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.
When I was past due to give birth to my first child, I sat alone in the living room singing to myself. I was nervous, scared, and the old imagination had started the fifty yard dash before the gun fired.
My sleeping husband stumbled out from the bedroom, “Would you please stop singing? I’m trying to sleep,” he groggily complained. He worked nights and went to graduate school in the mornings. He needed his sleep.
I needed comfort. So I sang.
When I was little my grandparents and aunts would sit under the pines at the old homestead and sing together. My mother led sing-alongs nearly every time we were in the car, even if it was just to the grocery. Summer camp was not a music camp, but all day long we sang, as West Virginians seem to do.
Singing brings comfort, peace, and joy. Music is a gift from God. If we don’t sing, his creation will. I once watched lightning bugs crawl their way to the tips of grass and then fling themselves to the starry night singing at the top of their light lungs. It was the most beautiful silence I had ever heard.
When have you heard creation sing to God? What was it like?
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:35-40
The weather has been hot here. Not just “Wow, it’s hot.” but more like, “Come quick and bring the sauce! The chickens in the backyard just burned up into Buffalo wings!” hot. The dog can barely make it down the hallway when he comes back inside. A few days ago he stopped to lie down in the sun room and twice in the hallway before he could get into the living room to collapse. That is hot.
So how do you make lemonade when your lemons are being cooked on the tree? Well, one thing to do is to line dry your laundry.
There is an excess of laundry since everyone is schvitzing like crazy. I thought about using “schvitzing like a stuck pig”, but thought that might be an offensive comparison using Yiddish ; ) So anyway, I hung the laundry out to dry this past week.
Walking into my bedroom of yet to be folded clothing, the fresh smell of the open air breezes washed over me like a cooling shower. I stepped out of my morning bath and dried my shower-soaked face breathing deeply of the clean scent infused into my towel. Happiness spread across my face as I inhaled my childhood.
We each associate certain smells with memories, both good and bad. Fresh bread, newly mown hay, the top of a baby’s head are all special to me, but rubbing alcohol, Maxwell House coffee, or a dead mouse make me shudder.
In the New Testament we are given a few examples of smells enriching those around them. Mary and Martha had lost their only brother and he was lying in the tomb for four days. A terrible odor had certainly pervaded the stale, stagnant air, yet Jesus ordered that the tomb be rolled away. Their brother walked out of the tomb, alive and well.
Mary, perhaps out of gratitude, perhaps because she had heard rumors of Jesus’ impending arrest and death, perfumes Jesus’ feet. People are incensed, no pun intended. She is a woman of ill-repute, two strikes against her. But Jesus has walked into her life with sweetness, and she feels compelled to respond. How does it smell when he walks into your life?
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 NIV
Matt and Amos went to our local cellular phone store to get an updated phone. Amos is getting ready to head to a science conference that he can interact with better if he has a smart phone. His phone is a keyboard slide phone.
A little while later they came back without a phone. It seems that our service plan has been discontinued and we aren’t allowed to update the phones without changing our plan. We have been good customers with this company for ten years plus some. We have four lines with them. Needless to say I was not happy.
So I called the company headquarters and complained that they were treating their new customers better than their old faithfuls. The tv commercials have outrageous plans that are better than what we pay, but not offered to current customers. I said if something wasn’t done we were leaving them.
As expected that got results, and Saturday we will be heading back to the local store to update Amos to a smart phone. But the thing that shocked me was the customer service rep on the phone: “I really wish they wouldn’t put those commercials on, because what they don’t tell you is that you have to pay for the individual lines. So yes, you can have 4 lines for $100, but you will pay extra for each of the phones, plus all of the taxes and fees. It actually isn’t any cheaper than what you are paying.”
I told Matt later what she had said, and he said the cashier at the store had told him the same thing that afternoon! So basically, the company is lying to you to get you to join them.
“Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.”
“. . .all who believe in him shall have eternal life.”
“I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.”
All of Jesus’ promises can be taken at face value. He doesn’t twist his words to lure you in to something you don’t desire. He is faithful and just, plain and simple. No fine print. No fast talking at the end of life. No “Wait! There’s more!” to entice you because it isn’t actually that great a deal. You can trust him.
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4
“You know how to get to the police station. Do you not?” His strict father asked.
“Yes,” Al quickly answered.
“Good. Take this note to the police chief. Make sure to wait for an answer.”
Young Al grasped the note tightly in his fist and ran all the way to the police station on the most important errand of his life. He arrived out of breath but certain of his task.
“I’m to wait for an answer,” he told the police chief.
The middle-aged man opened the note, read it, and then looked down at little Al. He read the note again and then looked intently at the small boy. “Follow me,” the police chief beckoned with a bewildered grin.
The two walked through the labyrinth of offices and jail cells until they reached the furthest cell. Before Al knew what was going on, he found himself locked inside the cell and the police chief walked away.
Al’s cries echoed throughout the empty chambers. No one came to help. After a ten-minute eternity the policeman returned to release the frightened boy. “That’s what happens to naughty boys,” he said as Al ran down the hall and out to the street.
Al never knew what it was that he had done to deserve the frightening punishment. He spent the rest of his childhood lonely and friendless, haunted by fears and phobias.
Perhaps some of you had a father like Al’s. You feared him. You were unsure of his motivations, unsure of his love. Father’s Day is not a holiday of happy remembrances for you. Then to make it worse, you are told that God is your father.
I don’t have any words or strategies to help you. My own father was nothing but loving and kind to me. But this I do know: my father failed me on many occasions. Not because he was a hateful, strict despot, but because he was an imperfect human. All fathers, no matter how good or how bad, fail their children.
Except, of course, for our heavenly father who is perfect in all of his ways. His love and protection, and even his discipline, are exactly what we need. Be sure to tell him Happy Father’s Day and thanks for being such the perfect dad.
And what about Al? Well, he grew up to put to use all of his childhood experiences. He was Alfred Hitchcock.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
Her British accent was so very foreign in the West Texas town in which I taught. “What’s the mattah, Little Baa (Bear)? Caunt you sleep?” She was the mother of one of my students and she came weekly to read to the children. This was one of our favorite stories. Yes, I admit I listened and enjoyed as well.
Little Bear was afraid of the dark when his daddy put him to bed. His father tried to light up the room enough to comfort Little Bear, but still he feared the shadows that played at the edge of the light. Finally the daddy took his son out to the night sky and showed him the large full moon hanging above. Peace filled Little Bear and he finally slept.
My childhood home had a root cellar where we kept home canned goods. Wooden stalls lined the back wall filled with potatoes from the garden. The cold, cobwebbed room was dark. Even when you flipped the switch at the top of the stairs, the darkness never fully retreated. I hated being sent after a jar of peaches or a bowl of potatoes.
It has been seventy years since the first atomic bomb was tested in Alamogordo, NM. That day a light brighter than a thousand suns shone on the earth. Its shadow still plays at the edges of our darkest humanity. Fear was and is the natural response. Light allows us to see the dark in clearer ways.
Next week we will celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of light in our calendar year. The paradox of our light source is that we can’t see it. We can’t look at it directly; yet it is by its light that we see.
Likewise, we cannot directly see the source of light that guides our steps, yet in his path we walk and live. Our fear is comforted as we peacefully sleep in our Father’s arms.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5 NIV
I enjoy a good symbol: Aslan the lion, the broken unicorn in The Glass Menagerie, the Mississippi River in so many stories, and of course, Harper Lee’s mockingbirds. When my first niece was born I sent eight red carnations and one white to symbolize those in the family who came before her, who have and had already bloodied ourselves up in the world, and the new, pure one who had just joined the family.
Perhaps that is why, as I glanced at my hand Sunday during Communion, I started thinking about rings. I wear a diamond engagement ring that was given to me by Matt nearly 27 years ago. The gold band is broken, the diamond desperately needs cleaning, and quite honestly, my husband could have bought me a bigger one on our 25th anniversary.
But I don’t want a different ring. This ring symbolizes the promise that Matt made to me years ago when he asked me to join him for life. He promised that he would try his hardest to take care of me, to love me no matter how old or broken I become, and to give me the best he had.
It was the ring that preceded the final symbol of commitment: the wedding band. My plain gold wedding band doesn’t make me any more married than I am, but it is a symbol to me, to Matt, and to the world that a promise has been made. I promised to love Matt for the rest of my life, to help care for him no matter what, to be intimate with him alone- physically and emotionally.
God likes a good symbol, too: a rainbow, numbers, a dove, an innocent lamb, even a supper.
Jesus gave us the Holy Communion Supper as a symbol, to remind us that he made a promise. He has promised to return, to take home his beloved. Communion is not a legalistic mandate. It isn’t a mystical method of absolution. It is bread and wine. A symbol of a promise. It is the wedding band that reminds each of us to whom we belong.
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
The New International Version. (2011). (Lk 22:19–20). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Morning mist floated across the roadway distorting our view. Slowly we traversed the curves and narrow stretches along the unfamiliar mountains. Looking out the passenger side window, I knew we were travelling precariously close to the edge of the road and no guard rail offered comfort. It was scary, treacherous driving.
Gradually the sun shone through the mist. Droplets of water reflected sunlight like diamonds under light. A fox bounded across an open field where deer grazed, glancing at our car, but maintaining their stance. We rounded the curve and saw squirrels chase each other across the road and up an old elm tree. The narrow road that had held such danger only moments before was now a naturalist’s paradise.
Crossing a bridge, the warm water began rising again shrouding our way with a veil of mist and fog. But this time I knew the way was safe. I had glimpsed the surroundings and knew there was nothing to fear.
The mist followed us up the mountain and then blew away toward the east. The large, puffy clouds scattered revealing tall trees and large boulders. Mountain laurel and rhododendron blooms dotted the rocks with splashes of white and pink. The sky was a brilliant blue.
Often my way is shrouded in mists of mystery. Should I go this way or that? Is there a guard rail or will I fall headlong into failure? I creep carefully, cautiously, nearly stopping. And then the fog lifts, the Son lights the way, reassuring me that he is there even when I can’t see him.
But the sky doesn’t stay clear, the way doesn’t remain obvious, and I consider turning back.
The only way to see the colorful splashes, to enjoy the protection of the trees, to bask in the warmth of a clear sky is to keep travelling up the mountain.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
What clouds are covering your way? Are you giving in to the fear they cause or are you marching ever upward?
In 1500, there were rumors of Caesarian-section births, but that was all they seemed to be, rumors. In order to qualify for the surgery the mother had to already be dead. Perhaps the baby could be saved, little hope was ever offered.
Mrs. Nufer was an attractive, young Swiss woman. She was in excellent health, and she was expecting a child. Everything should have gone well, only it didn’t.
The child was overdue, the contractions not progressing, and the pain unbearable. Finally the midwives called in the surgeons. The surgeons refused to perform the surgery because Mrs. Nufer was not yet dead.
But there was one among the doctors who refused to accept their decision. The surgeons left the house, Jacob stayed. Pulling instruments from his bag, Jacob took the chance that he might save this young woman’s life. If he didn’t try she would surely die. But if he failed, he would be an assassin.
It took about an hour, but Jacob was successful. In fact, both the child and mother would live long lives. Mrs. Nufer would even give birth several more times.
Besides the fact that the mother and child both lived, there is another factor to this story. You see Jacob was not a doctor, nor a surgeon. He was a hog butcher. But he had something the other surgeons didn’t: Love. Jacob Nufer, local butcher, loved his wife enough to do the impossible.
Love is the only weapon against certain death.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV
Jesus is the surgeon waiting to heal you. He has the tools, the knowledge, and most of all the love.
1977. Terri and David Schafer have four children and live on a policeman’s salary. Times are tight as gas prices and living expenses march upward. Terri, a woman living by her budget, planned ahead for Christmas, six months ahead in fact. David worked the beat in Bettendorf, Iowa, so Terri drove the three miles across the border to Moline, Illinois where she might buy his surprise Christmas present.
The $127.50 pricetag was too high for Terri and she asked the cashier if she could make monthly payments of $20 until it would be paid off for the Christmas surprise. Take it now and pay as you can, she was informed. Terri was ecstatic.
Though she was a great planner and could hold to a budget, Terri could not keep a secret. She gave the present to David right away, and he loved it.
One chilly morning in October, Terri opened the door to a police officer. The appearance of another officer on your doorstep is the dread of all officers’ families. This was no exception. David had been shot during a robbery at a drug store.
David had kissed his wife goodbye the evening before wearing his early Christmas present, and it was good that he did. The present was a three-pound Kevlar bullet-proof vest. It saved his life.
Christmas had come early for David because of the gift his wife could not wait to give him.
Jesus also offers the gift of life. It is yours for the taking; there’s no need to wait. You never know when you will need it.
… the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23b
She was born poor and illegitimate. Her stepfather treated her as his own, but she never felt like she belonged. At age eight she witnessed an event that would change her life. Her mother scrounged up all of her pennies and took Anna to the theater to see the dance The Sleeping Beauty. This at last was the beauty she had longed for, not the gorgeous women in the show, but the dance.
Dance spoke to Anna and Anna spoke dance. Two years after watching that first performance she entered the national dance school. By the time she graduated at 18, she was so accomplished a dancer that she skipped ahead of her peers. Only seven years into her career she became the prima ballerina.
“No one can arrive from being talented alone.
God gives talent, work transforms talent into genius.” Anna Pavlova
Anna Pavlova rose above the dancers not just in Russia, but in all the world. She toured Europe and the United States. She was the best of the best and deserved nothing better than the best. But that did not deter her from dancing wherever she could. In Alabama she gave a performance on a stage with a hole in the roof. The rain flooded the stage, scenery, costumes, and dancers. She didn’t fuss or refuse to go on with the show. She simply stated that stage lights were not needed because of all the natural lightning.
Anna danced for thirty years never missing a performance, but it is her last performance that is often most remembered. Most known for her role in The Dying Swan, Anna was scheduled for a performance at the Apollo Theater in London. Anna’s intense dark eyes and facial expressions, along with her delicate movements, so accurately portrayed the complex message of the ballet: Life is fragile and precious.
So it was with special meaning that the audience gathered this night at the theater, to cheer and applaud a dancer of immense abilities. The orchestra played perfectly. The spotlight flowed elegantly where the dancer moved – in the minds’ of the audience. Unfortunately, Anna Pavlova had died two days before of pneumonia, but that did not stop the audience from attending this farewell performance nor did it stop them rising from their seats for one last standing ovation.
He was born poor, seemingly illegitimate, and could he ever dance! He spread beauty and grace wherever he went, and he never refused to go to even the lowest places. When he died, his final performance was still to be played. Yet, his stage was not empty, his dance not only seen in the mind’s eye but witnessed by many. The angels and saints still cheer in their standing ovation of the greatest performance ever given. Jesus Christ.
“You alone are the LORD.
You have made the heavens,
The heaven of heavens with all their host,
The earth and all that is on it,
The seas and all that is in them
You give life to all of them
And the heavenly host bows down before You.”