Stories that Shine on an Awesome God

Old Fashioned Sanity – 3

Having survived life in an Ozark cabin, the Bible, in its preponderance of size and weight, now adorned a coffee table inside a house surrounded by Arkansas cotton.

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“Sharecroppers. That’s who my grandparents were,” my soon-to-be husband explained the first time we made the trip together, “I was born right there in that bedroom.”

Beneath the coffee table, wall-to-wall linoleum stretched across the room to a door ajar.

“Right there on that bed.”

A hint of a sag hollowed an otherwise smooth bedspread.

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Voices, along with the aroma of frying okra and candied sweet potatoes, wafted from another adjacent room. His mom and his grandma, the long ago birthing assistant, prepared dinner while the two of us, not yet out of our teens, waited on the vinyl couch.

“This must be the family Bible.” I ran my hand over cracked, brown leather. Jesus, in muted colors with arms outstretched, smiled from an aging picture.

“Yep, and here,” my boyfriend opened the book, “is my family record from way back.”

“My family never had a big Bible like this.” I leafed through the thin pages, through Genesis, Psalms, and Proverbs, pausing at vintage pictures. “We all had our own Bibles, plenty of those, but nothing like this for the family.”

“I reckon this Bible helped keep the family together,” his head bent over mine. “Helped keep them sane through the hard times.”

“I reckon it did.” With care, I closed the book and sat back from the treasure. “I reckon it did.”

Still do. But I don’t reckon anymore. I know for sure the Word keeps folks sane.

Bible and Roses

 

My mother’s medium-sized Bible, had a black cover with corners rubbed down to expose the inner brown cardboard. Its translucent pages were marked with side notes in her flowing script. Its passages were underlined, often more than once.

As she struggled with raising four kids, farming, moving, living in unfinished spaces, teaching elementary school, or suffering the pain of cancer,  how often did it keep her sane? Many times over.

Memorizing Bible texts dominated my biblical exposure through high school. On my fifteenth birthday, my parents gave me a trim Bible with smooth leather binding. At eighteen, after I married, I carried it on the bus ride to work and nodded at blurry words during my early morning transit.

Three years later, motherhood arrived. I began to read in earnest.

Time passed. Every season brought and continues to bring different ways the Bible restores. Over the years, I have learned a few Bible reading practices that help me:

  1. Open it first thing in the morning. Even before checking Facebook. I wish I could say I always do this.
  2. Pray for the Holy Spirit to teach me and bring concepts alive.
  3. Read the entire Bible through the lens of what Jesus taught and lived. His life and words are the standard for revealing the truth about God.
  4. Look for nuggets that reveal God’s character.
  5. Read God’s own words as though he speaks them to me alone. Treat it like a love letter.
  6. Think out of the box. Be open to new meaning and interpretation.
  7. Hebrew is a rich, multi-faceted language. Learn about it.
  8. Read everything in context and try to learn about the cultural context.
  9. Think of the Words as life-giving. They are!
  10. Don’t put it down until I find at least one take-away, one treasure that brings me peace, one promise that helps me maintain my sanity.

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“Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalms 119:105

Southern Appalachia isn’t the only place our ancestors eked out an existence clearing virgin timber and hauling rocks from new fields. Across our nation, across our world, survival usually depended on hardy folks with muscles hard. Folks in touch with nature and in tune with the soil. When food was scarce, what fed their souls? Other than fellowship, when they lost a loved one, where did they go for comfort?

“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?”

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They lifted up their eyes to the hills, the windswept prairies, over the sandy beaches across the infinity of water, or up to a night of pulsating stars. Nature, mixed with its wild surprises and eternal solidity drew their souls to a larger existence.

Every day they woke up knowing oneness with the earth and there was something, someone, larger than they. They could depend on spring loosening the grip of winter. They were assured autumn would slow the intensity of summer’s hot work.

Nature can still do that.

It did for Rose-Marie, the protagonist in my manuscript, my work still-in-progress-submitting-to-publishers. A couple scenes pulled from an early draft describe nature’s role in her heart’s healing:

“At the top of Newfound Gap, Rose-Marie and her friends piled out of the car. A road, dipping and twisting along the mountainside, had long forgotten the teams of loggers that had rutted its surface. Now, blanketed with snow, it called to the teens. They grabbed their sleds.

When the afternoon grew late, she took a final ride, reached the end of the normal run, and continued to glide on deep into the forest. Snowflakes drifted. Hemlock and spruce stood like mute soldiers with their giant boughs drooping with snow in a world that was very still. Her sled stopped. She listened to the silence, turned onto her back, and with flakes gentling her face, gazed into the vast gray sky. There, in the peaceful quiet, she longed for Matthew.”

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 Near the end of the book, with teens of her own, nature continued to feed her soul:

“That weekend, fresh air currents swept the mountain and took the fog with them over the grassy bald, leaving a holiday scent of Frasier fir and Carolina blue sky. A mass of lavender rhododendron spilled a bank. Rose-Marie’s workweek slipped away like a leaf through an eddy.

She stepped into a clearing and dropped her pack. Soft, layered branches of majestic hemlocks drooped to the forest floor. Green expanses of fern waved from mossy ground.

Sunset spun the air with filtered gold and reflected from the white quartz outcropping where her family sat in awe surrounded by a sea of mountains. Forever they went, in hazy, folded shades of blue while the golden sun settled itself for the night. God had done his homework.”

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God still does his homework. Lift up your eyes to the hills and know where your help comes from. Take the time. Find the place.

In our complex, often crazy world, get out in the woods, the creek side, the ocean. Drink in the sanity it provides. Appreciate the symmetry and strength of a tree even if its growing in the medium of a traffic-jammed highway. Know, deep in your soul, that your help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

“I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalms 121:1 & 2

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“They need help unloading a trailer of food.” The coordinator at the flood response crisis center handed me, my husband, and a local friend a work order. “It’s a church, or what used to be.” She shook her head of gray hair as she turned to the next group of volunteers.

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Inside our truck, we followed her directions through an isolated river town in the heart of the West Virginia mountains. Flood cleanup had been going on for over a week. Soggy possessions piled along the streets next to homes that were now empty shells, filled, not with children’s laughter or a mother’s prayer, but with mud and mold.

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Mounds of dirt and debris lined the sides of a strip mall’s parking lot. Outside the town’s only grocery store, shopping carts tangled with twisted metal shelving. The nearest food store was nearly an hour’s drive away.

Connected at the far end, the church shared the mall’s disaster, but this flood casualty was undeniably still a church. I have seen strip mall churches before, with their flat fronts blending into the mall’s length of bland architecture with perhaps a small sign above the door, but evidently, this church had never planned to hide. Its church-y facade with cupola and cross still proclaimed its identity. From the outside.

We parked the truck, asked how we could help, and walked through the doors.

Church – padded pews and stained glass windows. Songs of worship, words of praise. Prayers. A place of respite in a week of stress. A place for spirits to be fed with the Bread of Life.

But not this one. Not now. Not after the river had risen and with a roar, claimed its interior. Walls, ceiling, and floors, already stripped clean by volunteers, offered no such sanctuary.

Interior of WV Church

“We will use this pile of boards to keep the food up off the wet concrete,” the pastor instructed, seeming resigned to his tragedy.

We started hauling lumber to turn a church into a food distribution center, and, in the process, constructed a real life object lesson.

Church – Sometimes, no more than a social club where members jostle one another for position and recognition. Judgement without mercy. Pride. Politics. Splinter groups. Holy Spirit grieved. Pantry shelves devoid of the Bread of Life.

“I am weary of bearing them [your assemblies, festivals, and feasts]. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless. Plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:14-17

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is NOT a church. It is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. It is to keep oneself unspotted from the prideful, me-first mindset of the world.

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I plunked my end of a board onto the concrete floor. I straightened my back. One American Christian church, gutted of its plush interior, had changed into a food distribution center.

Hopefully yours will too, but does it have to take a crisis?

“I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35-36

Old Fashioned Sanity

In Cades Cove, a white clapboard church stands protected by the Park Service of the United States of America and by the mountains of East Tennessee. Dedicated to worship for all ‘time and eternity,’ it has been sandwiched between a single lane road and a collection of gravestones for one hundred and seventy-seven years.

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A few days ago, my family opened the doors of this church, sat on its wooden pews, and began to sing. Voices from the past seemed to join us in praise. I couldn’t tell from their ethereal voices how they eked out a meager living, but I could imagine. I could also wonder, with times so hard, how they kept their sanity.

The early cove folks were a tight bunch. Their survival depended on it. Community barn raising and corn husking were common. Midwives made frequent visits. Undoubtedly, their two Revolutionary War veterans showed the others how to live on nothing more than determination.

While we sang, other tourists stepped into the church and many of them joined us. A community of strangers soon requested Amazing Grace and Sweet By and By. Music, sometimes a snitch off key, flowed over walls bare enough to belie superior acoustics. For those few sacred moments, I entwined my heart with the past and  sang against isolationism that threatens our present.

I left that church knowing, like that long ago mountain fellowship, our impromptu community had helped to keep each other sane.

“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” I John 1:7

 

Soothing Oil

Entering my trashed apartment was like entering a mind diseased.

Your whole head is injured

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Carpet blanketed in filth –

Kitchen sink smeared with a brown film –

Your whole heart afflicted.

Food rotting in the refrigerator –

Windows broken –

From the sole of your foot to the top of your head, there is no soundness.

Counters and cabinets strewn with debris –

Walls pot marked with myriad holes, screws, and nails –

Only wounds and welts and open sores.

Hundreds of decals placed for hallucinogenic affect.

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Legal eviction had vacated the occupants, but not their mess. They had left that job for me.

I donned gloves and mask, scooped leftover items off the counters, and dumped decayed food from the refrigerator.

In less than six months, two people with diseased minds had turned a pristine, freshly painted, scrubbed and impeccably furnished apartment into a rat’s hole. They were two human beings caught in a trap of disrespect, dishonesty, and low living.

One glance at their mug shot and my son, quite snarkily, had commented, “How did you say ‘yes’ to that face?”

Not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. (Isaiah 1: 5b- 6)

Eight heavy contractor bags later, I was down to the walls. Colored paper, butterflies, and flowers stuck to the sheet rock, the plaster clinging and tearing as I peeled. Bit by bit. Like the thoughts that dinged my brain with each decal ripped from the wall.

Disgust. Bitterness. Superiority. No soundness.

Human hands had pasted each item and pounded each nail into a scattering of holes my own hands would have to patch. My hands, created just like theirs. They were two fellow humans caught in a web. How had they become oppressed?

Caught in a web of its own, my heart was an open sore. I couldn’t clean up their heart or mind, but mine required soothing oil. I was willing.

Stop the meaningless religious rituals (Isaiah 1:7-15)

A prayer. A decision. Thoughts flowed: Compassion. Humility. Cleansing forgiveness. The good things of the land. Plenty of bandages and soothing oil.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Come, let us settle the matter, says the Lord, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. (Isaiah. 1:17-19)

Every head, every heart has wounds and open sores. Yours. Mine. Be willing to be cleansed. Know the Holy Spirit’s soothing oil.

Womb of the Wind

 

Heartache abounds. Slow and insidious or sudden and gut-wrenching

While the wind roars its violence.

Depression debilitates. Dark cloud suffocating heart and joy.

While the wind moans in death.

Suppressed grief. Trickling tears inside the mind. Slipping, sliding, letting go.

While the wind grows silent.

Others, friends, and mothers pray, weep, and worry. Cling to the faith of their fathers

While they wait for the Wind

Hearing its sound. Not knowing, only petitioning its destination.

While the Wind blows where it pleases.

Down the pathway of their hope to the heart giving up, letting go.

While the Wind soars on its wings with new birth.

Unseen work. Left to the Creator to tell where it comes from and where it is going.

While the womb of the Wind molds a new creature.

“He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth – the Lord God Almighty is his name.” – Amos 4:13:

Local Disturbance

Two weekends ago the weather was good for flying. Not perfect. A layer of haze, hot and moist, hung in the late summer sky, but visibility was good. My husband, Bruce, eager to get behind the controls, began his pre-flight check. I stepped onto the wing, slid into my seat, and let out a deep sigh. I was ready for the break.

Plane Open

Since spring, lessons on the craft of writing have consumed me. While they have morphed my work into a better read, they have slowed its progress. This blog has been neglected entirely.

God, it’s your book, your blog. Help me stay true to your priorities.

I snapped on my seat belt.

Kids and grandkids, free from school, have also provided happy stretches of summer diversion.

God, our children are yours too. Help me stay true especially to them.

I snugged on my headphones and adjusted the mic.

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Most recently, a volley of written attacks lobbed against a loved one had thrown me temporarily off course. The vicious nature of the attacks had shocked all of us.

Father God, despite the lies, help me to stay as true to duty as the needle is to the pole, just like my husband reminds me. And thanks for this get-a-way.

Bruce climbed into the pilot’s seat and pulled down the cockpit’s glass hatch. He completed the final check and taxied onto the runway. He communicated our intent to take off. We would turn left and go north. With flaps adjusted and engine at full throttle, he lifted us smoothly into the air.

The ground below became a patchwork of homes, rivers, and fields.

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“See.” He pointed to the top of the controls. “There’s the magnetic compass we’ve been talking about. Even with my high tech, Garman G1000 panel, there is still a magnetic compass.”

I nodded.

“So tell me again,” I said. “What makes a compass not work well?”

“Deviation. Variation. Local Disturbance. To name three. You have to take those into consideration to stay on course and for the needle to stay true to the pole.

“Sounds complicated.”

“It is. Just like life,” he spoke the truth through his mic. “Deviation is a magnetic disturbance that is fairly constant and located near the compass. Deviation is caused by something like iron in the plane’s engine. If you navigated by compass, you would have to take that into consideration.”

“Deviation is kind of like making adjustments for life’s regular challenges?”

“Right.” Bruce reached his goal of three-thousand feet altitude and pushed on the auto pilot. “Variation is also fairly constant, caused by a band of iron in northern Canada and around the globe. When you fly, you still have to adjust your degrees so that you head true north and not just magnetic north.”

“And that’s like?” I asked.

“It’s called variation because the needle changes depending on where you are at over the earth’s surface. It changes with time.”

“So we might vary from our duty by where we are at in our own personal journey?”

“Exactly.”

He scanned the sky around us. I opened a book.

Pilot Bruce

“Local disturbances are the hardest,” he continued. “Significant iron deposits are scattered over the earth and can cause a local disturbance. To be prepared, you have to know where they are. If you are over a local disturbance, you ignore the magnetic compass because it can do crazy things.”

“Yeah, wow. Just like personal attacks. We get distracted while our life’s needle swings crazily, away from our pole of duty. But God allows for that, don’t you think?”

“For sure he does. At least the God I know does. He helps to keep us on course, as long as we watch and listen.”

I turned to my book. My headphones muffled the whoosh of the wind and the engine’s steady roar.

“Traffic ahead. One o’clock.” The airplane’s automatic alert system sounded its robot voice. “One mile. Same altitude.”

I grabbed the top of the control panel and peered in the one o’clock direction toward the haze.

“Where is it? I can’t see it!”

“Right there!” Bruce threw the plane into manual control and nose-dived. “Look up.”

A small plane passed overhead. It flew straight on.

“Whew! Maybe three-hundred feet to spare.” Bruce leveled our plane. “I don’t think he even saw us.”

“He probably doesn’t have an alert system,” I said. “Either that or he got distracted.” I settled back in my seat. “Woah.”

“That will make your heart race.” Bruce shook his head.

Thank you, Father. Thank you for guiding us through yet another local disturbance.

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Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. Matthew 26:41

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. I Peter 5:8

How has God guided you through the deviations, variations, or local disturbances in your life?  Please share!

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Savior of Memories

A little box of baby things are tucked away wrapped in plastic, safe in a drawer. Whenever I open that drawer, I imagine a mother crocheting a blue sweater and booties, fashioning a delicate crocheted cap, and hand stitching simple flannel socks. I thumb through booklets on baby care copyrighted in 1932 and wonder what it would have been to be an expectant mother in that era.

A few cards adorned with dimpled babies are in that box as well, wishing all the best. There is a soft baby brush, and a baby pillow case  — again with crocheted edging. Wrapped in tissue are locks of auburn curls, an exact match to my son’s hair.

When I close the drawer, it is a mother I think of, a young mother, who cherished and saved memories of her boy.That mother is dead now, as is her son, but her act lives on in all the other mothers who save memories.

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We parents experience our children from a unique viewpoint. We witness their birth. We delight in each step of their growth. When we capture these memories to share with them later, we help to complete our children’s identities. We give them the gift of themselves.

I save many of my memories with a camera. But one evening, years back when my son was six or so and he and his Shih Tzu puppy, Lassie, needed a romp, my camera was not handy.

“Pull me on the blanket, Momma. Round and round. Yeah!” There was no resisting his nodding head and sparkling eyes.

He pulled an old blanket out of the closet and settled himself in its middle. Clutching two corners, I whizzed him over the hardwood floor, through the kitchen, past the dining room, and around the living room. Lassie, ever alert, pounced with furry paws and clung to the blanket. Around and around we went — Lassie, spread eagle, stomach sliding, then losing her grip and pouncing again. My son howled and squealed with delight. His every fiber throbbed.

The magic moment snapped like a camera flash and burned into my memory. I developed the picture and added it to my mental scrapbook.

Scrap Book

I love the fact that God savors His children’s precious moments and writes them in his own Book of Remembrance.

On the day when he makes up his jewels, he will settle me on his lap and I’ll be like a child who loves to look at her baby pictures. Snuggled close, my heavenly daddy and I will leaf through his scrapbook. He will show me how he cherished the choices I made for him. He will expand my understanding of myself by sharing his point of view. He will explain the decisions he had to make as my parent. He will complete my identity by giving me the gift of myself.

My daughter and boys

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him.” — Malachi 3:16 & 17 (KJV)

What memories of your life would you like to see in God’s scrapbook?  Please share!

Deliverer from Evil

“Momma, I want to sleep in your room with you and Daddy.”

Of course. He needed closeness. But how close was too close? Death was near but unpredictable. Would he suffer from overexposure?

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He was only eight and he needed to be protected. At such an impressionable age, he didn’t need to watch his father die. He needed, especially on the last night, to be delivered from hearing every ragged breath that for hours would rise from the hospice bed and reverberate throughout our home. Caught in a balancing act between the security of closeness and over protecting, I gave him permission.

A week, maybe two, passed. Most nights he slept beside me, but on the night of death he slept at his grandfather’s home miles away, protected and a safe distance from pain.

Our heavenly Father is caught in a similar balancing act. Does he let us see all the evil, especially the spiritual warfare, or does he keep it invisible? After all, our physical world has enough of its own pain.

Recently, a friend of mine prayed to see behind the scenes, to be given a glimpse of the warfare. As a new day dawned, she gazed out her window and asked, “Father, would you let me see behind the clouds, to the spiritual war that is raging?” The clouds parted and the sun shone very bright. She held her breath. An intense, blue sky radiated. Only the sky. She listened in silence to the Father’s voice.

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“You don’t need to see in the heavens where the real war is raging, for it all belongs to me. Remember, it is my battle. Rest in the assurance that through all the evil, my kingdom will come. Let me protect you. Rest in me through praise, through song and worship and words.”

God is caught in a balancing act. Does he let us experience all of the evil or does he protect?

“He suffers a broken world, still balancing it on the beams of a cross” Garden Surrender.

Regardless of our exposure, we can trust that he will never leave us or forsake us. He will protect our souls. In the meantime, we can repeat Christ’s words, “Deliver us from evil.” We can pray that his kingdom come on earth just as it is in heaven.

If you are a parent, what has worked for you as you attempt to protect your children? Comment below or Share here.

Sharp pain stabbed Mei’s arm and radiated throughout her tense, twelve-year-old body. Her whimper, barely heard beyond the curtains drawn around her bed, elicited a comforting pat from her mother. Skiing the snowy slopes had been fun until this.

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The emergency room nurse covered her with a warm blanket. The curtain slid on its track and the doctor entered, x-rays in hand. She spoke in simple phrases that her Chinese patient might understand.

“It’s badly broken.”

Tears welled in Mei’s eyes.

“We need to start intravenous.”

Blank stares answered. Fear, like the gray storm that covered the mountains’ peaks, clouded Mei’s face.

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The doctor glanced at the nurse. “She needs someone who knows her language.”

The nurse punched phone numbers to the private line of the translation service and turned on the speaker.

“Chinese, please. Mandarin.”

In gentle tones, the conversation progressed. Back and forth, questions were answered, explanations given.

Mei nodded and almost smiled. Her mother breathed a sigh.

“This will relax you.” The nurse, needle ready, turned a slim arm and pressed a vein.

Trust shone from dark eyes. Mei understood.

Our heavenly Father answers when we call. He answers before we call. Whatever the language, he knows how to translate every heart longing. It only takes a breath of a prayer to punch in his number.

“When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” Psalms 91:15

“Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.”  Isaiah 65:24

Water for the Thirsty

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“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — Jesus

“Why can’t you be like other girls? They don’t ride bicycles like a boy. And your hair is ugly. Do something with your hair.” Wen’s mother had only been back from China’s outlying countryside for two days.

“Leave me alone,” Wen shot back. “You have never wanted me.”

Who did this woman think she was? She had devoted her life to the government, helping the poor villagers and when her baby daughter, Wen, had not thrived at birth, she had sent her  to the city to be raised by her grandmother.

Rejected. Unwanted. Unloved.

I’m fourteen and she thinks she can now come and turn me into her ideal female. Wen’s young mind whirled in anger. One day she would leave. If she wasn’t accepted by her own mother, why should she stay? Maybe I’ll find love. Somewhere.

The day finally came when Wen left. A college in Japan was her first stop. The dream of a new life thrilled her, but her heart did not know peace. Her mother did not love her. Not really. Would she ever find love? Was there any real reason to keep living?

The students gathered for lunch. While they ate, a Korean classmate sat alone reading from a large book. She read and then she looked up with shining eyes and a face serene.

Wen had never seen anyone’s face so peaceful. It was coming from somewhere inside. Could she have it too? She interrupted her classmate’s lunch.

“How do you look so, so happy? And what are you reading?”

“It’s the Bible, Wen. There is a God who loves you. Did you ever consider him?”

‘A God who loves? Tell me more.”

“Yes, Wen. God loves you. Let me tell you how his son, Jesus, showed the world his love.”

Wen’s thirsty soul drank deep. With her classmate’s help and the help of her classmate’s church, she accepted this God of love as her own. She made her way to a new life in the United States, but her search for love was over. She had found its source.

* * * * *

I too had been searching – for a new hairdresser. I loved my former one, but having just moved, she was a nine-hour drive away. Searching for a new hairdresser is a frightening prospect. I googled and picked a number. Wen answered.

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In the middle of a “foreign” town, God gave me Wen. Every four weeks, I go to church, a hairdresser’s shop in a strip mall and settle down in Wen’s pew, her beautician’s chair in front of her mirror. There, while she shampoos and cuts, colors and highlights, we share thoughts on God and life and love. God’s peace shine’s from Wen’s face.

Every four weeks I learn how God has given her the strength to make it in a new country, to leave an abusive husband, and to walk through the land mine of fake Christians who claim friendship. I rejoice that through her, his love has spread back to China in forgiveness and reconciliation. But those are stories for another time.

image of Water droplet, heart ripples“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters . . . . Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love . . . .” Isaiah 55: 1&3

Bought and Paid For

Five-year-old Caleb came into the bedroom first thing one morning clutching his money box. He wanted to show me that he could buy the toy of his dreams.

“You know, Momma, the one where the car goes ’round and ’round.”

Yes, I knew. The one we had told him he would have to wait for Christmas to get. The one that was already hidden away in the closet, bought and paid for.

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He emptied his box on the carpet beside the bed and sat there surrounded with various coins and dollar bills. They represented his work. He was certain he had enough. He had no idea how much he had, but he had “counted” it and declared, “See, I have enough money. I do. I know I do. Now I can get it for Christmas.”

“But, Caleb, it’s for your Christmas present. You won’t have to pay for it.

“But I have enough.”

“Perhaps, but when you get a gift, a present, like at Christmas, you don’t have to pay. Mommy and Daddy have to pay. Sometimes it costs a lot of money, but you don’t have to use yours. We use our money. It’s free to you.

Christmas Present Wrapped in Gold and Silver

All this time I thought he had understood. All this time he thought he would have to pay. In fact the gift was already his and he, unaware, still counted his money.

I looked down at my pajama-clad son sitting among his scattered coins and saw all humanity.

Like Caleb, we long for the toy. We long to be right with God. We’re certain we’ve worked enough to earn it. Unaware that it is already bought and paid for, we’re certain we must buy it. Yes, it was paid for—at tremendous price, but not with our money. To us it is free. All we must do is be like Caleb on Christmas morning. We must reach out and accept our gift.

I felt like God that morning trying to explain the beautiful truth to His children.

“Little boy, you sit surrounded by money that you consider yours. You forget that you depend on your dad and me to give you that money, and now, what’s worse, with it you would buy a gift that is already yours. Please realize that your money and your gift flows from the same source. Everything is bought and paid for.”

“We’ve got you covered, Son. We’ve got you covered.”

Father-Child-Holding-Hands

Whether you do Christmas or not, please know that there is a God out there who has got you covered.

Covered in love. Covered in mercy.

Right Now!

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! . . . Dear Friends, NOW we are children of God . . . ” — I John 3:1&2

Cranberry Knowing

Edna stepped inside the door and offered her ruby-red, Thanksgiving treasure in a Tupperware container. This wasn’t the first time Edna had shown up at the front door of my daughter’s home, her warm smile erasing what were most likely wrinkles of weariness. Back when the twins had finally reached four pounds and their big sister was not yet two years old, she came often, just to lend a hand.

image of cranberries

When she handed me the crimson gem, it’s tangy, crunchy sweetness was already saying hello to my taste buds’ memories — chopped celery and chopped pecans and freshly ground cranberries. All that chopping and grinding and dicing had taken hours of her time, but for me, another Thanksgiving would include Edna’s Cranberry Salad. I couldn’t be happier. Gratitude and appreciation surged as I gave her a hug and found space in an already packed refrigerator.

This year, Thanksgiving is at my house miles away from my daughter’s home. All the kids are coming. Today, as I chopped and diced my way through Edna’s hand-written recipe, my gratitude for her yearly gift escalated. Today at my kitchen counter, I experienced her labor of love. I developed more than a passing appreciation. With each slice of my knife, I now know her experience. I received a hands-on glimpse into Edna’s world.

Image of preparation of Cranberry Salad

Now, thanks to Edna, my own Thanksgiving treasure is tucked away in a Tupperware container. (Okay, so I love alliterations.)

Thanks to Edna, a God-truth is now tucked deep inside:

We know God through experiencing what he experiences. Creativity, innocent pleasures, grief, rejection, intense love, or even something as common as being misunderstood can give us a clearer understanding of God’s heart. They can teach us of him. They can if we’ll let them.

image of cranberries in heart shape

So here’s to getting to know God better through hands-on experience. Here’s to gratitude and appreciation and here’s to experiencing some of

Edna’s Cranberry Salad:

Grind      1 lb cranberries – save juice
Drain      1, #2 can crushed pineapple – save juice
Dice        2 cups celery
Chop       1 cup pecans
Mix together and keep refrigerated

Dissolve               2 large pkgs. Cherry Jello in
3 cups hot water
Then dissolve     2 cups sugar in this.

When cool, NOT set

Add        Juice from crushed pineapples
½ cup lemon juice
Juice from ground cranberries
Enough orange juice to make 3 cups total

Let this mixture just begin to gel, then stir in refrigerated mixture. Pour into molds or other containers.

Chill until firm.

Down the Drain

“Why didn’t you, God?” Esther snapped. She slammed the lady’s room stall door and jerked the lock into its latch. “We trusted you. We prayed.” She dropped with a thud onto the commode. “This was suppose to be the perfect vacation. Why did you let this happen?” She glared at the shut door.

Image of Women's bathroom entrance

Down the corridor, at their airport gate, her husband, Bob, hunched over a phone with the receiver pressed tight against his ear. Their oldest daughter, in the seat beside his, leaned toward her dad, intent on every word. Esther had heard just enough to know that the call was from their youngest daughter and her boyfriend, traveling from Nebraska to join them in Colorado, and that the two college kids had had a serious accident.

Image of Air Traffic Control Tower at dusk

“Drug how many feet by an eighteen wheeler?” Bob’s eyes had stared into hers, damp and overly bright. The first call to board their flight had been announced. Esther had fled to the ladies room.

“So now, God.” She jutted her chin. “Everyone else is in route to the slopes from three different states. The three of us here, my brother, his kids, and now this. It’s too late to call this ski trip off. We knew it was a lot of travel. A lot could go wrong. We prayed for special safety.”

She clinched her fist and hit her thigh. Hard. If she could have, she would have beat God in the chest, but she didn’t want to get that close. She wanted to hurl things at him from a distance. Things like sticks and stones. Things like words.

image of the totaled car

Through clinched teeth, she spat words that she had never uttered to any authority, much less God. Punishment would have been swift. Repressed anger had served her well. When she was a child, even her mother, when highly vexed, had denied that she was angry. “No, I’m not angry.” Her mother’s eyes would bulge. “I’m determined.” So who was she to be angry with God? God was God. One didn’t question the Omnipotent.

Esther snatched at the toilet paper. “There was no reason to allow this to happen, God. You had no right. None. You should have protected them.”

“Esther, I did protect them.” The voice resonated, audible and clear. “Who is Bob talking to? Your daughter. I did protect them.”

image of man holding Phone in Airport

Esther’s hands stopped midair and flew together to cover her face. When she could breathe, she exhaled in a gush, inhaled slowly, deeply, and then tremblingly exhaled. Someone unseen had stepped inside the stall. Someone had ordained it sacred. Her ears strained for one more word. Instead, her own voice repeated, “I did protect them.”

“You did protect them?”

She hurried out and back to the gate. “Are they hurt, Bob? How badly? What happened?” She joined her husband in line to board.

“The car is probably totaled, but neither one has a scratch. Didn’t even go to the hospital.”

The two were renting a car. They would meet the others in Colorado, only one day late.

For once, words failed.

Image of clouds from above

Later, high above the clouds, she had plenty of time to talk. A humble child and a merciful, Father God held a quiet conversation in the most subdued tones:

“I was angry with you, God. I was really angry. I let you have it.”

“You sure did.”

“But you let me do it. You gave me the freedom to be honest with my emotions.

“Yes, I did.”

“So your chest, which I wanted to pound, is big enough for all of my venom.”

“It sure is.”

“So with you, I can be honest with my emotions.”

“Yes, you can.”

“About anything?”

“Anything. Especially when it comes to you and me.”

“And you talked to me. Out loud.”

“Out loud.”

“In a commode stall of all places.” Esther’s smile turned into a giggle. This God of hers had a sense of humor.

“Yes, in a commode stall, but then I like to flush anger down the drain.”

image of Sun shining on clouds from above

“Behold, you desire truth in the inward being and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Psalms 51:6

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalms 145:17 & 18

“Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace. Zechariah 8:16

Pristine Presence

“Are the rooms clean?” I asked when I called for reservations. Well, I didn’t know. It was a center, a Family Reconciliation Center they called it, made available for the family and friends of those incarcerated while they came for prison visitation. I had never done this before, so how was I to know? It seemed like a logical question. “Yes, they’re clean and my husband can pick you up from the airport.” If Donna thought my question rude, she never let on. “He’s bald. Got a beard. I think he’s kinda cute. His name is Lee.” “I’m sure we’ll recognize him, and thank you, Donna. This is a huge help. ” image of Barbed wire fence The horseshoe bend of the river formed a natural moat for the sprawling state facilities below our wings. I counted three. A deep rock quarry in clear outline locked the remaining land mass from the rest of the world. Serious security. We circled, landed, and lost our omniscient view. Suitcase in tow, my husband and I left the terminal. A bald man with a beard approached us. I agreed. Through the eyes of love, he was kinda cute. Lee led us to a van that sported a large dent on its side and welcomed us on board. The precursory small talk lasted until he pulled out onto the street. His quiet and unassuming manner belied the misery of his story. He stopped the van at a clapboard house surrounded by a low metal fence and a lawn that was as tidy as a napkin covering a plate of communion wafers. image of Front Walk and Yard “There’s a support group going on in the front room, but just go on in.” Lee invited. “You won’t interrupt.”

Donna’s smile when she met us half-way to the kitchen illuminated the soft contours of her motherly face. She stretched out her arms and drew me into a hug that said, “I’m a woman whose been there and survived.” The light in her eyes kindled her abundant auburn hair.

image of Donna “Soup’s warm on the stove, but first let me show you your room,” she said. It was a guest house, actually—through the kitchen, out the side door, and next to a swing set for kids. The simplicity of the bedroom indicated that thriftiness was an art. The spotless bathroom indicated that someone understood the adage of cleanliness being next to Godliness. “The sheets are clean. But here are fresh ones for tomorrow.” Donna handed us neatly folded linens. “Just put them on in the morning and the bed will be ready for tomorrow night’s guests.” Back at the kitchen table, we devoured her luscious vegetable soup and macaroni salad. Lee, now silent, lingered beside his wife while she poured out her carbon copy story. A mother and a father filled our stomachs while their hearts still bled. image of the Kitchen A grown son. A motorcycle accident. A lost leg and adjoining pelvis. A life-long catheter. Despair. Spousal abandonment. Rage. Imprisonment. Special needs facility. Neglect. Abuse. Solitary confinement. Chains. Filth. Lack of food. Denied communication. A mother’s stubborn intervention. Prayers. Continued court hearings . . . . Lee and Donna talked on. Their misery mounted but their joy could not be suppressed. Only a survivor could understand such a paradox. They had been slammed with the plight of prisoners. They had ached with the pain of the parents. Then they had been given this Kingdom ministry, this Family Reconciliation Center, and their mourning had been turned into dancing. Image of Donna and Lee “God worked it out for us to be here.” Donna said. “We couldn’t imagine doing anything else. He’s given us a passion for others, right here near the prisons. To help others like ourselves. God is so awesome.” Praise fell from the lips of this red-headed mother from Ohio who had suffered a childhood of abuse. “I have never been so happy, so fulfilled in all my life.” Beamed Lee, the kinda cute man from West Virginia’s farm country who had survived his own struggles. image collage of DONNA AND LEE How does one thank such a host and hostess? How does one say an adequate goodbye? We could do little except join them in praising the God who works all things together for good. Then we finally said goodbye to a cottage pristine with the presence of Divinity.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” Psalms 30:11-12

Perhaps you have a story where God turned your mourning into dancing. Please share it by clicking here.

Provider of Poems

Guest Blog, Poetry, and Photography by JerryAnn Berry

Finding my way to identity while filled with the shame of sin and abuse was like a maze of mirrors. I never knew if what I was seeing was my reflection at all. In the end I realized God found me and He knew where I was the whole time. The past 20 years of recovery are coming to a close. It has been a long journey out of shame and pain, walking into the healing light of God.

Poetry was one of the only ways I could express the situations in which I found myself. When reality had been processed and distilled down to its simplest, most authentic form, poetry was my heart’s elixir. This came through my connection with my Creator as He led me step by step. His view blended with my view, simplified the intense complexities and in the succinct words of a poem I could see clearly, often for the first time.

These three poems are examples of the progressive work of His Spirit mingling with my spirit. They are in sequence of experience and discovery. The last one I wrote this past weekend. Each one has come with new revelation of a God who knows how to touch me and heal my heart. In His presence each experience turns into silent words fitly spoken.

 Jeri's LifeLight Postcard - poem on image of stone hall

Shame, the darkness of not “BEING” right. Satan first introduced it as a subtle thought to the perfect pair that God has just joyfully completed. Not “being” right in the not knowing. “Such a horrible state of being–Not knowing. Such an easy thing to fix.” Satan told the Eden Pair!

And shame was accepted when the satanic reflection was accepted. And change was sought. And God’s perfect work was thrown away for a change of “being” – a new knowledge.

And it seems God went into hiding after that. Not because He wanted to but the shame of not “being “ right made God an unwelcome visitor. Humankind had accepted the reflection instead of what was real. But it wasn’t God that held the mirror.

Jeri's Maze of Mirrors Postcard - Poem on Image of glasses & vases

And now life is full of mirrors.  Lost in a maze of mirrors we turn from side to side banging into the solidity of the deception in our attempts to find escape from shame. Many give up long before they find freedom. Many knock themselves out banging against what isn’t real.

Only as God begins to restore what is real can it be distinguished from the shameful reflections. Only His light shows the way through the mirrors that result in more shame.

We all experience in some way the maze of mirrors that magnifies our shame. We all need to find our way out of the maze and into freedom.

God did not leave us without a way to know freedom. He says it simple and plain. It is in Truth that we find freedom. Not reflected “truth” from any other human, only the Truth that He gives. Truth that is discerned deep within the individual heart and seen through eyes touched by the light heaven shines into the soul.

Positioning is the main tool we have to access this healing. And the starting position is pretty low. Much lower than we find comfortable. Much lower than our protective minds are willing to take. Heaven knew we needed a friend in low places. And so one came and went there in the agony of shame. So we could go there too. And know the joy of resurrection. Today the Conqueror of Shame gives us hope. Only HE knows the way out of this mirror maze.

“He Endured the Shame for the Joy that was set before Him.”

Jeri's Image of the Desert will blossom Postcard

Yom Kippur Atonement
by JerryAnn Berry

With a long list of sins
I come to you
Not because you demand me to eat crow.
But because I know
You hold the fuller’s soap
The refiner’s fire
The Life giving blood.
I can exchange this dead stuff for
Your light
Your goodness
Your joy
Your restoration.
The closer I get to you
The more I see Your goodness.
My stack of “important” sins
Trickles through my fingers
Like sand.
You have forgiven them already.

I just needed to see
You had the way
to put them in the
Bottom of the sea.
Where all sand should be.
No condemnation here.
Only life and the beautiful curl of a wave
Glistening in the Son’s light.

Jeri's image of Hatteras Sunrise

A Love that Hides

His heart burned with love and there was no cure. Night and day the glory of it consumed his being. Tortuous burning. White hot and pure. He longed to communicate, to reach out, to touch, and to finally know that he had been heard and perhaps, just perhaps, been understood. The burning never ended and the glory only blinded. Could he love without destroying? At times, with the passing of years, loneliness engulfed him, pulled at his heart, and strung it out into strands of aching flesh. He knew her by name.

“Oh, my darling, my darling! How often I would have gathered you . . . .”

toes under dress

He wondered, watched, and waited. On sunlit days he left armfuls of flowers on her doorstep.

cerastium-arvense

sainfoin

On rainy ones, he sent playful ducklings to splash in her pond. Often, he wrote kind, encouraging words and placed them for delivery in the hands of a friend. And the fire continued to burn.

“If for a moment I would go up among you, I would consume you.”

Lyn's Ocean 6

One day in a nearby shop, he purchased a painting of a sunset glowing over the ocean. He wrapped his gift and as he gave directions to her cottage, he glanced toward it and caught a glimpse of a pensive face peeping through the curtain. She had grown aware of his presence. On another day he saw a smile like an angel brightening her window. From then on, he tuned his ear to hear her voice. It came like a siren’s call, like a prayer in the night.

“Please, show me your glory.”

Would she live through the burning? He thought not. His love was too intense. If she looked at the fire in his eyes, if she so much as saw his face, she would shrink from the truth shining there. Better that he and not she be tortured. Perhaps she would feel secure with friends nearby, but it was she who had called, not them. A boundary might help to keep others safely away from their sacred rendezvous. He would build a fence in the valley. The two of them would meet on top of a mountain.

“Set limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.”

Shining rock with flowers

He knew just the place. It was a shining rock of granite kind of place. Fir trees grew from crags with plenty of places to hide. He could protect her there, for he knew of a cleft just her size. Inside lay a rock, smooth for her feet. She could stand on that rock. But what could he show her and how? How much of his heart could he reveal? Love, after all, must protect.

“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name.”

The day came. The fog lifted in wisps and uncovered the cerulean sky.

coniferous-trees

Granite shone in the sunlight. Breaths of the firs’ clean fragrance drifted down. Slowly, cautiously his beloved picked her way up the mountain trail. Her gossamer gown swished over slender toes while bird’s song lilted a welcome. She loosened her shawl. When at last she stood beside the rock, his voice was strong yet tender.

Quartz outcrop

Look beside you, my darling. There is a place near me where you can stand. There on that smooth rock. Now, while my glory passes by, I will lift you into that cleft and cover you with my hand. Don’t be afraid. Once I pass, I will take away my hand. You cannot yet see my face and the truth that is in my eyes. It is too bright and it burns too deep.”

His beloved complied. He began to pass in front of her with his warm hand, like a shield of protection, over her eyes. At last he spoke the words that had burned for an eternity inside his mind:

“I am your true Love. Your Love, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. I keep this steadfast love for thousands, for you and for all of your friends in the valley below. I forgive their iniquity, transgression, and sin, yet I am honest about such things. Such things have consequences that sometimes linger for several generations.”

His hand left her face and, overcome with awe, she fell upon the rock. When she could finally speak, it was in hushed tones. Tears streamed down her radiant cheeks. “Your love is beyond measure. Please, forgive my reluctance. Forgive my blindness. Forgive me and my friends.”

“Ah, my love. Listen here!” His voice held her transfixed. “I am making a vow to you, a covenant. Just you wait and see. Before long all the people you are among will see the results of my love in you, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. An awesome thing indeed. Go now. Go back knowing my presence will be with you and I will give you rest.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Saturated in love, she skipped down the mountain. She neared the fence in the valley. When she came into view, her friends gasped. Their hands flew to their mouths and they stepped back in horror. Her face was ablaze. She stopped, covered her face with her shawl, and wondered at their fear.

Today my insides burn
I must do something
  I must create
I cannot burn up
I must give the fire some escape
I must create

From my perspective, God’s true character of love fits into math’s Transitive Property of Equations, a =  b = c:
God = A consuming fire. (Heb 12:29)
God = love  (John 4:8)
Therefore God’s Consuming Fire = God’s Love

And it’s nothing to be afraid of!

 

See Luke 13:33, Ex. 19, 33, & 34

A Thousand Ways

(This story, shared after last Thursday’s blog, “Partial to Kids,” is a present day — as in last week — God-timed event. Thank you, Breta, for sharing. It’s been a crazy full week for me. I’ve been praying for a story or not, as the Father provides. I have not rewritten this. The story is worthy as is. So is the One who opens his hands and provides every good thing!)

image of Sunflower with Ps 145:15,16 caption

Breta writes:

What a timely message! What an awesome God and what a godly heritage. If you don’t mind I would like to share a current events story from my life that has the same theme–long-range answers, godly heritage.

Two weeks ago, I was really stressed over our finances. When one has cut all the corners they can see and carefully worked out a budget and there is no way that income matches need, then what? Like Bruce’s parents, I’ve been trying to make the difference in children’s lives. One in particular has added multiple financial challenges lately. So I wrote it all out and “mailed” it to God. I spent about a week struggling to trust that my “mail” was received. I added a page to my prayer notebook simply titled “God’s Thousand Ways” where I can record all the financial ways that God provides for my needs. Almost immediately, I had several simple answers and then…

On Thursday, the 11th, I had a call from a lawyer in Tyler, Texas. “We are looking for the heirs of [he gave the name].”

“Yes, that was my grandfather.”

“Did you know that your grandfather held mineral rights to a 26 acre farm in Marion County, Texas?”

“Yes, I know that.”

image of Car Oil splashing

A half hour of intense questions followed: What other heirs might exist? Where is your mother’s probated will? Where is your sister’s death certificate recorded? By Friday noon, all the legal papers had been signed and notarized. I should have a lease check before this week is out from a company planning to drill for oil on a piece of property near Jefferson, Texas.. Additional monies to be accrued if and when they find oil.

That may or may not be a long-range answer to the letter I mailed. I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, but at least I will get through another month and my strength has been renewed to believe the rest will be covered in God’s own way, and in His own time.

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12&13

“Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:3

Promise Power image of road through Woods & Jn. 15:7

You, most likely, have your own story of God’s perfect timing, answered prayer, or how he showed you a new glimpse of himself.  Please share! Make KNOWN his deeds!  Click here and share your God story.

Partial to Kids

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14

The year was 1954.

Clara raised her three children in the apartment above the garage while Hartman, her husband, ground out hours of labor establishing a business below. Most weeks the help was paid more than the boss.

Image of Roses

Late at night with their three little ones tucked into bed, the two of them sat at the kitchen table and calculated income by lamplight. Barely enough. Just like her depression-era childhood when her family of nine gathered around a table to eat popcorn and milk. The only food in the house. Giving up was not in Clara’s genes.

Hartman shouldered another day’s work. Clara prayed and sang while she cooked, cleaned, and loved her babes. At dusk, she heard her children’s prayers.

“Dear Jesus.” Six year old Bruce’s innocent voice diffused a warmth that radiated her heart, setting it aglow. “Dear Jesus, we need more money.” The word had gotten out. “Please give Daddy one hundred thousand dollars.”

Image of Prayer-Boy kneeling at bed

Bruce finished his prayer and crawled between the sheets. “That’s lots of money, huh, Momma?”

“Really, sweetie, it’s not a lot of money, not with what your Daddy is trying to do.”

Another day passed. Clara spent it deep in thought. God, I know you can answer my little boy’s prayer, but how?

Another night. Another bedtime.

“Dear Jesus, Daddy needs lots and lots of money. Please give him a million, zillion dollars.” Bruce had been thinking his own thoughts.

His eyes, full of trust, opened. His earnest face turned to hers. “I know Jesus can answer my prayer, Momma. I know he can.”

“When Jesus gives us this money where do you want him to put it?” Perhaps logic would prepare him for disappointment. Prepare her.

“Oh, he can put it back by the rose-bush. Back in the property behind the garage.” He waved his hand. “Back there.” Catching his hand, she kissed right over his grubby fingernails and hugged her only son goodnight.

The year was 2009.

Bruce hunkered over a sheaf of estate documents, wills and such, with the names of Clara and Hartman written all over them. Both parents gone within one year. Gone, yet the impact of their full lives on their loved ones, the prayers they had answered for students struggling to get an education, and the endless donations and personal time they had spent for the good of others would never be forgotten.

Bruce sighed as he leafed through the papers and shouldered this new responsibility. It was huge, but giving up was not in his genes.

A lease contract caught his eye. One with a substantial, steady flow of income on a piece of what was now his and his sisters’ property. His parents had bought it when he was six or seven. He couldn’t remember.

image of Roses

“Want to buy this piece of land behind your garage?” Their neighbor had asked his dad. “Just make the payments and in a few years, you’ll have credit and can get a loan to finish the purchase.”

Bruce took off his glasses and brushed the moisture from his eyes. Like a child at his mother’s knee, he reached out in humble trust.

“That was your answer, wasn’t it, God? That piece of property, back behind the rosebush, that land was your answer. Never thought of it before, but right now, when I need it most, you remind me. You open my eyes. Now I see just how you answered a little boy’s prayer.”

 

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Mark 10:15

Image of Jesus and children

A God with a Purpose

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

It had been a long seven years for Bobbi, but she never looked back. Schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, Age Related Dementia, Dysphagia, C.O.P.D, and Congestive Heart Failure were just a few of the challenges she had faced while caring, in her home, for her father-in-law. Feelings of inadequacy and imperfection had surfaced as the years stretched on. Every time they raised their ugly head, she cried out to God for his strength and comfort. Every time he assured her that he was near and that taking care of family was her highest calling.

Rodger 2

Rodger

Now, the man who had consumed every ounce of her energy was gone. Flowers faded on his grave. Her house breathed stillness. Blessed quiet. Time to write, grieve, and recover. And her book was born.

Several states away, Bobbi’s sister had experienced her own care-giving challenges: A mother in law with Alzheimer’s, two teenagers, two pre-teens, plus a daughter who moved in with her baby girl. Bobbi and she had often chuckled about her “girls in diapers.” Her sister belonged, as full-fledged member, to the Sandwich Generation. Like Bobbi, she took care of family.

Bobbi dreamed of writing a series on care-giving. She called her sister.

“Hey, Sis. I’ve been thinking about a book, one we could write together. Your story needs to be told. I’m done with my book. What do you say?”

Silence.

Had Bobbi offended her? Did her sister want to write the book alone?

“Sis?”

A sniffle from across the miles traveled straight into Bobbi’s heart.

“Oh, Bobbi.” Her sister gained composure. “You have no idea what this means. I’ve been offered a promotion at work and I’ve been praying, praying, praying. I’ve been impressed that my purpose in life is not a fancy job. It’s service to others. And now, right now, when I need it most, my sister phones and answers my prayer. You have just reaffirmed my calling.”

Today, two women are engrossed in a collective, creative work because they love God and are called according to his purpose.

Bobbi

Bobbi

Are you called according to his purpose? How do you know?

What IS his purpose?

He answers that question in Romans 8:26-39. There we can begin to understand what kind of purpose motivates our God and Lord. It’s the same kind of purpose to which he calls you.

His purpose is to:

Help us in our weakness (vs 26)
Intercede for us (vs 27)
Work things together for good (vs. 28)
Conform us to the image of his Son (vs 29)
Call, justify, and glorify us (vs 30)
Be FOR us (vs 31)
Graciously give us all things (vs 32)
Make us more than conquerors through all trials (vs 35-37)
Allow nothing to separate us from his love (vs 35 -27)

Whenever you are uncertain of your calling, review those verses.

Then ask yourself. Does my passion include helping others in their weakness?

Does it include

Interceding?
Working things out for others good?
Conforming to Christ’s image?
Accepting God’s call, justification, and glorification?
Being FOR other humans?
Giving?
Conquering trials?
Clinging by faith to his love?

If your answer is YES, then indeed your calling, no matter how insignificant it appears, is according to his purpose. Follow that calling with full assurance and never look back.

Bobbi’s book, Confessions of the Imperfect Caregiver, can be purchased on Amazon. Click here.  Visit her blog by clicking here.

 

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