attention, give it to them. Put the book down. Forget that text that just came in. Turn away from the computer. Give people what they want: your undivided attention.

March 19

Tuesday, March 19th, 2024

I think we have all used or heard a variation of “Who you hang around with is who you become.” There are, of course, all kinds of people.

Some build us up; some tear us down.

Some lift us to keep going; some drag and hinder us.

Some push us to excel and not quit; some pull us back withholding progress.

Some are genuine shoulders to cry on; some are hard as stone and move away from us.

Proverbs 18:24 says, “There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”  (NLT)

Jo and I experienced that last night. After a tough past couple of weeks (which I wrote about here), we spent the evening with friends. By the time we made it to their house, my tough couple of weeks had another brick piled on top. They were a welcome shade tree. After the initial bl-a-a-a-ch of what was going on, we moved on. Went out to eat. Laughed (even raised an eyebrow when Jo ordered something totally different than her normal fare). Went back to their house. Laughed some more. Chuckled at the antics of their dog. Laughed some more. A welcome balm for a scratchy soul. Hugs and “I love you’s” were given and Jo and I were on our way. Richer. Better. Refreshed. And, in some small way, healed. Every time I leave them I tell Jo, “I say it every time but I sure do miss them.” (They used to attend the church I pastor but moved to another city where they attend another fortunate church). I said it again last night…less than a block away.

They know what it’s like to be a friend. A sheltering tree. A shade tree (not the negative use of shade 🙂 ). We love you guys…more than you know. And thanks for the meal at Chili’s. Maybe Jo won’t surprise us all the next time.  🙂 🙂

March 11

Monday, March 11th, 2024

You made the promise. Keep it!!

One cannot underestimate the importance of keeping a promise.  Keeping your word-being a person of integrity- is so vital to relationships that one cannot fathom its impact.

In the life of David, there is a phenomenal story that shows his character. He had a best friend-Jonathan-who had David promise he would take care of his family after his death. In all the shuffle involving David becoming king (he waited 7 years after King Saul’s death), there came a time when David remembered his promise to Jonathan. As he asked and they investigated, David was made aware of Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth (M). M had been dropped as a child in his nurse’s haste to get him to safety, resulting in him being a cripple. He was called into King David’s presence and bowed before him. I’m sure he was petrified. “What does the king want with me?” David told him, “Don’t be afraid! I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan.” David ended up restoring all the land of King Saul to M; enlisted his servant, Ziba (and his sons), who had been with M for quite a long time, to take care of the land; AND M was to eat at King David’s table as long as he lived. (You can read the whole story in 2 Samuel 9).

WOW! Talk about a promise made and a promise kept! Proverbs 11:20 says, “The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but He delights in those with integrity.” For all of David’s faults (and ours as well), David’s heart was one of integrity. He made a promise and kept it. M’s life was richer because of it.

Follow the Father’s example. Keep your promises.  He showed us the way in that department. He has made promises and has kept His every word. I can think of one huge one. One word: Jesus.

February 12

Monday, February 12th, 2024

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It is now part of what is being called President’s Day which is a celebration on February 19th, a conglomerate of Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday (22nd). I can remember when we used to celebrate them separately. Now I can’t even remember when that changed. Perhaps that happened when we got all “revisionist history?” I don’t know. My post today is not going to go down that rabbit trail.

Instead, Abraham Lincoln was known for making wise statements. I’d like to take a brief look at two of them.

One actually finds it roots in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. Lincoln once said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Those words are very similar to those found in Proverbs 17:28.

The other is a bit more confrontive. With the Civil War spawning bitter feelings all across our country, Abe saw fit to speak a kind word about the south. A shocked bystander asked him how he could do that. His answer was poignant: “Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friend?”

Jesus once said, “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt. 5:43). “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If you are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will reap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.” (Pr. 25:21-22).

Instead of responding tit for tat, let’s respond as Jesus has told us, and as Proverbs has encouraged us to. There is power in our actions…or inaction.

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

January 30

Tuesday, January 30th, 2024

I’m celebrating today. My bride of 50.7 years has a birthday today. They say it is not wise to ask or tell a woman’s age so I won’t. I’ll just it is somewhere between 72 and 74. You do the math. 🙂

Just to show you what kind of woman she is: I was going to surprise her with a trip to Ohio to see our daughter and grandson. Things didn’t turn out so well. He is with his dad this week so after baseball practice (over at 8 p.m.) he will head off to his dad’s. Janna’s significant other has to work so that would leave the three of us (which would have been okay). Braden has baseball practice until 8 Wednesday morning then has to be back at school by 10 for class. That would make for a very short “wham-thank-you-ma’m” breakfast. Then Jo saw it was supposed to snow in Ohio (90%) and that scared her off. So I cancelled the hotel reservation. To top it off, I started losing my voice by the time the second service was done and I ended up with the creeping crud. Coughing. Sneezing. Aching. Lots and lots of sleep. (I haven’t been like this in years so it is a strange experience). So…not much of a birthday.

But she took it all in stride, much like she has during our 50+ years of marriage. While there have been moments of frustration (as in all marriages), I could not have asked for a better helpmate. I read the following this morning:

Adam was created first, then Eve was made to fill a void in his existence. Adam was the head; Eve was his helper. Adam was designed to be a father, provider, protector, and leader. Eve was designed to be a mother, comforter, nurturer, and helper  (40 Lives in 40 Days- MacArthur- p.62)

Jo has always been there. The above words fit her to a “T.” They are not misogynistic or any other “istic” or “phobic” you can come up with. I can give her no greater compliment that to say she was just like Eve: a filler of empty space; a helper who stuck with me through thick and thin; a mother who gave her all to our two daughters, but also allowed them to fly (and she is still there if they need her). Well done, my dear, well done.

Now…if I can only get her to read what I wrote about her I might win some brownie points. 🙂

January 18

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

As one reads the Bible, it is not unusual to read of someone and think they must have always been like that. Case in point: the Apostle John. We read today from the vantage point of 2000+ years later and we see an apostle of love. We see the aged John-respected, loved and depicted as one full of grace and truth.

But he wasn’t always like that. John had a temper. He also had a vengeful streak. We might even call him sectarian to some degree. Mistreatment of Jesus led to he and his brother, James, wanting to call down fire from heaven to consume the city. In another incident, he and James wanted Jesus to promise they would get preferred seating in the kingdom-one on His right and one on His left. Jesus was not fond of that idea. They wanted Jesus to rebuke a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name but because he was not with their “tribe” they wanted him silenced. (Mk. 9:38).  That didn’t work out too well either.

Over time, John was changed. That’s what happens when people spend time with Jesus. John reminds me of those who are committed to the truth, who “tell it like it is.” But that is all you see. Love? What’s that? All truth. No love. Over time John became known as the Apostle of love. Shall we say “more balanced”?

I read the following:

John was always committed to the truth, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but it is not enough. Zeal for the truth must be balanced by love for people. Truth without love has no decency; it’s just brutality. On the other hand, love without truth has no character; it’s just hypocrisy. (40 Lives in 40 Days-MacArthur-p.19)

I’ve heard it said that “all truth and no love is legalism; all love and no truth is mere sentimentality.” True that.

There needs to be a balance. We may take pride in being a “tell it like it is” kind of person, but honestly, what good is it if we turn everyone off?”

Find the balance. Truth AND love go together.

December 6

Wednesday, December 6th, 2023

When I was a young ‘un growing up, I will admit (now) that I looked forward to Christmas. I’d like to be spiritual and say that it was because of the focus on the birth of Christ, or I truly believed it was more blessed to give than to receive, but would not be telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I had no idea how cash-strapped my parents were; I just know it was a magical time of the year.

Part of that magic (before I knew better) was SC. No…not Scott Calvin. Santa Claus. The big guy. Part of Christmas Eve in the young Grandi household was watching an animated version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (15 minutes) followed by a 15 minute retelling of the birth of Jesus.  Later it was the Peanuts cartoon with Linus’ famous rendition of the Luke 2. I know…I’m really telling my age. 🙂

Anyway, SC was part of the magic. Stories abound in my head of scenes from my childhood of the ghost of Christmas past. SC is intriguing though. Little did I know, as a child, of the history and legacy of his coming to be. The person we know as Saint Nicholas (Saint Nick) was born around AD 270 to a wealthy Grecian family.  Tragically, his parents died when he was a boy, and he lived with an uncle to loved him and taught him to follow God. When he was a young man, legend says that he heard of 3 sisters who didn’t have a dowry for marriage and would soon be destitute. Wanting to follow Jesus’ teaching of helping those in need, he took his inheritance and gave each sister a bag of gold coins. Over the years he gave the rest of his money away feeding the poor and caring for others. Down through time he has been honored for his generosity and held up as a standard for giving.

Sadly, many today want to rail against the commercialization of Christmas (with some merit I might add) and SC, the symbol of that commercialization. Rather than rail, let’s refocus on what he represents-giving, and in a sense, the spirit found in Matthew 25:24-40. (Please take a moment to look it up).

It is much better to give than to receive, especially when it is for and to someone less fortunate.

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