[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #150 ---- 11/27/00

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From: lifeunlimited@...
Date: Sun, 26 Nov 2000 21:54:22 -0600
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder With You In The Trenches
As We fight The Good Fight

SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #150 ---- 11/27/00

TITLE:  "Life's Stuff"



My Dear Friend:

For you in America, I trust your Thanksgiving celebration was a wonderful
experience that gave you ample opportunity to rejoice in the faithfulness
and abundance of God.  Our normal traditional celebration was far from
present this year as we continued adjusting to the loss of my mother and
the time of transition in my fathers life.

Three of our four daughters and their families lived too far away.  Our
youngest and her family were close by, but Dad was back "home" where he
grew up visiting with nieces and their families, and Jo Ann and I were in
transit moving things in preparation for Dad's move.  

So, we spent Thanksgiving Day either in the van or enjoying fabulous
turkey and trimmings at Smith's Family Restaurant and Berry Farm not far
from our home.

It had actually been my intent to write today about another matter, but
I'm going to postpone sending you that letter until later ---- for good
reason, I'm sure you'll soon agree.



STRESSFUL TIMES:

In no way do I begrudge the reality of stressful times in our family.  I
am a firm believer in Romans 8:28-30; God indeed causes all things to
work together for our good and His glory as He uses the circumstances of
life to conform us to the image of His Son.

Yesterday at lunch I commented to Jo Ann that the past twelve months of
our lives really didn't belong to us.  It was exactly one year ago last
week that my mother went to the hospital for the first of three times
over the ensuing eight months.  We have lived primarily controlled by the
needs and demands of others for the past year ---- the church where I
have been interim, mission teams, parents, children, . . . .

In all however, as I reminded her, our lives over the years have really
been amazingly free from crises and cathartic experiences with few
exceptions.  We praise God for that.

For those stressful times which we have experienced, God has been more
than faithful.  We also praise Him for that.  We've been reminded on such
occasions that it's the refiner's fire that not only reveals the quality
of the metal, but also purifies it in the process.  You've undoubtedly
had your share of purifying moments.



PRE-DAWN LESSONS:

When Jo Ann and I were married, she, a young woman with three sisters and
two brothers, became a part of my family where I was the only child.  She
immediately became like a daughter to my parents, especially my mother. 
They have been best of friends from that day until last July 27th when
Mother went to be with the Lord.

During the past ten years, Jo Ann has had to assume much of the burden of
"matriarch" to our family because of my mother's increased inability to
see adequately to prepare meals for family gatherings, do thorough house
cleaning, do her own shopping, etc.

With Mother's death, she has ended up pretty much with full
responsibility for things anytime we're in Dad's home.  She has never
begrudged that added responsibility, but has embraced that role with a
genuine servant spirit.

So, as things go, helping get Dad ready to move to a new home normally
would have been just another routine responsibility for the two of us,
simply more mammoth in size than the norm.

Last week while we were at my fathers home packing more of those boxes of
things to be moved this week, Jo Ann and I both felt unusually weary ----
the kind of weariness and exhaustion that affects your sleep patterns.

When I'm that tired, I respond by sleeping hard with punctuations of
fitfulness, tossing and turning until maybe two hours before rising, at
which time I drop off into another world from which it is hard to call
me.  When I awake I'm usually dull, groggy, and have many physical aches
and pains.

Jo Ann, on the other hand, has a hard time going to sleep.  Once she
finally does, she sleeps well for two to four hours and then wakes up
wide awake for several hours.  If she goes back to sleep at all, it is
usually just an hour or so before time to get up.

Well, last week we had one of those nights.  We both recognize that such
patterns are not caused by physical weariness as much as they are created
by stress ---- especially "anticipatory" stress where you find yourself
focusing on those future deadlines, projects or responsibilities.

So, while I stayed in bed, oblivious to Jo Ann's wakeful condition, she
finally had all the "bed" she could handle, got up, and went into the
family room to read.  I continued to sleep away, unaware of her absence
until she finally came back to bed around 6:00 that morning ---- not to
sleep, but to get warm from the chill in the house.

Later that morning she asked me if I had read her little article she had
written during her hours of contemplation.  I hadn't, . . . . but I did.

After reading it, I knew it was something that would bless you.

So ---- for perhaps only the second or third time in three years, Jo Ann
is my "guest writer".  I hope you'll be blessed as you read her thoughts
on "The Stuff Of Life".



THE STUFF OF LIFE:

It seems like the best word to describe this season of the year is
"Stuff"!

We stuff turkeys, we buy stuff, we wrap stuff, give stuff, stuff
ourselves, stuff our schedules, and accumulate more stuff as others give
stuff to us.

This year I have become more aware than ever of the stuff and its effect
on my life.  We have been working for several weeks now helping my
father-in-law make the transition from a rather large home of some 1800
square feet (stuffed with all the things and memories a house accumulates
from 64 years of life together) to a two room apartment.

We have found ourselves dealing with a lot of "Stuff".

Along with the enormous volume of "stuff" (much of which are important
things of either beauty or usefulness), there are also the memories that
surface as we face sometimes hourly decisions as to what to do with all
the stuff.

After several days of such activity, we returned to our own home last
Saturday to transfer  some of the stuff there, and see to a number of
personal and ministry responsibilities such as preparing for the mission
trip presentation and concert Bob and I were to present the next evening
at our church.

As we were carrying in all the stuff to our already overstuffed,
cluttered, and neglected house, I found myself overwhelmed by the
seemingly impossible prospect of ever seeing order and comfort restored
to the place we call home.  I found myself wanting to throw aside all
those memories associated with all the stuff, and immediately dispose of
everything that sought to clutter life as we had once known it.

I was frustrated over the schedule we were on, so stuffed with
responsibilities, even though I enjoy the special ministry opportunities
God has given us.

In my frustration, I simply voiced a quick prayer ---- "Lord, pull me out
of this!", and went on taking care of the stuff.

Later that evening as Bob and I began pulling out the music from which we
would assemble the concert, he asked if I had any ideas ---- anything I
would especially like to sing.

I didn't even feel like singing at all, yet I was immediately drawn to a
song I'd never sung before as a solo, but felt I should sing ---- simply
because I was the one who needed to hear its message.

As I began to sing through the song, "Oh, I want to Know You More", the
Lord in His sweet and gracious way, in a matter of seconds began to
minister to me and draw me into His presence.  And, as the song says,
"the gentle arms of Jesus warmed my hunger to be whole."

Quickly I found the clutter around me, the house dirty from neglect, and
the overcrowded schedule of responsibilities not so overwhelming.  I no
longer saw it all as something to consume my life, but as the "stuff"
life is made of.   I remembered  that Jesus wants to walk with me through
that "stuff" and restore order and serenity not only to my physical home
but to my heart, His home.

I'm amazed again at His goodness.  How can He, in just a few seconds,
like turning the lens on a camera, direct my eyes toward Him and bring
all the "stuff" of life into focus and then see Him reaching out in love
for me?

Now my heart is stuffed with gratitude to Him, my Lord and Savior, Who
gave Himself for me and lives in me to draw me out of the "stuff" ----
and into His presence.

What I friend I have in Jesus!

"Oh, I Want To Know Him More!"

"Just the time I feel that I've been caught in the mire of self . . . .
Just the time I feel my mind's been bought by worldly wealth . . . .
That's when the breeze begins to blow; I know the Spirit's call . . . .
And all my worldly wanderings just melt into His love.

"Oh, I want to know You more!  Deep within my soul I want to know You.
Oh, I want to know you. . . . .
To feel Your heart and know Your mind; Looking in Your eyes stirs up
within me
Cries that say I want to know You, Oh, I want to know You more.  
Oh, I want to know You more!

"When my daily needs ordinarily lose life and song . . . .
My heart begins to bleed; sensitivity to Him is gone . . . . 
I've run the race, but set my pace ---- and faced a shattered soul.
But the gentle arms of Jesus warm my hunger to be whole.

"Oh, I want to know you more!  Deep within my soul I want to know You. 
Lord, I want to know You . . . . . .
And I would give my final breath to know You in Your death and
resurrection . . . .
Oh, I want to know your more.  Lord, I want to know You more.
Oh, I want to know You more!"



THAT'S THE STUFF:

Well, friend, I hope Jo Ann's heart thoughts blessed you as they did me. 
She needs to write more often.

Her comments brought to mind Paul's similar cry in Philippians 3:8-15a. 
After reviewing all his accomplishments of heritage, religion, and
education, he said . . . .

"I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,
and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in
Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that
which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God
on that basis of faith, . . . . 

"that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship
of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may
attain to the resurrection from the dead.

" . . . . I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was
laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one
thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies
ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God
in Christ Jesus.

"Let us therefore, as many as are mature, have this attitude . . . ."

Now, that's the "stuff", Paul!



HOW ABOUT YOU:

Just curious . . . . . . have you ever felt overwhelmed with "stuff" as
Jo Ann described?  Maybe family "stuff", job "stuff" ---- even ministry
"stuff"?  Have you ever felt like the circus performer trying to keep
twelve plates spinning at the end of sticks simultaneously?

And everything seems so vital . . . . so important . . . . . so "my
responsibility!"  But in your mind it's become just necessary but
undesired "stuff".

Back off, friend . . . . .

Take another look.

Can you let your heart cry out to God in the way the song writer did
above?

Maybe you need to take some time to pen your own thoughts ----

---- And then move from the "stuff" to the main thing . . . . . knowing
Him more.

If you do,  I think you'll . . . . .

Have A Great Week.

In His Bond,

Bob Tolliver ---- (Rom 1:11-12)
Copyright November, 2000.  All rights reserved.
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        Hang in there!   I'm with you!

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We'd love to hear from you.  Drop us a note with reports, observations,
prayer requests, etc.

If this letter has blessed you and you know of someone else who needs to
be encouraged, feel free to forward it in its entirety to all such people
you know.

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request, just let us know.