Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.” ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real
Monday, May 28, 2012
However, the picture serves as a metaphor of the truth. We send our young men and women into harm's way over and over and over again!
Some return and pick up their lives and move on with the shadows of war hidden deeply in their memories. These we honor with deep gratitude today, Memorial Day.
Some return maimed in body and soul - wounded warriors - who carry the scars of war for the rest of their time on earth. These we honor and thank and marvel at the HUGE sacrifice they have made for the freedoms we enjoy in the land of the free and home of the brave!
Others - like the fictional boy of the picture - never return because they gave the ultimate sacrifice to enable us to live free! These are they who we remember with special honor today, Memorial Day! We live free because these were willing to lay down their lives to secure freedom for people they didn't know like you and me!
As you contemplate the sacrifices of so many warriors AND their families who have also given their own HUGE gift to the cause of freedom, celebrate them today!
Friday, May 25, 2012
I grew up in a wonderful Christian home where God was honored first and most and we were taught to honor and love our country. We sought to instill in both our sons the same strong values. Now they are leaving a similar legacy to our seven grandchildren.
It's that legacy to children and grandchildren that takes on special significance on Memorial Day. The sacrifice so many men and women - both in uniform and out especially as special forces (which both of my brothers were involved with) - have made for our country and freedoms is no small sacrifice!
One sister-in-law stood strong and tall through more deployments that she cares to count! She has also sent both a son and son-in-law to Iraq and Afganistan! Her sacrifice and that of her children is the unseen, and often unsung, sacrifice military families make over and over again.
My youngest sister has sent her "favorite Marine" with his young bride to Quantico Marine Base and then to parts unknown. Don't tell the Marine Corps that as I'm sure "they" think my nephew went on their orders.
These all step up with courage and valor for people like you and me who don't even know the names or the faces of those who have put their life on the line over and over again that others may wake up and live free.
One of the few wartime stories my dad told us as children is how he stood on the con of his ship one day in 1945 watching a Japanese bomber dropping bombs in a path that would drop the last bomb right on top of Daddy's ship. The last bomb never dropped and the plane banked away and off into the wild blue yonder. God literally put His angels on guard around my dad's ship!
Both of my brothers faced conflict and danger many, many times in their Marine lives. Once again God literally put His angels on guard around them. Both nephews were in serious danger and one was injured when an IED blew up right under his armored vehicle in Iraq. Another nephew has not been deployed in combat YET.
What happened when the IED blew up that day in Iraq? Were the angels off duty? I don't believe so! Because I believe God is sovereign I know that neither God nor His angels were not paying attention that day. Can I explain the difference? No, but I can leave the difference in God's hands knowing He is good all the time and that all the time He is good!
One of my brothers is in heaven today because three weeks after he retired from the Marine Corps he was bush-hogging on his NC farm when the tractor flipped and crushed his chest. Where was God that day in NC? Were the angels on other assignments and the duty roster left blank on that day for a farm in NC? No! For reasons that defy my logic God knew He needed Ed in heaven on that particular Saturday afternoon more than we needed him here. Wouldn't have been my call, but it was God's and Ed was ready.
What if Ed had finished his bush-hogging that hot August day and gone in the house for a drink of water? What if the tractor hadn't flipped? Would that make God more on the job or angels more attentive than they were that day in August 1991? No!
We tend to think that if nothing happens then everything is cool and if some tragedy occurs that somehow God is negligent, don't we? On this Memorial Day weekend we need to reflect on the fact that God holds the fate of our country and our protectors in His hands which includes life, death and injury. We should pray for the protection of our troops. We should pray for our brave men and women who suffer terrible injury in the line of duty and come home with radically altered circumstances. We should pray for the families they leave behind so we can live free. We should thank God when service men and women return relatively unscathed. We should also pray for the men and women who return from combat with hidden scars that torture their days and terrify their nights! These are all those we celebrate on this Memorial Day!
These kinds of stories are not unique to my family. We live free in this great country of ours due to the sacrifice of others - some who gave the untimate sacrifice and protected our freedom with their very lives!
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Perhaps the GPS is singularly responsible for reducing stress in marriage as directions from a spouse become no longer necessary. :o)
Last night I went to an end of school picnic. I didn't know where it was and the invitation had no address except for a vague location. There was nothing specific enough to put into my GPS. A colleague called about something else and I asked if he knew how to get there. These are his instructions pretty much word for word:
"Go to the end of Boyce Road, Turn right. Go just a little way and turn left which will take you to the end of that road and a stop sign but just continue on."
Fortunately I knew where he was talking about so I said, "O, you mean ...."
"Yes, that's right. You'll go over the hill and drop down on 50. Then 50 is 4-lane about 2 miles and turns into 2-lane. Just keep going out in the country until you come to a building that looks just like the Taj Mahal on your left. The park is right beside it on the other side of the parkiing lot."
Well, guess what? There is no Taj Mahal in or near Pittsburgh, PA. There certainly isn't one on 2-lane Rt. 50. I drove and drove, got caught up in a bad motorcycle wreck and finally turned around. As I passed a little park it seemed like the crowd of people in and around the big pavilion just might be my group from school. BUT there was NO Taj Mahal in sight!!!
Now, my friend had no malicious or even joking intent. He just used to live near there and apparently all the locals call the building next to the park "the taj mahal." HOW would I know that?!
Last night's word fiasco was "small beans" but words do matter and words spoken glibly or unkindly matter even more!
At this same event I ran into a person I have only seen casually a few times since the days when we were very close friends. I walked with her through a very difficult time in her life. In the end she walked away from our friendship. She was there with her new husband and only introduced him because I happened to be standing where it would have been embarassing to her not to. That's okay! As Aslan says to Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, "What's done is done?"
In the end, words matter and they matter a lot! That's why Paul cautions all of us: Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6, NIV
Easy to write/type, harder to do! Sometimes it's easy to wonder - When will I not have to be the one biting my tongue? Answer: probably never! Jesus set the bar high. He above all others had earned the right to set the record straight. The Gospels record what the Prophet Isaiah predicts that Jesus remained silent in the face of His accusers! Not only do words matter but sometimes the lack of words matters too - quite a lot!
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3 NIV
Friday, May 18, 2012
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Memories of her sitting reading her Bible or praying are too numerous to count! Memories of the people she fed and cared for in countless ways - family and stranger alike! Memories of her love for my daddy and his for her! Memories of the beautiful flowers she grew and arranged in vases all over her lovely home! Memories of sacrifices great and small all because she loved! - all these memories and so MUCH more!
Now she doesn't remember the NOW and often not the WAS either. She doesn't remember names even of her 21 grandchildren and 28 and counting great-grandchildren. I know the day is fast approaching when she won't know my name and I can hardly bear the thought but I know and grieve that we have lost so much and are losing her inch by inch! She still desperately wants to be mistress of her own home and kitchen when she can hardly dress herself even with help and only totters unstably across the floor hanging on her walker (which she hates)! She refuses to wear her new hearing aids because she can hear just fine, thank you very much! It's everyone else who just talks too low for her to hear! Just getting out of bed is more effort than she has energy or desire to do even tho' she must so she can eat and drink and take her meds! She still loves pretty shoes and pretty clothes even tho' she can't comb her own hair! She still loves my daddy and wants to be as close to him as she can get holding his hand with his wheelchair the only barrier between. Truth be known: he and Jesus are her rocks!
She loves to read aloud but can't remember what she's read or comprehend it in the moment but still reads fairly well. She doesn't always know even her own 5 children and our spouses - not really know. She gets names mixed up but she loves with a great love that comes from deep within her heart! She still wants to teach the Bible as she has done as long as I can remember and then can't remember that she wanted to do that.
All this and so much more is the wonderful woman I call Mother! She's going to heaven soon and she's so ready! She's mentored countless people into God's Kingdom! She's loved and cared almost to a fault! She could always stretch a meal for just one more like the Fourth of July when she fed a huge crowd tacos with one pound of hamburger meat. Some of us got grease on a tortilla served with love!
Until two years ago she worked with the young girls in the church even wanting to take them into the woods to learn how to start a fire rubbing sticks together. She was mad that we came to visit and arrived earlier than she thought so she didn't get to go. I thought she should have kissed my feet for showing up so she didn't have to go!
All this and so much more is the wonderful woman I call Mother! She's going to heaven soon and she's so ready! It's the rest of us who have trouble wrapping our hearts around that reality!
Happy, happy Mother's Day, my wonderful mother! If it's your last then your next will be the best ever and someday we will be together again and your mind and body will be brand new! You'll be just where you've wanted to be for most of these 91+ years - face-to-face with Jesus your Savior and Lord!
I love you, Mother mine!
Friday, May 11, 2012
Well, this has certainly been the week for change - tho' not necessarily all that hopeful change! Between our president deciding that for him the definition of the word marriage suddenly has a new meaning and Time Magazine deciding to put a symbol of motherhood on their cover that makes a total mockery of all things mother - THIS has certainly been the week that was! It would be awesome for this to be the week that WAS never to return. Since I have enough life experience to hazzard a guess, I believe the assault on the family and truth has only begun (or continued)! These events of this week were warning shots over the bow of the boat of life as we know it with the coming battles of this war yet to be fought.
We learned under another president that words have nebulous meanings like is so I wouldn't want to assume that the meaning of was or any other word might not be subject to change, adjustment or even radical transformation!
For Time to choose THIS week for their cover and for them to pick the particular models and subject to showcase motherhood inquiring minds may well ponder if the very foundations of all things family might be shaking and near toppling over into the dust!
Families deal with incredible stress due to all kinds of factors from the economy, faith, relationships, values and much more. What kind of a plot from the pit of hell is this attempt to further undermine the structure of society's most essential unit - the family?! If the meaning of is or marriage or mother can suddenly and capriciously morph into something radically opposite then we all have to contemplate the nature of truth. If TRUTH is absolute and certain, then all of this is silliness at best and diabolical at worst! If truth is relative, shifting and expedient then we are all in a whole lot worse trouble than we imagined!
The ONLY glimmer of hope in the tunnel of this darkness is that God's truth IS absolute and God IS still on His throne. God has a solution for all this upheaval in the very foundations of society. God's solution is a heart make-over. Words matter! Truth matters! God matters! AND He stands ready, willing and able to change hearts and to turn the hearts of kings and to weave His will into the affairs of men. It all begins in the heart and in a relationship with the King!
Question: Who has God placed in your path today who you can inspire with a smile or a song or maybe just by doing hard things with a joyful heart?
Patience, love, joy, trust, obedience and faithfulness are all qualities often found in short supply. You and I can make a difference!
Remember the old hymn: Out in the highways and byways of life many are weary and sad! Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife, making the sorrowing glad. Make me a blessing, make me a blessing! Out of my life may Jesus shine; ... make me a blessing to someone today!
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Answer: O, some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, some say another of the great prophets...
Jesus: OK, but who do you say I am?
Peter: You are the Messiah, Son of the Living God!
Jesus: You got that right, Peter!
A short time later Jesus took three of His men - Peter, James and John - on a hike up a high, rocky mountain. Jesus went up there to pray. Peter, James and John took a nap. When they woke up, they got the surprise of their lives there on top of rocky top mountain!
Flashback: Remember how the Hebrew slaves were finally freed by Pharaoh and high-tailed it out of Egypt. Only ole' King Pharaoh changed his mind and tore out after them with his entire army. There the band of some several million slaves were with the sea blocking their forward progress and Pharaoh in hot pursuit. Then God showed up and blew a dry path thru the sea so they could walk to the other side. They kept walking in the desert - led by Moses - until they reached the Mountain of God. God told Moses to come up the mountain for a little chat. God came down in a huge cloud that covered the mountain top. God and Moses talked for 40 days. Moses got close enough to God's presence that when he came down he had to wear a bee-keepers hat or something so his shine didn't blind anyone.
Last night there was a perigee moon - the biggest, brightest in a year - tho' it was not so much in cloudy Pittsburgh! The moon might have looked mighty fine last night but the truth is that the moon has absolutely NO light in or of itself. It's lunar rock (or green cheese) have no shine at all! The moon simply reflects the light of the sun. The moon is like Moses when he came down from his talk with God. Moses shone with the reflected light of God's glory!
Now centuries later there's another mountain, a cloud, the voice of God speaking and Moses!
This is far more wonderful than Moses' shine long before! This isn't about reflected glory! This is Jesus and He produces the glory of God; it comes directly from Him! The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being. (Heb. 1:3)
One of my sons loves to sit on the front row at movies. It's a little too close for comfort for me but he relishes that front row seat! Peter, James and John have a front row seat on God's glory!
When Peter woke up and saw Moses and Elijah with Jesus and all of them shining and Jesus shining the most - Peter is scared! Being Peter he just blurts out the first thing that pops into his head. This is the part where he gets it wrong - he suggests building three churches on the mountain top: one for Jesus, one for Moses, one for Elijah.
Peter lost his focus - something he and I have in common, I'm sorry but honest to say.
Then Peter realized that Moses and Elijah are gone and only Jesus is there. Peter is starting to make a course adjustment. He is starting to get that Jesus IS the Messiah!
Many years later Peter wrote: We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory sayiing, "This is My Son, whom I love - Listen to Him!" (2 Peter 1:16-19)
When my dad was captain of a US Navy ship during WWII in the Pacific he left a young ensign manning the bridge and went to the mess to eat. One of the other officers looked out the port hole and asked, Capt'n, you preparing to beach? Daddy looked out and as he ran for the ship's ladder yelled to the helmsman, Left full rudder! When he got to the bridge, the ensign was sitting with his feet propped up. Daddy asked, Are you preparing to run this ship onto the beach? The ensign calmly looked at his watch, Capt'n, it's 20 minutes before we're due for a course correction. Daddy said, Do you think this thing has wheels? In 20 minutes we'll be 3 miles inland! Apparently the ship turned just as it reached where the breakers were forming to roll onto the beach. Any later for a change of course would have been too late!
Peter needed a course correction and so do we. Where is our focus? Where is our life focus? Are we sitting with our feet propped up counting the minutes? OR are we keeping Jesus in view, filling our view - so we follow Him?
Check it out! Jesus spend most of His time caring about and for people with big needs! There was no need too great for His care! If we follow Him, are we willing to get down and dirty in messy minitry? It's messy to get involved in caring for people needs, for families and individuals with all kinds of special needs! Where is our focus? Are we going to know what's right and then get it wrong? Do we need a course correction?
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Jesus was always getting invites to parties. He was the talk of every town - healing lepers and blind men, raising the widow's dead son and lots more. This night it's Big Shot Simon who invited Jesus to dinner. All of a sudden, enter stage left the town's Bad Girl (maybe even a prostitute). She's not still a bad girl but once was a bad girl. It's almost impossible to live that kind of reputation down!
All the dinner guests were lying around on their cushions around the tables. Bad Girl Jesus is invited to Simon's house. She knew all the men know her either by reputation or worse but she came in anyway. She brought a beautiful jar filled with very expensive perfume. It was a valuable essence! She stood at Jesus' feet and began to cry. (We don't know how her story with Jesus began, but she must have known Him to be the Son of God. Why else would she come to worship Him?)
As she quietly cried, her tears fell on Jesus' feet. She knelt, wiped His feet with her hair, kissed them and then poured all that valuable essence on His feet. The jar holding the perfume probably had a long thin neck to keep the essence protected. To pour it out, she probably had to break the neck on the jar. Martin Luther calls her tears heart water. They surely came from her heart. This was her act of thankful worship for the One who had loved her and forgiven her many sins.
Simon was furious. He was really angry that Jesus would even let this woman touch Him. Jesus knew what Simon was thinking. Jesus also knew money was very important to Simon. Jesus talked to Simon about what is really valuable. He told Simon a very short story about two men who owed a debt. One's debt was large; the other small. Both debts were forgiven. Then Jesus asked Simon: Which man will be more grateful? Simon grudgingly answered, Well, I guess the one with the greater debt.
Jesus also pointed out that Simon didn't even bother to have a servant wash Jesus' feet when He arrived. That was a real insult to any guest! So that slight by Simon toward Jesus made the Bad Girl's gift and actions toward Jesus even more loving! Jesus said, She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal. (Luke 7:47)
Simon and Jesus both saw the same woman. Simon saw her for what she was. Jesus saw her heart! Her heart burned with love for Jesus! Simon's heart was frozen. Jesus spoke tender words to the woman, I forgive your sins. (Luke 7:48)
Where is your heart today? Is it frozen or does it burn with love for the One who still forgives sins?
Lord Jesus, help me to see how much You are willing to forgive me. Lord Jesus, may my love for You reflect the greatness of Your forgiveness for my sin. Give me Your love where I walk today. Help me to love others in spite of myself. In Jesus' name. Amen.