My 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
For 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!
It 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).
I 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).
*Herman, Jerry, “We Need A Little Christmas” (1966). Vocal Popular Sheet Music Collection. Edwin H. Morris & Company, Inc. New York, New York. Score 5566
It 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.
Despite 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.