Saturday, December 22, 2012

For One of the Least…


When I was eleven, my father drove away with my mother and one small suitcase. On his return, he said, “Girls, your mother has moved to California.” My three sisters and I thought we’d never see her again.

The loss of my mother at such a young age left me feeling abandoned, rejected and unwanted.

Sometimes I’m still that scared little girl, and I see emotional insecurity in my sister’s lives as well. We each cling to what we have—hoarding the good feelings, loving our children in way’s we weren’t, yet empathizing with people in need who cross our paths. We open our hearts, and sometimes our homes, to strangers and friends alike.

Jesus came to us 2,000 years ago as the Christ-child. Though born in a stable, and into a poor carpenters’ family, He was gifted with gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. The Wise Men set a precedent for us to follow. We celebrate by giving gifts to each other, but it isn’t our birthday.

Each year at Christmas, Earl’s father asked us to donate to a local charity in his name in lieu of physical gifts. He set a precedent in our family. We, of course have our favorites, but any gift given in Christian love is a gift worth giving.

If you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping, or even if you have, I ask you to pray and consider giving a gift of love to someone in need this Christmas season.

Lord Jesus, in this season of gift giving I pray that my offerings will make a difference. Amen

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV).

In Christian Love,
Berta

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Heaven's Loss

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 KJV).

Here we are at Advent again. We’re waiting and preparing for the birth of God's Son, the Christ Child. He gave up glory on His majestic throne to come to earth, fully man yet fully God. He was acknowledged as the Christ while still in a virgin’s womb.

Born in a stable. Laid in a manger. Serenaded by angels. Gifted by kings.

This wasn't the beginning for In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1 KJV).

Earl and I have a print by Ron DiCianni called “Heaven’s Loss.” Focusing on the Christ Child lying in a manger, an archangel leans over Him as to have one last look.

His humanity was for our sake. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10 KJV).

I am overwhelmed by Gods' goodness. Though I deserve nothing I have everything. In His mercy and grace and by His life, death, and resurrection I have eternal life without fear or guilt or shame.

My prayer is that you too know Him and His love.

In Christian Love,
Berta

Saturday, October 20, 2012

He Loves Me

Before I met Jesus, I met Earl and I wasn’t happy to find out he was a Christian and a chaplain. As our relationship grew, some of my old ways fell away by thoughts of pleasing him. He never pushed religion; he just loved me. When he proposed, I would’ve married him that day. I made a profession of faith and was baptized before we married—because I thought a preacher’s wife should be baptized—but I brought a truckload of baggage into our marriage.

More than four difficult years later, I talked to Jesus about my sinful past. He healed my broken heart and I accepted His forgiveness. My life changed—for a few months. I prayed again and again for deliverance from sins and guilt I’d held on to. Then one day Earl said, “Berta, you’re in ICU. You had a wreck, and you’re paralyzed from your neck down.”

Though unable to do anything for myself, I continued to desire those now unattainable sins. As my body healed and my strength increased, I began to study and even teach God’s word. I learned many things:

  • He didn’t cause my injury
  • He didn’t rejoice in my injury
  • He allowed my injury
  • He sent His Son to redeem me
  • He had a plan for my life
  • He disciplines those He loves
  • He loves me!
I pray for God’s strength and leading every day as He uses my physical disability to bring me through to the spiritual life he desires for me.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word...It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Psalm 119:67, 71).

In Christian Love,
Berta

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Bear One Another's Burdens...

When Earl married me, he adopted our daughter, Kari; and his father adopted me. We are family. This is a prime example of God’s family: If you belong to Jesus, and I belong to Jesus, you are my brother or sister. And family, I need you to pray.
 
 
I know you already pray for Earl and me, but I’m asking you today to pray specifically for our health. Most of you are aware of my pressure sore and the long battle we’ve been fighting to get it healed. During this battle, I have become physically weak, spiritually dry, and emotionally lonely.
 
I miss being with my small groups (United Methodist Women, Crosstalk Sunday school class, W.I.S.E. –Women’s Inspirational Study Experience—etc.) in fellowship and in ministry. Ministry that I believe God called me to. Likewise, this situation is affecting Earl.
 
I need healing prayer for my mind, body, soul and spirit. I’ve gone through deep valleys of depression, anger, and self-pity and I don’t want to go back there again. Sing God’s praise and pray for His strength to carry Earl and me through this trial that we may able to minister in His name.
 
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2 ESV).
 
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19 NIV).
 
Will you pray with me now? Father, we thank you for the gifts of family, fellowship, and Christian community where we can reach out in troubled times. Help us to live in Your love and grace; gifts we cannot earn because You give them freely. Thank You for the Blood that washes us white as snow and the salvation it represents. Send Your Holy Spirit to heal Your people. In Jesus name, Amen
 
In Christian Love,
Berta

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Useful

Jesus called me to tell what He was doing in my spirit. He said, “Invest in Me. My word is truth. My yoke is light.” How can I express His greatness and power? The fire that burns in my belly?

God’s call often sounds foolish to us. Noah built an ark before it had ever rained a drop. Moses told Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” Peter stepped out of one boat and walked on water, then cast his net in the deep water from another boat.

I came from sin. A sinner born from sinners to sin. Physically and emotionally alone, I felt separated by the cruelty of a world I couldn’t understand. Constant unbearable pain weighed heavy on my soul from childhood.

As I grew older, I knew God was out there. I’d tried to talk to Him but He’d never answered my selfish pleas. The day came that crushed by my sin, guilt, and self-loathing, I turned to Jesus and cried for mercy and forgiveness. I poured out my sin and soaked in His Holy Spirit. I walked away from who I’d been; I couldn’t keep doing the same things.

He began to use my life, which I once thought was useless—my voice, my joy and laughter, my pain and weakness—to speak to those who needed to hear about Him. He wants each of us to participate with Him in bringing others into the Kingdom, and he wants us to experience His presence in our lives.

"God doesn't give us what we deserve, because if He did, we'd be burnt to a crisp in a nano-second. Because receiving justice would be hell; mercy is salvation; and grace is peace, and joy, and so much more." Joni Eareckson Tada

“I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” (Philemon 1:10-11 NIV.)

Lord Jesus, I thank you for bearing all my sins and setting me free from the law of sin and death. Give me boldness to share Your mercy and forgiveness at every
opportunity You provide. Amen

In Christian Love,
Berta
 
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Monday, September 17, 2012

My Hiding Place

I talk about my injury with people everywhere I go, and I hear this often: “You’re easy to talk to, but I don’t know what to say to most people in wheelchairs. They seem angry. How do you do so well?”

Honestly, I only do well sometimes. I have to face my enemies every day. I had just accepted the unconditional love and forgiveness Jesus offers eight months before I drove through an intersection and under a logging truck.

After coming home from rehabilitation at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA, I felt worthless. I refused help from everyone but my family. I sat day after day, and year after year, with my eyes closed. Sometimes I was asleep, but mostly I was hiding. I was ashamed of being an invalid and prayed God would take me home. I can’t describe the depth of my pain, guilt, depression, and frustration of facing life as a quadriplegic.

I can tell you, “God is good!” He uses people like you every day of my life to bless and minister to me. A Sunday school teacher invited me to teach once a month. The church secretary asked me to write for the newsletter. Friends asked questions and I began telling what God was doing in my life.

Do I believe Gods will for me is healing? Yes. Does that mean complete healing of my earthly body? I know I’ll have a glorified body in heaven, but today I have healing of my mind, my soul, and my spirit. I’m no longer “in-valid.” I’m a person—a wife, mother, sister, and friend—with a disability.

I pray my testimony blesses you. Though we may never meet here on earth, we are all sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus and heirs of the Kingdom of God.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-6 NIV.)

In Christian Love,
  Berta
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Monday, August 27, 2012

To Be Called As One Jesus Loved

I’ve been thinking about how we express love. Close family, friends, and even pets have habits that represent their love.
 
Wesley has grown up using me as a racetrack, her bed, and her comforter. She doesn’t know she’s a cat; she’s our baby. She loves to lie on her Daddy’s belly and fusses if he moves. She often climbs into bed with me where she slowly circles into my reach then collapses, pinning my hand beneath her. If I’m on the telephone, she’s perched on my chest. 

Our daughter, Kari, has also grown up in the knowledge that she’s our baby and I’ve noticed she does things similarly. Daddy’s belly is her favorite pillow and Momma’s bed has just enough room for her to lie by my side—pinning my arm beneath her. When I’m on the phone, she’s usually on the other end. 

Earl and I were at a local restaurant recently and while we waited for our lunch, I lay back in my wheelchair. Oliver, the hostess’ son, came over and asked, “Mrs. Berta, are you sleeping?” I told him I was resting and we talked awhile before he moved on, talking to others. Loved children are comfortable in loving others. 

I want to be like Wesley, Kari and Oliver in the presence of my Heavenly Father. I want to recline against Him as John lay against Jesus’ breast, to be called as one Jesus loved,* or to rest at His feet as Mary chose.**

Whom do you love, or who loves you, and impresses that love of Christ in your life?

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:9-13 NKJV)
 
In Christian Love,
Berta

*John 13:23 NKJV
**Luke 10:9b NKJV

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sing To The Lord A New Song

My parents owned several small businesses when I was a little girl. At eight, I began helping in their candy store. “Yeah,” I thought, “chocolate and me, alone.” I worked my way up in the next business, a pool hall for teens. I served burgers, fries, and sodas while I learned how to shoot pool, dance to whatever was playing on our jukebox, and play pinball. By the time they had Don andfaith Barb’s cafĂ©, I was working seven-days a week for tips. I grilled, fried, cooked, served and cleaned.

As a Navy corpsman, I again worked my way up. I improved my skills by putting all my effort into every task I was assigned. I continued to grow through becoming an LPN then an RN.

When I met Christ and sought His will in my life, I opened my heart to His teachings. Christian saints took me under their wings and by their example’s my faith increased. In Bible study, they patiently taught me to read and discern God’s word. I learned to talk to Him and listen for His “still, small voice.” I began looking for Him every day, in every way and you know what? He was always there.

When I have good days, or moments—He’s here. When I cry—He’s here. When my husband, daughter, sister or friend needs Him, we pray and He’s there. Don’t read this wrong, God isn’t a fixer. His Spirit is the comforter and guide.

Jesus words, “I will never leave you or forsake you” are true. But WE have the need to continue to grow in Christ all the days of our life. Pray to Him and listen. Worship Him. Sing psalms and praise Him. Read His word. Tell others what He’s doing in your life.

1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

Psalm 96 NIV
In Christian Love,
Berta

Saturday, July 28, 2012

For The Children


"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." (Psalm 68:5 NIV)

I had a visitor last week who had just returned from a mission trip to El Salvador. Before she left on the trip, she was anxious about flying. During our visit, she didn’t mention flying. She told me many stories about the orphaned children she met. Their zeal over receiving a stuffed animal or a bag of snacks brought her great joy.

But what brought tears to her eyes was one little four-year-old boy who sat on her knee and talked. Though they spoke different languages, they both knew love. As an orphan, he had known hardship and loneliness but he recognized and accepted her love without fear.

I have listened to the testimony of other missionaries. Love freely given seems to always be the cord that connects them to those whom Jesus loved. Whether in El Salvador, or the mission field where God has called you to minister, remember what Jesus said, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35 NIV).

I asked my friend if she would go again. "Definitely—for the children."

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40 NIV).

Father of the orphaned, as you call us to minister to your children with love give us the courage to go to the mission fields you would send us. In Jesus name, Amen.

In Christian Love,

Berta

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Assist Me to Proclaim

I’ve often set through Sunday morning worship reciting hymns, scripture, and the Lord’s Prayer without paying attention to the words I spoke. As I lazily looked around the sanctuary, I saw others doing the same.
What must we look like from the pulpit?

One Sunday, not long after a serious bout of pneumonia, the opening hymn was one of my favorites and I wished I could sing.

As the music started, the worship leader lifted his voice. The choir and the congregation followed him, and so did I. The words I knew:

“O for a thousand tongues to sing, My great Redeemer’s praise, The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace! My gracious Master and my God, Assist me to proclaim, To spread through all the earth abroad, The honors of Thy name.”

The meaning of the words took hold in my mind. I was to sing the praises of my Redeemer and He would assist me to do His will. Can you feel the words welling up and ready to burst your soul?

My wish to sing wasn’t a prayer yet God filled me with His answer. Though I wasn’t able to sing every word loud and clear, I sang His praises with all my heart.

As you put on your “Sunday best” prepare your heart to worship. Ask God to help you understand the words then sing with joy. Be bold as you proclaim God’s good news through song.

“May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, Lord, and your law gives me delight. Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.” Psalm 119:172-176

In Christian Love,
Berta

Friday, May 25, 2012

If God Is For Us

OK, I admit it - anger took over my life for a while recently. You only need to read my previous devotions to understand my attitude. Several of the daily devotions I read online had addressed my anger—I refused to accept their advice.

Test results that fell through the cracks and a five-hour bone scan followed by a diagnosis I didn’t want to hear overwhelmed me.
“God, haven’t I had enough?”

Then while a doctor in full surgical garb inserted a PICC line into my right brachial artery, I heard myself boldly witnessing to God’s grace in my life. “I wouldn’t go back to the morning before my accident, not even to walk.”

Later an RN began infusing the first of 21 doses of antibiotics. She remembered me from my first visit in that clinic a year before and as we talked, God filled my emptiness with His grace. He healed my broken heart with His love. He lifted me out of the miry clay and set my feet on solid ground.

The focus of my anger changed. Doctors and nurses, technicians and friends, were not the evil one. God refreshed my soul and strengthened me for the battles to come. And there will be more battles, but He is on my side.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:18, 31).

In Christ Alone,
Berta

To read previous devotions by Berta go to http://snapshots-bertad.blogspot.com

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

One morning several years ago, my friend Tonya came to my home to get me up. Everything was going well until she reached for my rings. My anniversary band was there but my emerald ring wasn’t.  Panic! It wasn’t that the ring was costly but it was sentimental, a gift from my husband.

We looked everywhere: the floor, the shower, my bed. Tonya put me back in bed and partially disassembled my wheelchair to search for my ring. Nothing.
“Oh God, where is my ring?” I cried.

I can’t explain it, but I said, “Tonya, check the left pocket of the pants I wore yesterday.” There it was!
A few months later, my husband and I came in from a birthday celebration. As he prepared to put me in bed, he took my rings off then reached for my earrings. One was missing. Once again, we searched the bedroom and after putting me in bed, he searched my wheelchair. Nothing. I began to pray and fell asleep.

Tonya arrived the next morning and I asked her to keep her eyes open for the missing earring. Once up in my wheelchair, Tonya positioned me and I looked down. There, caught on my cup holder, was my earring.
Was praying for my lost jewelry appropriate? It wouldn’t get me into heaven. It wasn’t even a physical need. But Tonya witnessed my faith and God’s faithfulness. Soon she and her son began attending our church.

Father, I thank you for the many opportunities you give me to share my faith and your faithfulness to others. Amen
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

*I wrote this devotion and three days later, we discovered a caregiver had stolen all my jewelry.
In Christ Alone,
Berta

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Going On To Perfection

I received a new power wheelchair recently. I get a new one every five years and this is my fifth. It made me think about the struggles I’ve had over the years. My first one, back in 1991, felt like an ugly monster truck. Huge, black, and belt driven, it had pneumatic tires that burst at the worst times. I spent many hours in it asleep or pretending to sleep. I didn’t like my self-image and I withdrew.

The second chair was a different model and built by a small vendor just getting started. It had structural problems from the beginning and caused me physical pain and emotional stress. I took my anger out on my family.

My third chair was to be the same model and I anticipated five more years of misery. I pointed out problem areas to the new provider. He listened and soon I had my chair. He walked me through the computer technology setting speed levels from indoor polite to outdoor racing. It was much better and I began to take comfort in my independence. I opened up and began reaching out in our Church and our community.

Five years later, I called him again, “My chair is worn out. Will you build me another just like it?” He delivered a chair that was a clone. It was as if time had stood still, but new friends helped me develop a positive attitude and strong ministry.

This fifth chair took eight month’s from prescription to delivery, and I admit I was getting anxious. The same provider assured me it would be worth the wait. It was. It’s compact. Sleek with clean, fresh, black paint, and more power and technology, it is an extension of my body.

My life, my attitude, and my faith developed slowly but steadily as I experienced each change in my physical surroundings. From depression and anger, to acceptance and genuine surprise at the beauty I see in my wheelchair and myself.

Ephesians 4:13...until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

In Christ Alone,
Berta

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Life

Hospitalized after a serious injury I developed pneumonia. A culture of my secretions grew out MRSA (mer-sa) and the nurses moved me to an isolation room. My doctors said that if I lived I would have brain damage, be bedridden, and ventilator dependent. They told my husband that he was too young to be stuck with an invalid wife and they offered to let me die—comfortably, of course. My husband, remembering his wedding vows, chose life for me, and had me transferred to a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, GA.

As spring arrived, I had a birds-eye view of treetops outside my second floor isolation room window. Spring had always been my favorite season and I watched tender red shoots and buds appear on tiny limbs, followed by the smallest pairs of green leaves. Those signs of new life brought me comfort and encouragement.

However, one tree didn’t grow new branches or buds. Each day it was the same ash gray color and I decided that it was dead. I told everyone who came to see me that I wished someone would cut it down so I wouldn’t have to look at it.

Then one sunny morning I saw tiny pairs of green leaves on that dead tree. I began to weep as I realize what I’d been saying about that tree was what the doctors had said about me. I knew then God was with me, telling me my life wasn’t over.

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV).

In Christ Alone,
Berta

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Crown of Thorns

After my accident in 1991, I remember:

When I looked up, all I could see was a black metal circle and two screws sticking out of my forehead. There were two more screws behind my ears. We called it my "crown of thorns." Four bars connected the circle to a leather vest. It had kept my neck still for three months so the broken bones could fuse.

One day, a doctor I'd never seen before came into my room and said, "I'm going to remove your halo screws today. The x-rays they took yesterday show the bones in your neck are fused. When was your vest taken off and the cervical collar put on?"

"Yesterday, after the x-rays," I whispered through my tracheostomy.

"Good," she said. Showing me a wrench she'd brought in she continued, "Now this won't hurt."

At first, all I felt was pressure as each screw was turned, but it must have looked awful because my sister, Bobbi, was sitting on the floor in front of me holding my hand and crying.

"Ouch!" It was hurting.

Nobody was paying attention to me. Finally, Bobbi felt me move my hand, looked up and saw my distress.

"My hair!" I mouthed.

Some hair had twisted around the screw and the doctor didn't know what to do. "I can't screw it back in."

"Cut it!" I cried.

A few minutes later, "Well the last screw is out. How does that feel?"

The pain and muscle spasms in my neck were unbelievable. I had to lean back and let the headrest on my wheelchair support me. Frustrated, I couldn't understand why this was happening to me.

As I sat in tears, God reminded me it was Good Friday. Traditionally, it was the day Jesus' Crown of Thorns was placed on His head. - Today mine was removed.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5 NIV)

My crown of thorns was insignificant. His Crown of Thorns was my healing.

In Christ Alone,
Berta

Saturday, March 17, 2012

An Equipped Saint

My response to a seminary students request for information about how I do disability ministry:

I’m not an ordained pastor, but I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When I met Earl, I didn’t know Jesus and had no desire to meet Him. I continued to fight His presence the first four years of our marriage. Then I went on a Walk to Emmaus where I accepted Jesus’ love and forgiveness. Eight months later, I was paralyzed in an accident.

After rehabilitation at the number one spinal cord injury rehab in the United States, I became very depressed. I withdrew for hours, sleeping or just hiding behind veiled eyes.

When Earl took me out I couldn’t handle the stares, the “I’m so sorry,” and the patting on my shoulders. Servers in restaurants wouldn’t give me a menu and asked Earl, “What does she want?” without looking at me. I took my anger out on my family and friends. (Today we joke about the “spirit of slap” that came over me.)

I begged God, “Please, at least heal my hands so I can take care of myself.” Instead, He began a ministry of teaching and speaking to small groups.

A monthly Sunday school teaching led to teaching every Sunday. A young women’s Bible study, a weekly prayer group, and a daily telephone ministry with women who couldn’t attend Church followed. Soon I was president of the women’s group, chair of the evangelism committee, and chaired the conference-level disability team.

I’m a certified lay speaker and have filled the pulpit, testified before both large and small groups, and spoken before the pastors, laypersons and members of our regional conference.

Acceptance not just of my disability but also my abilities came through ministry to others and by allowing others to minister to me. I’m well known in my Church and secular communities for telling people what Jesus has done for me.

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;" Ephesians 4:11-14

In Christ Alone,
Berta

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How Do You Eat A Peppermint?

I wish I could savor the sweet coolness of the red and white disk. Letting it slowly dissolve as my saliva washes away each granule of sugar. As the shape reduces, tiny holes perforate the sliver of now white candy; you know those spaces that allow you to apply suction through them to your cheek or lip. It thins, the edges become sharp, then it crumbles and is gone.

That rarely happens. Rather:

I so enjoy peppermint candy that I get two at a time—with Earl’s help. I first get them slick and pocket one in my right cheek, and begin chipping away at the other. I can sometimes break off such small pieces that they seem a waste but they're not. You see each small burst of flavor is as appreciated as a reward for doing good. I devour each lozenge quickly. Why? For that strong burst of pleasure!

While enjoying my peppermints one evening I thought, "Am I this way with God?" Instead of taking my time and enjoying each, and every moment that He gives me, do I burst through an experience, an emotion, a moment in time, for the instant reward? Do I live for Him or do I live for what He gives me?

Father, Open my eyes, my ears, and my spirit that I may seek Your face and consciously savor what You desire for me. In His name, Amen

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. (Psalm 51:6)

In Christ Alone,
Berta

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Yes. You. Can.

When I came home from rehab five months after my spinal cord injury, I couldn’t hold my head up. I couldn’t speak above a whisper. And I couldn’t stay alone. I spent all my days reclined in my power wheel chair with my eyes closed.

Surgery to fuse my broken neck vertebra nine months later helped and I slowly gained strength in my neck, shoulders and arms. Though I became more able, I didn’t participate in my daily life. I expected Earl to take care of business.

“Berta, I want you to make your own appointments.”

My heart raced, “No.”

“Yes. Start by keeping up with your doctor’s appointments and your prescription medicines.”

Overwhelmed at the thought of exposing myself to people and how they might react to my disability; I refused.

He insisted.

I cried. “I can’t.”

He said, “Yes, you can!”

I got started. I created a list of my doctors and their telephone numbers. I set up a file of my medicines, including all the information I needed to order them. I discovered a calendar program on my computer and filled it in.

“Berta, when’s your next doctor’s appointment?”

“I don’t know.”

“Check your calendar.”

“Did you order your medicine?”

“No. I forgot.”

“Do it now.”

In our seventh year, he approached my Sunday school teacher, “Ask Berta to teach your class one Sunday a month.” I hesitated for a moment before agreeing.

“Berta, would you lead a Bible study for young women?” I did. “…write for the church newsletter…?” I did.

Earl continued to encourage me. Sometimes it was more forceful than I wanted. Today I’m thankful. I would not be who I am if he had not used tough love to bring me back to the living.

While talking to a new friend about his pushing me to do things for myself, Earl overheard me and commented, “I don’t know how she does all that she does today!”

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes. --Ps 119:71 ESV

In Christ Alone,
Berta

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Love Your Neighbor

In the early days of my life with a spinal cord injury, a friend from our church visited our home while Earl was feeding me. She didn’t greet me but asked, “Oh Earl, can I feed her?”

Earl looked at my flushed face and saw tears drop from my bowed head to my lap. I was a baby. A cripple. An invalid. Humiliated and unable to take another bite I wheeled to my bedroom.

After that, when offered a cool glass of water I would respond, “I’m OK. Earl will be here in a few minutes.”

“Can I get that for you?”

“Earl will get it.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Earl will get me something when he gets back.”

Earl encouraged me, “Berta, you need to let others help you sometimes.”

After months in rehab learning to do things for myself and trusting people around me, I had let that one statement steal my self-esteem.

Once I allowed my friends to help me, I found a new purpose in my life. I made a list of telephone numbers of women in our church that couldn’t always come to services. Each morning I prayed over my list and asked God to bless them in whatever struggle they were in. Then I picked one number to call. I had no idea what we would talk about once they answered, but I dialed their numbers anyway.

In the beginning, my calls surprised the women. They surprised me too. However, God had a plan.

There were women on my list that I never met face to face. I finally met Callie after two years of telephone ministry. Some women were young. Some were old. All needed Christian love, acceptance and encouragement—just like me. Over time, our relationships grew into a sisterhood of believers in Jesus that I‘d cherish forever.

Accepting the gifts of servants healed my crippled spirit.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:13,14 NIV).

In Christ Alone,
Berta