Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ready and watching

My husband and I are visiting his parents this week who live in a progressive care community for the elderly.  As we are staying with them in their apartment, we have been able to meet many of the people who live around them, interacting with these individuals in the hallways, elevators and at meals.

There are those who quietly move about, those who not so quietly complain about everything, and then again those who are not just thinking about their own aches and pains.

Yesterday in the hallway, we met Ann, a quiet older single woman. When we were introduced, she had a few flowers in her hand. And as we entered the elevator, she joined us, no longer with her bouquet.  She asked my mother in law about her upcoming knee surgery.

When we entered their apartment, my mother in law said, "I don't know where she gets them, but she brings flowers to anyone she knows is in need of encouragement."

After listening to a gruff fellow complaining in the lunchroom, Ann was a breath of fresh air.

Later as we left for a doctor's appointment, there by the door was a small bud vase with a few stems of sweet flowers, an intentional kindness just waiting to be discovered.  There was no note. There was no need of one. It was just a quiet encouragement from the generous heart of someone ready and watching.

Kindness is never random.  It is intentional.  And it always bears fruit.

Being nice is convenient.
Kindness costs something.
Grace is the most expensive watch in the case.

And the king said,
"Is there not still someone 
of the house of Saul,
that I may show
the kindness of God to him?"

                2 Samuel 9. 3

Who has God placed
             on my path today?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Go, come, flee

Many years ago, I was walking on a sidewalk with a friend and our young children, heading toward a playground a few blocks away.  I was in unfamiliar territory, visiting a city that I did not know.  I was a bit nervous as the children began to run down the sidewalk ahead of us.  An intersection was ahead.  As they approached the corner, my friend suddenly whistled loudly, one of those shrieking whistles that you would hear at a sporting event, a shattering sound unexpectedly coming from this tiny woman.

Her son, who was probably five years old at the time, stopped on a dime.  A complete full stop.  No questions asked.  And waited for his mom.  I will never forget the immediacy of his obedience. Very impressive, but that which also possessed the potential of being at some time the difference between life and death.

And when he obeyed immediately, it impacted and protected others, because everyone around him stopped too.

None of us have any idea the proverbial truck or bus hurtling toward us.  But we can read God's Word, listen for God's voice, and obey on a dime.  No questions necessary.  If God's Word says no, if He guides me on an unexpected path or blocks my way, there is not just a reason for it, but God has purpose in it, an infinite number of designs I cannot fathom.

Sometimes He says "go," sometimes "come," and sometimes "run for your life."  No time for explanation, no space for delay, but just "trust Me."

The reason may someday be evident, but sometime there are deep dimensions we will not know until the other side of life.  But this I can know and stake my life on:  "For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever."  Psalm 117. 2.  In all things, over all things, even in mystery.

Yesterday I watched as two of our young grandchildren ran, slid and explored a playground.  They were having so much fun.  I heard a scratching sound on the plastic roof over one section of the playground equipment. When the sound caught my attention a second time, I looked up to see what it was.  There was a large bat caught in one of the ventilation holes, desperately struggling to get loose.  I don't know about you, but the mere sight of a bat is enough to send me running, let alone one that is flailing.

I grabbed my little grand daughter into my arms and called out to her very active brother who was playing like only a three year old can.  "I need you to come right away," I called out to him.  He had no idea what was happening.  He was in his element on this play equipment.  What would possess me to stop his play? Why would I want him to stop having fun?

But he came.  I led him away from the play area.  And then, away from the risk, I was able to tell him why, even though he still could not see it.  He just had to trust me.

O LORD, You want me to do what?

And what if I knew that I was on a path of danger?  Or someone else around me?
It is not that there might be things I do not see, but there always are

Obedience is never arbitrary.  

And all these blessings
   shall come upon you
              and overtake you,
if you obey
   the voice of the LORD your God.

                       Deuteronomy 28. 2

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The rock and the hard place

One of the things that I love about the Bible is that it's filled with real life and ordinary people in tough situations.  The stories of God's faithfulness are almost always in desperate places, between a rock and a hard place, between a deep sea and a huge army bearing down, between life and death, between fear and trembling.

Those hardships were not the end of life as they knew it,
      but the Presence of God in it.
These impossible places
          are not part of His story even for you,
      but His continual revealing.
God doesn't work in parts
                   but the whole of eternity.

We just don't see it yet.

Fifteen years ago, our family was in one of those hard places. My husband was quite suddenly looking for work.  As the time passed, we stopped seeking answers from God and began seeking God Himself in it, trusting Him step by step, day by day.  Several months into this, a pastor mentioned in a sermon, "And when you get to the end of this, you will have a story of God's faithfulness."  I wrote it down and posted that encouragement by our kitchen sink, until our youngest daughter reminded me by saying, "That's not true, mom.  Every day is a story of God's faithfulness."

And sometimes it takes the rock and the hard place
               for us to realize that.

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the. LORD,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock
           into a pool of water,
the flint into a spring of water.

                         Psalm 114. 7-8

God surprises us.
God delights in going before us,
in ushering us into His Presence.
God, is that You?
"I couldn't wait until you got here, My child.
    Everything is ready.
                               Watch this!"

God delights in providing the unexpected
                         in impossible places.
Between a rock and the hard place,
    finding not despair,
                  but blessing in some dimension.

It is not
    "always look on the bright side of life,"
according to Monty Python,
nor look for some kind of artificial silver lining,
nor even "thinking positively".

But know and grasp with both hands
            the reality of God
even in this,
even in what we cannot yet understand.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The taste and the aftertaste

One of my favorite things is trying a new dish at a restaurant, savoring a new combination of ingredients and trying to identify new flavors.  What I taste appears before me on the plate.  What I remember --the aftertaste--is what lingers.

What prevails in our circumstances is both a taste and an aftertaste that lasts a very long time.  It is not just a memory, but often what shapes a life.  We all remember things that have been said to us that have either wounded us ...or built within us a strength.  More often than not, the purveyor of those words has NO idea the impact of those, often casually said, words.

Lashing out always leaves a wake of destruction in its path.  Always. Guaranteed.

But grace?

Grace reverberates for generations.  Grace heals.  Grace redeems. Grace restores.

I often told our girls that there were some things in my control, and some things were not.  What influences a situation most of all is not the circumstances nor the fault of other people but my own attitude.  One of my favorite quotes comes from teacher and pastor Chuck Swindoll:

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  It will make or break a company ...a church...a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.  I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.  And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes."

I can pass the blame
      or put on a different attitude in this.

Whatever I face today,
   may I seek the things above where Christ is.
May His Spirit invade,
and intercede.

No matter what.

Rule in the midst of your foes.

                            Psalm 110. 2

Rise above the turmoil,
choose the high road through it,
and bring grace by the boatload.

What is that flavor I taste?
What aftertaste is left behind?
That which is bitter
        or what redeems?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The other Mother's Day gift

It's not too late.
You still have the time,
for that which you can't afford
                                 not to do.
The sweetest sound
           in a mama's ears,
"Just callin'
for no reason at all."

The other day, I overheard a young woman
in the park, saying,
     "...I just wanted to call my mom."
Me too.
My mom passed to the other side of life
      now eleven years ago.
I would love to call my mom,
                       just because,
just wondering
                   what's up?
And know I love you
        in case you forgot.

Call your mom,
while she is still with you,
while you can,
when you can.
For nothin' at all,
         for everything.

I have no idea your relationship with your mom.
But as I have become older,
          I see my own mom in a different light.
She was imperfect.
She did what she thought was
          the right thing to do at the time
     which often didn't look like it, then or now,
those things I could not understand,
               but God has redeemed.

I have a lot more grace for her these days,
as I realize even more my own glaring imperfections,
my obvious mistakes,
my regrets,
my own misunderstood words and actions.

Your mama
          is always your mama.
No matter what.
And perhaps that is why God said,
"Honor your father and your mother,"
not because that changes her
      but ultimately, changes me
and how I love others.
       We are all imperfect, but forgiven.
Forgiving is laying down the baggage,
   letting go of the bitterness,
   not moving on and leaving behind,
                   but moving toward,
even when there is no response,
or no one picks up.
Those little calls
those little seeds of grace
work to change lives
                for generations
        because God changes you through it.

Mother's Day was created to say
           "I love you, mom."
The rest of the year is designed
                   to show her.

Call her often,
on the everydays
       that are not so ordinary after all,
not for what she can do for you,
              but because you can,
while you can. 

After my mother passed away,
I began calling my dad
at a certain time every morning,
    when he was so alone in his apartment,
    right before he ate lunch.
Often his news was the same
                 as the day before.
But no matter,
             it mattered.
             It mattered more than I could know.
     God used those calls
     to stitch up our relationship
and banish the silence between us.

It didn't just change his day.
                    It changed me,
an investment I can see now,
     in the lives of those who come after me.

Honor your father and mother
--which is the first commandment
                    with a promise --
so that it may go well with you
and that you may enjoy
            long life on the earth.

                   Ephesians 6. 1-3
                   Exodus 20.12
                   Deuteronomy 5. 16

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Dog-eared pages

"We cannot all argue,
       but we can all pray;
we cannot all be leaders,
       but we can all be pleaders;
we cannot all be mighty in rhetoric,
but we can all be prevalent in prayer."

               -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Friday, May 6, 2016

Just keeping on

There are times in life,
seasons in being,
days when I am not quite sure where I am heading,
even what I am doing
       of any significance
       if at all.
But I can be assured
    that God works much deeper
   than what appears on the surface,
        beyond my own myopic eyes.

When I follow God just one little step,
what He places in front of me
         or that which sneaks into my heart,
He takes care of the outcome.
Take one little step of obedience,
    and the next step rises to the surface.

I read in the Wall Street Journal yesterday morning
about 85 year old Ed Whitlock who runs
and sets incredible records in his races,
faster than I could ever dream of running.

His training secret?
"Small loops for hours on end,"
             he revealed.

Endurance is established
           in our own lives,
God's strength in us,
through small obediences day by day,
sometimes a delight,
sometimes as Whitlock admits about training,
"...kind of a drudge."

But God uses
   even those drudge days.
God redeems
even what we cannot yet understand.

Faithfulness to God
       always bears fruit,
and through it,
God increases strength.

It is not the big events,
the marathons,
the crowds,
that bring Him glory,
but the small loops of faithfulness
      for hours on end.

There are no ordinary days
        in His sight.

And the LORD
    made His people very fruitful,
and made them stronger
               than their foes.

                        Psalm 105. 24