Monday, February 27, 2012

Wanted - Posted: New Heart!

Life is the mightiest of all possessions. From death to life is the mightiest of all changes. And no change short of this will ever avail to fit a person’s soul for heaven. It is not a little mending and alteration – a little cleansing and purifying – a little painting and patching – a little whitewashing and varnishing – a little turning over a new leaf and putting on a new outside that is needed. It is the bringing in of something altogether new – the planting within us of a new nature, a new being – a new principle – a new mind. This alone, and nothing less than this, will ever meet the necessities of person’s soul. We need not merely a new skin, but a new heart.~ J.C. Ryle

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Three Special Granddaughters!

I have three really wonderful granddaughters. Two of them have been mine since birth. One came later.
Here's a special story about these three of my heart!
Clara and Abby first met Vania on a family vacation outing at Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC. Vania is the oldest at 15. Clara and Abby are 8 and 9. When they met it was obvious that they were intrigued with each other but also shy - just not quite sure how to relate to each other. Clara was particularly hanging back.
At that point in time, Vania's mother and our son were just engaged. Six months later they married after a "lifetime" of waiting for this love of both their lives!
The next time I saw Vania, Clara and Abby weren't there. Vania came into the house and ran from room to room upstairs and down. I followed her. After she had peeked in every room she leaned against the door frame, looked at me and said, "Whur the gurls?" It took me a minute to understand. She was looking for Abby and Clara. She was totally disappointed when I told her they were far away at home in Virginia.
A few short months later all three girls were in the wedding in their beautiful red silk dresses.
When Vania got to the front of the church, she was so happy her mother was marrying "Daddy Dave" that she literally danced a little gig! It was so precious!
The three girls bonded a little more at the wedding.
One reason Clara didn't quite know how to relate is that Vania is special. She has Down Syndrome. She has limited ability to talk clearly. She marches to her own drummer. She has a heart as big as the outdoors, a beautiful smile and a keen appreciation for giving and receiving love.
What about now? How is that relationship turning out?
Here's what happened yesterday: one of our grandsons, the brother of Abby and Clara, (all three are visiting us in Pittsburgh for a week) had a bad ear ache. We went to Med Express since it was Saturday. All of us went back to the exam room. The nurse was getting a history. She asked some questions about family health. Clara piped up and said, "Well, Vania has something. She has Down Syndrome but it's not catching and she's our cousin!" It might not seem like such a big thing except it spoke volumes about how far their relationship has come. What started as a little uncomfortable - the new and unknown - has come around to a matter of the heart with acceptance and love!
That's pretty special! It is truly a story about restoration deep in the heart!
Jesus, thank you for granddaughters who love and appreciate each other!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Mirror of Grandkids

Over the river and thru the woods to Grandmama's house we go!
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh thru white and driftin' snow ..........

It's a cold and snowy Saturday! There's no horse but three of seven grandkids are here for a visit - one with strep throat - but hopefully we're past the worst of that! It's amazing how grandkids hold up a mirror of ourselves - scary sometimes!
Yesterday a friend kept them while I took another friend to the doctor - couldn't quite face managing a handicapped accessible van, off-loading and re-loading my friend and her power chair, talking with the surgeon, picking up prescription and all the rest of that drill with 8, 9, 12 in tow!
I came home to find a pile of various and sundry "toys" from Dollar Tree. My friend took them shopping. One granddaughter took full advantage of the situation to indulge her eye's desires! Then last night she was praying at bedtime, "Jesus, forgive me for being selfish and help Miss Patty to forgive me too."
I am horrified and embarrassed. Why? - well, partially it's a pride issue for me. Then I thought: how many times am I selfish and thoughtless? It must be much more disgusting to God's heart for this believer in Jesus to demonstrate selfishness. Somehow it's worse - far worse - than selfishness at age 8!
I am convicted and instructed by my little granddaughter's prayer, "Jesus, forgive me too for being selfish!"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Take and Make!

Take my will and make it Thine; It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
--Frances R. Havergal, 1874

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Hero Heart

What IS a hero? Is there some list of qualifications to make the cut for hero? It appears to me that our society has some floating definition that generically covers just about anyone who has been "famous" regardless of their life and its living.
Perhaps we need to go back to the "drawing board" and reevaluate the paradigm for hero. The "drawing board" would be Scripture. That's where we find God's definition of hero. And it's clear that God doesn't require perfection to make the grade for hero because God used some pretty flawed people to build His Kingdom on earth. There was Moses the murderer and Jacob the sneaky schemer. There was David the adulteror and murderer who God calls "a man after God's own heart"! There was Peter who denied that he even knew Jesus who fell on his face in tearful repentance at the feet of Jesus following the resurrection to receive forgiveness and restoration!
So, apparently in God's paradigm for hero there isn't the requirement of perfection, purity and squeaky clean. But - that being said - "hero" should require genuine sacrifice, ultimate integrity, remarkable courage to perform brave deeds with nobility. "Hero" also encompasses the concept of role model - positive role model, that is!
The dictionary adds: "the principal character (male) in a book, movie, etc." Maybe that's where "hero" runs off the rails! There are many principal players recorded on the pages of history who had their flash of fame but never got close to hero status. Generally "hero" means male but I am using "hero" generically to include both genders.
A friend - actually more than one - posted this picture on Facebook today:

It certainly distinguishes "hero" as more than the "icing on a cake." "Hero" is won by courage and commitment in the face of hardship, pain, struggle and even death!
I have lived in this picture one bright summer day on a hillside in North Carolina. My brother who had distinguished himself as a career Marine officer was buried after he died as a result of a tragic tractor accident on his farm days after retiring from the Corps. One of his young sons was about the age of this young man in the picture.
General Charles Krulak gave the flag from Ed's coffin to his widow. General Krulak (who was the Commandant of the US Marine Corps shortly thereafter) also wrote three letters - one to each of Ed's children. Each letter detailed an occasion when General Krulak and my brother were together and how in that situation General Krulak saw heroism, courage and Godly character. In each letter General Krulak referenced a Scripture verse my brother had applied to that situation. Not because he is my brother - but because of his character and courage doing the right thing rather than the expedient, easy way and most of all because of his commitment of his whole heart and life to Jesus Christ - that's what a hero looks like! Hero comes from the heart!

Leadership By the Book!

I went to a breakfast this morning to promote classical education. It was a little shocking but very interesting to hear one of the panel members - long time Pittsburger - say that he thinks the wrong side won the War Between the States. No one flinched but it was an amazing statement in Pittsburgh!
What a painful time in our country's history! Probably the North had to win to perserve the state of the Union. On balance, however, the South had the best generals - most of whom were men of great integrity and faith. The South lacked the industrial strength to support the war. The South suffered greatly from the scorched earth policy of General Sherman. Our country suffered as families were divided and as war took its terrible toll! But God did bring us through those dark days to perserve a more perfect union! That is our history - Pray God to preserve us again in these perilous times!

Happy Birthday, President Lincoln! Thank you for your leadership of this country through very dark, difficult days!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Give Me Your Eyes"

All those people goin' somewhere
Why have I never cared?
Give me Your eyes for just one second.
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing.
Give me Your love for humanity.
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see!
--Brandon Heath

The Latin Student Who Shines

I love all my Latin students but there is one in particular who has captured my heart. He says Latin is his favorite subject.
Latin?! Who could possibly pick Latin to be a favorite subject? The answer is "just about no one"! I teach Latin in a private setting with 3rd - 8th grade students. One of them is a darling 4th grade boy. He is very quiet and mostly sits drawing or doodling with his head down. He always is tracking with the class, however. If I call on him he may take a minute to respond but he knows the answer and gives it after a very short pause. He always comes to school wearing a neatly pressed long-sleeved shirt and tie looking very professional and grown up. Technically drawing and doodling is verboten. But this particular student needs to draw or doodle to help him learn. You see, he has Tourette's Syndrome. Tourette's exacerbates with stress. I'm willing to bend "the rules" in his case for the greater good of allowing him to shine as he finds peace and comfort in my Latin class.
Last year he was also in my Latin class. At the beginning of school I noticed that he had several tics. And then, a few weeks after school started I realized one day that the tics were gone in my class. Now the only time he tics - and only a bit - is when I push him a little outside his comfort zone. Yesterday I asked him to go to the board and fill in part of a chart conjugating a verb in Latin. I was thrilled when he jumped right up and strode confidently to the board!
He has Tourette's Syndrome which causes tics and other symptoms. He also has a great mom and dad who are very special special needs parents. They know and understand his disease and also know their child and want him to be all he can be. It is obvious they work with him at home on his assignments and on processing vocabulary and grammar concepts we study in class.
One week last year our vocabulary list was words having to do with the house: window, door, wall, etc. His mom let him make labels on sticky notes and put them all over the house. She laughingly told me that they were all learning the Latin vocabulary.
When we do a class activity with teams of two to drill on vocabulary, he gets "run over" by a more aggressive student. It's not that he's less smart; it's just that he marches to his own drummer.
This year there is a very shy girl in the class - probably just as smart as he is but very tentative. She too could be very intimidated by a more aggressive student if they are paired together. One day I paired these two. Both of them smiled and quickly moved to work together. It was a beautiful thing to watch! They both "bloomed" as they worked together - each in his and her quiet way - to drill vocabulary words.
It's not that I'm such a great Latin teacher but I do love the kids and I love helping them learn! I have been so blessed to watch this particular student grow and stretch and find a measure of peace and comfort inside the walls of my classroom! What an awesome privilege to be able to participate in this young man's life and learning! It is exciting and very rewarding to my teacher heart to watch him shine!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day - my favorite holiday!
I've always loved Valentine's Day! Maybe it's because the love in relationships is SO important to me!
One of the great love examples in my life is the love my parents have for each other - sets an incredibly high bar for what love in marriage needs to be.
My friend Jolene posted this personal story on her blog today and I share it and my comment with you just because what she said touched my heart so deeply:

Mom’s Valentine’s Day Wish
Posted on February 13, 2012 by Jolene Philo and borrowed by me February 14, 2012 so I could share with you.

When Mom and I kept our standing lunch date last Tuesday, I mentioned that our next lunch would fall on Valentine’s Day. “That’s kind of fun, Mom. What would you like for Valentine’s Day?”She thought for a few seconds. “Well, what I really want for Valentine’s Day I can’t have.” She fiddled with her coffee cup. “So I might as well not mention it.”“Go ahead,” I encouraged her. “What do you really want?”“What I really want is a few more years with your dad before his mind went…” She paused and moved her fingers in a circle at the side of her head. Her brow furrowed, and her blue eyes looked sad. “…you know, before he was…”“I know,” I whispered.“He wasn’t with me that way long enough,” Mom sighed.I nodded, not knowing what to say. There are no words for Mom’s loss. Dad’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at age 29, less than 10 years after their marriage. The love of her life struck down by multiple sclerosis. The end of her dream of being the wife of a county extension agent and mother to an increasing brood of kids. The loss of the bread winner, the protector, and leader of the family she loved so much and taking on those roles for the next 38 years as Dad slowly failed and finally died at age 67.Now, 15 years after his death, what does Mom want for Valentine’s Day?Not chocolate.Not flowers.Not a card.She wants a few more years with her husband as he once was.I looked at her, across the table, and said, “We can’t know what life would have been like if he hadn’t gotten sick. But I do know the life you gave us was a good one. You raised us well.”She nodded and smiled. “I did a pretty good job, didn’t I?”“You did,” I agreed and helped her into her coat and out the door.Hiram’s off tomorrow, so we’re going down together to see Mom. We’ll take her to lunch at Culver’s, one of her favorite places to eat. Mainly because she loves their frozen turtle custard.Over dessert, we’ll tease her like Dad did. We’ll talk about his love of ice cream, his silly jokes, his infectious grin, the goofy songs he loved to sing, the cribbage rules he invented as he played.Compared to what Mom has lost, lunch at Culvers doesn’t seem like much. But perhaps, sharing memories of Dad and indulging in the laughter and dessert he loved will bring him to her in some small way. Perhaps, over frozen custard, we can give Mom a memory of what she’s wanted for Valentine’s Day for years.

Ann Holmes on February 14, 2012: Jolene –This is SO sweet and SO true!My parents are 91 – married almost 68 years. My mother has advanced dementia and my dad has Parkinson’s. He has only been able to acknowledge her dementia for the last year – denied it for years – as it was too painful to acknowledge. They love each other with an incredible love – sit as close as they can get (with a wheelchair between them) and hold hands! Daddy just wants to live longer than Mother does. He is her center in many ways. I hope you had a wonderful lunch with your mom. I love your idea! Ann

If you are married, then I wish this kind of love for you! If not, don't settle for less than this kind of love! It IS the greatest human love and is a glimpse into heaven!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Paper Plate Connection

Sue is my sister's friend. Sue is also a single mother for her daughter Kayleen. Sue's husband left Sue and Kayleen soon after Kayleen's birth. Kayleen was just too high maintenance for him! Kayleen was born with Angelman Syndrome.
Sue's love for Kayleen is best described as fierce! Kayleen wasn't supposed to be able to walk but she does. Kayleen is now sixteen. She rides a big pink tricycle. She swims in the neighbor's pool. She walks. She doesn't talk but she does communicate - especially her displeasure. She plays quietly in her room with toys more appropriate for a toddler in another world. Kayleen has a wonderful life!
Sue and Kayleen live in a darling house. They call their home "Buttercup" - the place that always has a smile! The home is filled with angels of many kinds - on pillows and in pictures, in an afghan on the sofa and more - all serve as a reminder of God's blessing even through Angelman Syndrome.
My husband and I were in their lovely home twice in Summer 2009 when two of my sister's sons married the same summer. I tried to engage Kayleen but all my efforts were useless. Kayleen loves men, however, so she thinks my John is the coolest! She "runs" to meet him with her lurching walk. She looks up at him with her dazzling smile!
One Sunday night we - Kayleen and I - were sitting on the sofa together. I decided to try one more time. I picked up a paper plate - don't ask me why because I don't have a clue. Kayleen and I just started passing the plate back and forth. No words were spoken but gradually we bonded over that simple white paper plate. Kayleen smiled broadly and made a happy sound! I felt like I'd climbed a mountain!
Sue cares for Kayleen with all the love she has which is a huge amount and briming over! Is she ever weary? You betcha! Is she ever lonely? I'm sure she is. But Sue is also the poster mom for a special needs child in a company of thousands, maybe millions, of special needs moms around the world. Sue doesn't see herself as heroic. She is quick to tell you how blessed she and Kayleen are to have each other! And we were blessed from head to toe just living in their world for a few short days twice that summer!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Boy and the Pond of Green Slime!

He was ten years old - a really cute child with dark hair and a fabulous smile! Often when the other children at church participates in some active games or activities he would stand wistfully off to the side watching.
One night for a special activity an adult appeared in a really funny costume as part of the program for children's ministry. His eyes lit up and his smile almost split his face! When the leader asked if he would like to put on the costume and walk around for awhile, he jumped at the opportunity!
Another night we were studying Pilgrim's Progress in an interactive program. We had come to what John Bunyan calls "The Slough of Despond." We were attempting to bring this classic into a framework the kids could understand. Our "Slough of Despond" became the Pond of Green Slime.
The Pond of Green Slime was a kid's wading pool filled with cooked oatmeal, green food coloring and vegetable oil (to make it slimy)! Even though (just like with Bunyan's Slough) there were stepping stones around, not one single kid chose to take the path around. All chose to go thru the pond including the little girl wearing a black velvet dress and white tights! (All the other kids were in very casual clothes for this weeknight activity.) We tried to get her to at least take off the tights but she wouldn't.
They waded in one by one and crossed to the other side where Help assisted them in cleaning off their feet (again much like in Bunyan's tale). They ALL waded in BUT ONE! Once again he stood off to the side watching and obviously wishing. He came to me, looked up and I said, "Sweetie, I don't know if it would be a good idea for you to get in there with your braces." He assurred me he could go and didn't wait for my answer. He stepped right in the middle of the slimy oatmeal and walked with his "lurchy" walk to the other side braces and all!
I learned a very important lesson that night - inclusion means everything to every kid!
You may have guessed by now. My little friend has spina bifida. He couldn't walk like the other kids. He couldn't run around the bases in a softball game. BUT he could play volleyball AND he could go through the Pond of Green Slime and he did!
I think God smiled that night!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Small Heart ......

A Prayer about “Formerly Useless People” and My Small Heart - Accordingly, although I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) Philemon 8-11Dear Lord Jesus, what great stories these few verses tell—how one man’s “useless” slave became another man’s beloved son; an imprisoned apostle loves as the freest of all men; redemption trumps anger; failure gives way to faith. Stories like this make the gospel beautiful and believable. I see myself as both Onesimus and Philemon, and I want to love more like Paul.Jesus, I’m a lot like Onesimus. I’m a rebel. I’m a runner. I want freedom on my terms. I thank you for not giving up on me—for coming after me when I was running away from you as fast as I could, just like Onesimus ran from Philemon.Overtly and covertly, I did everything I could to avoid you and ignore you. But you came after me; you found me; you bound me to your heart through the cords of the gospel, and slowly but surely, you’re changing me. The journey from slavery to sonship hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes I feel like it’s three steps forward and two steps backwards.Jesus, I also know what it’s like to be Philemon. I’ve been failed and I’ve been hurt. I’ve been betrayed and suffered loss. I’ve been used and played for a fool. But forgive me for labeling anyone as useless. There is simply no such thing as a worthless, useless image bearer of God. Help me forgive those who have harmed me, intentionally or otherwise. May your beauty trump my bitterness—your redemption rout my resentment.Jesus, I want to love like Paul. Paul saw something in Onesimus that Philemon didn’t see. Jesus, you saw something in me that no one else saw. Please give me your gospel eyes to see what you see in others—especially in people who disappoint me or bail on me.Who have I branded “useless,” with either my actual words or unspoken words? Who have I written off? Who have I renamed “failure,” “worthless,” “you’ll never amount to anything,” “you’re never to be trusted again”? Whose failure stories do I love to retell as a way of paying them back? Have mercy on me, Lord.I know you’re calling me to be wise, but I also know you’re calling me to love others as you love me. Many times and certain people, I simply do not want to love with gospel love. Forgive me and free me. For none of us is beyond the need of your grace and none of us is beyond the reach of your grace. Jesus, give me a much bigger heart. So very Amen I pray, in your chain-breaking slave-freeing name. -- Scotty Smith

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Finding Holy Ground in the Midst of Chaos!

This is a guest post today by my friend Barb Dittrich in Wisconsin:

I was totally blessed so wanted to share with each of you!

The Dividing Line

The line between good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either - but right through all human hearts. -- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Holy Blacksmith? NOT!

To those broken on life's journey, know that our Creator loves nothing more than to reforge shattered hearts and souls!

He is not a Holy "Blacksmith"! He is the Creator, the Great I AM! He makes all things new!
His promise is that this day and all the other days of life He is actively at work to make ALL things work both for my/your good and God's glory! That kind of takes away the strain and stress of walking in faithful obedience, doesn't it?!!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Last Sunday my good friend shared during worship that she knew her life is a mess and that she needs to find forgiveness. That's exciting enough but that's not the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey used to say). She is a Buddhist but she comes to A Restoration Church almost every week. She may not understand but I know Jesus is after her heart!
Outside my window snow is pelting down. The ground and trees are covered. There is an old hymn I love:
Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole!
I want You forever to dwell in my soul!
Tear down every idol; Cast out every foe!
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow!
My heart has been singing that hymn all morning as I look outside at the beautiful falling snow and as I pray for my dear friend! She too longs to be perfectly whole. She too wants - longs - to be washed and forgiven!
I need that too and so do you!
How many "old" believers do you know who would boldly stand in worship and say, "My life is a mess. I don't treat people the way I should. I need and want to be forgiven!"?