Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Because the cookies won't last

When our oldest daughter went off to college, a long five and a half hours away, I felt a strong need to send her something more than an occasional care package.

Soon after she left, I read a particularly poignant verse while reading the Bible that morning, a verse that I wanted to share to encourage her as she began her college life.  Those were the ancient days before most people had cell phones.  Texting had not been invented.  And phone calls were limited to when she was actually in her room to answer the landline -- which was not very often.

But we had email.

And so, that morning, I sent her an encouraging verse of scripture. And in the subject line, I typed, "du jour."  A verse for the day!

The next morning, I did the same. And the next.  And the next. And the next.  She rarely responded, but occasionally, she would send me a note, "That was EXACTLY what I needed today."  God's Word encouraged and strengthened her in both quiet and mighty ways, supplementing her own pursuit in Scripture.  And sometimes in her busyness, it was the only Word that she carried with her into her day.

When our next daughter went off to college, I added her email address to "du jour."  And in turn, our next daughter.  And finally, our youngest.  Along the line, two son-in-laws were added to the list.  For a couple of years, two friends asked for the verses as they were going through tough seasons.

God's Word encourages, strengthens, guides us in the most intricate details of our lives.  God changes us through it.

To accomodate others who have desired this daily bit of Scripture, my other blog was born ( Click here to view today's verse or to subscribe yourself or a loved one to the daily email.

Because while I would love to send you -- or your college student -- some homemade cookies to encourage you, God's Word will last a lot longer in your life :)

Your Word is a lamp to my feet,
and a light to my path.

                       Psalm 119. 105

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Designed that way

Not that things would fall in place, but that Your incredible purposes are seamlessly woven together. 
Not that You would,
     but You are
     and You already have.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Direction, destination and everywhere between

Where am I supposed to be?

"Be found in Him."

                Philippians 3. 9

Saturday, September 12, 2015

All the direction I need

What do You want me to do today?

God answers,
                  "Be Mine."

That changes everything.

Friday, September 11, 2015

It came upon us suddenly

It was a crisp blue day, the trees just beginning to change.  Our girls had left for school.  I had a thousand items on my agenda to get done before they came drifting back.

And I snatched a moment to run.  I couldn't help but go.  It was the most beautiful of mornings.  I prayed and praised God as I ran.  That He was sustaining us through a tough year.  That He was....well, that He is God.

I returned and set down to work while still in my running clothes, refreshed and strengthened.  The phone rang.  And with that sound, so many things in our lives would change.

It was my mom -- little that I would know one of the last times she was fully coherent -- her voice desperate. She did not say hello.  "Where's Bill?" she asked.

"He's at work in Des Moines," I replied.  "Why?"

"You obviously have no idea what's going on," she nearly shouted in the phone.  "Turn on your tv."  And then, she hung up the phone.

I wandered downstairs into the gloom of the basement where our only tv occupied a place on a cabinet.  I turned the knob on.  The picture came on the screen.  A newscaster was walking onto the set with what looked like gravel on his head.  The towers had fallen.

Everything changed.

And yet, nothing has changed.

We live in a fallen world.  That much is obvious.

And God is still here to sustain us.

That should impact everything we do and say today.
That should make us different
             in how we respond,
      even in how we think.

not that we would be cognizant of You today
                    but attentive to You.
Not just aware of Your Presence,
          but changed by it.

The people who walked in darkness
      have seen a great light,
those who dwelt
            in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.

                           Isaiah 9. 2

That is why Jesus came.
The hope He offers is not wishful thinking
          but a reality
          on which you can stake your life.

"Let not your heart be troubled;
believe in God,
believe also in Me."

                        John 14. 1

When I noticed it was September 11 this morning, it stopped me for a moment.  What a pivotal time in our lives, I thought.  And then, I remembered what I had read that morning in Oswald Chamber's book My Utmost for His Highest:

If we do not do the running steadily in the little ways, we shall do nothing in the crisis.

The turning point in my life is not based on big events,
         but in faithfully following God
 in the everydays
and in the every ways.

But I will trust in You.

               Psalm 55. 23

Even now.
Even in this.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ten minutes on the couch, fifteen minutes on the floor

More than twenty years ago when I was teaching Bible study to a divergent group of young moms, I was telling one toddler-holding mom about some ordinary everyday adventure with one of our four school-age daughters.

She looked me in the eye.  "When do you start to develop a close relationship with your kids?" she asked, her eyes motioning towards her two year old daughter who was playing with a toy on the floor.

"Right now," I said.

This young mom wanted a formula -- do this, that and that -- when your kid is a certain age, and  out pops a intimate relationship and a perfect kid.

There are no magic buttons when it comes to parenting or any other kind of relationship, but some things nurture and others not so much.

One friend was distraught over her quiet son who had begun some not so pleasant patterns of behavior.  He was fine at school, but at home, constantly bickering and fighting with his two very vocal sisters.

"Ten minutes on the couch," I recommended.  "Spend ten minutes a day with him alone, one on one.  If the girls enter the room, tell them they'll have to wait.  This is your special time with their brother."

She rolled her eyes at me.

She began after school on an ordinary Tuesday, drawing her son over to the couch.  They began to talk about his day.   Sure enough, the girls burst into the room.  She began to get up, but then said, "You girls will have to wait.  This is Jack's turn."  As she turned back to him, his eyes were gleaming.

She emailed me, "You wouldn't believe the difference in our family."

In another family with small children, as soon as the dad gets home from work, he gets down on the floor and plays with the kids.  On. The. Floor.  Fifteen minutes.  The kids can't wait for him to get home.

I regret all the times when the girls wanted me to play Barbies with them.  And I was often too busy for that.  That is one of the things I wish I could rewind.  They went on and played.

But I was the one who missed out.

It is not that you should be in your kid's face all the time, but that there are everyday moments devoted to abide with them.  Not dependent on special big events, but the profound stuff of doing ordinary life together.

That is what relationship is all about.

Abide in Me...

          John 15. 4

Monday, September 7, 2015

Harvesting the crop

Two large black bags are stuffed in the garbage can at our daughter's house, filled with withering plants, the last vestiges of dirt clinging to their shallow roots. Yesterday, my daughter and I spent a sweaty afternoon together, talking, laughing, and harvesting the remains of her garden, mostly wilted and overgrown at this point.  Her garden was fargone, ready for a season to rest.

We saved the green pepper plants as they were still struggling to produce, but the remainder of the garden was ready for summer to be over.  Gangly and unruly tomato plants  hung over their wire cages, tired and bored.  A few ripening tomatoes were rescued, which we lined up on her outside table to redden on their own.  The lettuce and squash plants produced nothing all season, just taking up space.  The okra plant stood tall and barren, a few large woody pods clinging useless on the stalk. And a late starting poblano pepper plant grasped the chicken wire fence as if trying to compete in a race long over.  Weeds had begun to creep in from the edges.

It was Hannah's first attempt at a garden, her first opportunity to have a yard outside her window instead of a steamy asphalt parking lot. And so, in the dirt lining her back walkway, she planted a variety of vegetables, surrounding the plants with chicken wire to keep her dog from digging them up and planting cheery yellow marigolds on the perimeter to discourage the neighborhood rabbits.

We enjoyed peppers and fresh tomatoes all summer as she had more than she could possibly use.

She learned a lot this summer about what works best and how to provide enough space to grow.  There will be another garden next year filled with new plants, fresh possibilities, and lots of experience.

But had she not planted, there would have been no crops at all and only weeds.  She planted.  She watered.  And God gave the growth.

She really didn't know what to expect, but she planted as best she knew how.  And God redeemed her efforts.

What am I sowing?  What actions, what words, and the biggest crop of all -- my attitudes?  That which produces fruit or weeds?

That which is fruitful doesn't just come up on its own.

The point is this:
he who sows sparingly
    will also reap sparingly,
and he who sows bountifully
will also reap bountifully.
                 2 Corinthians 9. 6

Each day,
each relationship,
every opportunity,
        is a tender garden
for His glory.

Excuse me a minute. I have some seeds to sow
and some weeds to pull.