Practical Preparation

IMG_0599-scaled-e1628958693834-300x225.jpegIt was quite the lively time – six grandchildren, nine down to two, and four adults all together in one three-bedroom home; cousins that don’t get to see each other very often. Bed space was at a premium, and so the girls all slept in one room, most on quilts and blankets on the floor. Abby, being just under three-years-old, to make sure she didn’t wander around the house or turn bedtime into a perpetual party, spent her nights and her naps in a port-a-crib, albeit in that same room. Abby is of average height, and the space for her in this cozy little bed is adequate, but snug. Though the girls had somewhat of a hard time settling down at night, eventually everyone got to sleep (except for poor Mama who occupied the couch in there), and all was well.
One afternoon I went into the room to pick-up after naptime, and I literally laughed out loud. I’m not sure how Abby squeezed in amongst the items she had brought into her little nest, but it had to be a challenge. Abby had amassed quite the collection of varied toys. Along with her prized baby doll, Abby had napped in that compromised space with a pillow, at least three blankets and a sheet, a cash register complete with a phone and a microphone, plastic pieces of cake, a toy knife, a cake plate, a stuffed educational dog, and a book. She must have cleaned out a bit because there were three books next to the crib on the floor. I immediately thought to myself, “Wow, Abby was prepared!” I’m not exactly sure for what, but there was no chance that should sleep escape her, she would be bored because she’d have plenty of activities from which to choose.
This is actually a very good life lesson both for practical, every-day living and in our walk with the Lord. The Bible definitely addresses both. Of course, there is the proverbial passage about the ant: “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8, ESV). Further on in the book of Proverbs, we find the excellent wife who is also ready ahead of time for the needs of her family. “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard… She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle… She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet*” (Proverbs 31:13-16, 19, 21, ESV). Clearly, there is much thought and planning that goes into a household that is run so efficiently. It is not always easy to be so organized, but it is something to which we can aspire.
It is even more important to be prepared each day for the tasks and encounters to which the Lord may call us. Second Timothy chapter four begins with these words, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2, ESV). A key passage that reminds us to always be ready for the Lord’s plans is found in a parable that Jesus shared with his disciples. In Matthew chapter twenty-five is located “The Parable of the Ten Virgins,” which is a story meant to help us understand the kingdom of heaven. Ten young ladies were awaiting the coming of the bridegroom for the wedding feast. Five had readied themselves by bringing oil for their lamps, and they are called wise. The other five were unprepared for the bridegroom’s arrival, and they are labeled foolish. As the bridegroom approached, the foolish virgins tried to buy oil from the wise, but there wasn’t enough for all. When the foolish left to purchase some for themselves, the bridegroom came, the wise maidens took part in the feast, and the foolish virgins were shut out of the party. When they returned begging for entrance, the bridegroom answered, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:12b-13, ESV).
Certainly, we should always be ready for the Lord’s return. But, by virtue of our time in the Bible and in prayer we should also be ready for the opportunity to encourage believers in the faith and to encourage non-believers to seek a life-giving relationship with Jesus. Like Abby we can be prepared; unlike Abby, our aim is not just to fill up our time with frivolous things to prevent boredom just in case we cannot sleep, but to make an impact that will last throughout eternity.
*(can mean double thickness) Footnote on Proverbs 31:21, Page 844, ESV Student Study Bible, Copyright 2011, Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois USA. All rights reserved.
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The Wonders Around Us

IMG-4201-300x225.jpgAh, summer! It’s finally here – one in which we can actually leave our own four walls and explore the great outdoors virtually bare-faced and bare-footed, depending on our environs. In case you’ve forgotten best practices, keep in mind that shoes of some type are still required in most places even as masks become unnecessary.

When I was a child, our summer outings were basically within a hundred-mile radius of home. For the adventuresome type, this probably seems tremendously restrictive. In general, I would have to agree, especially since much of my first ten years of marriage were spent in Europe. But I can’t go on without mentioning that I grew up within 30 minutes of the Canadian border and just a short distance more to what has often been included on various lists of the world’s top natural wonders, the powerful and majestic Niagara Falls. We would often go to the Canadian side of the Falls where one can view all three sections the best – Horseshoe Falls, The American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. We would pack a picnic meal in order to spend the day, often stop along the Niagara River to fish for a while, and bring along swimsuits to enjoy a dip in the water at a small beach not far from the main attraction. At some point we would stroll along the walking path that skirts the Falls. And we’d stop and look at the massive formation with the great deluge of water coursing to the rocks below. Impressive – of course. Awe-inspiring – absolutely. Commonplace – unfortunately for me, this also was true. Somehow I had come to view this extraordinary creation of God as ordinary. I began to take this amazing display of nature for granted, as if something so wonderful was found in everyone’s backyard. This desired destination for so many from not just North America but for millions around the world was a normal, everyday part of my experience, and I lost the wonder along the way.
It reminds me of the experiences of the Israelites as the Lord brought them out of Egypt. They were prone to taking an awful lot for granted, but even more so, they were a complaining crowd. Moses had been given the information to pass on to them about how God was going to provide for them in the wilderness. One would think that as a sustaining substance miraculously appeared on the ground that first morning, they would have stood there, mouths agape, proclaiming, “This is a wonder from heaven!” But their first comments were quite to the contrary. Can you hear them quizzically or even sarcastically ask, “What is it?” which in Hebrew sounds like manna. Not only did they not recognize the wonder before them, some of them didn’t follow God’s explicit directions regarding its gathering, and then as they continued seeing it on the ground and therefore on the daily menu, they complained about it. What an ungrateful group!
In all honesty, I have no right to point fingers at them. The other day as I was reading the passion of the Christ in the Book of John, these words gripped my soul, “Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands” (John 19:1-3, ESV). Having read the Gospel passages about Jesus’ denigration and crucifixion so many times before, I was absolutely struck anew by this description of the utterly contemptible treatment the Lord took for me when he chose this path to save me from my sins. How could I have read it so matter-of-factly in the past and missed the outright wonder of this most loving, devoted act by the God of the universe? I literally paused in awe, thanksgiving, and repentance for what the Lord willingly endured for me. And of course, this is only one piece of the wonder of who God is.
IMG_E0505-scaled-e1623712347202-160x160.jpgThere are so many wonders to behold in God’s creation. May we not just accept them as part of our everyday experience and take them for granted when access to them is easy and/or in close proximity. As an adult, I’ve had many opportunities to return to Niagara Falls, and I have a far greater appreciation for the marvel that it is. I have tried to pass that on with excitement to my children and grandchildren. Even more so, I desire to continue to appreciate the wonder of all that God is and all that he’s done for me. Communicating that to my progeny is far greater to share.
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Simple Faith

Dad’s Lifetime Home

IMG_0338-scaled-e1618285724913-300x225.jpgMy dad was a practical man and a very hard worker. He proudly kept the same job for thirty-two years as a Blanker Operator Utility Man at a Ford Motor Company Assembly plant. He and my mother owned a modest two-bedroom, one-bath home in a neighborhood of like houses. He painted the house inside and out when needed, built extra rooms in the attic and basement, did all the lawn chores, and took care of just about everything that required repairs. He didn’t travel much, go out-to-eat, or participate in any type of recreational activities, save for the occasional horseshoe game at family gatherings. Many people might be bored with what they would call a monotonous way of life, but I would say my father was content. No complaints, no unmet desires, just a steady, dependable way to live. Simple, to say the least.
It would not be surprising then, that my dad’s confession of faith was very simple as well. In what became his final days, Dad was in the hospital for weeks on end with an undiagnosed medical problem. By the time the cause of his difficulties was discovered, it was too late for the doctors to do something for him. Being older and in a medical facility for so long, he was often not aware of his surroundings or his condition, and he would drift back and forth between reality, living in the past, and outright fantasy. His ability to be present and rational changed frequently and randomly. It made for interesting conversations. One day he was holding his right hand in front of him and moving it with careful strokes up and down. He’d shift over slightly and repeat the movement. “Dad, what are you doing?” I asked. “I’m painting,” he replied as he continued his repetitive task. Another time he secretly planned his birthday party with me, wanting to invite “the little guy,” who I assumed was my young grandson, but specifically mentioning the “guy who did me wrong” as one to keep off the list. He also saw two of me once, and asked me who the guy was standing next to me whom he insisted was my twin. But then came that simple lucid moment that brought me peace and joy amidst very trying times.
Dad: “I’m going to share something that you are not going to believe.” Me: “What is it, Dad?” Dad: “I’ve done some really bad things in my life.” Now at this point without the rest of the story you might be thinking exactly what I did, that he might be making a confession of something really dreadful like a bank robbery or some shocking crime. He went on, however, by shrugging his shoulders and saying, “I’ve done some really good things too. But you know what? I asked the Lord to forgive me for the bad things and he did! And that’s all I’m going to say about that.” Wow! That was such a simple declaration of faith, but that’s all it took for me to know that when he would breathe his last breath here on earth, he would be in the presence of the Lord to experience a blessed eternity.
The reason I’m sharing my dad’s testimony is twofold. Perhaps some of you have never made a simple confession of faith. Whether you have a list of accomplishments or you feel your life is filled with failure, if you have never been able to say with confidence that you know you are forgiven by the Lord, it’s time to take him at his word and receive his forgiveness. The Bible tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV). And Romans 10:11-13 states, “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:11-13, ESV). Nothing complicated, no ritual, no difficult process to follow. Pure and simple faith, PERIOD.
Dad Painting His House
IMG_0338-scaled-e1618285724913-300x225.jpgFor those who are reading this who may have loved ones who have never trusted the Lord to forgive and save them, my desire is that Dad’s story brings hope. One can never guess when a loved one’s relationship with the Lord will happen, nor can one assume that it likely never will. If God could save one of the greatest persecutors of the church, the apostle Paul in his oppressive prime, and if God could save my Dad at eighty-seven plus years old, he can save your loved one too. Simply commit them to his care, and trust God to bring it about in his time and in his way. Praise the Lord, he does make it so simple!
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The Sense to Love

IMG_0214-1-300x270.jpgIt has been about a year since we began the “new normal,” living life with COVID-19. No doubt, like me you have been baffled by the range of symptoms and varied effects that can accompany this annoying pandemic. My husband, who is old enough to be considered at higher risk than the general population, characterized his experience as a bad cold. His friend, who is significantly younger, had to be hospitalized and spent time on oxygen in an ICU. I never tested positive, and while I tend to be extremely careful and observe the sanitary measures that help to curb the spread of the virus, I would have assumed I would at least have had a positive reading due to certain exposure.
One of the oddest symptoms of the disease that occurs for some who are infected is the loss of the sense of taste and smell. My daughter-in-law had this experience, and being urged on by her somewhat crazy son, ate an extremely hot pepper. The taste wasn’t there, but the heat surely was – neither a pleasant feeling nor a beneficial experiment for her mouth, her esophagus, or her stomach! The loss of these senses appears to be a temporary condition related to the virus. But sometimes, for other reasons, different senses can be fully or partially lost either from birth or through a traumatic event. People can be devoid of their sight and hearing. A very rare but extremely dangerous condition is the loss of the sense of touch. Those who are born with this disorder can literally die from their inability to feel any kind of stimulus. Thankfully, those who are missing one or more of their senses can usually learn how to compensate for the loss in order to be productive and successful in their personal and professional lives.
What would happen if rather than losing one’s ability to feel as in the sense of touch, one would lose the ability to feel love? It is not hard to consider this as a growing concern in the present circumstances in which we are living. A popular song in the late 1970s was “Love Is in the Air” *by the artist John Paul Young. Though the lyrics refer to romantic love, one could easily testify that love for others in general is not the air or in too many other places either. This is not new nor is it geographically confined, but it seems as if there has been an escalation in discord in the last few years. While we do not know the day or the hour that Christ will return for his people, Jesus had this to say about those times: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:9-13, ESV) As the kids say in the back of the car, “Are we there yet?” Whether we are days, months, years, decades, centuries or millennia away from the Lord’s return, there is no denying that present society in general does not manifest love for others, and love is growing colder by the minute.
Believers, however, have a mandate to love and much hope that we can do so because of our incredibly loving God. In the book of First John, not only are we told that “love is from God” (from 1 John 4:7, ESV), but we also read, “God is love,” (from 1 John 4:16, ESV). Jesus taught, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:9-10, ESV). Jesus also reminded us that the two great commandments are to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. While those who have not placed their faith and trust in the Lord are ignorant regarding these God-given directives, we who are followers of Jesus Christ should not be. Imagine what the world would be like if we would truly love others just as Christ has loved us, including those who do not love in return. The impact could be amazing in both the present and in the eternity that awaits us!
So, cling tightly to God. Pray for those who hold considerably different views and values from you. And love as Jesus loves all people, so much so that he died for each and every one. “‘But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28, ESV).
*Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Johannes H. Vandenberg / George Redburn Young
Love Is in the Air lyrics © Spirit Music Group, BMG Rights Management
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Of Carols and Kings

Sheet MusicCrownI was visiting my daughter and her family back in mid-October – great time, and lots of fun with her two little ones. It’s very common for a continual stream of music to be playing on the VERY LOUD speaker system, something to which I have become accustomed. About midway through the week, the selection turned from the worship music genre typically played, to Christmas music. No, that wasn’t a typo (i.e., I really meant Christian music). Katie had decided it was time to start getting into the Christmas spirit, despite harvest and pumpkins and the fall colors one would normally enjoy during that season. She expressed that it was something “I just need this year.” I tend to be a bit old-school and come from a time when even Thanksgiving and Christmas were quite separate holidays. So, I would prefer to have my carols with a cup of cocoa a lot closer to at least the end of November, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the festive Yuletide entertainment as well.
After I returned home later in the month, my husband purchased a little gizmo that plays music on demand. Saturday, October 25th, it was gray, cold, and snowy outside. It seemed like a perfect fit for another round of Christmas carols. I requested Christmas music and listened to about four numbers, but it still felt early (for both the snow and the holiday music). Interestingly, the next morning as I did my exercise routine, I turned on the local Christian radio station. They too had opted to put together a Christmas playlist, explaining that while they would return to regular programming until closer to the holiday season, they thought that their listeners needed a little bit of Christmas cheer. One of the first songs I heard was “We Need a Little Christmas.”* Apparently, many people felt like Katie.
It is undeniable that this year has been extremely trying for so many reasons. Before it began, likely no one would have predicted that unlike the year’s numerical meaning of clear vision, insight, and near perfection, 2020 brought us months of uncertainty, frustration, and even hostility. We certainly are looking for something in our lives to lift our spirits and help us to harken back to happier days. But is it merely a feeling of goodwill, comfort, and joy that we seek, or do we need something more?
Before Jesus was born, the nation of Israel had a challenging existence. There had not been a prophetic utterance from God for over four hundred years. They were under the severe rule of the Roman Empire, and they were looking for a leader to bring deliverance and restoration of their once powerful kingdom. Much is found in the Old Testament about the Messiah, and God’s people clung to words like those found in Isaiah, “The government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6b-7, ESV). So, the people of Israel wanted someone to rescue them practically and politically, and when God sent his Son into the world as the Word says in the Book of Acts, “[The people in Jerusalem and their rulers] did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath” (Acts 13:27b, ESV). God sent them the King of kings and Lord of Lords, the One who would provide for their deepest needs and longings, the One who would set them free from the ravages of sin and provide them more than an abundant life on earth, but life eternal. They did not understand that God’s kingdom is one like no other, and the guarantees of peace, prosperity, and power are realized within the heart, above and beyond one’s circumstances.
And so, we too need King Jesus whom God sent into the world over two thousand years ago. Though he came in a humble manner, he wields infinite power to give us his strength. Though he came into an impoverished setting, he bestows his riches for salvation on all who call on him. Though he came as a servant, he reigns eternally and extends that authority to all who follow him. At Christmastime, we think about the baby who came in the environs of a stable to a poor family in the unassuming town of Bethlehem. But let us remember and embrace him as the King, majestic, glorious, splendid, who rules and reigns forever. We need his leadership, his provision, his peace, his protection, his guidance, and his gift of redemption, and we need it now!
“Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray… let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:1-2, 11-12, ESV).
Resource:
*Herman, Jerry, “We Need A Little Christmas” (1966). Vocal Popular Sheet Music Collection. Edwin H. Morris & Company, Inc. New York, New York. Score 5566
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The Nitty Gritty of Godly Relationships

IMG_8226-300x215.jpgIt was super sweet. My eight-year-old granddaughter, Libby, is becoming quite handy in the kitchen. In that particular way she takes after this Nonnie, and following in my footsteps, a lovingly made edible is a gift from the heart. Thus, for Mother’s Day, Libby decided to make her mother breakfast in bed. It was simple enough – a piece of toast, eggs, fruit, and some tea, but it was very appreciated by her Mama who was grateful for the wonderful gesture that allowed her to linger in bed a little bit longer on this celebrated day.
It was her younger sister, Bekah, who told me about Libby’s gracious gift to their mom. She was also quick to inform me about a time when Libby treated her to breakfast in bed. I’m not sure if it was just for the ease of preparation or if it happens to be a favorite, but Bekah’s breakfast special was cereal. Keep in mind that Bekah sleeps above her sister in a top bunk. I still laugh when I think back to how Bekah told me about Libby’s surprise. “Yeah, Libby made Mommy breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day, but she did for me one time too. Mine was cereal, but when she gave it to me, she got cereal sand all over my sheets!” First of all, I’ve never quite heard the crumbly remains of cereal referred to in that way before. But I noted that Bekah was telling me this in a very jovial manner, and I interpreted that as her delight and thankfulness for her sister’s kind act, gritty sheets and all.
The reason I love this story so much is because I am familiar enough with my granddaughters to know that there are times Libby and Bekah are not showing much love and appreciation for one another. Anyone who has seen two children in the same room for more than a passing moment would be able to concur that disagreements, arguing, and sometimes outright fighting come with close proximity. But Libby’s overture toward her sister and Bekah’s receptive response show how they can often pull together and support each other, demonstrating kindness, gentleness, and love that is heartwarming and genuinely considerate.
Unfortunately, people in general can treat each other with disrespect and even hostility, stories about which seem to cram news feeds these days. It is so sad! The saddest thing of all, though, is when it happens amongst those in the Body of Christ. In the book of Galatians, Paul makes reference to those who “bite and devour one another,” and tells them to “watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:15, ESV). This was written to people in the church, and it shows that the problem has been around since the church’s inception, and it is ongoing.
Before Paul warned people about the hardship of tearing each other apart, he gave the positive side of the equation by reminding them to “serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13d-14, ESV). He also wrote these words in the end of second Corinthians: “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss,” (2 Corinthians 13:11-12, ESV). The words speak loudly to us today. While those in the church may disagree and argue from time to time, the bottom line is that we need to love and support each other, asking for forgiveness when necessary and remembering our common ground that gives us true peace, our relationship with God the Father through his Son, Jesus. While Libby and Bekah have a blood relationship by birth that brings them together, the church has the kinship of blood-bought-redemption through Jesus’ death on the cross.
The bond is strong and so should be our affection for one another and our willingness to put aside differences and love each other as Christ has loved the church. It will show the world much when they see brothers and sisters in Christ demonstrating kindness, gentleness, and love toward each other. And even if a little cereal sand is a result of the effort, we won’t let a little bit of grit get in the way of a godly response that will bring honor and glory to our Lord.
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Perception

IMG_8133-300x215.jpgDespite my reluctance, I have had to step into the world of prescription glasses. Actually, it is no surprise as the last time I had to renew my driver’s license I had to squint so hard when looking into their vision testing machine, my eyeballs almost popped out of my head. Though I took more than one try to get it right, the compassionate DMV associate gave me a green light. However, I knew then that the next time I would be up for a license renewal, I would likely not fare so well. Even though I still have a couple years until that time, my husband continued to remind me that it would be in my best interest to get an eye appointment for an evaluation. I have neglected to mention that I also have used over-the-counter readers at ever-increasing strength for quite a few years. So I made and kept the aforementioned appointment. The combination of near and farsighted irregularities, along with astigmatism in the right eye, led to the following choices: (1) separate eyeglasses for near and farsighted use, (2) trifocals, (3) progressive lenses, or (4) giving up my driver’s license and preparing myself for auditory books for the rest of my life. Since I’m not ready for choice number 4 at this time, I decided to try the progressive lenses. I was measured, and all the info went to the lab.
The glasses were supposed to be available in two weeks – they took four; it should have been a hint. I finally picked them up along with wearing advice and instructions. I had heard this already, but I was told it is common to give one’s eyes (mind, body, soul, and spirit) two weeks to adjust to what is now to be a permanent fixture atop one’s nose. So, I wore them continually, except for showering and sleeping, of course. Because I opted for transition lenses, they tint when in the sun – pretty cool! I was not having too much trouble negotiating stair steps or the divots in our road when on prayer walks – awesome. Though the television screen seemed magnified by a thousand, I was seeing that clearly enough – bonus. There was one problem though, a big one. When I would try to read, I had to tip my head back into a very awkward position or I had to push the frames up into my forehead to see the print clearly. At first I thought I just needed to be a good sport and finish out my two-week trial period, but when I shared my experience with my husband, he called the office and got me a new appointment. It turned out that the correction for reading was way too narrow and far down in the lenses to allow for optimal sight. A measurement error of just a few millimeters when creating the lenses caused my perception to be way off. What was meant to be a fix for my inadequate eyesight was in fact a fail on the part of the lens manufacturer. They went back to the drawing board, and I went back to my readers (for now).
We can have a similar experience regarding the world and what is going on around us. Our vision is blurred by a point-of-view that has been shaped by our environment in the past and the circumstances and information by which we are surrounded in the present. It causes our perception to be way off, even if the viewpoint we’re looking through is just slightly skewed. We might try to bring things into focus by using what is touted as the best and latest fix for our attitude or behavior, even advocated in Christian circles. But, we still are not seeing clearly. Frankly, we have to go back to the lens. The only appropriate glass for our clear and cognizant view of the world is to look through the lens of the Bible. It is solely as we perceive what is around us by shining the light of God’s Word on it that we can really see the truth about the world and about ourselves.
Psalm 119 is especially authoritative on the use of God’s Word to shape our view. Here are just a few examples of the wisdom it contains about the Word: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (vs. 18). “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors” (vs. 24). “Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments” (vs. 66). “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation” (vs. 99). “Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (vs. 104). “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (vs. 105). “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (vs. 130) (all verses ESV). By looking through the lens of God’s Word we can be sure that we are seeing things with godly perception, and we will be more prone to live our lives with the right perspective.
I’m thankful that there are such things as corrective lenses so that I can continue to read, drive, enjoy God’s wonderful creation, and see those that I love dearly. Even more, I am grateful to God that he has given his Word through which we can perceive the world. May he always lead me to see as he sees so I can respond like him.
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The Snail Whisperer

SnailFor the last couple months it has been my joy and pleasure to be with my three-year-old granddaughter and her baby brother. We spent some of that time in her home, some in mine, and some traveling for a family gathering. My daughter, Jordyn’s mom, is very selective and careful about screen time, but when driving in the car passing the hundredth cow or the thousandth acre of flat farmland, it’s time to bring out the video entertainment. Such entertainment is also useful when every adult in the household needs some down time and the kids are still at the top of their game. During the weeks we were together, Jordyn became captivated with a particular movie and its spunky and endearing character, an ambitious little land snail who became known as Turbo. If you are unfamiliar with the story, Turbo has a dream to be a racer, and when he winds up flowing through a car’s fuel system and becomes infused with nitrous oxide, he is able to live out his wish, and he actually wins the Indy 500! I will spare you reiteration of scenes and quotes, which I definitely could do because we watched the show at least ten times. We also read and learned about land snails and their water-inhabiting cousins, and Jordyn became quite the expert in all things snail.
God, of course, was observing all of this even more intently than we were, and he chose to give Jordyn a special blessing. When we arrived at my son’s house that is in a small, gated community in southern California, much to Jordyn’s delight, the lower part of his house was a snail haven. The funny thing is, though there were snails here and there on other homes in the neighborhood, the majority of mollusks had decided to take up residence on Uncle Kris’ abode, and there were numerous sizes and choices with which Jordyn could engage. And engage she did! Of course, every snail received a name from the movie, most of them “Turbo.” Jordyn would hold one each day, and interestingly, these little creatures would reveal themselves while in Jordyn’s hands. They would stretch their mushy bodies out of their shells, and with their knobby eyes they would view this little girl that had become so enamored with them. She would talk softly and insure them that they needn’t be afraid and that they were in good hands. If you are unaware, the natural response a snail would have to ANY creature picking it up would be to take refuge inside its shell and stay there until put back into a safe environment. Somehow Jordyn had acquired the knack of making these little creatures feel comfortable enough to share time with her. To my mind, it is quite the accomplishment both on the part of Jordyn and her shell-bearing friends.
I wonder if I can be so receptive and comforting to those who are taking cover in their own shells. Not snails, of course, but individuals who are encased in armor built of shame, fear, self-degradation, addiction, or the myriad number of habits and heartaches that are not their homes but their means of incarceration. Do I have an open heart, mind, eyes, and ears to welcome a person needing to reveal inner thoughts and feelings without being threatening or judgmental? Can I be a confidant for one who may have a view that I myself do not hold? Can I be more like Jesus who sought to save the lost by meeting people where they were, helping them to have a better understanding of God, and sending them on their way healed, filled with hope, and aware of God’s unique purpose?
The Bible reminds us in James, “Know this, my beloved bothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20, ESV). It surely is an accomplishment to be able to put these things into practice and make people feel comfortable enough to open up to us and share what is inside. As we carefully engage with others and give them a place to feel safe and understood, we will bring God’s love and grace to those who are hurting. We just may be able to bring them out of their shells and set them on a path to healing, filled with hope and purpose.
Thank you for the lesson, my little snail whisperer! I look forward to watching Turbo with you again sometime soon.
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Selfless Fruit

IMG_7869-300x225.jpgSeveral weeks ago I was reading Matthew’s account of the passion and resurrection of Jesus. As I contemplated his great sacrifice and the eventual victory he experienced, my thoughts brought me to Jesus’ forty-day temptation in the wilderness. The report in the book of Mark indicates that it is likely the devil sought to tempt Jesus to sin in various ways and many times more than what is written in Matthew and Luke. The three instances recorded in those books reveal temptations regarding provision, position, and power. In each case, Jesus used Scripture to combat the wiles of Satan. It occurred to me that when Jesus resisted the enemy, he exhibited two important virtues – self-control and patience. He was willing to wait on his Father’s timing in the short-term to satisfy his hunger, and for a much longer period to inherit his kingdom and to wield the authority that accompanied his rightful role. He took no shortcuts, he did not claim entitlements, nor did he push his way through to a place of ease and adulation (though legions of ministering angels were always at his disposal – from Matthew 26:53). Jesus manifested patience throughout his life and ministry, taking a much longer and harder road to the cross. His selfless act made it possible for his Father’s perfect plans to be fulfilled.
As we navigate through challenges that certainly could be characterized as those of biblical proportions, tremendous opportunities are open to believers to live out our faith in new and interesting ways. As we open our hearts fully to the workings of the Holy Spirit, we can show the same virtues that Jesus did to those around us – our children, our parents, co-workers, neighbors, and friends, even while keeping social distancing in mind. In the book of Galatians these virtues are called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23a, ESV). Along with patience and self-control, the characteristics of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness are listed. These all testify to a genuine faith in the Lord and a willingness to yield to his ways and promote his values and principles to the world.
In the first of a series of pamphlets entitled “The American Crisis” Thomas Paine, a British-born political philosopher turned American and supporter of American independence, wrote in the midst of the revolutionary war era in 1776, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” While some of his philosophical writings are not in line with Christian doctrine, presently, we can relate to that particular statement. It is hard to live through such a time when there is so much sickness and death, businesses folding, and financial hardship in millions of households. Perhaps most heartbreaking are the accounts of people who are either ignoring authority, taking advantage of others’ needs, or willingly sacrificing civility, displaying concern only for themselves. These “works of the flesh” have been evident since Adam’s fall from grace. God desires that we his people show others the best of who he is through attitudes and actions that are counter to human nature and in line with his character. It comes down to a simple choice: selfishness vs. selflessness. Through the Holy Spirit at work in us we can be patient and self-controlled in the midst of trial as well as demonstrate true love, joy, peace, and the other fruit of the Spirit in ways big and small.
A couple weeks ago before stay-at-home procedures became the mandated norm in her state, my daughter, Katie, was at a store with her little girl. As she waited in line, a mother near her gave her young son four quarters and told him it was all he could have to get a little squishy ball from the adjacent vending machine for himself and for his little brother. My three-year-old granddaughter, not wanting to be left out of the procurement of such a valuable treasure, began to express her desire to get one too. Mama held her ground as Jordyn gave way to her emotions over the thought of leaving the store without a ball. Obviously seeing her distress, the little boy turned around to my daughter and asked, “Can I give her mine?” Not wanting to steal his joy and with tears in her eyes, Katie allowed Jordyn to receive the precious gift. This small act of kindness speaks volumes in a world that often encourages a “take what you can” mentality. As we go through what may be the biggest crisis of our lives, let’s pray that God will allow his Spirit to rise up in us so we can be more like his Son and like that little boy. May the fruit of the Spirit be so evident in each of our lives allowing selflessness to triumph over selfishness, and we will open the door for the perfect plans of the Lord to be fulfilled. “Now the works of the flesh are evident… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:19a, 22-23, ESV).
We pray you had a very blessed Easter. In spite of the times, “He has risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6b, ESV) and that gives us cause to celebrate no matter what is happening around us.
Resource:
Thomas Paine,The American Crisis, Wikipedia, edited update: April 11, 2020, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
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The Heart of Communication

IMG_7757-300x225.jpgIt is no secret that in this world filled with technology, we living in relative prosperity have become attached AND distracted by said technology. As I am writing in a busy airport terminal, in row after row of passengers I see screens of every type. Viewing cell phones, e-readers, and tablets, very few people are engaged in conversation with each other, though I will say there is a din (travelers likely in momentary discussions over seat assignments, delays, or where to find a good cup of coffee). It is apparent that while we may be sitting within spitting distance of family and friends, let alone people with whom we are unfamiliar, people in general, and particularly this younger generation, are more likely to have Herculean-strength thumbs from tapping a cell phone all day than they are able to engage in meaningful conversation for more than a nanosecond (likely to ask if they can plug into a shared outlet). It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway—what a changed world we live in! Yes, I know that in many ways there are benefits and betterments. But there are also many things we are losing due to the technological advances society has made, especially in the last fifty years.
I have a fond memory of a fourth grade unit we did in school. It was a series of lessons on the telephone. The telephone booklet, which I have saved in a scrapbook of school memorabilia, walked us fourth graders through the mechanics of the telephone including how to dial, the proper way to speak into the receiver, information and emergency calls, and use of a phone book to find both personal and business numbers. Among the pertinent information are several pages on telephone manners. It was definitely something we practiced. With two telephones in the room, each classmate had likely more than one opportunity to participate in a polite exchange. Among the booklet’s phrases are recommendations for passing on a message to another household member, letting the caller know that the intended recipient of the call will soon be available, apologizing for making a call to a wrong number, and kindly responding to someone who has made the wrong-number call. It is also interesting to see that proper phone etiquette includes hanging up the phone gently so as not to cause a banging noise in the caller’s ear.
If you and/or your children were scratching your heads throughout most of the last paragraph, let’s move into the twenty-first century. We, of course, largely communicate through the devices mentioned in the first paragraph. I’m fairly certain that schools do not teach a unit on a proper way to make calls and converse on the cell. Nor is there some sort of tutorial on polite messaging of any kind. We have largely moved away from verbal (deep) conversation on a device, and we especially lack the skills to do so face-to-face. Probably one of the oddest practices is to see people texting each other not only in the same building, but in the same room! Their messages are not only concise, but they can be downright cryptic! “BTW,” “TY,” “RTN,” “K,” and the ever-popular “LOL” are all a part of accepted text conversation. Alexander Graham Bell invented the original telephone in 1876, and he is either gleeful about the advance of his invention, or he is turning somersaults in his grave at the loss of true, heartfelt communication among members of the human race.
As with all matters, it is important to look into God’s Word to see what he has to say about communication and connection. First of all, God invites us into the most intimate relationship with him, calling us his children and making himself known as God the Father. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1, ESV). He has opened an avenue of communication with him through prayer. “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:5b-6, ESV). His desire is that we spend time with him just as Jesus modeled many times. “In these days [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12, ESV). It is clear that the Lord also wants us to have fellowship and connection with each other. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).
In Ephesians 4 and 5 we find advice to guide us in our communication: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor,” (4:25). “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” (4:26). “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (4:29). “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (4:31-32). “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (5:4). It is apparent that the Bible promotes healthy, loving, encouraging communication to develop and enrich relationships among us. We would be wise to heed the Lord’s direction.
Of course, Jesus did not carry a cell phone in the back pocket of his tunic, but he has always known the future of communication, both to the positive and negative sides of the matter. His desire has always been for us to speak in real and affectionate ways to our heavenly Father and lovingly and truthfully converse with one another. This is the essential art and the true heart of communication.
Resource:
Bell Telephone System. Audio-Visual Materials Consultation Bureau, College of Education, Wayne University. The Telephone and How We Use It. Copyright © [1964?]
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