Gerbil Devotions

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.

How I Nearly Had an Abortion

Posted by on 4:30 pm in Blog | 0 comments

baby-19003__180Matt and I were told just a couple years into our marriage that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for us to conceive children. Our plan was to try for a few years when the time was right and then to adopt. So a few years before Matt finished his doctorate we started “trying” to have a baby, thinking that after he graduated we could adopt. Two months later we were pregnant.

We were moving across the country to a new seminary. Neither of us had jobs. There was no insurance. It was not the right time to be pregnant, but pregnant I was.

By the time we moved and settled into a place I was five months pregnant. I found a clinic that would see me and had my first obstetrical visit. It went something like this:

Clinician/Nurse: Have you felt the fetus move?

Me: Not that I can be sure of.

C/N: Do you plan to keep the fetus?

Me: Yes.

C/N: We need to measure your belly to see how the baby is growing.

It has been nearly twenty years since that conversation took place, and I have forgotten all of the questions the nurse asked, but I have not forgotten the abrupt change in terminology. It was shocking, intentional. I felt like I had encountered perversion in a dark alley. No one can tell me that abortionists don’t know what they are doing.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
    but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12

To be brutally honest, I believe I could have aborted the baby. I knew he was a baby, not just a fetus, an embryo, or a clump of parasitic cells. But I had not felt movement. I had no insurance. We had no jobs. Life was scary and uncertain. I completely understand how some people can consider abortion. It was only my belief that Jonathan was already Jonathan and that murdering him before I met him was still murder that stayed my resolve to “keep the fetus”.

In our country there is health care for everyone. There is supplemental aid like WIC and food stamps. There is federally-funded housing. I know first hand that these aids are there. I have used all of them. So though they are not ideal, there is a way for a family to survive. Abortion is not necessary.

And that is the part I cannot understand. How can a physician, who has been trained to save lives, even lives in utero, commit murder? Physicians take an oath to save and not harm the life of the patient. Both the mother and child are the patient. We know that is true because surgery can be performed in the womb, because women are not to take certain medications or undergo particular treatments while pregnant for fear of harming the child. Both mother and child are under the care of the doctor.

Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20

I have only one answer to the dilemma our country faces. Not the dilemma of whether to support Planned Parenthood. Not the dilemma of whether abortion should be legal. Not even the dilemma of charging and sentencing all of those involved in this scandal.

The true dilemma is that our country does not recognize the value of each life. The Creator of life, the Father, the Holy One of Israel is the only answer big enough to cover the multitude of sins each of us is facing. Each of us is guilty, whether we have been a part of an abortion or whether we just kept quiet during a time of crisis.

Join me in asking for God’s forgiveness, his mercy, and his strength to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die. Proverbs 31:8 NKJV

Wear Beige

Posted by on 4:00 pm in Blog | 0 comments

groomI have several weddings occurring among my friends and family this year. I was sharing with a friend that I have no need to worry about weddings when the time comes for our family because I have been blessed with two sons. That relieves me of any duty other than a dinner after the rehearsal. I’m thinking a cookout; I hope they don’t marry in winter.

In fact, where I come from the life of the mother of the groom is very simple: Show up, Shut up, and Wear beige. Three easy rules that I can handle. That is if they marry girls from where I come from.

My friend told me that is not acceptable in the South. No one is to wear beige because it is too much like white, which is of course reserved for the bride. Hmm.

There have been lots of issues like this over the years. Matt and I have moved all over the country and each place has had ideas, traditions, and customs that were foreign to us. I suppose it isn’t surprising if you consider that our country is nearly the size of a continent. Each state is like a mini country with its own peculiarities.

It’s the same sort of issue that the church has. Each branch of the family tree has different beliefs and “druthers” about the way things ought to take place. Some of us look at branches and say that is all wrong, or we cling tightly to the branch we are on and refuse to see it from any other point of view.

Jesus said, “I am the vine. You are the branches. If a man remains in me, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) He gave us some latitude in our traditions and customs. He allows us to show up in beige if we desire, or to wear a tie-dyed t-shirt if it suits our fancy. No matter what I choose to wear to the wedding, the one main factor that doesn’t change is that the bride and groom are married by the Father of us all. Just like the church is the bride of Christ, no matter which congregation you attend.

So whether you wear beige at a wedding, pull to the side of the road for a funeral procession, or sing at family reunions, or even leave meat out of your chili, know this:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21

 

Tension

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rubber bandsHave you seen the recent videos of people cracking open watermelons using rubber bands? One by one the bands are placed around the watermelon until the combined pressure of all the bands squeezes the watermelon in two.

Part of most orthodontic treatment includes wearing teeny-tiny rubber bands on the brackets in order to pull the jaw into alignment. We are in the second year of braces at our house and these minuscule pieces of rubber are found all over the house as they go flying out of my son’s mouth throughout the day. Today I vacuumed a couple of them out of the couch.

Rubber bands, no matter the size, do not look all that valuable or vital on their own. They are limp, wobbly, and light-weight. But when put to work, their focus is so forceful that they can become dangerous. The work they accomplish is none other than extraordinary.

Perhaps you have been feeling a bit limp, wobbly, and light-weight lately. Don’t let that distract you. Keep your focus and your tension taut. You are made for extraordinary work.

Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord. Romans 12:11 NIV

God Makes Cookies, Too

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cookies-314958__180     Several weeks ago I was craving some cookies, so I pulled out the Ritz crackers, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. They have to be one of the easiest, and tastiest, cookies to make. After I was finished, Amos asked me why I made Christmas cookies. “No reason,” I shrugged, “I just wanted some.”

Later when I told Matt about Amos’s comment, Matt laughed. “I wouldn’t know what to call Christmas cookies,” he said. “Any cookie could be a Christmas cookie!”

My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and I have a tradition of making the fake “Tag-alongs” when we are all together for Christmas, so Amos thinks they are Christmas cookies. My husband’s grandmother made cookies for gifts at Christmas for many, many years. She would start in October, freezing them for later packaging and distribution. In December her daughters and niece would spend an afternoon cutting wax paper into circles, layering cookies into used Danish butter cookie tins, and tagging them for the recipients. Grandma would make over sixty types of cookies by the time packaging day arrived.

Grandma made cookies with purpose and intention. She pored over recipes, tucked them away for future baking trials, and offered her wares to any guest or visitor. Grandma made many types of cookies with different fillings, frostings, and flavors. She made them with no intention of consuming them herself, but to provide pleasure to others.

Grandma is more like God in her cookie making than I am. I make very few cookies and I choose the quickest and easiest recipes. I make cookies when  I am in the mood and craving something for myself. Seldom is my cookie making selfless virtuosity.

God created each of us with special delight. We are each uniquely filled, frosted, and flavored with the purpose of bringing others to God. God made you for just the place you are and for just the people you encounter. Will you fulfill God’s divine purpose for your life by letting others taste and see that the Lord is good? Don’t save your cookies for one special time of the year; share the sweetness of the Lord every day.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Psalm 34:8-10

The Golden Years

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My younger son, all of sixteen years, is looking forward to retirement. He actually told us years ago that he just wants to retire, like Grandma. But now he has several months of work experience under his belt, and retirement is still his goal.

Amos is not lazy. I don’t want you to think poorly of him. He just wants to be in charge of what he does, not a slave to the demands of work.

A lot of people are like my son. They look forward to the end of the schedule, the alarm clock, and the insistence of a job. But what do they plan to do with the years that are left? Travel is an option for some, spending time with family and friends is on most lists, taking an afternoon nap is also an enjoyable goal.

Othmar Ammann

Othmar Ammann

In 1904, Othmar Ammann was a Swiss immigrant to America. He had an engineering degree from Switzerland and came looking for an opportunity. He found it in New York. Ammann helped design and build six of the eleven bridges that connect New York City to the rest of New York and New Jersey. Two of the bridges were the longest suspension bridges of his time. He helped build tunnels and skyscrapers for forty years, including the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge.

But Ammann didn’t want to work for others. He didn’t want the demands of supervisors and bosses. At age sixty, he decided to retire and do something he had wanted to do for years, to be his own man. So he formed his own engineering design company, and went to work.

He continued designing and building bridges, skyscrapers, and tunnels across the world. He worked on designs for the federal government to withstand atomic blasts. At age 86 he completed his final work the Verrazano-Narrows bridge in New York City, the longest suspension bridge holding that record until 1981. Ammann built no more only because he died.

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge courtesy MTA

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge courtesy MTA

Perhaps you are looking forward to retirement, wanting to get up when you choose, visit people you love at times that are not holidays, and just doing as you please. But just because you retire does not mean you should stop being useful. Many people need you still. They need your knowledge and skill, your creativity and interest, and your ideas. Look around you. Whom can you help? How can you help? The finish line might be in sight but you haven’t crossed it yet.

 

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. . .” C.S.Lewis

Until Death Do Us Part

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Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors. Ralph Waldo Emerson

I recently discovered that my husband of over twenty-five years does not actually enjoy an activity that I do. For many years we have participated in this activity and he seemed to happily join in and follow my lead. I thought he was happily joining, but several weeks ago he told me that he willingly participates, not happily.

I enjoy, and happily visit, cemeteries. In fact, when I plan a trip, I usually find a cemetery to stop at. Cades’ Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains has some interesting headstones from the Revolutionary War. Winchester, Virginia has a separate area for Confederate soldiers. Rome, Georgia’s Myrtle Hill Cemetery is the resting place of America’s Known Soldier, Charles Graves.

But it isn’t usually the soldiers’ graves that attract me. I sentimentally seek out the markers of unknown families, especially the ones who have lost children. The graveyard that my paternal grandparents are in has a section with a family that lost child after child, sometimes it seems they barely survived birth and other times it looks like an epidemic washed through the family flooding them with grief and despair.

Pencils for Alcott

Pencils for Alcott

A couple of weeks ago I was doing some book research in Massachusetts and took the opportunity to visit Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where several authors have been laid to rest. Literary pilgrims visit the cemetery daily and leave pens and pencils on the headstones. Most of the graves are marked with unassuming, small, rounded slabs of weathered stone, a name or perhaps only initials, chiseled into the rock.

Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott


Authors Alcott, Hawthorne, and Thoreau are crowded nearby each other, but further away lies the remains of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it was there that I stopped to muse. His grave is marked with a large granite rock, naturally shaped and weathered, untouched by sculptor’s chisel. A simple copper nameplate marks the stone.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Encompassing the rock are the graves of Emerson’s family. His wife is close by his side, and her headstone is embellished with her virtues. A son, lost at an early age, is extolled as well. All around Ralph Waldo, you find those who lifted him up in life and to whom he owed so much. The world remembers Ralph Waldo Emerson, but he wanted to be sure we would remember the ones who were important to him.

Lydian Emerson

Lydian Emerson

If someone were to walk through your home today, would they find the limelight shining brightly on your accomplishments, or would they notice all of those who support and encourage you? Take the time today to stop and thank your family and friends who make you who you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be who we could be. Ralph Waldo Emerson

How Are We Related?

Posted by on 4:36 pm in Blog | 0 comments

beach-184422_1280I went to a family wedding last night in Myrtle Beach. It was a happy time of rejoining and reuniting old family and friends and joining to us and uniting us all together with new family and friends. There was love, there was laughter, there was toasting, eating, dancing, beach moments that will make fun stories later, and there was cake. It was all a wedding should be.

The amazing thing about this wedding is that it joined together nine families. Because of step families and children already in the picture, these two special people, by the joining of their lives, also united nine other families into a unit. Sounds daunting, I know.

Combining nine families’ traditions, practices, beliefs, cultures, and ideas is going to take a lot of patience and understanding. It is going to take more than lip-service to love. It is going to be messy, shocking, tiring, and unbelievably difficult. But it is not going to be impossible, because it has been done before.

Two thousand years ago our Father sent his son to claim his bride. The final wedding feast is still to come, but the ceremony has begun. And in it and by it many nations, peoples, and races are joined together in holy union, much more than just nine.

And though that family has had times that are messy, shocking, tiring, and unbelievably difficult it has also become a family of love and hopefulness.

Come, Lord Jesus.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” John 17:20-23 NASB

Selfies Are Not New

Posted by on 4:00 pm in Blog | 0 comments

cameraA couple of months ago I saw an advertisement for “selfie sticks”. Poles that you can extend are attached to your phone so that you can take “selfies” of you and your friends. I thought it was a joke. I wish it was a joke.

We live in the age of the photo. A report last year stated that we now upload 1.8 billion photos a day to the internet. A British study found that over 17 million selfies are posted to social media in that country each week. Surprisingly, people over the age of 55 take more selfies than any other age group.

Self-portraits are not a new phenomenon. Picasso, Rembrandt, Rockwell are just a few of the artists who produced famous self-portraits. Before that were kings and queens who wanted their subjects to know and admire them. Those were the days of the original photo-shop. Queen Elizabeth 1 had many portraits painted to send out to the kingdom and its provinces so that all would know the royal visage. Don’t be concerned if the portraits are inaccurate, as long as they inspire adoration and patriotism.

This self-promotion goes even further back in history. Statues of emperors in the Roman Empire were sent far and wide so that the subjects might recognize their rulers. Bowing to the statues was acceptable and expected, since the icons were to be considered direct representations of the reigning emperor.

God also took advantage of the idea to send out a representation of himself so that his loyal subjects might recognize him. Jesus, God’s son, came to earth to show us God’s face. It is the face of love and compassion. The face of joy and peace. The face of our father and friend.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV

King of the Hill

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When I was little we played King of the Hill. I’m not sure we played it correctly. It was basically a fight to see who could push or pull most successfully. One person would stand on top of something: a hay bale, a trailer bed, a pile of rocks, and send out a challenge, “I’m king of the hill!” crown

Suddenly everyone was racing to push the self-appointed king from his or her perch. Whoever was successful at dethroning the king then laid claim to the spot, only to be duly removed by the next pusher in line. It usually ended with someone hurt.

Some of the saddest words recorded in scripture are those of the chief priests, “We have no king but Caesar!” Unwilling to allow Jesus the spotlight, the priests pulled him down and pushed Caesar onto the throne. They couldn’t recognize Jesus as king in a world where power and wealth ruled.

Pilate saw no threat when he looked at Jesus. The man of humility was definitely not a threat to Pilate’s princely claims. Known for teaching and healing the sick, Jesus didn’t look capable of claiming kingship. Still Pilate allowed the chief priests to completely remove Jesus as competition.

He was scourged, taunted, ridiculed, and tortured. He carried his own cross up the Via Dolorosa. And there, at the top of the hill, he began his ascent to the throne.

In what areas of your life are you claiming “no king but Caesar”?

They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” John 19:15 ESV

Sing and Make Music

Posted by on 4:11 pm in Blog | 0 comments

 

Courtesy Sodahead.com

Courtesy Sodahead.com

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