The heart is not hard…it’s dead.

Numbers 6:24-26

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

24 The Lord bless you, and keep you;

25 The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;

26 The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.’

Numbers 6:24-26

The Message (MSG)

24 God bless you and keep you,

25 God smile on you and gift you,

26 God look you full in the face
and make you prosper.

There is a reason for posting two translations of this verse. I will make that point in a bit.

First, though, I want to make it clear that I now know why writers carry with them notepads, bits of paper, napkins and other material to which ink will adhere. Writing can be an immediate medium, a demanding voice that must be acknowledged immediately lest its message be lost in the fast-paced swirl of daily life. And this is how I learned that lesson.

If you have not read “Undaunted”, the story of Josh McDowell’s life, I urge you to do so. it is a very fast, easy read that tells the story of this apologist-author and his heart for young people. And it was this book…one sentence actually…that hit me in the gut. Josh tells the story of a man who came to speak at his church. In the message this gentleman asked everyone to come and offer themselves and what they have to God. Josh was unable to do this because he felt he had nothing to give God that was of any value.

Am I the only one who understands that feeling? I read that part over and over again. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I would have done the same thing. What have I to offer God? Certainly He doesn’t want my disobedience. My willful spirit. My cold, hard heart. I asked God to show me what He wanted. Nothing. There was nothing I could “hear” being spoken to my spirit. That, of course, confirmed to me that no gift of mine was really worth giving to my King. Honestly, what do we have that is?

It wasn’t until later that day that He spoke. My heart wasn’t hard. It was withered. It was dying. It was a dark, fetid mass that did little but take up space in my chest. And that worthless piece of flesh was what my God, my Beloved King, my Savior, wanted from me. I held my breath and pulled over to the side of the road. Seriously, having The Lord reveal something while you are driving is worse than texting and driving!

I looked for something to write on. I always have something. I was a journalist for eight years professionally and for two years in college before that. Paper and I are the best of friends. But there was none in the car.

I committed the moment to memory, knowing the odds of holding onto the emotions and the absolute astonishment of the moment was unlikely.

The next morning Gerry spoke on the above verses of Scripture – the Aaronic Blessing. He shared that, when the Scripture says “The Lord bless you,” it is written as if God is coming before us with a gift. Picture this…the God of Heaven’s Armies gets on one knee and, out of an indescribable love for us, reaches out His arms, in which He holds His perfect, sinless infant son, Jesus. “Here”, He tells us, “I ask you to accept this gift from me in exchange for you.”

Oh, beloved, my heart literally started racing. God spoke! He offered up His son, Messiah Jesus, for my sad, dead heart. By accepting the gift, the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life created in me a new heart. Hallelujah!

I couldn’t stop the tears. How can you not cry when you have the tiniest glimpse into the heart of God? The revelation of a love so intense that it can devour and consume you must generate a response!

Days later I went to serve at the local Community Thanksgiving Dinner. I confess that I am a snob. I will serve but it will be because I want folks who are less fortunate than I am to see what a gift I am to them. Ah, humility! But this day was different. I did not announce to anyone I was there. I walked in and started picking up trash and empty plates from the tables. The more I gathered, the more my heart ached. I have no problem cleaning up after people…gathering plates with bits of congealed gravy clinging to remnants of a roll, or picking up dirty napkins and cups, some of which must have served as spittoons from the looks of their contents. Typically I never feel much of anything.

But looking around, seeing those precious souls sitting along those lunch tables, God let me experience a human portion of His love for them. The thin, wiry man with gray hair standing on end had one good eye and a milky orb for the other. When he laid his head down on his arms, God showed me the sorrow that filled this man.

A tiny, bird-like woman sat at the long lunchroom style table behind him. Her gnarled, arthritic hands were carrying food to her mouth as quickly as they could, making me think she was afraid someone had placed a limit on the amount of time she had to fill her stomach. God showed me that she and hunger were intimate acquaintances.

Time and again God revealed to my heart that these children held His heart in a special way. Yes, the poor will always be with us, but God will take these who are last and make them first. Those who are poor in Spirit … and there were many of them in that room …will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3), provided they accept the gift that God offers them.

I had to step outside so no one would see me crying. My heart was breaking for these lambs. I went back in as the man with one eye was leaving. As he passed me, I thanked him for coming and told him that God had great love for him. He looked at me, then looked away and walked out the door. I pray he will find that truth in his heart. Just as I have in mine.

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In my contempt (still working on it…)

I may never read through the entire Bible. It’s not that I don’t want to – I admire people, like my husband, who have read it through, cover to cover. In Mark’s case, he has done this more than once. But for people like me, it’s a long, slow, lifetime process.

My latest stumbling block comes in 1 Samuel 2:17. Eli is the judge of Israel, chosen by God. His sons are spoiled men with loose morals and complete disregard for the laws of the God of Israel. Risky living, if you ask me.

In Chapter 2, the stage is set as a God-fearing woman named Hannah has dropped off her son to serve with Eli (you really must read Hannah’s story in Chapter 1!). We learn that Eli’s own sons are seducing the young women who work at the entrance of the Tabernacle, and were taking the meat given for the sacrifice out of the stew pot, sometimes even before its fat had been burned on the altar, in accordance with God’s commands. Now, the line that has gripped me is this, “So the sin of these young men was very serious in the Lord’s sight, for they treated the Lord’s offerings with contempt.”

Now, I don’t claim to hear the voice of God – not audibly, anyway. But it has been rolling around in my spirit that I have to look at that word “contempt” and figure out how it fits today.

The Lord’s offerings in the case of Eli’s sons would be the meat of the sacrificed animal. In Leviticus, we are given the procedures required by God for the burnt offering and the rules concerning the portion of the sacrifice allotted to the priests – which Eli’s sons would appropriate for themselves.

  • The animal must be a male with no defect;
  • The one offering the animal must place his hand on the animal’s head, so God would accept its death in that person’s place to purify that person and make him right with God;
  • The animal would be slaughtered in the Lord’s presence;
  • The priests present the animal’s blood by splattering it against all sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the Tabernacle;
  • For the peace offering, the fat of the animal and the breast are given as an offering to the Lord
  • The priests burns the fat on the altar;
  • The breast and the right thigh are given to the priest as a gift;
  • The people of Israel were to never eat the fat of cattle, sheep or goats;
  • Anyone who ate the fat from an animal presented as a special gift to the Lord would be cut off from the community.

It should be noted that Eli’s sons would have been very aware of these requirements. Jewish tradition then, and maybe even now, was to pass on the stories of the God of Israel and His laws, from one generation to another. And that would certainly have been the case in the household of Israel’s judge.

Now, for the word “contempt”. It is defined by Dictionary.com as:

1.  The feeling with which a person regards anything considered mean, vile,or worthless; disdain; scorn.
2.   The state of being despised; dishonor; disgrace.
3.    The willful disobedience to or open disrespect for the rules or orders of court (contempt of court) or legislative body.
4.     The act of showing such disrespect.
Okay. So what we are seeing in this verse is that two men, knowingly and willfully violated covenant with God by disrespecting Him, placing themselves above Him by stealing the sacrifice rightly due to Him, and dishonoring the Tabernacle by the behavior with the young women and the sacrifice. In this way they also disgraced their father and all Israel. And the price of all this? Death. Eli and his sons died for their contempt. Because, we are warned in Scripture, the wages of sin is death.
How does that relate to today? Is there a sacrifice to the Lord that we hold in contempt? Are we stealing from the altar of the Lord the things that belong rightfully to Him? Are we, as followers of Yeshua and children of God, disgracing our Father and our community?
Think on it for a moment. I’m sure the correlation is more than a little obvious to you.
Jesus is, of course, our eternal sacrifice – the last sacrifice necessary for us to be able to stand before a perfect, holy God – our only hope for reconciliation. The substitutionary sacrifice.
The altar? Another pretty obvious one – our lives are the altars where sacrifices take place – the giving up of our right to be our own person, to be “right”, to be first…and the list goes on.
What are we stealing from God? Malachi 3:8 tells us we are stealing tithes and offerings. I would suggest we also seek to steal from God His authority, His sovereignty and His throne.
Daily our walk should reflect His glory – the changing of our hearts and our lives as we pass from glory to glory, being changed to resemble our savior Jesus more and more. And yet, we set ourselves up as judge and jury of people, other churches, and God Himself. We blame God for sorrow and pain and not healing upon demand, as though we could do better. Our nature is to be independent and to rule ourselves, rather than submitting to His sovereign Lordship. Our church services are, in some instances, filled with trying to be proper and refined in our worship, cautious in our speech, and ever so careful to not be politically incorrect lest we offend someone.
Is that how Jesus behaved when He walked among us in the form of a man? Remember Him overturning the tables in the temple? Chastising the pharisees? Choosing to dine with sinners? Being seen in the company of a prostitute? Protecting the woman caught in adultery? Running around the countryside with a ragtag group of uneducated men? Violating the laws of the Sabbath?
We hold the offering of the Lord in contempt when we don’t share the truth of salvation with sinners, when we turn up our noses at those who reek of alcohol, cigarettes, and the odor of being unbathed. It is contempt for The One that comes through when we turn our eyes from the hurting and broken, rather than heed their cries and step into the awful mess that is their world.
And what else could it be but contempt when we take God off the throne, declare ourselves wiser than He, and determine that some are simply unworthy of His grace? A waste of our time? When we insinuate that His arm is perhaps too short to save this drug addict, or that perpetual liar or that fornicator?
In essence, I am telling you that my heart – and your heart –  must be right with the Creator God. I am guilty of not only stifling His Holy Spirit, but of ignoring His repeated attempts to lead me into His plan for me. My rebellious nature and refusal to submit my heart to Him is indeed contempt of His offering – the sacrifice of His beloved Son. Again and again I promise to change, to rend my heart, to turn myself away from the flesh and begin a life of prayer, fasting, depriving myself of worldly things. And yet, I am in this place once again. How many times, Lord, can I repent and then return, like a dog, to my vomit before You finally spit me out from Your mouth?
My concern has been for a very long time that my baptism has been confined to that of water, rather than fire. Yes, I believe I have the gift of tongues. But to have that gift and not have love means the gift is worthless. So please, Lord. I ask again, yet again, for forgiveness of holding you in utter contempt. Lead me. Send to me someone who will release in me the Holy Spirit, give me the assurance of my salvation, and then allow me to try once more to serve You.

To My Daughter, 3 Days Before Her Wedding…

June 9, 2015

My Beloved Meagan,

We are three days away from your wedding day – or 67 hours, as you excitedly told me in the garage earlier. On Friday, you will walk down the aisle and stand beside the man you accepted as God’s choice for your life’s mate. A sweet and tender reminder of the marriage we all will one day have with Christ as our bridegroom. You will be a beautiful, radiant bride, and Hunter will be a tall, handsome groom. Love and prayers will surround you as you pledge your love for each other before God and enter into His covenant of marriage. You are crossing from a young woman into a young wife. A new chapter of life will begin for all of us. And even though I am the one writing this, you need to know that these words reflect your daddy’s heart, too.

As you, Daddy and I prayed tonight, I realized once again the incredible depth of my love for you. This is a love that is borne of the blood, pain and the joy of childbirth – something that reminds me of the death of our Jesus on the cross. It is from his blood that was shed, the pain he suffered by taking our sins on Himself, and the joy set before Him that allowed Him to endure all that, so that we have life, and are saved. What a gift. That One would give His life for ours.

Parenting is like that in a lot of ways. It calls us to sacrifice our comforts, our desires and sometimes our dreams. And in place of those things we realize something that matters more than any of that – a love that defies description. From the moment I looked into your tiny face, I knew I would die for you. I would tackle any problem you wanted to bring to me, and I would guard you with my very life. I had so many goals and plans, so many things I would teach you and share with you. I knew I would be a different parent for you than my parents were for me, so I was very intentional about watching my words and my actions. Yet, in spite of all my best laid plans, I still failed at times – sometimes in big ways. But one thing never failed – my love for you.

As I watch you and Hunter take your vows and begin your life together, I will continue to pray for you both. It is my deepest hope that your love will grow for each other, deepen and become richer with passing time. That you will have those quiet moments together when you speak without words, and one day you will realize that you know each other’s thoughts. And as you learn about each other, and grow together, you will become more and more one flesh. Be kind and considerate of each other. Forgive each other – as many times as you have to. Remember that you are neither one perfect, neither one always right. And that Bible verse about not letting the sun set on your anger? It’s a good one. Going to bed angry is a bad idea. The marriage bed is a place to rest and enjoy each other, to learn about each other and how to delight in each other and God’s special gift of intimacy. Anger has no place there. Settle your differences before you lay down beside each other.

Make prayer together and individually a part of your life, so it’s as natural as breathing. Praying together brings you a special sort of strength and allows you to be united in the battles you are going to face. There is nothing sweeter than having your husband lay his hands on you and pray over you. And he will feel the same when you pray to God on his behalf. Thank God daily for the gift of each other. God loves that! And it is one of the most intimate things you can do for each other! Remember to never, ever place yourself in temptation’s path. None of us are as strong as we think. We need prayer, faith, and wisdom to succeed in marriage.

I remember the day after you were born. I held you in my arms in the hospital room, praying and thanking God for you. I walked to the window and looked up at the sky. I told God that you were His, and I dedicated you to Him. I told Him that I would be the best mom I could be, for as long as he allowed me that honor. Then I told Him that He could do what He wished with your life, because you belonged to Him. I asked Him to create a heart in you that yearned for Him. My request was that you would follow hard after Him, serve Him with total abandon, and love Him with every fiber of your being. That remains my prayer for you today, and now it includes Hunter. That your marriage will honor Him, that your words to each other will be kind and will honor God, and that you will both pursue a deep, honest, genuine relationship with Him each and every day. There is nothing that brings me more joy than knowing that you love God and are following Him fully.

Psalm 1 is and always will be your Scripture. Avoid the advice and the ways of the wicked and sinners (we are all sinners, but there are those who are unrepentant). I pray you will find delight in the law of the Lord and will meditate on His Word day and night. You are like a tree planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Your leaves will never wither, and you will prosper in all you do. You and Hunter are not like the wicked, who are worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. Those people will be condemned at the time of judgement. They have no place among the godly. But the Lord is watching over your path, Meagan, and it does not lead to destruction. You and Hunter have chosen the good way – His way.

So, as you become a wife and set up your home and become your own family with Hunter, daddy and I will enter a new chapter in our lives.  It will be a good season for all of us, and I’m excited for what the years ahead hold, for you and Hunter, and for me and your daddy. When you see me cry, baby girl, please know the tears aren’t borne of sorrow, but of the understanding that even though I will always be your mom, and you will always be my daughter, we are now different. We will become more like equals and even dearer friends. Our bond will never be erased, never weakened. You are still my heart, and still my wonderful, undeserved gift from God. I will love you forever. Daddy and I couldn’t be more proud to be your parents. So walk down that aisle into your future, sweet Angel Girl. Remember your roots, and spread your wings. You are my heart, my delight, my baby girl. And I love you. To infinity and beyond, times infinity.

Love, your momma

The “throw-away” God

Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, do not reject the discipline of The Lord or loathe His reproof, For whom the Lord loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

Isaiah 64:6

“For we have all become like one who is unclean [ceremonially, like a leper], and all our righteousness (our best deeds of rightness and justice) is like filthy rags or a polluted garment; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away [far from God’s favor, hurrying us toward destruction].”

My spirit is groaning in misery, Lord. It’s been a short time since You revealed to me my bride status and what a poor bride I have turned out to be. Pouting, petulant, morose and defiant – not at all like the beautiful, radiant bride You deserve. How I pray that You will see me as I will become, not as I am, but how thankful I am that You are revealing to me the depth of my filth and sinfulness.

For so long I was determined to never again become a “throw-away bride”, never again would I allow a man to claim me and then reject me when he found someone else to love. And yet, here I am, taking what You have offered me and throwing it away, choosing instead to persist in my shallow vanities and pitiful sense of entitlement.

Heidi Baker says love looks like something. And indeed it does. In my case, love looks demanding, righteous, superior, impatient. And I have become as one who, after being rescued from tattered, filthy linens, was given fine silks to wear, only to throw them in Your face and return to the filth. “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness”, (Proverbs 26:11), and so I return, feeling smug and comfortable and looking down on others.

In her video lesson, Heidi Baker talks about washing the feet of the pastors of many of the churches her ministry, Iris, has planted. And yet it’s what she did not say that struck me the most. After washing the feet of one pastor after another, many of whom are maimed or crippled, the water became dirtier and dirtier. She wanted to empty the water and replace it with clean, fresh water, but sensed You telling her “no”, just to keep washing. And after she finished washing their feet, they insisted on washing hers. But what she didn’t say was that her feet were washed in their filth. The water that once was clean was now filled with the dirt, scabs and muck that came from their feet. And she bore it all out of love for them and for You. Just as You, sweet Jesus, keep taking on my disgusting filth and bearing it out of love for me. How can You keep doing this for me? Don’t You understand how I am? What I am?

Lord, I resent any intrusion into my life. How dare I throw a tantrum when someone needs a ride to a meeting at the church! How dare I refuse to use the car You have allowed me to have simply because I don’t want to be inconvenienced. And how dare I lecture anyone about how they should fix their lives and “get it together”. Or tell them they are “close enough to walk”. Really??? Is that how I show love?

If, as Heidi Baker says, love looks like truth, kindness, trust, obedience and tenacity, then I look like hate. And that’s what I am serving to those You send my way. I shouldn’t think about washing the feet of those I work with. I need to be washing the feet of Amy Cole, Jerri Grubbs, James Webb, Darlene Doss, Manual Cobos, and so many others, Lord, who have been on the receiving end of my sanctimonious, smug selfishness.

I do not have the right to feel inconvenienced, angry, righteous or smug. I have no rights, Lord, but to serve and to learn at Your feet what Your bride should look like, and to bask in the wonder of Your forgiveness and Your love.

Show me, Lord, how to look like love. How to look like You – my forever God, my forever bridegroom.

The Bride of Christ

While speaking with a young woman and trying to explain the power of accepting Christ as Savior, I likened it to a wedding. “Once you accept Him, invite Him into your life, it’s like Jesus Himself slips a wedding ring upon your hand” I told her. In that moment it became crystal clear to me. The doubts I had about whether or not I loved Him seemed so foolish. I knew that I knew that I knew that I not only love Him deeply, but that I belong to Him. I am His bride.

I liken this to a time when my dream was to serve Him as a handmaiden behind a cloistered wall. When a nun makes her final vow, she receives a plain, silver wedding ring, which she wears on her right hand. The ring on the right hand symbolizes that Christ’s love comes before all others. She is united with her eternal Beloved Christ from that moment and throughout eternity.

It is common for the one pledging her life to Christ to don a crown made of real thorns. This symbolizes His suffering, and her partnering with Him in that place of earthly pain and sorrow. The thorns remind her that the sacrifices she faces are real and that they may be many. But she vows her love to Him, determined to honor His call on her life.

The Solemn Profession of Vows takes place in community – and is witnessed by the saints around her. The nun, in many orders, then lays prostrate on the floor, in the form of a cross. It is a reminder of the solemn truth of the ceremony – a marking of her decision to follow her Lord Jesus to the cross.

My desire to follow my Lord Jesus does not rely on where I am, what I do for a living, or what Christian church I attend. My desire to follow Him stems from His love for me, which has been there since before time and will continue long after the stars have fallen from the sky. I do not have to be a cloistered saint to serve Him with all my being. He has called me by name; I am His. I can, and indeed I must, serve Him here, now, with all that I am.

Although I no longer observe the practice of Catholicism, its imprint on me remains. I am moved by the women who serve Him behind the walls – by their life of absolute, singular devotion to the One. But I have been called for a different type of service – one that, to me, seems even more holy and blessed. I am His first, and then I am wife and mother. He has seen fit to honor me with those titles and I am, in turn, humbled and overwhelmed by His trust in me.

My struggle has been with merging the two faiths of my life. But perhaps that’s not really an issue. It is not my faith that makes me who I am. It is the One I love that determines my life, my path, my future. I am in His hands, and He is in my heart. And it is well, so very well, with my soul.

The Bride

“For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.” Isaiah 54:5

While speaking with a young woman and trying to explain the power of accepting Christ as Savior, I likened it to a wedding. “Once you accept Him, invite Him into your life, accept His Spirit into the very depth of your being, it’s like Jesus Himself slips a wedding ring upon your hand and claims you as His bride,” I told her. In that moment it became crystal clear to me and head knowledge became heart knowledge. Finally. The doubts I had about whether or not I really loved Him seemed so foolish. I knew that I knew that I knew that I not only love Him deeply, but that I belong to Him. I am His bride.

I liken this to a time when my dream was to serve Him as a handmaiden behind a cloistered wall, to gaze upon Him with dove’s eyes and to pray without ceasing for a world that was lost without knowledge of Him. When a nun makes her final vow, she receives a plain, silver wedding ring, which she wears on her right hand. The ring on the right hand symbolizes that Christ’s love comes before all others. She is united with her eternal Beloved Christ from that moment and throughout eternity.

It is common for the one pledging her life to Christ to don a crown made of real thorns. This symbolizes His suffering, and her partnering with Him in that place of earthly pain and sorrow. The thorns remind her that the sacrifices she faces are real and that they may be many. But she vows her love to Him, determined to honor His call on her life and to serve Him with joy.

The Solemn Profession of Vows takes place in community – and is witnessed by the saints around her. The nun, in many orders, then lays prostrate on the floor, in the form of a cross. It is a reminder of the solemn truth of the ceremony – a marking of her decision to follow her Lord Jesus to the cross. In some orders she is covered with a cloth, as in a burial, and then uncovered so she can rise up as His bride.

My desire to follow my Lord Jesus does not rely on where I am, what I do for a living, or what Christian church I attend. My desire to follow Him stems from His love for me, which has been there since before time and will continue long after the stars have fallen from the sky. I do not have to be a cloistered saint to serve Him with all my being. He has called me by name; I am His. I can, and indeed I must, serve Him here, now, with all that I am. The realization of my bridal place with Him has renewed an excitement in me – a desire that has been dormant for so long that I feared I had only imagined it. I want to be all He wants me to be. In my flesh I know that I will fail Him, but through His Spirit in me, I can do all things.

Although I no longer observe the practice of Catholicism, its imprint on me remains. I am moved by the women who serve Him behind the walls – by their life of absolute, singular devotion to the One. But I have been called for a different type of service – one that, to me, seems even more blessed, perhaps even holy. I am His first, and then I am wife and mother. He has seen fit to honor me with those titles and I am, in turn, humbled and overwhelmed by His trust in me.

My struggle has sometimes been with merging the two faiths of my life. But perhaps that’s not really an issue. It is not my faith that makes me who I am. It is the One I love that determines my life, my path, my future. I am in His hands, and He is in my heart. And it is well, so very well, with my soul.

It’s going to be okay…

“I dont understand what’s happening. It scares me. I’m scared,” she tells me, in a voice that echos her fears. I hold her for a minute, trying to ease her concerns. “It’s going to be okay. I have to go, but I’ll see you later,” I told her, pulling her close and kissing her cheek. She follows me out into the garage. “Now go on back inside; it’s cold out here.”

I wait until the door closes then I climb into my car and push the button to lower the garage door. Backing out of the driveway I look at the living room window, knowing what I will see. Sure enough, she’s there peeking out the shutters, watching me until I drive away.

“These visits are getting so hard, Lord,” I pray. “I’m going to need every bit of strength you can give me. She needs You near here, but in a way she can feel. She is pretty sure You hate her and are punishing her for something.”

If you ask me when I first knew something was wrong, I would hesitate and then tell you I don’t remember. But I don’t like saying that. Admitting I don’t remember something brings with it a specter of fear that my destiny is linked to that of my mom. And I will not speak that over myself or anyone else.

But I think it was after daddy was taken off hospice, after he refused to die like the doctors insisted he was going to, that things started feeling “off”. Mom’s moods were more likely to be angry than pleasant. I could understand some of it. She is dads primary caregiver, after all, and she has her own physical pain to contend with.

But then I noticed the frenzied activity, the need to be in complete control of things even after daddy had gotten to the point he could have helped her, like balancing the checkbook and going through the mail.

Then daddy began telling me stories of mom getting up in the middle of the night, screaming obscenities at him and accusing him of trying to kill her with all the work she had to do around the house. Telling him that she was going to kill herself, but that it would be a long, slow process that he would have to watch.

A stranger had moved into their home. A stranger was trying to imitate my mom and doing a very poor job of it.

So we started the doctor appointments … Blood work, an MRI … All normal, all ruling out everything but dementia … Alzheimer’s.

But mom comes from stubborn stock. The doctor doesn’t know what he is talking about. Or maybe she is “brain damaged”. “No, momma,” I try to tell her. “He didn’t say you are brain damaged, only that he suspects some dementia.”

“That’s what brain damaged is,” she tells me, in her condescending nursing voice. “Something isn’t right, so it’s damaged. That means I’m brain damaged.”

The last three days she has been desperately trying to prove to herself, and the world, that she is fine. But her tirades make it clear she is anything but fine.

And tonight. Tonight the thing that has broken my heart for my strong, proud, survivor mom. Her music has always been her communion with God, her way of finding peace in a crazy world filled with unruly family members, an alcoholic husband, a tyrannical mother and a drunk father.

She hasn’t had, or made, time for her piano or her harps. But when she down at her harp this evening, she couldn’t remember how to play. And when a string broke, she could only sit and stare at it, tears falling down her face. I wasn’t there, but my mother in law, at God’s urging, went by to see mom at just that moment. She said mom answered the door, red eyes evidence of her distress. Mom hugged her friend and told her that she was going crazy. My poor momma. I wish I had known this before it was too late for me to go to her. But God, in His goodness, sent someone to fill my spot for that moment.

I don’t look forward to what comes next. At some point she will have to be told her doctor suspects Alzheimer’s. I don’t know how she will handle that news…that diagnosis…that death sentence. She is a nurse. She knows what’s waiting for her.