Practical Preparation

Practical PreparationIt 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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Perception

PerceptionDespite 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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By the Numbers

By the NumbersJoining the ranks of the text savvy, our family belongs to a thread that links sixteen of our family members, which includes our five oldest grandchildren. Because hundreds and thousands of miles physically separate most of us, it serves to keep us connected with picture posts and weekly, if not daily news bites and quips from each of our members. Though many might lament the misuse of cell phones as a detriment to personal relationships, myself included, this is one positive way that we have of staying close to each other.

The five grandkids mentioned just spent a week together at the home of the two living in southern California. They have not had much time together over the last several years, so the visit gave them a great opportunity to share a part of themselves not previously known, including their strengths, talents, and gifts. Along with visits to the beach and local tourist attractions—hiking, singing and guitar jams, hairdo sessions for the girls, games, and compelling sleight of hand—were all a part of their special, but all too short, days together. Anthony, the second oldest, decided to show Kori, the older cousin by only five days, his mastery of calculus, displaying a highly intricate equation on the chalkboard relating to perspective and the perception that an object is getting larger as one moves closer to it. (Huh?) His Aunt Robyn took a picture of it and put it on the text thread. My comment was, “I am in awe!” and I should have said, “That just went way over my head!” Of course, my husband the systems engineer, understood it, and he and Anthony went back and forth discussing it. A few of us made suggestions as to perhaps what Anthony could discover for the practical benefit of humanity some day such as a time machine, a teleportation machine, and a self-cleaning house. The cutest response was from twelve-year-old, Josie, Anthony’s sister and the tween on the trip. She piped in with, “2 x 2=4,” which was probably the most clever contribution any of the rest of us could make.
All these facts and figures have caused me to think about the One who has had them perfectly calculated and solved before time began. In fact, God is the one who came up with it all! He knows exactly what position the planets, sun, moon, and stars need to be to keep them in perfect alignment and in working order. He does the same for the human body, for all of the plant and animal kingdom, bodies of water, and the earth’s landmasses. He keeps the air at the exact proportion of the correct gasses to sustain life here. Even beyond Anthony’s understanding of the intellectual equation, God is the one who brought it into being, and his intelligence and knowledge are mind-boggling!
Under severe testing, by God’s permission but by Satan’s actions, compounded by the merciless judgment of his friends, Job, a righteous man, wonders why he is enduring such difficult trials. He hears from the Lord out of a whirlwind, and God lays out the facts about his intricate involvement in every facet of creation and his sustainment of it. “‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?’” “‘Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?’” (Job 38:4–7, 18–20, ESV). God further gave information about his knowledge and control over the animal kingdom, the oceans, the heavens, life and death. God helped Job understand his greatness and how there is nothing that escapes his view and nothing that he can’t accomplish.
I am still in awe of Anthony’s ability to understand and share that equation, as I am in awe of all the wonderful gifts and talents my grandchildren possess. (Isn’t every grandmother?) But I am so much more in awe of the God who brought all the facts and figures and numbers into being and who continues to hold everything together. It has led me to the conclusion that the greatest number-related statement is contained in a prayer in the book of Psalms: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, ESV). Let’s live each of our days wisely, loving and serving the Lord and each other. In God’s perspective, that is the equation for optimal living.
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A Crazy Day; God’s Amazing Ways

A Crazy Day; God's Amazing WaysIt was one of those days. Actually, it was one of those weeks! We had just returned home at the end of our springtime conference schedule. We have four children: three of the four were moving/preparing a house for sale, and in some way we were helping all three. Mind you, they were not just doing these activities in the same month, but in the same week, and technically the same day! Did I mention that they live in various parts of the country, meaning our trek took us coast-to-coast? If I went into great detail, this blessings blog could easily become a book, but yes, amidst our conference travels we were packing, painting, hauling, and babysitting for both human and furry babies throughout the month.
So on this crazy day when I felt rather spent, I had work at home that needed attention along with continued refinement on our CD3 curriculum and the CD4 project. I was trying to catch up with laundry, painting clothes included. I had checked all the pockets – no tissues, gum, lip balm, or various other small objects that can often be carried in them. I started the laundry and headed to the kitchen, which is adjacent to the laundry room. The two furry babies now staying with us were in need of water, and because I was in a hurry I grabbed a pitcher and poured from maybe a distance of eight inches above the bowl; okay, maybe it was twelve. I was never a physics buff, but as I poured, Newton’s third law of motion immediately popped into my mind, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” And there it was, a geyser-like shot in the air that caused a huge puddle of water, soaking the plastic dog mat and slowly flooding across the floor. Having shared my watering can woes in the last blog, I used the lesson learned from that experience and took care of the situation: I applied a couple old towels to the trouble spot, wiped the mat and the dog bowl, and poured the next “round” very slowly and carefully right at the rim.
Meanwhile back in the laundry room, my washing machine sang its tune to let me know the wash was done. (It really does sing – I decided recently that the tune is some version of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” Appropriate!) So, I unloaded all the clothes into the dryer, but before I started the drying process I noticed I had a small, light blotch of color on my wrist and on the last item I was going to put in the dryer. Oh, no! It looked like it could be ink. I’ve dealt with that hassle before, and I did not have the desire or the time to take up the challenge again. So, I removed all the clothes from the dryer and examined them one by one, patting down pockets and checking for ink stains on any other clothing. I found nothing, and there was nothing in the dryer or the washer, so I loaded it all back in the drum, shut the door, chose a cycle, and pushed the start button. Though I was grateful that everything looked fine, I felt robbed of more time than I cared to lose.
A Crazy Day; God's Amazing Ways PostWhen my dryer sang out the same “I’m finished” tune, I went to retrieve all my nice, clean laundry. Not! I pulled out a shirt with several light ink blotches on it, followed by another, and another. Some clothes weren’t touched at all, ironically, the pants I wore for painting included. But, one item, the culprit that had likely held what turned out to be an offending pen, took the brunt of the assault. My husband’s olive green cargo shorts, which sported a logo of his former company, were stained beyond help. How they had concealed a pen so well I will never know, but they are now relegated to the pile of clothes used for such things as painting. The last thing I picked up out of the dryer was the writing implement turned weapon, and as I did so I noticed that the inside of the dryer had not escaped the ink battle. It certainly gave new meaning to the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Having to add the dryer to the list of items that now needed cleaning, I just wanted to cry! These words from CD4, uttered by our little instrument character Dilly Dissonance who is exasperated by his brothers’ negative activities around town, came to mind: “Everything’s going…wrong!
Life can seem like that, and I’m sure you, dear reader, are no stranger to it. In fact, some of you have endured so much more, that my challenging account is trivial. In our story, Dilly’s encounters with his friends in Symphony City allow him to see that there is a heavenly Father who cares about every little thing happening in our lives. Not only does he care, he is actively working in ways that we often cannot see to bring help and relief from the circumstances that threaten to, at the very least, rob us of our joy and take us away from truly important things we need to accomplish.
The Bible holds the stories of many people who in spite of their relationship with the Lord could make the same claim as our CD’s Dilly. Noah, Joseph, Moses, King David, and the prophet Elijah are all Old Testament figures that come to mind. Then in the New Testament after Jesus had already lived, died, and rose again, the apostle Paul had his own share of heartache. He wrote to the church in Corinth, “ “I am talking like a madman – with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:23b-27, ESV). Wow, Paul, if anyone would have the right to shout “Everything’s going…wrong!” it’s you! But Paul chose a better way: he prayed and trusted God in every circumstance, and he was so confident that God was in control of every situation, he wrote in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Even when he didn’t see the results he might have hoped for, in communion with the Lord Paul penned these words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (Romans 12:9, ESV). Somehow through his goodness, power, and great love for us, God can take the tragic and turn it into a triumph; he can even make that which is awful into something amazing!
So, in the midst of my difficult morning, finally, I prayed and asked the Lord to help me. And he did! I was able to remove most of the troublesome ink from the stained clothes (minus the shorts) and the dryer drum in less time than I imagined, and I was able to dive back into the CD work that needed to be finished. I hope that you too will be able to pray and trust the Lord even while enduring hardship. It may not remove you from the difficult situation, but it will allow you to go through it with grace, peace, and endurance that only God can provide. May you find God’s grace to be sufficient in all of your challenges and trials so that you can proclaim that he is working all things for good because you are called according to his purpose. Pray to him and let him turn a crazy day (week, month, year) into his own amazing ways!

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Exceeding Expectations

Olympic fever has been running high at my daughter’s home in North Carolina. Though my granddaughters are only four, two and newborn, we have been sitting down together as a family to watch events in swimming, diving, archery, and gymnastics. (The video of the pool has been an amazing pacifier!) We have used live streaming as the means to catch the action, thus the commercials are often longer than the video coverage, but we have still enjoyed viewing the competition and cheering for the athletes.
As have many Olympic fans, I have taken to the Internet to garner facts about present competitors and prior champions. I happened on a site called How Stuff Works. They had an article highlighting the stories of “Five Amazing Olympic Athletes.” Though Michael Phelps did not make their list, four solo athletes and one two-man team did. The piece included participants from games that took place over a one hundred year plus span. I was already acquainted with Jesse Owens, a black athlete competing at the games in hostile 1936 Berlin. Hitler’s hatred and pride did not squelch Jesse’s athletic prowess and determination as he took four gold medals and set some amazing records in running and jumping events.
An athlete named George Eyser received six gold medals in one day as a gymnast, competing with a wooden leg! This was forty-four years before the Paralympics came into being in 1948. Two female athletes made the list: Larisa Latynina for her skill displayed as a gymnast in three Olympics. She collected eighteen medals, nine of them gold. Apparently she also won a slue of medals in World and European championships, some while she was pregnant! A female athlete named Babe Didrikson Zaharias was so talented she qualified in five sports, but due to the rules for women athletes in 1932, she was only allowed to compete in three. Consequently, she took home the gold in the javelin throw and the eighty-meter hurdles and a silver in the high jump. The list of sports in which she excelled covers a wide range of events including volleyball, tennis, swimming, diving, cycling and golf. Then there is the duo of Thomas Bimis and Nikolaos Siranidis who competed in Athens, Greece on the Greek Diving Team. Though not expected to medal at all, when someone from the crowd crashed through to climb up to the diving board and splashed belly first into the pool, with other competitors flustered by the incident, this pair did not lose their cool, and they took the gold in front of an ecstatic home crowd.
One thing that may be said of all these athletes is that they exceeded expectations. For whatever reason, whether it was the era in which they performed, the odds they faced, or the circumstances surrounding their event, each competed far beyond what was anticipated. They have sealed their place in the records of Olympic history as the epitome of what it means to be a champion. They trained, they fought hard, they stayed focused, they gave their all. They stand as examples of the way to compete and win.
The Bible uses language that evokes images of competition regarding the faith walk of a believer in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul said of himself, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (2 Timothy 4:7, ESV). He encourages us in 1 Corinthians 9:24 saying, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” He also said, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own [attaining to the resurrection from the dead]. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:13-14, ESV). We receive further encouragement from the writer of Hebrews who said in chapter twelve, verses one and two, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).
Clearly, we are in a competition, not to win a place in heaven, but to be the best we can be for the glory of God and for the sake of His kingdom. We train, we fight hard, we stay focused, and we give our all. The Lord Himself is our example as 1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV states, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” He always exceeds our expectations, and for those who desire to be good and faithful servants, it is important that we strive for excellence to champion the cause of Christ. May we be counted as amazing in the race to which the Lord has called us!
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen,” (Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV).
A ministry note: I am so happy to report that those who have been in the studio with us working on the recordings for CDs three and four, have far exceeded our expectations and have given their all to create an excellent product. We have been especially in awe of the children and young people that have joined us. We can’t wait for the day that we will be sharing the results of their efforts with all of you. Way to go Godstruck Team!
References:
All Olympic facts were taken from the site How Stuff Works Entertainment
Olympic Rings picture courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
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