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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