“Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:19)

Tom wasn’t able to attend church on Sunday as he’s been short of breath the past three days and on oxygen. His O2 saturation is good, so it’s not his lung. Talked to the hospice nurse yesterday but we’ll get word from the doctor tomorrow or Wednesday after blood tests come back and we see what’s up. Today he has felt some better and hasn’t needed O2.

Meanwhile, we have enjoyed a visit from one of Tom’s brothers for the past week, and we hated to see him go back home yesterday morning. Not only was he a blessing for Tom to fellowship with, but he was a huge help with some of our latest catastrophes, like the power surge that fried all the electronics in my four-year old washing machine! I learned that, yes, my machine does have a ten-year warranty . . . on the motor. And the cost for new electronics? Fifty dollars less than buying a new machine. It’s all too easy to click a button on the computer and set in motion the purchase, and quick delivery of a new machine rather than wait three weeks for parts. Not so easy to remove old machine filled with water from a tiny laundry room. Think, doors have to be removed. The good news? I got it on sale and my brother in law was here when it happened. And yes, I purchased a surge protector (I love Amazon) for our washer and dryer so it won’t happen again. And, since the machine was out, I decided it was a good time to paint the laundry room before the new machine was delivered today. I finished painting after it was installed. (I wouldn’t suggest washing clothes in a new machine until after all the paint in the laundry room is dry, however.) Sigh. At least Tom has been entertained. He especially liked my painting outfit—his old college shirt that he gave me when we were dating that has been my painting shirt ever since! He wants you to know he offered to buy me a new painting outfit. Nah. Like the old one.

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Tom said today, It’s tempting for Christians to wonder why something as bad as brain tumors happens you, and ends your service for Christ and your life. But I don’t see it as bad. I could just as easily wonder why I get to leave and go the Heaven and you all have to stay here. As for serving Christ, we will serve Him there just as we serve Him here. Only there, worship will be unhindered, as a friend once said.

The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. (Isaiah 57:1)

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One of God’s greatest gifts!

Tom was running a slight fever Saturday evening so I really didn’t think he would be well enough to teach his class on Sunday morning. He was moving slow come morning, but fever was gone and he was quite determined to be in his place. So, teach he did, and finished up Hebrews, chapter 9. Just a few glitches. We got to church (which is no small thing!) but I forgot the wheelchair. With only ten minutes until class start, a room full of ladies waiting for me to teach and room full of couples waiting for Tom to teach and no wheelchair to get Tom from car to class. A couple people noticed the problem (handicap parking is right up front!) so within no time folks were scrambling to look for a wheelchair. One of our handicapped members was willing to give up his wheelchair so we could get Tom in place, and by end of class, there were three other wheelchairs to choose from! God provides abundantly!

Tom and I have been so encouraged and comforted by the love and support of friends. The hugs, cards, texts, emails, words of encouragement and so many loving acts of kindness and generosity have touched our hearts and filled us with great love and appreciation. We do thank our God upon every remembrance of you. There is just nothing sweeter than the love of Christian friends, particularly in times of trial. Even Hugo has been blessed!

Poor dog followed Tom’s wheelchair all morning and dropped his ball on Tom’s lap, at his feet, under the wheel, beside the chair, on the chair, all to no avail. As we ate breakfast, Hugo looked pitiful laying on the floor watching us. Tom commented that he felt bad he couldn’t take care of his “puppy” and throw the ball for him. About two minutes later, a special friend showed up just to play ball with Hugo. Needless to say, he was one happy dog and Tom was a happy man. I said, “I wonder if dogs can pray, cuz that looked like the answer to a dog’s prayer to me!” Tom said, “Don’t know if dogs pray, but I know God takes care of animals!” (Gives new meaning to Psalms 145:16. “Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” Hugo even got a nice card in the mail today! (He hasn’t learned to read yet, but he sniffed his approval.) And then that crazy dog got another visit from one of our college students who came to take him for a run! I think he is one of the Heavenly Father’s spoiled creatures.

Tom was especially touched by a surprise visit from an “old” deacon buddy from our years at Gethsemane Baptist in Long Beach years ago. He and Art Harold had a wonderful time reminiscing about all the lives that were changed as a result of God’s work through the wonderful people brought together there. Art reminded Tom of a lesson he taught the Sunday school teachers there so long ago and told how it touched his heart as a young Christian. Tom used a verse in 1 Samuel to motivate the teachers to remember why they taught and how important it is for people of all ages to understand the message of the Bible. The title of his lesson was simply, “Consider how great things he hath done for you.” As I listened to Art talk, I couldn’t help thinking that truly, God has done great things for all of us. We serve an awesome God.

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How fitting to learn that the Regular Baptist Press book I was working on when Tom went into the hospital last spring is off the press and available. The name? “Faces of Friendship!” It’s about Bible friends and the many wonderful lessons we learn from them! These past several months have certainly reminded me how precious God’s gift of friendship is!

Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. (1 Samuel 12:24)

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http://www.rbpstore.org/Products/5454/faces-of-friendship.aspx

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When God speaks

Tom has had a tough time yesterday and today with nausea, getting up and down, and battling fuzzy thinking. The hospice nurse is recommending an increase in steroids to help brain swelling so hopefully that will give him some improvement. Solutions are always welcome! Meanwhile, Hugo is helping me keep an eye on Tom.

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The past few days have been particularly challenging as a caregiver. Seems like there’s been a steady barrage of broken things and extra difficulties. Add to that, a day of hurdles in transferring accounts from Tom’s name to mine. Make me do numbers or computer things and I’m a basket case. (I’m one of those who believes no one uses Algebra in real life!) Needless to say, learning to take over Tom’s complicated finance system has been big time stressful. And when I’m stressed, I can take scatterbrain to a whole new level. This was the condition my mind was in when I ran up to the corner market (a scatterbrained idea) to get some milk for Tom’s tomato soup and ran over a rock. sigh. My front tire instantly went flat.

I was able to regain control of the car and pull off the road, but there I sat, 2 miles from home, with road service coming in a hour and Tom at home. One prayer came to mind. “Help, Lord.” I thought about 1 Corinthians 10:13—there is NO trial that happens to the believer that isn’t overseen by God, that isn’t common to all, that doesn’t have a way of escape. God ALWAYS gives us solutions. I thought of the song, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” With that, I asked for guidance and wisdom and began thinking about my options. I have a big German Shepherd with me with no leash or collar on. I have a tow truck (Volts have no spare tire and have to be towed to a dealer on a flat bed) coming, and I have a husband on hospice at home alone. I had visions of him trying to get up and falling, or having a seizure without me there and it seemed the best option was to find out if I could leave the car and keys and walk home. That arranged, I just needed to find something in the car that could function as a leash. My purse strap did the trick and so we headed home, uphill, as fast as Hugo could pull me.

There’s a happy ending to the story. The dealer called this morning reporting that they had my car and explained that in addition to the flat tire, I had several recall issues that needed to be taken care of. (I had been putting that off as a low priority issue.) The work was done and the dealer delivered my car to me, all fixed. That’s not the recommended way to get air in your tires and warranty work done on your car, but I’m thankful it’s done! The “take away” from all this?

I’m more convinced than ever…. If you want to hear the voice of God, read the Bible. I’m very concerned when I hear sincere Christians say, “The Lord told me to do this, or the Lord told me to do that.” People, let me be gut level honest with you. The Lord has never said a word to me that didn’t come from the Bible. I know, you are likely thinking, “But doesn’t the Lord impress things on your heart? And doesn’t God lead you?” Yes, but I can’t know if it is God speaking to my heart or my own heart speaking to my heart! I can only know it is God by testing my impressions with the principles provided in the Word of God. This is my manual for living, not my own heart or intuition. We don’t often see the unmistakeable hand of God until after the fact. In retrospect, we see it plainly, but at the time we have to take God at His Word and follow its clearly outlined principles. It’s called, “living by faith” my friends. And that is one of the most awesome privileges of God’s children!

When I sat in the car on the side of the road, I was stressed to tears. What I turned to at that moment was what I know and believe from God’s Word. I acted upon it, trusting God to lead me, knowing He has purpose even in this silly little predicament. No need to come uncorked—just look for the way of escape that is always there and go forward. What has God provided to help me? Onstar, a purse strap, a dog to protect me as I walk along the highway, tennis shoes in my car to walk in, a safe place to leave the car, a rock that was close to home, a means of getting repairs done to the car that had been put off. And a patient husband.

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)

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College Farewell

Yes! Tom did teach his Bible class on Sunday morning. Yes! He preached a farewell message to the college students at Pacific Baptist College this morning. Yes! He is doing worse. Lots of difficulty finding words, standing, moving, following conversation, remembering. But yes! Amazingly, when he opens his Bible and begins to speak, he makes sense and manages to find words to convey his heart and the truth of God’s Word. His message and challenge to the students this morning concerned the importance and joy of giving your life to love and serve Christ, no matter where God plants you. He ended by challenging the young people not to quit and singing with them the chorus to an old hymn, “For Me to Live is Christ.” (The old 50’s version by J White)

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.
To know His Word and walk
His narrow way.
There is no peace, no joy, no thrill,
Like walking in His will.
For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

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Giving a farewell message in chapel at Pacific Baptist College

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Some of the fabulous students at Pacific Baptist College

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Tom and Jerry Bowen, President of Pacific Baptist College

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Tom a AJ Harold. AJ was a student in Tom’s teen class at Gethsemane Baptist many years ago and is planting a wonderful church in the downtown LA area. He and his wife are dear to us and faithful Christians who bless our hearts immensely!

According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:19-20)

Oh! And yes, Michelle and kids left to go back to Virginia.

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The prognosis

Today is the second day of September—two days past the estimated time Tom’s oncologist said he had left to live. Of course, we’re not unhappy with the failure of his prediction! We’ll take whatever the Lord gives, since He alone knows the number of our days. This morning, after working to get Tom dressed and ready for the day, (which is now a team effort), he commented that it was hard to believe his legs have become so “useless” so quickly. I replied, “Well, at least it won’t last forever!” To which he laughed, because we both understood, he isn’t nearing the end, but the beginning of a new life in a new body. So the prognosis is good.

I’m sure you have heard someone (perhaps an elderly relative or friend) wistfully preface a memory with words such as, “It seems like just yesterday . . .” Our grandparents said it, our parents said it, and now some of us are saying it (a lot)! The years seem incredibly long looking forward to a lifetime, but incredibly short looking back over a lifetime. Truly, a moment yet to come is longer than yesterday when it is past.

Because Tom’s illness has made getting out a lot harder, we’ve been finding things to do at home. This week Michelle and I have been looking at old pictures, sorting them into categories and putting them into zip lock bags. The plan is to choose the best, scan them and make digital copies. Of course these are “BC” pictures taken the “old” way, (before computers and cell phones). Hard to believe I know, but young people entering high school this year have never licked a postage stamp, and pictures have always been taken with a cell phone camera and stored on one’s computer. To those of us who remember storing undeveloped film in the fridge and still remember the Howdy Doody song, pictures have always been taken with cameras loaded with film which was dropped off at the drug store and picked up days later in a little envelope which contained our printed snapshots. Most people, like my mom, spent hours putting her family pictures into books. Me? They have been put in boxes. Lots of boxes. I confess, sorting them hasn’t been a high priority thing until now.

With all the pictures sorted, they fit nicely into several ziplock bags which all fit nicely into one plastic container. I am surprised that there really isn’t as many categories as I had imagined there would be. A bag containing pictures of each family member, one for pictures of all our houses lived in and cars owned, another for family picnics and birthday parties, another for Christmas pictures, pictures of friends, pets, portraits, vacations, one for ministry activities, ancient relatives, etc. As I looked at the newly organized box of pictures, it struck me how small a space the record of a lifetime can take. I held up “my” bag of pictures and said to myself, “Hmmm. Here’s my life, conveniently stored in one large ziplock bag!” And I thought of the last thing my mother said to me before she went to Heaven at about my age. “Debi, our life really is like a vapor that appears for a moment and vanishes away.”  I picked up the bag that held all the pictures of cars we have ever owned, and I had to laugh. They didn’t look as beautiful as I thought they were back when they were new, and not one of them has escaped the junk yard! Life is definitely short.

It is said of God that to Him, a thousand years are but as yesterday when it is past, or like the brief span of time in one night watch. (Psalms 90:4) I can resonate with that! Perhaps it would do us all good to stop our busyness for just awhile and think about how we will see our life looking back from Heaven upon our brief time on earth. I am quite certain that things which seem so big and important now won’t matter one didilysquat then. And things that didn’t matter to us on earth, will then matter greatly.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.  (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Tom mentioned that he really wanted to go to his barber. I offered to cut his hair for him to which he laughed. So, with Michelle’s help, we were able to get him to the barber in downtown San Dimas that he has been seeing for the past 25 years. Marcilino has recently become a Christian, so he and Tom have wonderful discussions.

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He’s on a roll!

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Thankful our daughter, Michelle, and her three kiddos are here! Thankful, too, that Tom was able to teach Hebrews 8-9 this morning! I’m never quite sure he’s going to be able to pull it off, but by Sunday morning, it seems the needed strength is there, and he is focused and determined to be in his place. He’s quite exhausted the rest of the day, but he’s so happy to teach, and so looks forward to it. He took a fall right after coming home, so that was a bit of a challenge getting him back up when he was so tired and weak. His balance is off, in addition to other problems. Once we finally had things under control and were able to sit down to eat, he smiled before praying and said, “Now that was exciting,” to which we all laughed.

While everyone was at evening church we spent some time talking about the morning, our respective Bible lessons (I teach the ladies’ class and Tom the seniors) and the joy of watching so many of our young people grow up and assume places of leadership in our church. It is so rewarding to see them investing their lives in work that has eternal value. Our PBC college kids have arrived, ready to begin college classes on Tuesday, so Tom thoroughly enjoyed greeting them and cheering them on. He is looking forward to preaching in a chapel service the first week of September, Lord willing.

Tom loved his “rocket science” career while he was in the work force and was a very successful executive engineer/scientist. But he will tell you that as fun as it was, he considered it a way to make a living so he could do what he loved most—work with Bible college students. He is a firm believer in every Christian becoming a proficient Bible scholar and he wishes more laymen would see the value in working for a Bible degree, and dedicating one’s life to serving Christ, no matter where one happens to make a living.

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. (Psalms 29:2)

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A day to remember

Tom’s mobility challenges continue to increase and he is aware of subtle “glitches” in his communication. But in his own words, “I’ll do whatever God enables me to do. He requires no more than that!” Thankfully, Tom continues to have a good attitude and makes the best of a difficult daily life. We’re at a point where getting out, even for a ride in the car, is a major undertaking. Not impossible, but he’s not up to going out for unimportant excursions. As much as he likes a change in scenery, going out to eat isn’t worth the distress to get there. So, he says he is saving his strength for really important stuff—like church on Sunday and a last Hummer ride off-road today. (smile) We had planned to go yesterday, but ended up with too many unexpected events—like a large rodent in the house.

Hugo barked it into a corner and was able to pounce and grab it, which absolutely freaked me out big time as I stood on the couch. Meanwhile, Tom calmly gave instructions from his chair while his dog wildly displayed his catch, during which time I was closing my eyes and not calmly telling him to take it outside. Which he did. Thankfully. When the boys got home they examined the not yet dead but severely injured giant rodent, which turned out to be a young possum, and they dispatched it properly. Needless to say, it was enough excitement for one day and the Hummer trip was postponed until today.

We have grandkids here, so we took the boys with us, and a geo-cache they prepared to hide near Lytle Creek. It was a bit of a challenge getting Tom UP into the truck with one leg not working, but he was a trooper and a good 4 wheeling coach. I must say, he was very happy to get back home, however!

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It’s hard to watch Tom suffer the indignities of sickness, and of course, I find myself praying a great deal about it. If I could choose a way to enter Heaven it would be the rapture first, then falling asleep in my bed and waking up in Heaven. Given the choice, I’d remove all suffering and make every day filled to the brim with nothing but comfort and joy.  But of course, that’s not an option. Still, from a human standpoint, it’s what I’d like if I think from a purely human perspective without considering an eternal perspective.

All human beings like to be comfortable and avoid suffering. It’s not just a problem with spoiled Americans who live in the lap of luxury in comparison to the rest of the world! When people are sick, they want to be well, even in the far corners of poverty stricken Sudan. When people suffer persecution, they naturally want justice. When they work hard and plan well, they want to be rewarded for it. Human beings are wired to want relief, and will go to great lengths to get it! If you doubt this, just attend any prayer meeting in any Bible believing church anywhere in the world and pay attention to the requests that are heaviest on the hearts of most Christians.

The majority of requests are for physical healing and relief of some kind. It is certainly right to come to the Lord when we or a loved one is suffering. We are invited to come to our God when we are in any trouble and urged to pray for those who are are sick or suffering. But what is troubling to me is that these kinds of requests seem to take priority over requests for spiritual needs. We sometimes think we have suffered for Christ’s sake when we endure a sickness, and forget that most references in the Bible to suffering Christians revolve around the sacrifices and hardships that were incurred by believers who were focused on investing their lives and resources for the cause of Christ. It’s a different life focus.

I find myself needing to realign my thinking when my prayer life starts to revolve around a desire for physical relief or comfort of some kind for myself or a loved one to the exclusion of spiritual needs. Jesus encountered this human tendency often during His earthly ministry. He came to seek and to save that which was lost and bring the light of the Gospel to a world barreling toward destruction. While He had the utmost compassion for those who suffered physically, He continually pointed suffering people to that which is of much greater importance and consequence–the needs of the heart. Our problem is that we often don’t recognize just how spiritually needy we really are, or how profitable it is for us to grow spiritually. May we pray more for spiritual blessings and recognize their worth so we aren’t overwhelmed by their cost in terms of physical suffering.

For the believer, not one shred of suffering is purposeless. We can be sure that there’s more going on at a much deeper level than we are able to comprehend. Which is why David could say, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalms 119:71) He didn’t like afflictions or pain and suffering any more than you or I. He just understood that pain and suffering wasn’t the biggest of our problems or a meaningless exercise with no benefit. If afflictions open our eyes to what matters most and gives us an greater understanding of Gods truth, or builds something that lasts for eternity, its good. Suffering serves a purpose we don’t always comprehend, but we know that God our Creator is at work, and one day His work in our lives will be complete. The unbeliever sees the end of life as the end of joys, but the believer who has understanding sees the end of life as the end of all suffering, and the beginning of joys.

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:19)

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