This is my blog where I write about my daily walk and lessons learned as I change from a caged gerbil into a loved dog at the Master’s knee. Come back soon to read my latest lesson.
A privacy fence separated the backyard neighbor’s house from ours, but a hole had been pushed through so that the seven children, two of mine and five of the back neighbor’s, could slip back and forth to play together. On this particular day, Jonathan stood looking through the fence into the merriment at the neighbor’s house. He was grounded from visiting for some disobedience I have long forgotten thirteen years later.
I watched from the kitchen window as the neighbors prepared for a birthday party that I had not known was happening. The little children came to the fence and invited Jonathan to come to the party, but he knew he wasn’t allowed. He didn’t even try asking me for permission. He knew he had to suffer the consequences of his poor choices.
Matt came in and watched from the window with me.
“What’s going on?”
“Jonathan is grounded, but the Millers are having a birthday party. I wouldn’t have made the punishment so long if I had known they were going to have a party. But he hasn’t even come to ask me if he can go.”
“Why not let him go?” Matt asked.
“Because then he will think that he can get away with anything,” I stammered.
“I don’t think so,” my wise husband answered. “He has suffered the punishment without complaint. Perhaps now he should learn about grace.”
I called my little guy in and talked to him about what he had done and why he was being punished. Then I asked him if he would like to go to the party. He nodded but didn’t dare to hope.
“All of us make mistakes, and God punishes us. But then when we have learned our lesson, he gives us grace. That means he forgives us and sends us his blessings. I think it is time you experience some grace. You can go to the party.”
I seriously doubt that Jonathan remembers that day, the punishment or the party, but I certainly remember it. It was the day that grace took on a new meaning. I know I have made mistakes and don’t deserve to go to the party. I stand on the wrong side of the fence and dream about what could have been. But I also know that God is watching from the kitchen window ready to offer a gracious blessing: forgiveness.
Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:16-17 NIV
Last week was crummy. I spent the week painting the porch in hot, humid weather. The septic system filled and needed pumped and cleaned, which led to the discovery that it required an electrician and a bunch of money. It rained the one day our schedule had an opening for the county fair. And the birthday plans my sons and I made to celebrate Matt’s special day fell completely apart. I was grumpy and downed a chocolate milkshake in front of my diabetic husband. There was not much holy about me. I was nearly in tears.
I tried to put it all in perspective. We are not refugees fleeing our home, being shot at, giving up all our earthly possessions. It could have been much worse. So why did it all seem so awful, then? Was it fatigue wearing me down emotionally and physically? Was it the day after day of disappointment?
After some reflection I have decided my emotional breakdown was because all that meant “home” to me had fallen apart. Looking around I found more things that needed repaired. Traditions that had evolved over the years went uncelebrated. The time and place that should have brought contentment and peace did not fulfill.
But even in light of my citizen, non-refugee status, I was still disappointed. So was I just not a “good enough” Christian, thanking God for all things? Perhaps, but it might be something else.
Perhaps the reason my home, family, and traditions did not satisfy last week is because I am looking forward to something better. A day when I will live in a mansion that never needs repairs. A day when I will be joined with family in one reunion of eternity. And a day when there will only be one tradition: Spending every day praising God in his presence.
Perhaps my crummy week was the reminder I needed that this earth is not my home. And for that renewal of perspective I am thankful.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” Rabindranath Tagor
So when Jonathan came home I told him I had bad news. “You can’t marry Audrey. She’s engaged now.”
“I know! I saw,” he answered. “But I couldn’t marry her anyway. We haven’t dated for two years.”
“Huh?” They haven’t dated at all.
“Yeah. Statistics show that if you date less or more than two years your marriage is most likely going to fail. So I have to date someone exactly two years before we marry.”
“Well just so you know, your parents and both sets of grandparents dated less than that. Most of your great-grandparents dated less than that, but one set of great-grandparents dated many, many years. It isn’t the length of the dating but the level of commitment that makes a marriage last,” I answered.
“That’s just our weird family because you all think divorce makes you a social pariah,” he threw back.
Honestly I don’t know where he gets some of his ideas. Matt and I both have family members who have been divorced and we don’t consider them black sheep. We both have friends who have suffered the pain of divorce and they are not outcast from our circle.
So when I say this next part, know that I am conscious of my divorced family and friends. I love you and have no judgment on your divorce. I know divorce is seldom as simplistic as this may sound, and it takes commitment from two people. You can end up divorced even when you don’t want to.
The length of time you date does not guarantee the success of your marriage. The success of your marriage is dependent on whether you are people of your word.
When you said “I do” to richer or poorer you actually said I agree to be married through unemployment, stock market crashes, returning to higher education student status, single income while the other explores options perhaps for years, and bankruptcy due to medical costs or just stupid decisions.
When you promised to love for better or worse, you were promising to stay together through unemployment, drug and alcohol addictions, pornography, extra-marital affairs, PTSD, elderly parents who may stay with you, and smelly, sweaty socks.
And that whole in sickness and in health? What you really promised was to stay by their side through infertility, children born with handicaps, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, ALS, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, blindness, car accident paralysis, and third degree burns.
I have friends whose marriages have survived each of these scenarios. I also have friends whose marriages have not. The difference? Some were people of their word, and others were not.
What does your promise mean?
A man who makes a vow to the LORD or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do. Numbers 30:2 NLT
I have a little friend at church who has been sitting with me during worship. Her mama is single, so I like to give her a little break. Truth be told, though, I love having this little munchkin with me. She’s warm and cuddly. She wallows all over me. She plays with my jewelry, my belt, my scarf. And she holds Matt’s hand and watches him closely.
This past Sunday I had the privilege of passing communion trays. I find it a privilege because I get to watch all of the families take communion together. One that was most precious was a father with his ten year old daughter sitting on his lap. It would have been so much easier to have her sit on a chair. The plates wouldn’t have been so difficult to maneuver, but he kept her there, close to his side, wrapped in his arms.
There is just something about a lap. It offers warmth, protection, and love. A lap is a safe-haven, a place to admit someone else is bigger and stronger, and to enjoy that knowledge.
Every morning I sit in my Father’s lap. I climb into the armchair, cover myself with an afghan, sip my cup of tea, and inhale his odor. It is there that I feel warm, protected, and loved. There is where I know I am safe, wrapped in the circle of my Father’s arms. Pulled close to his side I rest my head on his chest. I want to be nowhere else.
When is the last time you sat in his lap?
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close. Psalm 27:10 NLT
All of Psalm 27 is comforting. A special “lap sitting psalm” if you will.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
2 When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
3 Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.
4 The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.
5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
he will hide me in his sanctuary.
He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
6 Then I will hold my head high
above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
singing and praising the Lord with music.
7 Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
Be merciful and answer me!
8 My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
9 Do not turn your back on me.
Do not reject your servant in anger.
You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
O God of my salvation!
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close.
11 Teach me how to live, O Lord.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me.
12 Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me with violence.
13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
14 Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
There was a time when I was a coupon queen. A few years ago I gave up my throne, which took a lot of my time and energy, to become a lowly citizen of an Aldi store. They take no coupons, have fewer options, and make my life easier. Besides that, they have super great prices.
There are a few peculiarities of an Aldi store. You have to put a deposit on a grocery cart. You bag your own groceries, meaning you also bring your own bag. And they do not deal with credit. They are a “cash only” store, which means you can use a debit card, check, or folding money.
Except for one day last week. On Wednesday I made my weekly stop by the store only to find a sign on the door that read, “Cash only today.” That meant the machines were down and folding money was the only acceptable form of currency.
I don’t keep cash on me, so I had to drive across town to the bank, take out cash, drive back across town, and do my shopping. I passed three groceries on my way. One of the groceries is in the same lot as my bank.
So why would I drive so far, pass up so much, be so devoted to one store? Because I know where the treasure is.
Some may think that living the life of a Christian means giving up a lot. Why would I go to church on Sundays when I live so close to the beach? Why would I give my money to other people when I have so many other things I could buy? Why would I follow “old traditions” when I am an adult and can live the way I want?
All of these and many more questions can be answered with one response: I know where the treasure is.
Sure it has some requirements. I made a deposit on my cart. I have to bag a lot of my own groceries. And the options aren’t as plentiful. But why would I shop anywhere else? The price has already been paid and I have the receipt.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44 NIV
Weed eating in East Carolina is a real chore. Drainage ditches line the properties to combat the high rainfall levels of the area. The ditches have to be cleared to allow proper drainage. Fire ant hills, scraggly trees, and large spiders make their homes in these ditches, so weed eating them is very much NO FUN. Yet, Bob is out there weekly clearing out my ditch. He’s a great guy.
Earlier this summer I noticed that the ditch was brown. Bob had sprayed it with weed killer. Not long after I noticed the weeds were green and growing again. I asked Bob about it and he said he kept noticing my chickens pecking around in the ditch. He didn’t want them eating the herbicide, so he stopped spraying.
I mentioned that I never sprayed any of the ditches because it gets in the waterways and hurts all animals. Bob was unconvinced, but he was willing to stop for the chickens that he could see.
Even though Bob is a great guy and super neighbor, he is only willing to help the chickens he has a relationship with, the ones he sees out his back window.
The problem is that some of you, like Bob, are only concerned about those chickens you have a relationship with. You can turn off the television, the radio, skip the story in the paper. But it doesn’t change the fact that herbicide is in the drainage water and all the chickens are dying.
I am positive that none of my readers would watch a child drown or go hungry or be cold or thirsty or sick and not offer some hand to help. You are all great people, wonderful neighbors.
I’m not talking about chickens and you know it. I am talking about the children all over the world who need your help. Don’t overlook them just because you can. Be a good neighbor.
Prayer is our number one defense in the battles of this world, but we don’t need to stop there. Some charities I have found to be helpful:
Millions of children are in danger. Abused, abandoned, and orphaned. Trafficked and enslaved. Caught in wars and disasters. Sickened by hunger and dirty water. Forced to find shelter in refugee camps, the streets, or city dumps. These children live in the most broken places of our world, places where many others cannot or will not go.
Christian Relief Fund All around the world, Christian Relief Fund helps victims of disaster by providing clean water, food, shelter, medical care, and many other vital needs. Currently, we are helping refugees of the Syria conflict.
In the past, CRF has been instrumental in distributing aid to victims of tornadoes in Oklahoma, famine in the Horn of Africa, earthquakes in Haiti and Japan and hurricanes in New Orleans.
Your gift to CRF’s Disaster Relief Fund will be used to bring immediate relief and long-term recovery to children and families devastated by disaster.
Little children often play hide and seek out in the open. They hide their faces from us and yell, “You can’t see me!” We laugh at their innocence and obvious mistake. Don’t hide your face from those who are waiting so desperately for us to find them.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.” Matthew 25:35-35 NIV
“Thank you, God, for Mommy and Daddy and my brother. Take care of Jeffrey and Buggy. I love you. Amen.”
Then he wrapped his little boy arms around my neck and with a big, sloppy kiss asked the question that has haunted me ever since.
“Why don’t we ever pray for Satan? Are we not allowed to?”
I was stunned.
That night we prayed for Satan to give up his dirty tricks and evil ways. We asked God to show Satan that there is a better way. And I thanked God that little children can be spiritual teachers.
We often overlook children when it comes to spiritual matters. What do they know of aging parents, cheating business partners, failing marriages? They don’t have any idea of all the evil that is out there. What could they possibly teach us?
Jesus basically said that they can teach us about what is important. Gratitude. Love. Forgiveness. That is what little children teach us.
Right now little children are dying all over the world. They are dying from starvation, disease, neglect, and war. But what can you do about it?
I’ll tell you what a child has decided to do about it. Isabelle is a thirteen year old girl living in the Midwest United States. She attends public school where she is a cheerleader and an athlete. She loves gymnastics but also her brother and sister. She lives a privileged life, is cute, popular, and intelligent.
But her heart has told her that that is not life. She knows what she lives is a dream. Her heart breaks when she hears of other little girls and their siblings running for their lives because war has torn their country apart. They live lives of nightmares. Can you hear those children’s prayers?
“Dear God, help me run faster. Help me to swim. Please, God, don’t let me drown. Don’t let me be shot. Keep Mommy safe and watch over Daddy in heaven. Please find us food and a home. Please God. Amen.”
Isabelle has imagined those prayers already and is raising money along with awareness.
For $15 you can buy a shirt that will help Syrian refugees put their lives back together. With the money Isabelle raises families will be reunited, food will be on the table, and children will be able to sleep safely in their beds.
Won’t you help a child help the children? And then won’t you learn a spiritual lesson from the child? God will answer those children’s prayers if we will only respond.
In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. Isaiah 11:6 NLT
Recently I heard a caller on the radio ask for marriage advice as he nears his wedding date. His father and aunts and uncles have had multiple failed marriages and this young man was hoping for better.
I found myself wondering what advice I would give him, after all I have been married 25 years. Many count that as a superior accomplishment that few achieve. Yet I can’t say that it seems so to me. To me it feels like just a few years since we took our vows.
Perhaps therein lies my advice: Keep your love fresh and vibrant. Let it age with wisdom that comes with experience, but don’t let it grow dusty and faded with time.
Do things together that you both enjoy and that only one of you enjoys so you can watch their face as they experience it. Read to each other, share new thoughts and ideas, and watch movies and shows together so that you can discuss them. Visit museums and share memories. Attend lectures and concerts and hold hands as you listen.
Look for each other. Listen for each other’s footsteps at the door. Be excited to see him/her at the end of the day. Remember how you used to talk on the phone endlessly when you were dating, and then call your spouse just to say “I love you.”
Make time for each other, even if it means putting the kids to bed and hiding under the covers to whisper about your day. Pick a flower, buy his favorite gum, or pay extra for his/her favorite brand of whatever. Let your spouse know you are thinking of them even in the mundane times of your day.
Kiss. Dance. Every day. In the kitchen, in the bedroom, in the hallway, in the pantry. Leave no room unkissed or standing still.
And let the only thing that stands between you be the Lord, who holds you together with chains that cannot be broken.
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT
This summer I visited Massachusetts and took a side trip to see Walden Pond. A large parking lot sat atop the hillside where cars waited for their owners. Across the pavement and down a steep incline was a beach with wading parents and children. A path turned to the right and I followed the edge of the wood to the marked foundation of Thoreau’s mystical cabin in the wood.
Staring across the lake’s expanse of water I sensed the quiet calm that surely accompanied Henry on his daily reflections of life and its meaning. The wooden sign displaying his famous quote drew my attention.
When God decided to front the essential facts of life it was not to solitude that he turned. He went into the world where he loved, lived, and taught. And when he had died, it was then that he lived.
Are you living today or are you only a reflection of life: secluded, untouched and untouchable?
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10b
About a month ago Matt and I relaxed for a week in Virginia Beach. We did nothing but sleep, eat, read, relax, and walk. We walked so much that Matt declared I was trying to kill him. No worries, if I were trying to kill him he would be dead by now.
We stayed on 34th Street which is near the north end of the boardwalk, so our walking jaunts all headed south. 31st Street is marked by an impressive statue of King Neptune. It is 34 feet tall. His piercing eyes gaze into the distance as he holds back his faithful sea creatures. The muscles in his arms and back declare his strength and power. He is large, determined, and in control. I stared every time we neared him.
The King Neptune statue was impressive in height, but the many-storied buildings across the boardwalk dwarfed his presence and made his grandeur a bit less grand. People stood in small groups snapping family portraits. Children climbed the base of the statue trying to grab onto the sea turtle that Neptune holds with his hand.
It was obvious that no one was worshiping King Neptune. But I wonder what they were worshiping. Sunburned bodies in varying styles of clothing strutted down the boardwalk. Popular brand bikes and skateboards rolled by us. People carried plastic bags of take-out from expensive restaurants. Sunsets, smiles, and sandcastles were photographed with selfie-sticks. And pets watched from their own private prams.
Several mornings we walked the boardwalk at sunrise. It was then that true worship could be seen. An Orthodox Jew faced the east as his prayer shawl’s tassels floated gently in the breeze. A man sat on a bench reading his Bible, occasionally glancing at the horizon. Matt and I stood in reverence as the day dawned almost imperceptibly.
It was then, without a statue, that we saw the one true God. The one who holds back the oceans and says no farther may you go, the one who made the frolicking dolphins and dogs that played at the water’s edge, the one who makes us stand in awe-filled silence as the earth sings his praises.
Oh worship the King
All glorious above
And gratefully sing
His wonderful love.