My Muscles Are Important . . .

In most of my blog posts I  focus on emotional or spiritual health, and I often talk about ways that these are connected.  In my everyday life, I try to maintain a healthy balance–paying attention to spiritual, emotional, mental, relational, physical  health. 

Taking care of my physical body is challenging for me; I would enjoy spending the entire day at my computer; that’s not a good thing to do.  My chronic muscle pain gets worse when I neglect exercise. Walking is the best exercise for me.

Despite that, motivation to keep my muscles in shape becomes harder every winter. When the roads are icy, it’s raining, or the temperature is near 32 degrees F., I can very quickly talk myself out of going for that daily walk. 

As I confess in the  following poem, “the ones  (muscles) I need for sitting are the ones I use the most.” To get myself back into the habit of walking in inclement weather, I recently signed up for a membership to walk at a local athletic hall.  A friend, who’s been equally delinquent in exercising, agreed to join me. 

My Muscles

My muscles are important;
I only have one set.
If I jerk and snap them
I know they’ll feel upset.

They will scream and grumble;
Yes, they’ll complain.
And if I do not listen
They will turn up the pain.

My muscles won’t keep working
For days and months and years
Without some recognition—
Some evidence I care.

Food, fresh air, and movement
Are what they need to stay
Awake, alert, and happy;
They need some everyday.

My muscles are not rigid–
Like stuffed upholstery;
They’re fluid; they keep changing;
They’re a living part of me.

They notice when I’m angry;
They get prepared to fight.
When I choose to hold a grudge
They pinch me in the night.

They notice when I’m anxious;
They stiffen right away.
They do not let me sleep at night
When I fearful stay.

They notice when I’m tired,
They tell me, “Get some rest.”
If I refuse to listen
They do not speak in jest.

My muscles work together
In antagonistic pairs—
A team to help me lift
And a team to climb the stairs.

Some to help me breath
And some to work my heart—
If I had no muscles
I would fall apart.

Some muscles I keep hidden;
Others are exposed.
But the ones I need for sitting
Are the ones I use the most.

My muscles are important
I will listen when they “talk,”
Try not to get them triggered,
And be patient when they balk.




Someone Safe to Be Vulnerable With

This week I had the joy of visiting with a very creative friend. Society calls this friend, whom I find refreshingly real and delightful, “disabled.”

I prefer to not use the label “disabled” for anyone. It conveys a distorted and negative viewpoint. None of us are totally competent in every life’s capabilities. We all have a weakness of some kind.

A dictionary definition of disabled is “physically or mentally impaired, injured, or incapacitated.” Dictionary definitions of impaired include “1) weakened, diminished, or damaged and 2) deficient or incompetent”.

So, the truth is that in one way or another everyone is disabled. We might simply have impaired hearing, or impaired vision. Often, these “disabilities” can be corrected by glasses and hearing aids. Sometimes they cannot. Yet, wearing hearing aids is less acceptable than wearing eyeglasses? I wear both of them but for a long time—because I was embarrassed—I hid the fact that I wear hearing aids.

It’s interesting that we call people who have mental or physical weakness—yet have emotional or spiritual strengths—disabled and other people who have mental or physical strengths—yet have emotional or spiritual weaknesses—gifted.

In Andrew Root’s book review of The Happiness Effect: How Social Media Is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost, by Donna Freita (CT; March 2017, pp. 57-59), he asks this question: “Has social media created a generation of young adults who can’t confess weakness and need”?

Freita contends the “drive to look perfectly happy” is the greatest dangers of social media. She claims that this practice is worse than bullying, stalking, and sexting.

I’m not downplaying the impact of bullying, stalking, and sexting; these are dreadfully destructive practices and must not be tolerated. Could it be, though, that the pressure for perfection and the fear of vulnerability add fuel the former practices?

If we can’t confess weakness and need, if posting a negative comment about ourselves or talking about a personal struggle can result in censure and disapproval, if feeling unhappy or failing in some way is “sin” and, in shame, we up the fact of our imperfection and struggles, reality becomes blurred. 

Fearing the consequences of vulnerability, we end up rewriting history—the world’s and our own—so that it reflects only that which is uplifting, beautiful, and victorious. Sometimes this is the applauded the “Christian” thing to do. To me it lacks authenticity.

I’m all for having appropriate boundaries; it’s not necessary or wise to share painful or shocking details of our lives on public media. But everyone needs a safe somewhere and someone with whom they can be vulnerable.

There is a person like that who is available to all of us 24/. His name is Jesus Christ. This is his invitation “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NLT).

I have found my friend “upstairs” entirely safe. 

My Friend “Upstairs”

There’s almost always something
To stir up fear and doubt.
There’s almost always something
I can cry and fret about.

There’s almost always someone
Who has an ache or pain.
There’s almost always someone
Who rubs across my grain.

There’s almost always somewhere
That I have missed the mark.
There’s almost always somewhere
That I’ve stumbled in the dark.

Now, I can take those somethings,
Those someones, and somewheres–
And I can think about them
Until I plunge into despair.

Yes, I can think about them
Until my stomach’s filled with rage
Until my heart is pounding
Like some tiger in a cage.

Or, I can take those somethings,
Those someones, and somewheres,
To a friend I have who listens
To a friend I have upstairs.

Who never is too busy
Who never needs to sleep
Who accepts me when I yell
And accepts me when I weep.

All those heavy somethings,
Someones, and somewheres,
Somehow lose their grip
When I tell my friend upstairs.

What Children Can Teach Us

I had the joy of spending last week with my daughter and four of my grandchildren, ages 11-14. In their short lives, they’ve experienced what seems to me an unusual amount of loss due to death.  Several family members and friends have died from cancer.  I wondered how they were coping with these losses.

To my delight, I discovered that one of my grandsons was able to process these sad events through writing poetry. He shared several of his poems with me. The titles were “Death”, “Darkness”, “Hope”, and “Shine Your Light”. His poetry was extremely insightful and full of hope. I felt awed by his beautiful faith. 

How foolish and ignorant we are when we think that we must hide the hard realities of life from children. By not letting them know about pain, sorrow, and death, we may think that are protecting them. Who are we protecting?

Could it be that we, ourselves, are not willing to think about these things?  Certainly we must  use discretion about sharing details with our children. However, they have ears and they can hear. They have eyes and they can see. 

Aware of the trusting faith that they have, Jesus reminded us that we need to learn from them. He said,”Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in” (Mark 10:15 MSG).

I was reminded of these truths by my precious grandson. I was encouraged by his faith and inspired to write the following verse of response to his poems.  

Grandma’s Choice
To live each day as if it were my last
I’d have to give up all of my past—

All of my failures and every success;
Then, with the sunrise, I could start afresh.

Looking up to God who’s given me breath—
Asking him to show me the very best path—

I’d be ready to grow and eager to learn.
I’d be free to love, and I’d wait my turn.

I would face each challenge with childlike faith—
Worry no more about making a mistake.

Confident of a reward in heaven,
I would gladly share what I’ve been given.

At the day’s end, I’d say a “Thank You” prayer
And slip into dreamland without a care.

To live each day as if it were my last
I’d better start now! Time is moving fast.

Learning to Love in Simple Ways

Although I start my day with Jesus, taking time for Bible study and prayer, this is not enough to keep me connected with him throughout the day. I need to keep listening to my GPS—the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sends to all of us who love him. I need to do the things which he points out are important.

How do I recognize what is important? I pay attention to my heart—to the love messages it contains. God is love, so I know that when my heart wants to perform a love-action that it’s the Holy Spirit’s voice. 

  • Love is more about who I am than what I do. Yet, who I am comes through in what I do.
  • Love  keeps me from being self-centered; it causes me to notice what others need not just what I need.
  • Love determines what I remember; it enables me to let go of grudges and practices forgiveness.
  • Love affects the way I communicate; it motivates me to be patient and kind, instead of irritable and rude.

I’m committed to love-motivated living; yet, sometimes I resist putting my love into action. For example, after breakfast, my heart wanted me to call a friend who has health problems and ask her how she was doing. She had called me the night before, requesting that I pray for her. I did so. It did not take long. And she thanked me.

In the morning, my heart wanted to check on her, but I wanted to do it in my time. So, I argued with the Holy Spirit. Do I have to call my friend right now? I complained. It’s interfering with my writing schedule.

 Then, I tried to get out of it. I asked my husband if he would like to call my friend—after all he is the pastor. But he was studying and said “No, I have too many things to do”. (Not only that, he had just returned from performing a good deed.)

Finally, I listened to my heart and called my friend. She was grateful. She did not talk long. It did not need to be a long conversation. Just a word of encouragement, was all she needed.

It’s not the big, splashy events we do that communicate love as much as it is the everyday small actions. Ironically, it’s the small actions that sometimes seem harder to do.  

As I was finishing this post, I glanced over at the primrose on my window sill.  It’s collapsed blossoms and wilted leaves, hanging over the edge of the flower pot, made me fear that it had died.  I grabbed the pot, took it to the kitchen and watered  my plant. “Ooh”, I said, “Please come back. I’m sorry I forgot to give you water.” 

Amazingly, in a few minutes, the leaves began to rise above the edges of the pot. It looked like my primrose was going to survive. I wanted to help it along, by lifting some of the flowers off of the dirt. However, I knew that if I tried that I would probably break the blossoms. So, I waited. Gradually, the leaves and flowers ascended. Just a little water was all it needed.


Psalm 103 tell us that we are as fragile as my primrose–“Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone”.  We are nourished and kept alive by simple acts of love, such as making a phone call, providing a ride, or  offering someone a glass of water.

Just a word of encouragement may be all that someone needs. Making a phone call  might not seem like a very big thing. We might think that it’s unimportant. Jesus doesn’t think so. Simple, small things are important to him. He said, ” This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance”(The Message).