Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An unexpected visit

Studying European history one summer when I was in college, I had the privilege to participate in a seminar group.  One morning, our agenda included a visit to a rather ordinary watch shop, small and ancient with creaky floors and narrow winding stairs.  I had no idea who we were visiting, nor the significance of this old house, brimming with stories.

At one landing, a living room was situated, illuminated by a large bay window on the street side and decorated with well-worn old furniture.  Over by the window sat an old woman, her silver hair braided into ring around the top of her head, like one of my great aunts used to wear.  I stood in the back of the room, and literally, this ancient woman radiated with joy and love.  I was captivated.  And although that was decades ago, I still remember distinctly what she said to this group of college-age students.  I was still a teenager.

"You, all of you are so young.  Don't wait until you are old like me to be used by God," she said in heavily-accented English.

I had just met Corrie Ten Boom.

That summer, I read her own incredible story in The Hiding Place, and thereafter, about every year or so.  It is that good.

This chronicle of faithfulness will take your breath away.  Don't just put it on a list to read when you get around to it.  Put it in your hands, just one chapter a day.

"Childhood scenes rushed back at me out of the night, strangely close and urgent.  Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.  I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do."

--Corrie Ten Boom
The Hiding Place
page 15

God redeems the past into the future.
God transforms the ordinary
                 into the extraordinary.
God equips in incredible ways
      to be used mightily by Him.

As for you,
you meant evil against me,
but God meant it
                 for good,
to bring it about
that many people
    should be kept alive,
as they are today.

                 Genesis 50.20

Friday, May 16, 2014

Not easily forgotten

I'm majoring in the basics this week, caring for my bedridden daughter and her family, helping them to keep their heads above water as they navigate through a tough situation.  As one of our other daughters jests about this season of life, "A successful day is when the children are fed and you even get a shower."

Yesterday, I took fifteen-month old Adrian to his doctor for a checkup and his vaccination shots.  Afterwards, we maneuvered through the grocery store, dangerously without a list.  On the way home, he was a bit cranky from the shots and the lack of a nap.  I began to sing children's songs out loud to soothe him.  As I sang "Jesus loves me" over and over, he calmed down and settled into a deep sleep, comforted and secure.

And the words of that song from my childhood so very long ago spoke to Adrian, but I was impacted as well as I drove and sang even after Adrian fell asleep.  It is not just a children's song, but that which is not easily forgotten.  Jesus loves me too.  That is what the Bible is all about, a scarlet thread that runs from the first page to the last.

And that truth made a significant difference in my day.
That truth has made a significant difference in my life.

Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak,
        but He is strong.

To Him who loves us...

               Revelation 1.5

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Through the eyes of a toddler

Adrian is now fifteen months old, curious and exploring.  Anything and everything attracts his attention.  Our daughter says that he plays with everything except his toys.  Indeed, he has carried around a small shoe box for days, stopping every few minutes to put something in it, and a few minutes later, take everything out.

He is learning through everything he examines or plays with.  That is what a toddler does.

He learns in all he does.

May we be aware of the same.

What can I learn in this situation,
        in this work,
    in this relationship today?
What is God teaching me
            to be more like Him?

The LORD is merciful
             and gracious,
slow to anger
and abounding
        in steadfast love.

                Psalm 103.8

Monday, May 12, 2014

Being bold

God calls us to be different,
not in a weird sort of way,
but bold in loving Him
by being bold in loving others,
and kind.
It is not just being responsive
                     to obvious need,
but seeking out opportunities.

How can I love others today?
LORD, give me a heart
                   to know how.
Even now.
Even here.
Even that person.

Love them back.

Let the redeemed of the LORD
                          say so.
                       Psalm 107.2

Let the redeemed of the LORD
                          reveal so.

What does being redeemed look like?

Not just being nice,
     but loving boldly.
Because you can.

A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another;
    even as I have loved you,
that you also love one another.
By this
all men will know
that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.

                     John 13. 34-35

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Unexpected finds on the side of the road

I have learned as I drive through wooded areas to keep my eyes alert to all that is around me.  The trees often form an arch over the roadway, and particularly this time of year, it appears as if I am driving through a cathedral.  And the other day, I saw a mama black bear and her two cubs meandering alongside the road, off in the trees, eating their way through the forest.

The unexpected appeared on my path this week also in another way.  One of our daughters is 24 weeks pregnant, and as of last week, she is confined to bed rest for the duration of her pregnancy.  I am now in Nashville, helping her out, keeping our fourteen-month-old grandson out of trouble.

And so, God places something else on my radar, not what I expected, but in His purposes.  And in this too, He will redeem and fulfill in unexpected ways.

It may have been a change in my plans,
         but not in His.

Eyes open,
    hands ready,
        heart on the alert.

God delights in providing the unexpected
     and redeeming impossible situations.
And sometimes,
             He uses you to do it.

What has God put on YOUR radar,
      who has He put on your path? whatever your hand finds to do,
               for God is with you.

                          1 Samual 10.7

He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land
    into springs of water.

                       Psalm 107.35

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Praying my way through

When we pray,
God almost always directs
               in unexpected ways,
not that doors open before us,
    but that my heart is open to His will,
    not mine.
That is when I can see passages
               all around me.
His ways are higher,
sometimes a broad highway
                     full speed ahead,
more often a quiet pathway,
following a scarlet thread
     woven in a way,
     in places,
              I can never imagine.
“This way, walk in it,”
           a hidden passageway
    only He could know,
which all along
      I have been traveling toward.
The destination is not the answer,
        but to be found in Him.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Path We Least Expect

Those quiet walkways,
       those ordinary days,
are most often
           the most profound of all.

He leads me besides still waters.
He restores my soul.

                     Psalm 23. 2-3

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Making Sense

I spent several days with our fourteen-month-old grandson Adrian last week, developing my relationship with him and getting to know him a little bit better.  He loves sitting on his floor, “reading” books.  Indeed, he opens his thick-paged books and studies the pages as intently as an undergraduate before a final exam.  It is as if he is memorizing each picture, and then he turns the page to study yet another.

“You wonder what is going on in that little mind of his,” our daughter remarked one morning as Adrian was “reading” at the breakfast table.

Adrian recognizes common objects in his storybooks, pointing to the pictures and identifying a few verbally:  ball, book, dog, cat, and flower.  He looks at the pictures. the written words now appearing to him as mere lines across the page, that which doesn’t make sense to him at all. 

He learns gradually by seeing pictures and hearing the rhythms and tones and rhymes of the voice reading to him.  Bit by bit, he will make a connection between the text and the spoken word.  (And as his cousins Maggie and Howie do, he too will eventually correct Gramma when she skips even one little word.)

It is not that those scribbles on the page don’t make sense.  It is just far beyond his toddler capabilities to comprehend at this point.  He hasn’t yet made those vital connections.

Someday he will understand.

And someday,
     so will we.

In Scripture,
I have always understood
   the “sacrifice of thanksgiving”  to mean
praising God even before the outcome is obvious,
    because He is good,
          even when we don’t comprehend

Thank God for the things
    you may never understand
    on this side of life.

It is not that God will unravel the mysteries,
taking apart the who,
and how,
but God will reveal
       that they are  seamlessly connected
                                              after all.

He is redeeming them
                                 even now.

This is how one should regard us,
as servants of Christ
and stewards
     of the mysteries of God.

             1 Corinthians 4.1

Monday, May 5, 2014

Where the Wild(flowers) Are

My husband Bill and I went for a hike yesterday on a trail known for its springtime display of wildflowers.  At first we walked at a pace conducive to a fitness hike.  The sunlight cut through the trees like a spotlight on a incredible arrangement of new greenery.  As we trekked along the trail, the landscape looked like an elaborate green carpet, comprised of a random selection of plants.

But then we slowed down to a crawl, examining the tiny flowers around us, looking up each one in a field guide, and identifying each type by the shape of the bloom, the colors, and the attachment of leaves. As we looked closer, the green came alive.  There was no randomness here at all, but a precious collection of flowers, identifiable by the intricacy of design, each one carrying the distinct markings of a family, every plant personalized.  They all had names.

As we were passing a young couple on the trail, the young man asked us with excitement if we had seen the Jack in the Pulpit by the side of the trail, a hundred feet back.  He pulled out his phone and showed us a picture of the plant.  "They are rare," he said.  "I haven't seen one in five years."  We traipsed back, and sure enough, nestled among some wild violets, we spotted the small plant.

"Hike like a three year old," Bill remarked.  We know how slow three-year-old grandchildren walk, looking  closely at every pebble and bug and flower.  "What is that?"  "Look at this."  And Howie's favorite, "What dat called?"  I hope that we never lose that sense of wonder.

We returned mid-afternoon from our jaunt through nature, marveling at the beauty we saw.  And as I rambled alongside the cabin, picking up sticks blown down from a storm, I saw the wildness of our own backyard with different eyes.

Dwarf crested irises surrounded the big tree in our side yard.  And I saw enormous pink, yellow and white Trilliums that would have dwarfed the ones we saw on the trail. 

Both underneath the deck and over by the woodpile, I immediately spotted two Jack in the Pulpits, which I am sure I have passed by a hundred times, not knowing what they were.

We didn't need to travel anywhere at all to discover what is rare and beautiful.  Our culture and our own ambitions push us to keep our eyes on the next yard over, always looking for the next step, or pursuing the next season of our lives.  And we miss what is right before our eyes, precious, good and full of wonder.

And so, this morning, as I prayed to be sensitive to the next step God has for us, I stopped mid-sentence, and prayed that God would fulfill this step.  I don't want to miss it.

...yet you have brought us forth
        to a spacious place.

                       Psalm 66.12

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Spider and the Snake

Our oldest daughter’s family spent a week at our cabin recently.  When we returned late one night, we turned back the covers to get in bed, exhausted from a long day of driving.  And on my pillow was a large fuzzy spider, and on my husband’s pillow was a coiled snake.  In this case, it was not a cause of alarm, but a joke concocted  by the minds of our four year old granddaughter and three year old grandson.  These fearful objects were just old Beany Baby stuffed animals from the toy chest.

They were not real, but just the product of an entrepreneur’s imagination.  Indeed, the snake was even smiling – in a good sort of way.

I crawled in bed, still chuckling.  And I thought about all the ridiculous things that I have feared through the years, products of my own imaginings.   A house always creaks most in the middle of the night.  Dark shadows appear when my confidence wanes.  Phantoms from my past threaten to emerge out of nowhere at the most inconvenient moments.  And of course, the biggest fear, able to adhere itself to any situation, “What if….?”

We all have a list of fearful things that when revealed we lament, “I was afraid of that??!!”

Know your fears. Know when to flee for your life.

Know when to laugh.

The fear of man lays a snare,
but he who trusts in the LORD
                                       is safe.
                Proverbs 29.25

Friday, May 2, 2014

Traveling mercies

God never leads into the unknown,
but only into what
            I don't know yet.
God does not guide me into mystery,
       but only into trusting Him more.
He does not just go with me,
but before me,
behind me,
around me,
          and within.
He is not even limited by time,
  and I have only
      a toddler's conception of it.
God moves freely in eternity,
and I cannot even know
   what the next hour will bring.
He cares even when I don't understand,
He leads me through impossible seas,
              through the valley of scary places,
     and not just to the mountaintop,
              but moves them when necessary,
     sometimes when I am not even aware.
God weaves
         a quilt of His redeeming,
and future together
               in His grace,
       wrapped around us.
I have only to follow Him into it.
Does not the LORD
      go out before you?

                   Judges 4.14