CALL ME BY NAME

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What’s in a name?

Whether it’s common or unique, a name carries great weight. I started every year of teaching Latin and Greek etymology by assigning my students an essay discussing the meaning of their names, and how they wanted to live up to (or apart from) the meaning. I was surprised how many had no clue as to their name’s origin. The assignment often sparked good conversations. Students with unique names for which no established meaning existed were required to decide what they wanted the name to symbolize and how they might live to confirm the meaning.

Undoubtedly, names carry connotations, good and bad. In naming our children, certain names were immediately crossed off as possibilities because of past interactions with like-named people. Huh-uh. No way, Hosea! We won’t stick that name on our little baby! XXXX 😉 Can you relate?

Always, always, always on notes to students on research papers, project rubrics, and as often as I could otherwise, I included the students’ names. Notes such as, “Great job, Kerri! I knew you could do it!” or “What a tremendous improvement, Matthew!” or “Thought-provoking point, Gretchen” may have looked like red ink graffiti, but I hope they carried the intended personalization to their hearts. The heart was, of course, what needed the deepest encouragement.

Even now, and even with as old-fashioned as my name may be, I love to hear “I love you, Linda” from my husband. The name makes me sure I’m the intended target. (Not that there’s any doubt, but still . . . . )

And, right about now is where you expect me to round the corner and make a spiritual application. So I won’t let you down.

Do you realize how many times God’s name is mentioned in His Word? Not just the almost “generic” terms we’ve come to traditionally use. His Name is not only God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, Saviour, Emmanuel, Eloheim, YAHWEH. He has many more names. Names which indicate His all-sufficient character.

We need every single one of these truths regarding Who He is, the Great I Am, to minister to our hearts. Not all at once. No. But each in its intended time. For its specific purpose. As needed.

It’s been a joy for me to meditate on the Names of my Lord. Each one magnifies my view of Him, of His continuing work in my life, His ability to meet my needs, and His graciousness to me. You may know some of the these, but I’ll list just a few with special significance to whet your appetite for more. Ready?

El Shaddai is used seven times in the Bible, exclusively in the book of Genesis. This Name means “All-sufficient One, Lord God Almighty.” Surely as we see the God of creation, we can have no doubt as to His sufficient ability to care for us, His beloved children! Praise His Name! That truth comforts my anxious spirit.

Jehovah Adonai, meaning “Lord and Master,” appears 434 times in Scripture. The name is used most frequently in Ezekiel where we repeatedly read the phrase “that they may know I am the Lord.” He IS the Master of all. Acknowledging His Lordship in my life works out much more beneficially than resisting His leadership. This Name increases my submission and humility.

Jehovah-Raah is used in Psalm 23. Know what it means? The Lord is my Shepherd. What joy to recognize the intimacy indicated by this Name. He cares for me, feeds me, and enjoys my companionship. So sweet.

Jehovah Rapha is His Name in Exodus 15:26. “God my Healer!” Amen! No one else can minister healing to my body and spirit as my great God can. He can even heal my broken heart.

Jehovah Mekoddishkem occurs twice in the Scripture. The Name means “The Lord Who sanctifies you or makes you holy.” What a tremendous comfort to know He’s still working on me. I’m a work in progress by His cleansing hand! I’m not counting on my own ability to improve. I’m drawing daily nearer to the One Who will accomplish His work in my heart. What a relief to know this truth!

I’m having trouble getting stopped with my list, but I’ll share one more. Jehovah Jireh means “the Lord will provide.” I will never have a need He cannot meet. The Name is used only once, but it was given at the time God met Abraham on Mount Moriah, imminently stopping the sacrifice of Isaac, and promising His substitutionary death for the world. That’s enough for me! How about you? And it’s all in His matchless Name!

The Names of God are probably even more valuable to us than to Him! Satan doesn’t want us to call The Lord by His Name. I’ll bet he quakes when I use these powerful Names. He doesn’t want me to realize the treasure trove of Who this great “I Am” actually is to His children.

But as for me, move over Devil. I’m calling my Saviour by His Names, as many as I can! And I will claim each worthy attribute as I do so.

I’ll never exhaust all there is to learn about Him in His Word! Praise His matchless Name!

“Let them praise the Name of the LORD: for His Name alone is excellent; His glory is above the earth and Heaven.” Psalm 148:13

STUCK HERE!

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Fair warning: this post is brutally transparent. Here goes . . . .

Have you seen the meme on social media that says, “Say ‘Amen’ if you’re thankful God let you wake up to live another day.”

Now, I totally get that. It’s sweet of the Lord to protect us through another night. It’s a blessing to spend more time here on earth with those we hold dearest.

But . . . and here’s where you might want to hold your proverbial hat . . . my immediate inner response is, “not really.”

Are you shocked? I’ll explain.

I am not struggling with a deep-seated death wish. I’m not being fatalistic, morbid, or even sarcastic.

No, my mental dialogue goes something like this: “Happy to wake up alive here on earth? As opposed to . . . ? I mean, if I didn’t wake in my own bed today, where would I be? I’d be in Heaven!! I’d be with Jesus! I’d not have the painful, hunched over walk across my bedroom first thing every morning. I wouldn’t be bound by a schedule or tempted by evil. I could finally sit down and talk with one of my favorite, albeit unsung, Bible characters, Noah’s wife. Everything around me would be clean, healthy, colorful, and melodious! I could hug my precious daddy again! But, no. I’m still stuck here below.”

I hope I haven’t ruined the sweet thought of the pretty photo that floats across Facebook for you. It’s well-intentioned.

But I’m a selfish wimp. As fast as my life has flown, many days have seemed endlessly long. And hard. And, for the most part, getting longer. And I say that from the vantage point of one who’s been richly blessed! My family loves me, and, more importantly, loves Jesus. My earthly needs have been more than met. I’m under no persecution. My support system is intact. God blessed me with an excellent education, a career of teaching wonderful students to speak properly and love the Lord even more. I have friends who care and faithfully pray for me. Children who love and respect me. Six of the dearest grandchildren ever created who crawl all over my lap. A husband who loves and protects me. I wouldn’t trade any of it!

Yes! I’m blessed.

FAR more than I deserve.

But the longer I live, the more I long for HOME. Heaven has never felt so real. I know, Heaven IS real. It’s not merely a feeling. But the reality of it is increasingly dawning on me. Oh, how wonderful it will be! And eternal rest? No pain? No fear? No tears? Streets of gold? Oh, my. Yes, please!

Yet here I sit. And someone asks if I’m glad I’m still here? And what about those who don’t have a fraction of what I’ve been allowed to possess. Their support system doesn’t exist. Their stomachs hunger. They deal with constant pain. Life for some is cruel. Even Christians often suffer greatly. What magnetic appeal does this life hold?

Well, now that I’ve established a sad state of affairs, please allow me to work myself out of this messy post.

I’m still here for a reason.

This world is NOT my home. But the Lord has given me an earthly assignment: I’m an ambassador. I’m His representative to a world that doesn’t yet know Him. What an honored responsibility!

I am here to help others settle their eternity. I have the privileged duty to point those around me to the peace and security of the Savior. I can be an eyewitness to God’s work in others. No greater experience exists than to see someone accept Christ’s provision of salvation.

I’m also still here to prove God’s sufficiency and goodness in my own life. When I am heartbroken, I find Him to be a gracious Comforter. In fearful times, I find peace in His Word. In the confusion of watching evil appear to triumph in this old world, I find comfort in reading the end of The Story. And when I’m let down by those I respect and count on, I find the Friend Who never fails.

And you know what? Those realizations increase my excitement to bow at His precious feet! Experiencing His sustaining grace here below enlarges my appreciation for the Glories to come.


As Believers, those who have accepted Him as their personal Savior, we have much to look forward to. But we have much to accomplish on our journey there. God gives us a lifespan on earth to fulfill our purpose.

So do I look forward to release from this temporal planet? Oh, yes! But am I willing, even eager, to labor in the time I’m given here to make a difference in the lives of others? To get to know God’s goodness in my own life? To wear myself out in preparation for the my eternal rest? To allow the yearning for Heaven to mount?

A resounding and absolute yes.

As a matter of fact, I’m going to grab my work boots right now! Some day those boots will be empty. Today they have work to do because God woke me up.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” I Corinthians 15:57

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” C. T. Studd


Clock-WISE

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I’ve been thinking about clocks way too much. I’m almost feeling sorry for them! I mean, a clock spends its entire life spiraling 100% predictably.

One word: boring.

Never has one of my clocks sneaked across the wall or the room in the course of a minute or even a day. When I check the time, I always look to the exact same place on the wall. It’s still there, spinning its little heart out. No measurable progress from the day before.

I don’t have a problem with that. As a matter of fact, it’s reassuring to have it reliably in the same spot every time. With everything else I’m doing these days, the last thing I have time for is hunting for a clock that’s wandered off!

Those arms will not alter from their predetermined course until their power source ceases. Sixty seconds will continue to make a minute. Sixty minutes will continue to add up to an hour. Those 1,440 minutes will continue to equal a day. And then it will do all over again. An unaltering cycle of predictability.

I’m glad I’m not a clock!

But hang on for a second. Let me rethink that.

Am I like a clock?!!

The closer I look, the more resemblance I see. In many areas, I see myself racing in circles, doing the same-o’ same-o’ every day. No changes.

I acknowledge my comfort in the cycle of life’s predictability. I admit my resistance to change. I am humbled at my fear of stepping out of my comfort zone. I find contentment in life’s sameness.

Oh, no. I’m a clock!! I’m running in unaltered circuits, not making changes because I’m afraid to see the results. I’m clinging to the “ME” hub of my life, praying nothing happens to shake me off-center.

Like it or despise it, embrace it or fear it, ready or not, change comes. I cannot expect anything but the unexpected. Personally, my routine of caregiving and the restrictions the pandemic have lulled me into a false expectation of sameness. But that’s unrealistic.

The question is this: how will I deal with change?

Even now, as I write this, my heart is quaking. I’m embracing my “clockness.” I desire life to continue like it always has.

Psalm 55:19 warns me about this mentality. When speaking of the wicked, God describes them this way: “Because they have no changes, therefore, they fear not God.” I certainly don’t want to be like the wicked. I want my fear (reverential respect) of the Lord to increase.

Consider Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. The chapter begins with the explanation that life comes in seasons. Seasons symbolize change. Each of the four seasons is distinct from the others. Even one winter will be different from the next. We have heavy winters, hard winters, mild winters, and “normal” winters. The same is true of summers. The rest of the passage gives examples of the various seasons or times in which we may find ourselves.

So what does all this mean for me now?

It means I have time to prepare. Today I have an opportunity to make changes which will bring me closer to the Lord. To prepare myself for what lies ahead. I have time to rearrange the hub of my life from being ME to being HIM. I must consider my purpose as a Believer. Is it to pursue my own comfort or to bring glory to His Name? What can I do today to fulfill my responsibility to magnify Him?

I have time to add Scriptural truths and promises to my spiritual weaponry. To build spiritual muscles. To embrace God’s will for my life, both present and future.

And here’s where the rubber meets the road: Am I willing to change what I’m doing today, what I’ve done predictably for months and years, to embrace change? Will I step out of my comfort zone and change my plans to do something I know I should be doing or could be doing?

Or will I continue to act like a clock, spinning my days away in sameness. In a self-imposed rut?

Changes I make on purpose can vary greatly. It could be as simple as making a phone call, making a visit, establishing new goals, spending more time in the Word and in prayer, making schedule and priority changes, attending service at church I don’t normally attend, serving in a new way, in a new ministry. Endless opportunities.

Whether or not I relish the unexpected changes that will undoubtedly enter my life, I am given time today to prepare myself spiritually for them. And I still have time to make alterations needed in my life whether or not other changes appear. I don’t have to resort to spinning in circles.

It’s called growth. Yes, dependability is valuable. But being stuck in a rut is . . . boring. Pointless. Nowhere does the Scripture condone willingness to stagnate.

And besides, change can be wonderful! I have a habit of assuming change equals bad news. My techni-color imagination doesn’t help! Silly me. Why should I fear anything the future may bring when I remember my Father will walk beside me all the way?

I’m still working on me.

And I think it’s time for some changes!

NEED A HAND?

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What does holding a hand mean to you? Companionship? Confidence? Guidance? Strength?

Our six year old grandson spent the night with us this week. To end the evening, we cuddled closely under a soft blanket to watch a fun movie. Then he bravely climbed under the bedcovers and dropped right off to sleep.

Early the next morning, his younger sister and baby brother arrived for a day of babysitting. Since he was still sleeping in the guest room, the littles crawled up next to me in bed and immediately fell back to sleep. An hour or so later, Harrison woke up and wandered into our bedroom to find his siblings. They were delighted to be back together. I watched as little Harper inched her hand into big brother’s, followed immediately by Tatum’s chubby little fist wiggling its way in-between the others. They laid there contentedly that way for some time.

Of course, my Mimi’s heart melted at the sight, and I delicately moved to grab my phone to capture the scene before it changed. I’ll love the resulting picture forever.

Although I’m sure they didn’t analyze it, I believe they clasped hands for several reasons: for comfort, for companionship, for solidarity among siblings. They just knew they loved and needed each other.

That scenario would not have taken place with strangers. It could only work among those who’d already developed a sweet and knowledgeable bond. Their childhood innocence and trust in each other was precious.

But life in the adult world is not so reassuring. Before I hold anyone’s hand, I want to be sure I know the person on the other end of that arm. I must be confident their intentions for me are good. I’ve heard too many news stories to trust every hand that’s offered in society today.

That causes me to ponder the wonderful truth found in Proverbs 3:5,6. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” In these verses, I’m instructed to trust the Lord and look to Him for direction. Essentially, He’s holding out His mighty hand and offering to lead me through life.

Now, as a young believer, the thought of completely grasping God’s hand and allowing Him to guide me wherever He deemed best was a daunting idea. What if He called me to the dark jungles of Africa, or asked me to leave my family and live in some foreign country? What if He wanted me to be a nurse and look at blood and stuff? And, horror of horrors, what if He desired for me to be a pastor’s wife!!

Well, I can no longer call myself a young believer in any sense of the word. I’ve been following the Lord’s leadership for 56 years now. I’ve faced some incredible trials. I’ve done things I never dreamed I would be capable of doing. I’ve faced some really ugly giants with no slingshot in hand.

But God.

God.

He’s never led me into a battle He didn’t fight for me. He’s never let me down. By His grace, He’s carried me through the worst of times.

Now that I’m, well, let’s just call it “mature,” I’ve experienced so much with God I feel more confident when He offers His hand. Of course, there are those moments I take my eyes off Him and recognize my own insufficiency without Him. In those moments I’m more like Peter who willingly walked on water toward the outstretched hand of the Savior . . . until he looked down! But when I follow the advice in the verses above, I do much better.

So what is the often overlooked advice? “In all thy ways ACKNOWLEDGE HIM.”

What does it mean to acknowledge Him? It means to step back and honor Him, praise Him for Who He is. To recognize my Lord as “so big, so strong, and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do!”

But is big, strong, and mighty enough to make me trust? I mean, I’ve known some pretty tough guys I’d never trust!

No, I must also notice my Savior’s goodness, His wisdom, His love, His faithfulness, His kindness, His patience, and His watchfulness.

The bottom line in this: when you and I pause to contemplate ALL our Lord truly is, we will have no reservation in grasping His hand. We will eagerly follow Him, no matter where He leads. Will the path always be easy? Obviously not. But we have confidence in His leadership, knowing He has a good plan in mind for us. He will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5); He will grow us (Philippians 1:6); He will bring us to an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11).

And the more I acknowledge Who He is, the more I desire to hold His hand for companionship, for guidance, for comfort, for strength, for encouragement, and for everything else I need. I realize how pleasant it is to hold His hand.

Long ago, I asked an old lady who had been single all her life how she kept from being scared and lonely. She shared her secret with me and I’ve never forgotten it: “Linda, when I feel that way, I tuck my thumb inside my other fingers and hold it tight. It reminds me I can always hold Jesus’ hand.”

Thank you, Miss Ellig, for that lesson.

Thank you, Lord, for offering me your hand. I trust You because I know You. May I keep learning more about you each day. May I find more of your character when I search your Holy Word.

I hereby acknowledge Him:

“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised!” Psalm 48:1

“A HAPPY NEAR YOU!”

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I love hearing a little one mispronounce words! Oftentimes, they inadvertently bring new and eye-opening meaning to worn out words and phrases. I have an ugly, old, flattened spiral-bound notebook I’ve kept since my children were born. That dilapidated journal even goes to the basement with me when tornado warnings sound. I love it that much!

It contains memories of what my kids said (and did) over the years, and it continues to bring delight to all of us. It may not be pretty, but it’s a one-of-a-kind treasure! It is packed with over forty pages of gems, mainly sweet and innocent conversations.

For example, Jon Mark used to love “strangled eggs” for breakfast. Poor eggs!! Then, at age five, I tried to teach him I Thessalonians 5:19 as a verse for the letter Q. The correct quotation is “Quench not the Spirit.” But all Jon Mark could get out was “Squench not the parrot!” I still have trouble reading that verse with a straight face.

Michael couldn’t say “kitchen,” so when I knew he was in that room, I loved to ask him where he was.

“Michael, where are you?”

“Right here.”

“Right where?”

“In the ‘chicken'”!!

Oh, how we laughed! (And still do, much to his chagrin.)

But the one that gave me the warm fuzzies was little Katie singing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!” Her rendition of the last line went like this: “We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy ‘near you’!” How precious is that? She sang it that way for a couple of years, and I somewhat jokingly threatened the boys if they tried to correct her. I loved the idea of a “happy near you’! But, alas, one day, seated between her big brothers in the backseat of the car, she got silent after singing the song. She’d finally noticed her brothers sang it differently. And that was the end of it. Sigh.

The story comes up every Christmas, and I still love her version best! Having our loved ones near provides such joy.

Perhaps the truth I love most about my Saviour is His nearness. He could easily have finished His spectacular creation of the world and its inhabitants and then sat back at a great distance and merely watched us. He could even have forgotten about us! I mean, do you remember every project you ever completed? We know God is loving, kind, powerful, merciful, holy, true, and much more. But think about it. What good would any of those attributes be to us if He were not near? What if it pleased Him to be a remote God??

But that’s not how God works. He stays near us. Always. Day and night. Easy times and hard times. As a matter of fact, He holds us in His Hand! Remember the old song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” That’s not just a song. It’s a precious truth! And He will never let go or drop us.

Psalm 139:9,10 makes it personal. “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.” Philippians 4:5 tells us “The Lord is at hand.” Right here. Right now.

The moment we call on the Lord to save us from the penalty of our sins, we become His children. (By the way, don’t fall into the trap of saying “We are all God’s children.” That’s a nice thought, but it’s wrong. Truly, we are all His creation, but only those who have asked for and received His gift of salvation are His children. See John 1:10-12 for clarification on that.) We become family. As His children, we are assured of His presence.

Not only does He stick by our side, but the Holy Spirit also indwells us. You can’t get any closer than that!

Why do I value God’s nearness?

First of all, I’m honored He wants to be so close to me. He loves me, even at my worst. We’ve all had friends who have walked out when we needed them most. That’s a hurt like no other. But I’m guaranteed that God “will never leave me nor forsake me.” (Hebrews 13:5) He stays near because He truly loves me.

Secondly, His nearness helps me fight temptation. When I remember the Lord never stops watching me, I am less apt to do things that disappoint Him. I am actually more inclined to do what will bring Him joy. Proverbs 15:3 says “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” Pretty good motivation to do what’s right, isn’t it?

Thirdly, knowing God holds me close brings comfort. I’m never alone. He knows and understands what I am experiencing in life. He’s not surprised to hear how my day went. He’s been with me all along. His omnipresence comforts me, encourages me, empowers me, emboldens me, and shields me. Because He is near, I have access to every one of His mighty attributes!

I’m so thankful God is “happy near me.” I cannot imagine having to go hunt for Him when I needed Him in an emergency!

Of course, it’s possible for me to wander away from His hand of blessing, but why would I want to do that??! I need Him! I desire fellowship with Him. I love Him. My deepest desire is to draw ever nearer to Him.

Praise Him for holding us close. It’s “happy near Him.”

“Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.” James 4:8

LOOK AGAIN! 👀

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Harvesting peas makes me smile!

We’ve not always been successful “pea farmers.” Very early in our gardening experience, we had a unique problem. We planted a couple rows of peas. They grew, each one with one pea pod, each with one pea! Essentially, we got our seeds back.

But last year, we decided to try again. We didn’t plant many since, with our horticultural history, we hated to waste good garden space! But, happily, we harvested some beautiful pea pods and enjoyed them in salads, with dip, and as a side dish. We wished we’d planted more! So, this year, we have given a large portion of our garden over to peas. My husband wasn’t overly-convinced it was a superior idea, but in spite of a few weak areas, we’ve had a great crop. We are enjoying them so much, Jon is convinced the entire garden should be devoted to peas next year!

Today, after being out of town for several days, I went to check on my garden. We’d had a tremendous hail storm, so I was relieved to find all well. I immediately got busy picking peas. I meticulously lifted each vine and extracted every plump pod I could find. Every single one seemed to make me giddier as they piled up in my bucket.

As I stretched back to an upright position – easier said than done these days! – I glanced around the garden.

Happily, I noticed a big pod I’d missed earlier. I scurried over to pick it and noticed a couple more I’d somehow missed. So I dropped them into my container, satisfied that we’d have at least two meals even after I sneaked in a few for a snack.

Then, I got busy weeding. As I sat on my tiny stool, I noticed another pod across the garden. How in the world could I have missed that one??! I pushed myself up to pick the hidden veggie while my eye was still on it. Lo and behold, I found about three more pods. And, upon returning to the garden after lunch, I found a handful more! Happy me!

I honestly thought I’d thoroughly exhausted the garden of ripe pods each time I walked away. But I kept finding more. They do an excellent job of hiding!

The experience got me to thinking about the harvesting I do in God’s Word. As I study, I carefully read and reread until I know my mind actually absorbs the words. Sometimes I know my mind reads the words, but I haven’t a clue as to what I’ve read. (Have you been there?) When I recognize that, I purposefully go back and reread the passage. Sometimes it takes several readings to get my mind in gear. I try to stay focused, but my mind wanders terribly. Remember the line of the hymn that says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it”? That’s the perfect description of my mind!

I don’t know how many times I’ve read the Bible through, but it’s a significant number. I believe if I’m basing my entire life and eternity on a Book, I’d better know the Book! But no matter how many times I’ve read it, I find things I never remember reading before. I KNOW I’ve read it. Numerous times. But I don’t remember it.

And, no matter how many times I’ve read a verse or passage, I continue to learn something new. New applications come as my life experiences change my understanding and my needs. God’s Word rightly claims itself as an eternal Book because we can never exhaust its truths.

Recently, for example, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know some sweet people through our dealings with hospice. I’ve enjoyed opportunities to share God’s Word with almost every one of them. Right after my father-in-law’s passing, which had not gone as expected, I was sharing a verse with one of his nurses, my goal being to encourage her. I quoted Jeremiah 29:11. As I came to the final words, I quoted “to give you an expected end.”

Pow! Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I suddenly had peace in knowing that my dear father-in-law’s final moments had gone according to God’s plan, the way He expected. I’d already gained much comfort in bygone years from that verse, but until that moment, I’d not understood the beauty of those last few words. It’s as if I’d found an unexpected “pod” of truth just when I needed it.

God’s Word always proves worth the time spent in harvesting. I’ve tried to discipline myself to taking the time to read the Word, no matter where it’s found. Even on Facebook!

Sadly, I’ve found myself skimming past verses friends have posted because I “already know that verse.” But do I really? Have I harvested every “pod” from that verse? The passage has been planted in front of me for a reason. Absolutely NOTHING you or I read today will be more valuable than a verse of Scripture. I plan to spend more time harvesting the Word.

I know I’ll find more if I keep looking. It’s an eternal harvest!

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the Word of our God shall stand for ever.” Isaiah 40:8

SHINE ON!

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The first time we opened the door to this home a bit over three years ago, I fell in love. Not necessarily with the house. Just with the floor. Truly!! The beautiful, cherry-toned, hardwood floors that greeted us absolutely glowed! Until that point, I’d not been a huge fan of wood flooring, but the rich, lustrous shine changed my opinion instantaneously.

Now, here’s a bit of a sad story. Someone goofed. A well-meaning friend buffed the floors to the point no color was left in the wood. We were devastated. The floors had to be completely refinished before we moved in. When asked to choose the stain, I was clueless. I’d never dealt with anything but carpet and linoleum. I tried to pick the “cherriest” color I could find to imitate the first impression I’d had. The floor guy warned me I might be picking too dark a color, but I bit my lip and stuck with my choice.

And I’m glad.

My father-in-law used to sit for extended times at the top of the stairlift from the lower portion of the house and compliment the floors over and over. He loved them. And that made me happy. I miss hearing his comments now.

Perhaps that’s the reason for what I noticed last week: my floors weren’t shining. They were clean, but they were dull. Maybe I hadn’t been working as hard to keep them polished the past few months since my biggest fan isn’t with us.

I know I changed the cleaner I’d been using to an all-purpose cleaner. Probably a bad idea. Rookie mistake on my part.

Regardless of the reason, the shine just wasn’t there. And my husband and I both missed it!

I’ve gone back to a wood-specific cleaner. It’s a bit better, but I’m not satisfied yet. So I’ve pulled out the really good stuff. With a problematic back, I can only do small portions of the floor at a time, but we’re getting there. The shine is coming back. I’ll keep working until I can get it as shiny as possible. The glow is well worth the effort! I think my father-in-law would approve!

But, all this polishing has made me a bit introspective. I’ve been considering my own shine. Or lack thereof. I believe I’ve lost some of my spiritual shine. Have you ever been there?

To be honest, the past few months have done their best to dull me. The loss of both of our fathers in less than six months, pandemic ramifications that are lingering on and on and on, political unrest, and numerous isolating situations are numbing, at best. Nothing remains the same, it seems.

Life was easy to take for granted for way too long. We didn’t realize how good we had it. Sure, life got super tough at times, but until recently, we had numerous ways to keep encouraged. But now, our options have narrowed.

And, personally, the caregiving journey, though I have no regrets, has narrowed my options even more. Specifically, I miss the fellowship of friends.

I feel as if I’m in “robot mode,” merely going through the motions of the day. I view my daily checklist of responsibilities and mark through those I’ve accomplished. I still pay close attention to my spiritual checklist as well. But I feel . . . dull. The shine is waning instead of waxing.

Am I content with shiny floors but a dull heart?

Nope. Not in the slightest. Unfortunately, it just took me longer to notice the inner lack-luster than the external lack-luster.

So, what do I intend to do about it?

Well, I’m working on it.

I’m increasing my praise. I developed a vital plan for praise a number of years ago. I hope to share it with you some day. But, meanwhile, guess what? I’ve not been purposefully implementing it in my own life recently. I’ve been tired and sidetracked. I’ve been “too busy.” Shame on me! I didn’t even realize I’d slipped in this area. And praising the Lord is the reason I was created. I’m renewing my quest to learn of Him so I have more reasons to praise Him.

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou has created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11

I’m also trying to be more intentional in my prayer life and supplications. Recently, I prayed a very specific prayer. Guess what? God answered in a way even bigger than I expected. And now I’m energized to pray even more!

Lastly, I’m going to look outside myself more to find others to encourage. Have you noticed that when you try to encourage someone else, very often you’re the one who walks away encouraged? I have a drawer full of notes others have sent to let me know they care. I cherish each one. But I need to get back to being the sender rather than the receiver.

Plenty more ways remain for me to build back my spiritual shine. If you have ideas, please share them with me. I refuse to let a film of earthly grime keep me dull any longer.

Shine on, my friend! We live in an age that needs to see us glowing!

And I know the Father will approve!

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16

UNLOAD!

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I’ve been contemplating a big purchase. Those don’t come easy to me. As I’ve said, I’m exceedingly frugal. Anything over $25 seems extravagant, so considering the purchase of a new iPad ranked waaaaay up there!

My reasons for thinking I needed an upgrade were multiple: glitches have been increasing and newer options looked appealing. But running out of “space” topped the list. Having 32 GB seemed like plenty when I made my last purchase, but little did I realize how much I’d be relying on those GB to make my life easier.

Honestly, I never thought I’d own something as fancy as an iPad. However, many years ago on a trip my husband earned through his “other” job, the company held a costume contest. The theme was “The Roaring Twenties.” I always love a good contest, but when I heard the prize was a mini iPad, I went all in to win it. With a $3 dress from Goodwill, a white clip-on tie borrowed from one of my students, an old golf club bent to a 90 degree angle to force it into our luggage, and a beaded purse, sable stole and hairpiece found while rummaging through our old family hope chest, we came up with perfect costumes. Perfect to the point we won!!

I opened the coveted prize as soon as I reached our motel room. That’s when I found out modern technology doesn’t come with printed instructions. It comes with a couple buttons that a newbie like me is terrified to push. After all, one might be a detonator!

Needless to say, I braved up and figured out how to “beam it up.” And, many years and one upgrade later, I’ve accomplished much in my learning curve. I use the device for EvERyThInG!

I have apps on it for my downtime, a few to entertain the grandkids, a zillion pictures of the grandchildren (you think I’m kidding??), and an inordinate number of text messages. It also keeps my calendar, shopping list, and to-do list current. Email is, of course, a necessity. For my caregiving, I have lists of doctors and medications for my loved ones. And then, there’s Facebook, FaceTime, and my alarm clock.

So, naturally, 32 GB evaporates quickly. When I realized how little space I had left on my device, I began scrolling through upgrade options. Yikes! Not cheap. I figured I have a birthday coming up, so maybe I could allot any gifts to the purchase. Or . . . maybe I could find more space on my old device.

I’d been deleting, deleting, deleting. I got rid of unused apps, some duplicate pictures, and as many text messages as I could get through. But there was one app I noticed was hogging space. As I looked into it, I found no way to off-load past accomplishments. So, I decided to delete the game entirely. It warned me I’d lose all the data in the program.

Bzzzzzt. Gone.

And, guess what? When it disappeared, I regained over four GB! That’s a ton! When I reloaded the item back onto my iPad, it took very little space. It wasn’t the game itself that was commandeering the space; it was past accomplishments. Achievements that meant absolutely nothing any more.

I used the same method on a couple other apps. Voila! More space opened.

This may seem inconsequential. Computer-oriented people may be shaking their heads wondering how it could have taken me so long to figure out. Those with a lesser degree of interest in technology might think I’m overly-excited about something so trivial.

But here’s the point.

How much of my life is cluttered with useless junk? Not speaking of garage junk. (That’ll have to be another post. Ha!) I’m talking about heart junk.

Things like unforgiveness, disappointments, unfulfilled expectations, past accomplishments, pride, fears, misplaced priorities. The “coulda, shoulda, woulda” stuff of life. It’s different for each of us, but I’m sure you, like I, have a lot of heart space being consumed by useless data. These mental files take time and energy that could be used in many other ways. They confuse us, distract us, and discourage us.

How freeing would it be to release those thoughts and mindsets into oblivion? I wish there were a button I could push to make it all disappear like it did on my iPad. There’s not.

But God has provided a manual! Consider Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

With an electronic machine, I must manually eliminate pointless data. New data will not crowd out the stuff I don’t need. But the heart works differently. I can crowd out old data with new data. The more I fill my mind with the truths of Scripture, the less room I have for unworthy thoughts. As I confess my consumption with bitterness and other toxic burdens, my heart unloads. When I kneel in prayer to worship my Creator, I’m freed from the trivial concerns of this life. As the Lord helps me off-load heart “junk,” I have more room for joy, for peace, and for ministry.

I’m going to start doing some intentional, spiritual unloading. There’s always room for improvement. Of that, I’m certain.

Lather Up!

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I have a birthday coming up. Another one! And the number isn’t small. Let’s just say, I’ve had plenty of time to gain wisdom from experience. I’ve learned by doing things the smart way; and I’ve learned even more by doing things in “other” ways. Regardless, I can honestly say, I’m much smarter than I was forty plus years ago.

Undoubtedly, the years behind me are more in number than those ahead. That’s fine. Because of Christ, my future is assuredly bright! (Don’t let me get sidetracked here!) But I still have opportunities now to make a daily impact on those around me. And the best way to do that is to treat my life like a sliver of soap!

Soap? Yes, soap. Let me explain . . .

I’ve always been an extremely frugal person. I cannot bring myself to throw away something that still displays usefulness – much to my children’s chagrin at times! (Builds character, right?) So, when a bar of soap wears down to just a fragment of its former self, it remains in my soap dish as long as it still makes suds. But I’ve found a way to prolong that scrap of soap: I press it into a brand new bar. It takes some patience and some time. But with persistence, eventually the sliver becomes a part of the fresh bar.

Over time, the old bar wears away. But by being pressed into the new soap, its purpose is prolonged as much as possible. The usefulness of the new bar is also increased.

I have watched this principle played out through my entire life. No doubt, so have you.

We’ve all had paragons in life. Some good; others, not so much. Remember how as children we watched that cool big kid? We imitated every move. Then, when we grew up a bit, we started watching new role models. As a nervous, new mom, I looked to Marcia. I lived two states away from my own parents, and long-distance phone calls cost money back then. We didn’t have much of that commodity, so I looked to dear Marcia to guide me through keeping my children alive. She so patiently answered my questions, gave me parenting advice, calmed my fears, laughed at my stories, and sometimes even babysat my kids. I don’t know what I’d have done without her!

What was Marcia doing? She was gently pressing her life and experiences into my heart. She taught me life lessons. She taught me how to be a good mom.

Now, I’m a grandma. And guess what I’m doing? I’m sharing Marcia’s sage advice with my kids as they navigate their own parenting journeys. I’m also sharing what I’ve gathered from my own experiences. And, as a fringe benefit, I now completely embrace the joy of impressing what I’ve learned into the hearts of my grandchildren!

I’m taking the principle even further now. I don’t just “let it happen.” I’m being intentional about it. I remember, as a young pastor’s wife, watching the more seasoned pastors’ wives work with their ministries. Now, after over thirty-six years of “ironing my preacher’s shirts,” I’m doing my best to teach and encourage other young ministry wives. Over the years, I’ve tried to share what I’ve learned in service and in the Word. I try to make myself available for questions and advice. I ask for their assistance as I work on projects, thus giving them an opportunity to learn and grow.

Likewise, my blog posts hopefully press into the hearts of my readers life experiences worthy of thought and practice. I’ve made myself very transparent in my posts in order to be relatable, to teach things I’ve learned. Sometimes it’s embarrassing. But if it helps, it’s worth it. My mission has been accomplished.

The Word of God instructs us to purposefully teach others what we’ve learned. “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2:2) God gives each generation the responsibility to pass on the wisdom gained through living. To press truth into the hearts of those around us. We slip up when we don’t follow the instruction to pass on what we’ve learned.

The teacher’s purpose is not to receive glory by passing on wisdom, but rather to help the “student” achieve success. To avoid pitfalls. To be efficient. And, ultimately, to likewise become a teacher.

Quite frankly, I don’t usually notice when a sliver of soap disappears from the back of a new bar. But I know this: the lather keeps coming. And that’s the whole idea! It’s a continuous cycle.

I was thrilled to spend time talking with Marcia recently. We don’t live near each other any more, but our hearts remain intricately entwined. I’ve thanked her more times than I can remember for allowing herself to be “spent” in my life. I’m sure at times she felt pressed thin on time and energy, but she always made time to instruct me. I couldn’t be more grateful. I’m thankful for all those who spent time giving me a good foothold in life.

And, by God’s grace, I can keep following Marcia’s example. I can walk a few miles alongside those around me, helping them get their feet wet, so to speak. I can challenge them and point them in the right direction. Warn of the dangers they might face. Invest myself in the life of someone I love.

In other words, I can still make suds!

Now, where’s my towel?


His Presence

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Just when things had been going so well! 😂

My grandson Tatum had been having a blast driving the toy Jeep his Uncle Michael had brought to our house. Instant hit! Getting in the tiny motorized vehicle and driving was undoubtedly the highlight of his young 21 month old life. He was big stuff. I was impressed how quickly he learned to push the pedal to make it go. Steering, however, was another story. We exhausted ourselves moving patio furniture to clear a path for him. But, oh, it was worth it to hear those giggles!

However, little “Tater” has a big sister and a cousin, and they, too, wanted a turn. So, eventually, we had to pry him out of the car. You can see what he thought of that. For a toddler, that’s a supreme injustice. A beginning lesson in life isn’t fair. His tiny feelings were hurt.

But Uncle Michael has a kind heart. He stretched out on the cement beside his little buddy and let him cry it all out. I could only stand by and laugh. Such a sight. Especially seeing those crocodile tears and his little fists crammed into the pockets. I’ve enjoyed the picture for several days now.

But I’ve been seeing something else. Something much bigger. Do you see it? Do you see what’s actually taking place?

Someone has a broken heart. Life has dealt him a cruel blow. He’s dealing with it in the only way he can for now. He’s bawling. At that point, we could have unleashed a barrage of words, trying to explain the rules of fair play. And, to be sure, that lesson will come. But at the time of the photo, he was simply being loved by a tender hearted uncle. No words. Just a physical presence of understanding. An “I’m here for you, little fellow” moment. “We will get through this together” came through loudly.

Most of us have been on both sides of this picture. We’ve all had times of wrenching brokenheartedness. Times when we didn’t need to hear the answers. We could listen to those lectures later. In the moment of highest emotion, sometimes we only need a presence, silently understanding and validating the feelings spilling down our cheeks. Sometimes the tears are actually shed; sometimes they are only visible in the heart. Regardless, a broken heart needs to be acknowledged.

How often have I shied away from a hurting friend because I didn’t know what to say? What to do? Should I stay away lest I say the wrong thing?

No.

Go. Do nothing. Say nothing. Just be there.

Sharing words of admonition and consolation is, of course, a very good thing. Many of my friends already know the scriptural response to their trial, and a time for those reminders may come. But sometimes I merely need to show up and offer a shoulder to confirm the fact it hurts.

God made tears. Psalm 56:8 tells us He keeps a record of each one, and He saves them in a bottle. (How precious!) Why not allow them to freely spill and be used to cleanse and heal? Do you know not all tears are the same? The chemical makeup and actual structure of our tears varies based on the reason we are crying. Who but God could arrange that? Truly our tears serve an important function. I’m thankful He made teardrops, and I’m grateful He allows me to use them.

Remember that “Jesus wept.” (Matthew 11:35) Did you notice that is the shortest verse in the Bible? Jesus needed a moment to weep over His grief at the situation. I love that no extra words followed. Jesus just needed to cry. He knows how we feel.

Tears are a gift. Let those who are hurting fill the jar Jesus has prepared to save those tears in. Just be there, without judgment. Go be a “gentle uncle”!


II Corinthians 1:3,4

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them, which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”