Friday, October 31, 2014

Kintsugi for the Heart!

It was a September Saturday afternoon, and I was happy to be started on Christmas gifts.  I usually made the gifts we gave, and this year was no exception. My trunk was filled with greenware – ceramic slip that had come out of the molds but still needed to be cleaned, then fired to bisque, painted, and sealed.  As I remember there were 8 sets of nativity figures.  I planned to start with the central figures the first year, the shepherds and their sheep and the angels the next year, and the wise men and camels the third year. 

I decided to run over to a nearby town to a craft show that afternoon.  On the way a teenager high on some substance struck my brand new Chevy Caprice in the rear literally pleating the car. Well, all that greenware didn’t fare too well! It was broken and crumbled into many, many pieces and dust. I didn’t know it right away, but I had a broken neck. It’s strange how things take on significance: just that week I had heard someone say on the radio that life breaks us all and afterward some of us are stronger in the places that were broken. I remembered those words that fall Saturday afternoon. I had no idea how often I would ponder them over the next weeks and months.

Brokenness is a HUGE subject worthy of great contemplation!  The truth is that all of us are broken and in desperate need of restoration. That’s why Jesus came - to make that restoration process possible!

In part of my life I teach Latin. Roman history is part of teaching Latin. In almost any marketplace in any city in the Roman Empire potters displayed their wares. They developed a clever trick to hide flawed workmanship or damage. When a pot had a flaw or a crack, they would take wax and smooth it over the flaws or press it tightly into the cracks. The objective was to deceive the customer into buying a defective product thinking it was true and solid. Can you imagine what happened to those pots when they were filled with water or wine especially on a hot day? They would spring leaks. This practice gave potters a bad name in general. Most of these potter merchants were travelers. By the time their deceit was discovered, they were far down the road, swallowed up by the next city or town or wherever. There was no complaint department.  As a result sales slumped, profits were threatened, honest artists were shamed by the actions of others.

Pottery artists with integrity were sick and tired of being lumped together with these scoundrels. So, they began to sign their names on the bottom of all their new pieces along with this stamp: SINE CERA (without wax). We actually get our English word sincere from this practice. If the pottery had integrity, was whole and not damaged, then it was also sine cera (without wax). The pottery not stamped sine cera appeared to be undamaged because of the wax. Surprise, surprise when that pot was used for a hot liquid!

 One of my best friends is Japanese. She tells me about the style of Japanese art called Kintsugi (beautifully broken). It is broken - intentionally! Everyone knows it is broken. In fact, the imperfections are flaunted! The pottery has been deliberately broken and then repaired with seams of pure gold or silver. The amazing creations that result unquestionably bring beauty from brokenness! Perfection is over-rated. Real beauty comes from brokenness!

Sadly we don’t value brokenness in our culture. We shy from it! We avert our eyes. Worse, we avert our hearts! We think and live, at least most of us do, as though anything or anyone damaged, smashed, disabled is of little or no value. That is as much a lie as the non-sine cera pots of ancient times!

God is in the full-time business of fixing brokenness. He could make brokenness as though it never happened, but He doesn’t. Instead He chooses to display the beauty of brokenness! The prophet Malachi wrote in 3:2-3: …He will be like a refiner’s fire … He will sit as a refiner and purifier of siver…         

John Piper of Desiring God Ministries observes, He is a refiner's fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner's fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner's fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner's fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner's fire. (He Is Like a Refiner's Fire, November 29, 1987)

 I am blessed to be broken! I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who know and understand brokenness, and who constantly challenge my heart to be more than even sine cera but rather to live in the reality of Kintsugi!

*The black pot is credited to Lakeside Pottery -

Monday, October 20, 2014

In the Midst of Life........!

It was the worst of days, AND it was the BEST of days!  It was the day we buried my mother just a few weeks ago.  My mother was having the BEST of days as she began her new life in eternity with Jesus.  I wouldn't wish her back for anything!  Honestly, it was also the worst of days!  It was the end of having a parent on this earth.  I would never again hear her voice or kiss her cheek.  I would never again look into those beautiful blue eyes and know she loves me no matter what! Did I mention I HATE death! I even think God means for us to hate death. It's part of understanding how much we need Jesus!
The memorial service was in the morning and the graveside several hours drive away in the afternoon. We have lots of family!  I have 3 sisters and 2 brothers (one is in Heaven).  We all married, and my mother considered the children she got by marriage as much hers as the ones she birthed.  There were 21 grandchildren - all but 4 married.   There are close to 40 great-grandchildren with several on the way. All in all in round numbers it's right at 90 immediate family, and all were there for the memorial service except for 2 moms who had week old newborn babies, and one grandson's wife who is having a baby soon.  It's hard to be lonely in such a crowd of loving family! 
We were all walking into the service together, and my brother told me to go first with our sons, their wives, and our grandchildren.  Because John was helping with the service, I was alone.  I reached my hand back for a granddaughter to walk with me. Only one saw and took my hand. She not only walked with me to the front row, but she sat as close to me as glue the entire time hugging me and being hugged.
On a day like that day when death intrudes into life is when it's easy to be lonely even in a crowd of loving family. I was that kind of lonely, and I needed the touch of a hand and hugs. God sent me that hand and those hugs!  Thank you, Vania!  And, thank you all for your hands and hugs on one of the BEST-worst days of my life!
There's a lesson for my heart here that reaches out:  there is always someone who needs a hand and a hug but it takes eyes to see and a heart to understand!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pink Clouds and Popsicles!

Happy October's Mother's Day, Jade Hooper Holmes! 

One of God's beautiful masterpieces in the sky as Vania & I were on our way to Mission Hospital yesterday... I told Vania look God made the clouds pink for you...She's my daughter-in-love, and she's a rock star mother juggling a late teens special needs daughter, a typical 3-year-old, two other boys (11 and 15) along with a dog named Reko, a black kitty named Esmeralda, Sally the coon dog, Mr. Turtle, assorted cousins, and sometimes a snake or two plus her SuperHubby and (Great-Granny) Nanny (age 98) all in the same little house tucked under the trees, rhodendron, and laurel beside a mountain stream.

Daughter Vania has had serious cardio issues since her birth 17+ years ago.  When she caught an upper respiratory infection recently, she got clobbered especially hard.  Finally two days ago she ended up at Mission Memorial Children's Hospital for respiratory and oxygen therapy. 

On the way Jade and Vania were stunned by the beauty of the sky.  Pink is Vania's favorite color, hands down!  Jade posted on Facebook what she told Vania: Vania - Look!  God made the clouds pink just for you!

Another post describes a midnight popsicle party with pictures!  ... in the hospital! 

October is Down Syndrome Awareness and Celebration month.  I celebrate the blessing Down Syndrome is in my life in the beauty of our sweet Vania and her very special mom!        (published with permission)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Kick the Can Down the Road?

What do we do with a heart so sad and scared that we hardly know how to stand under the weight?  What do we do with well-meaning advice to Buck up, my friend! or You just need to trust God!  It’s NOT that easy!  When a heart is bruised and broken, when the pain is crushing, and all but too great to bear – that IS when we are cast upon the rocky shore of keeping on!  What is a Christian to do with such a heart at such a time?  Denial kicks that painful can down the road for a short time perhaps but does nothing for the ole achy, breaky heart!

A game dredged from long ago memory is Kick the Can.  It’s a poor man’s Kickball!  Any metal can will do, and it’s played with two teams kicking the can and then running the bases to score runs baseball style.  Like most other games involving skill and balls, I certainly didn’t shine.  I didn’t even care all that much about shining!  I’d much rather read a book or watch others play.  It’s more difficult to handle life as a kick-the-can exercise.  There is no comfort in kicking a painful can down the road!  There is no closure in kicking the pain away temporarily only to have the waves of grief and pain plummet the heart and soul all over again in short order.

 What if some well-meaning someone counsels:  You just need to live in the truth that God is in
control and trust Him.  That is a very true statement, but it’s a process hard won in the daily battle with pain and loss!  It’s a terrible burden to dump such a seemingly self-righteous platitude on shoulders already slumped under the heavy burden of unexpected loss or the burden of constant barrage and assault. How is such counsel helpful to the grieving child whose parent is dying?  How is such advice helpful to a parent suddenly thrust into the world of special needs with their child?  What good does it do to speak such words in the face of devastating loss and even death?  What help does such a quick prescription offer in the midst of unrelenting, bone-wearing care-giving?  The blanks to fill in are almost endless and tailor-made for each individual sorrow.

Scripture has at least two examples of this sort of spiritual (?) admonition in the face of unrelenting, heart-deep suffering:  Job’s friends (Job 16) and the man who was born blind (John 9).  Job’s friends did come to sit in the town dump on top of the ashes with him, but they offered little in the way of REAL comfort and even implied that somehow Job must deserve his plight.  The man born blind received his sight when Jesus healed him, but some asked, Who sinned – this man or his parents – that he was born blind?  NICE! With friends like that………….
There is one more instructive Biblical example of desperation:  the father whose son had overwhelming special needs in Mark 9.  Dad is desperate for help and comes to Jesus as his last hope.  He begs Jesus to help – not even sure Jesus can.  He says, If you can do something for my son …   Jesus assures Dad that He can and will help.  Dad grasps at that glimmer of hope and says, Lord, I believe you can and then just as quickly falling back into despair that still clutches at the hope Jesus offers, Help my doubt! (Mark 9:24)  That may be all there is, but it is enough because of the One we come to for help and hope:

Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! … Listen to my cries for mercy.   -- Psalm 130:1-2, MSG

We don’t need to kick the can down the road! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Finger Pointing when God Doesn't Heal

I haven't forgotten how I felt on that fall afternoon many years ago. Some weeks prior to that afternoon my husband and I were involved in a pretty serious car accident.  The injuries I sustained required a difficult, painful time of recovery.  There was nothing easy about the following months but that's a story for another day!  Many people were praying for me and our family asking Jehovah Rapha, the God Who Heals, to show up and do what only He can - make me well again quickly. 

That afternoon a friend stopped by our home.  She asked if she could pray for me.  I was happy for all the prayers I could get!  She prayed and asked God to intervene and bring healing and restoration. When she finished her prayer, she immediately asked, Are you healed  I knew I wasn't.  No healing miracle took place during her prayer. I said, No.

That was when the finger pointing began.  When I said NO, she said, Well, you just don't have enough faith.  I was astonished and offended. 

I pushed back with a question:  That's an interesting conclusion for you to draw.  Tell me, how is it that I am not healed because I do not have enough faithI know that you recently prayed for Mr. X [a certain famous someone who had a spinal cord injury after being shot].  You went to see him just like you came to see me today.  You prayed for him just like you prayed for me today.  He is still in his wheelchair.  He also was not healed when you prayed.  Is that what you told him after your prayer - that he did not have enough faith? 

O, No!  she said.  He wasn't healed because it didn't serve God's greatest good for him to be healed at this time.  I was startled!  I was angry!  I was not healed due to my lack of faith!  It was my fault!  The other person was not healed - not due to lack of faith but rather due to the plan and purpose of God.  The only difference I could see between the two of us by her measure was that he was famous and I was not.

Sorry, but the God I know doesn't operate that way!  He doesn't pick and choose only the wise, the wonderful, the rich, the famous on whom to bestow His favor! He says, I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. (Rom. 9:15)  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things ... so that no one may boast before Him. (1 Cor. 1:27-29) 

I took a deep breath, looked her straight in the eye and said, I agree that God does not heal at times because He has a greater plan.  But, my friend, faith is a gift from God.  Faith isn't something I conjure up or manufacture. (Eph. 2:8)   I know that God does not heal when He doesn't for His own good purpose and plan.  God does heal when He does also for His own good purpose and plan.  Healing comes from Him.  Healing depends on Him.  When God doesn't choose to heal me or anyone else, He has His reasons and that is enough for me! 

What a terrible burden to dump on a person in the middle of pain and loss - it's your fault! 

You aren't strong enough or spiritual enough to get what you need!  Pointing fingers, placing blame on the person God doesn't choose to heal is deeply wrong!  Point your finger at God if you must. Place the blame on Him.  He makes His plan.  He works His plan.  He walks with you and me in the pain.  Maybe He changes the circumstances.  Maybe He doesn't, but whatever He does is about Him.  It's His choice!  That's a very, very good and comforting reality!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Where is THE CHURCH?

Kids with IDD [intellectual developmental disabilities] pose a greater risk of sexual deviancy. They pose behavioral risks that hinder a youth group's normal functioning, making it difficult to minister unless they are removed-- an anonymous pastor  [for good reason, in my opinion]

There is a LOT of very sad news today:  Robin Williams committed suicide, ISIS is on the march in Iraq, Christians are under attack in many corners of the world, Ukraine is an explosion waiting to happen, and much more!  It sounds simplistic to summarize that we live in a totally broken world, but it's the truth!

For all the issues, THE CHURCH of Jesus Christ (His invisible body) MUST be the first in line! 
We must speak into hearts in desperate despair like Robin Williams'.  He gave such joy to so many people, and yet his own heart was so dark that he couldn't take it anymore because the pain just screamed for relief.

We must give and pray and even go to be on the frontlines where we can to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to people hated, displaced, and hunted for their faith!  Franklin Graham of Samaritan's Purse is on the front lines in Iraq providing shelter tents for many of the refugees who fled with only their lives.  I was so struck with the truckload of cradles just like this one I saw being unloaded in the tent city Samaritan's Purse is erecting in Erbil, Iraq.  What a sweet touch!

Two families who are friends have just in the last few days returned to ministry in Ukraine.  They have no idea what the future holds, but that's where God has planted their feet so there they stand to be salt and light in a very dark time for Ukraine. What the future holds only God knows for sure! 

All that and more seems far away and only comes close on our computer screens.  Then I read a quote like the one above from a pastor, no less, and my heart cracks more!  How can we EVER measure ministry by risk alone?  Of course, we need to be wise and prayerful, but LIFE itself is a risk from start to finish!  If we ever hope to walk in the steps of Jesus and do ministry the way He did, we can't sit behind a desk or hide with our technology and talk about  behavioral risks and IDD as an excuse for not living and loving as Jesus did! 

It was pretty risky from a human view for Jesus to land on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee on a dark night.  But, Jesus had a Divine appointment:
They went across the Sea of Galilee to the area of the Gerasenes. Jesus got out of the boat. A man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. The man lived in the tombs. No one could keep him tied up anymore. Not even a chain could hold him. His hands and feet had often been chained. But he tore the chains apart. And he broke the iron cuffs on his ankles. No one was strong enough to control him. Night and day he screamed among the tombs and in the hills. He cut himself with stones. - Mark 5:1-5
Jesus touched the leper. 
Jesus made blind eyes see. 
Jesus opened deaf ears. 
Jesus raised the dead. 
He didn't shrink with fear or disgust nor did he calculate risk. 
He calls us to be like Him! 
If we do ministry like He did, then it's messy and risky and has eternity in view!  And, the same Spirit who was in and with Jesus walks with us in ministry even and especially when it's messy and risky!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Heaven's Gate

Two years ago this morning marked the end of one of the sweetest experiences of my lifetime.  With my siblings (except for my brother Ed who had already walked through death into everlasting life) and most of our spouses, I spent ten wonderful days walking my wonderful Daddy right up to the gate of Heaven!  It was truly amazing, and a model for the death experience in a Christian family if circumstances permit.

I know circumstances don't permit in every case.  That August Saturday 23 years ago when Ed walked into Heaven, I was 3 states away and only got there after he was gone. His death taught me a lesson about death: that death (especially when it appears untimely from a human perspective) is HARD!  Ed was a Marine of Marines!  He was many other things too and my closest sib in age.  He had served in combat in many war theaters including Vietnam for 3 "tours" including one while he was still a midshipman at the US Naval Academy but that's an interesting story for another time.  He had stared death in the face with nary a scratch. 

Three weeks after he retired from the USMC he was bush-hogging his pasture on the farm where he retired with his family in NC.  He didn't know his life on this earth was almost over that Saturday morning.  He planned to begin the next phase of life with a new job and to continue building his farmhouse.  God had other plans:  the tractor turned over and crushed his chest.  He was in Heaven a few hours later. We celebrated his life and worshipped our great God who gave him life and then took it away at his memorial service a few short days later!  At the end of that service, we sang Handel's Hallelujah.  It was Hallelujah time even when it didn't feel like it!

22 years later on an August Tuesday we celebrated eternal life again at my dad's memorial service.  We sang hymns.  We were comforted with God's Word and truth as two sons-in-law pastors and another pastor led us.  We remembered a life well-lived!  For me, the memorable thing about Daddy's Heaven journey wasn't that worship service.  It was the days leading up to it.

July 26 my brother called and said Daddy had a large sub-dural hematoma (blood clot on his brain).  They were moving him to the main hospital and operating as soon as possible.  We begin the trek from Pittsburgh to SC early the next morning and went straight to ICU.  And, so it began........

Mother and Daddy were living in my sister's home.  After the surgery it became increasingly apparent that Daddy wasn't going to climb the huge mountain back to a measure of health.  It was just too steep a climb with advanced Parkinson's and all the rest!  A week later on August 1st we took him home in an ambulance with hospice. 

In the hospital and at home we were Team Robeson.  We walked shoulder-to-shoulder, heart-to-heart watching the winding down of Daddy's life on earth.  We prayed.  We sang hymns.  We cried.  We hugged.  We talked and remembered.  We said many things to Daddy and each other - those things of the heart that need words.  And, then early Sunday morning, August 5th, we all stood around his bed with our dear mother and waited at Heaven's gate for him to take that final step from this life to the next!

Death is what it is.  It was never meant to be in God's good creation.  Sin brought death.  And so, we all die.  But, for those who walk with Jesus who trust in Him ALONE, He is the Way to eternal life!  That's the comfort beyond death, and it IS enough!
*picture is from newspaper shortly after Daddy's return from war.  He is holding his Japanese sword and me.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Running on Fumes!

Are you a care-giver for someone with special needs - your child, spouse, friend or other?  If so, you know exactly what I'm talking about - running on fumes!  There's just not much left to give!  Respite or relief seems too far away to get there on the fumes. You begin the day more weary than you ended yesterday!  The days blur as they run one into another.  The needs remain the same or become greater.  It's just plain hard, and there's no gas in your tank!

The details are unique to your situation.  I don't have a special needs child in my home.  I do have a mother who lives many states away with rapidly advancing Alzheimer's. I am certainly not on the frontlines involved in her care. But, I do a LOT of care-giving!  That's what most of my life is about.  That's especially hard when there are only fumes in the tank. So, I get that part!

As a pastor's wife, I can't hide from people needs. My heart won't let me! Believe me that I have LOTS of stories of care-giving over the years.  Some of them are pretty messy! Some are short; some are VERY long!  Often there is no one else to help shoulder the need for even a little while!  And, always there's that running on fumes thing!

People talk about boundaries - healthy ones!  That's great, but once you or I are signed on for duty especially care-giving, there are few options beyond just doing what needs to be done even when you're running on fumes! Tired is a reality but quitting or just checking out to rest may not be an option for many care-givers.  The needs that require care-giving don't take a vacation!  They just keep coming day in and day out.

I don't have the answer for the running on fumes thing!  And, I have struggled for 5 days with how to end this post!  That's how low I am running on fumes!  THEN this morning it came to me:  even Jesus came to the running on fumes part.  That was when He knew He had to recharge/refill so He would trudge off and up a mountainside to be alone and pray!  He didn't have disposable time to go on a retreat or something.  People needs pressed Him on every side all day every day!  He sacrificed more and went without sleep to get alone and pray!  But, the end result was that His Father supplied the fumes problem every single time.  He will do the same for me and you!

Monday, July 28, 2014

This is the day...... !

OK, friends, full disclosure here:

Earlier today I posted on Facebook a picture of the Pittsburgh skyline on a cloudy day with the caption: Cloudy, rainy, cool - "This is the day the Lord has made" in Pittsburgh, PA!

Well, I now have the opportunity and challenge to live in the reality of that truth! I ran an errand this AM and came home to notice black smoke pouring out from under the hood of the car. When John raised the hood flames shot up! :o]  He quickly sprayed the engine with water to put the fire out.  Guess I won't be going anywhere today! 

This is STILL the day the Lord has made in Pittsburgh and wherever you are!

The rest of Psalm 118:24 instructs me: 

24 This is the day the Lord has brought about.
We will be happy and rejoice in it.  (NET)

Monday, July 21, 2014

All Work No Play.........NOT Good!

This is one of those four fingers pointing back at me deals - Just full disclosure!

Saturday night I went to get us a hamburger for supper as it was one of those days when there just weren't enough minutes after dancing as fast as I could and, frankly, I was just plain tired. 

As I wanted for my order, I watched a darling little girl - probably about two or a little older - walking (no, BOUNCING) with her grandmother!  The grandmother was holding her hand and calmly saying with each bounce, "Just walk. I don't want you to get hurt."  The walk was still a bounce!  I knew the translation of that drill: "Please don't bounce. Just walk. It's late, and I'm tired!" or something like that.  Anyhow, the little bounced right out of one croc.  She bent over and tried and tried to get her foot back in to no avail.  A kindly stranger smiled, bent down, and put her shoe on her foot. Then, she bounced on her way!

Earlier in the day I saw this picture posted by Colleen Swindoll-Thompson on her FB page.  The little girl reminded me and challenged me to remember that play is a good thing!  Bouncing is good! We all need to bounce some - probably every day!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Confident Heart


The Lord is my Strength and my [impenetrable] Shield; my heart trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song will I praise Him.  -- Psalm 28:7

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Heart Print

We talk about carbon footprint.  And, it's not considered a positive term.  We talk about voice print which is a way to ID a person by analyzing their speech using a spectrogram.  We talk about footprints both literal and figurative.  We ID animals by their footprint spoor. We talk about fingerprints to reference the unique difference between all human individuals for the purpose of ID.

We leave our footprints in the sands of time when we are long gone from this world. It is important where our footprints track the path of our lives.  BUT even more important than a footprint is a heart print. 

Where will my footprints take me today? 
Where will I leave my heart print and what kind of heart print will I leave?  What about you?  Think about that while you're walking through your day!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sweet Sorrow

Sweet Sorrow.........I like that!  I saw it in a novel I was reading, and it's so true of life. 
  • My mother has advancing Alzheimers.  When I go to see her, it's a sweet sorrow.  She still knows me when I'm in front of her but may easily forget I ever came when I am gone.  Sweet sorrow!
  • My brother's grandson (6yo) was recently diagnosed with a large brain tumor.  Being there during his surgery and spending lots of family time was just that - sweet sorrow!
  • 2 good friends are moving into assisted living.  This is radical life change but to a safer place - sweet sorrow!
  • One who seemed a friend betrays and lies and walks away with no remorse - and we have to trust it is sweet sorrow!
  • A baby dies before he is ever born - Can that be sweet sorrow?  How? Why?
  • A child is born with multiple disabilities - sweet sorrow? How can that be?
  • The list is long and could go on and on.  It's makes no sense unless and until.......
What makes it sweet sorrow

Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.   --Isaiah 43:2, The Message

Isaiah 43:2 covers the rest of the list - sweet sorrow - because we never walk along when we walk with God!

You Will Never Walk Alone
Along life's road
There will be sunshine and rain
Roses and thorns, laughter and pain
And 'cross the miles
You will face mountains so steep
Deserts so long and valleys so deep
Sometimes the Journey's gentle
Sometimes the cold winds blow
But I want you to remember
I want you to know

You will never walk alone
As long as you have faith
Jesus will be right beside you all the way
You may feel you're far from home
But home is where He is
And He'll be there down every road
You will never walk alone

The path will wind
And you will find wonders and fears
Labors of love and a few falling tears
Across the years
There will be some twists and turns
Mistakes to make and lessons to learn
Sometimes the journey's gentle
Sometimes the cold winds blow
But I want you to remember where ever you may go

Jesus knows your joy, Jesus knows your need
He will go the distance with you faithfully! 
   --Point of Grace


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Light from Above

God bless America, land that I love!  Stand beside her, and guide her through the night with a light from above!  From our hearts to God's ear, may it be so!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Vertical Option

Trending:  What happens when your front landing gear fails on AV-8B Harrier jet as recently happened to a pilot flying off the USS Bataan?

Pretty amazing!

Thought for today:   There are many days in life when the super-scary event that my (or your) landing gear may not drop down happens or threatens to happen.  As believers in Jesus, we also have the vertical option. 

This pilot, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. William Mahoney, was able to execute a perfect albeit bumpy landing.  He testifies that he never even saw "the stool" when he landed.  He trusted his guide and landed his jet safely!  

There are days like this.  We too have to trust in the One who assures that we land on the cushion of his love no matter how soft or rough the landing may be!  Pretty awesome!!!

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, 
  but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him 
and show him my salvation.   -- Psalm 91

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Cup of Cold Water

I went to church yesterday at A Restoration Church, Pittsburgh.  No surprise there!  That's where you can find me on any given Sunday morning!  Yesterday was different: we had music, singing, a good sermon on Joshua 22, great time with our church family, and Holy Communion.  And, that's where things took on a whole new flavor........

At A Restoration Church, Pittsburgh, we work very hard to include, to welcome, and to make feel special every person who comes.  As my husband passed the communion elements, the passing of the bread went as usual.  Then he began to pass the wine/grape juice.  I wasn't looking behind me, but apparently a lady shook her head at him and must have quietly told him she couldn't have it.  He knows this particular lady has a number of really significant health challenges.  She hasn't been attending very long. He quietly said, I'll be right back.  The accompanist kept playing.  We meet in banquet rooms in a corporate facility.  He went over to the sink and filled one of the communion cups with water and took it over to her. When everyone was served, and he was back in front, he raised his cup to indicate we would all drink together (as is our custom).  As he did, I saw the quick start of tears in his eyes.  For all of us, and obviously for him, it gave totally new significance to a cup of cold water given in My name!  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

R U Waiting 4 Godot?

I have a student who has a part in Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett's absurdist play about two men who wait and wait for someone named Godot to show up.  Godot never shows so it is all for nothing!

Over the years since the first production in 1953 many have speculated widely and wildly on what Beckett was trying to say.  It could be argued that not even Beckett knew.  He was known to say that it did not mean this or that but never - as far as I know - to explain what it did mean.

Another playwright, William Shakespeare, wrote:

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow ...
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

Ah! The despair of life that concludes that all is darkness, hopelessness: waiting and waiting and waiting endlessly, strutting and fretting and then is heard no more ... signifying nothing!  With such a view, life in NOT worth the living! There is no light. There is no hope.

Tomorrow a precious little 6-year-old boy named Matthew will go into surgery.  He has a large brain tumor in a very difficult place - right in the center of his brain.  If I had the view of Beckett in Godot and Shakespeare in Macbeth, I would be in total despair. So would Matthew's parents, brother, sister, grandparents, and others!  I don't know what the future holds for Matthew.  I don't know what the surgeon will find.  I don't know WHY.

And, it is not the least bit glib to say what I DO KNOW: 

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!  --Abraham Kuyper

Tomorrow morning in a hospital room in Atlanta and in an operating suite in the same hospital, God Himself will show up!  And, He will shout, Matthew is MINE, and I love him with an everlasting love!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Comfort for Dis-abled Heart!

A number of years ago I drove from Richmond up to Northern Virginia to watch two of my nephews in a wrestling match.  I had never been to a wrestling match before so had no idea what I was getting into.  It was a regional competition so there were many competitors there.  As I sat in the stands looking out over a pretty large gymnasium, it occurred to me that the wrestlers resembled worms wiggling after a spring rain ALL OVER the gym floor!  Except that my nephews were somewhere in the mix, I could hardly imagine being there.

As I understand it, the object of the match is to maneuver your opponent in such a way that he cannot twist out of your hold and actually is pinned to the mat for a certain count.  In professional wrestling there are throws that apply techniques involving lifting the opponent and throwing or slamming him down.  I am certainly no expert, but none of it looked like something I personally wanted to do.  It wasn't even something I was all that eager to watch on any regular basis!

This morning I ran across a verse in John 14 (The Message). I'm thinking that my limited experience with wrestling may provide some clues to the meaning:  Don't let this throw you. You trust God, don't you? Trust Me.  These are the words of Jesus (vs. 1).  He spoke them to His disciples on the night before His crucifixion.  Quite possibly He spoke them as they walked along following the Passover meal they had eaten together on that Thursday evening.  They were on their way to a garden of olive trees tucked away on the western slope of the Mt. of Olives. 

I don't know if the words follow chapter 13 in exact sequence. Perhaps so; perhaps not.  (Note:  Chapter and verse divisions were not part of the original text.)  Chapter 13 ends with Peter's declaration that he wants to follow Jesus wherever He is going. Jesus tells Peter that he actually can't follow Him where He is going.  Peter is most insistent that he does want to follow the Master and that he is actually willing to die for his Master.  Jesus' response, Really? You'll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you'll deny me three times.

Chapter 14 begins, Don't let this throw you!  It struck me today that perhaps Jesus is referring to Peter's vulnerability and dis-ability to even stick up for Jesus in the few short hours of that night.  Perhaps Jesus is already encouraging Peter - not that it's okay not to stick up for Jesus, but that there will be life beyond that failure!  And the next words explain WHY:  You trust God, don't you?  Trust me.

For my dis-abled heart today I took comfort.  Life beyond failure is beyond me, but it is never beyond the ability of the One who is worthy of all trust and His Son Jesus!  When I trust Him with it ALL - all the failure, all the pain, all the seeming success, all the confidence, all the dis-ability THEN the implied promise is that it is never the end but rather the opportunity to begin again - not because of me, but because of the One who loves me and died to set me free!  Don't let this throw you! You trust God, don't you? Trust Me!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Hawk and the Sparrow

After church today I stood in the parking lot watching a red tail hawk on the hunt.  I don't know if it's the one that lives in our yard - could be since it's only about 2 blocks away.  All at once after flying in his lazy-seeming circles, he swooped with razor precision down to the prey he spied! It was majestic!  We marveled at the beauty of this creature God made!

Jesus talked about birds - the ones in the field and the air and especially the sparrow. 

The sparrow is no red tail hawk!  I doubt many would ever stand and marvel at a sparrow, but Jesus did - so it must warrant doing!  He said, Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. (Matt. 10:29)

Just the fact that Jesus chose to single out the sparrow from all the other thousands of types of birds tells us something important!  If what Jesus said is true, and I'm pretty doggone sure it is - THEN the implications for you and me are pretty impressive!  If God can take time out of His "day" to notice the goings-on of sparrows, then that means even the least of us are under His watch and care ALL THE TIME, EVERYWHERE!  That's awesome for sure!

Today I wouldn't have stood marveling for quite a few minutes if a sparrow had been flitting around here and there.  I stood and marveled as the hawk soared and swooped!  In retrospect I am so thankful that I don't have to be a hawk doing spectacular stunts in the sky to get God's eye on me!  I have His Word, His promise that assures me He cares totally even for the tiny sparrow.  Because His eye is on the sparrow, I know...I know...I know (Can't you just hear the rolling, throaty contralto tones of Ethel Waters?!) He cares for me ... for you!!! or, as she sings, He watches we!
Now THAT's something to stand and marvel about - that God's eye is on the sparrow and on me and you - on we!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Love is Down and Dirty!

I just saw this picture on Facebook.  I don't know how it got on my feed as I don't know the person who posted it.  I do know a person who liked it.  I was astonished!

It's just so wrong!  We see a person in need. The question about worthy is the one we ask in our heads. We MUST stop; we HAVE to stop!  We cannot love UNLESS we stop and DO something!  Loving is what we do in our hearts!  We put hands and feet on the feeling!  We do it anyway because we MUST!

Perhaps the picture means that we shouldn't evaluate whether we love by the worthiness of the one we need to love - OK, I'll give you that!  But I crawled up on my soapbox because it is so typical to use our evaluation of "worthy" as an excuse!  It's really all the more reason to love well!

The story Jesus told about the man beaten and left for dead by a gang of thieves - that's what it's all about.  The men who asked the worthy question in their heads crossed the road and passed by not getting their hands dirty and not even letting the blood and pain bother their eyes!  The man who stopped, gave first aid, and took the injured man to a safe place where he continued to provide care into an uncertain future, he didn't ask any questions.  He got down and dirty, crawled right into the mess, and showed what love looks like! 

DUH! I get the strong impression that's exactly what we are supposed to do: get down and dirty, crawl right into the mess, demo what love looks like!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Batter Up!

It's spring or almost spring! That means May flowers, spring showers, and baseball among other signs of spring! That is especially true in Pittsburgh when the Pirates are really on their game!

One essential of playing baseball is the batter.  Without someone up at bat, there isn't much of a game. Actually there is NO game at all!

I'm not planning to play baseball any time soon, but I find myself up at bat all too often!  There are many variations on this theme: there are two kinds of people in this world - the batters/players and the bench warmers!  I don't care who you are or what you do; you are one or the other!

It's the people who aren't afraid to get in the game, to take their turn at bat, to play their position who make a difference in the game of life!

Once a lady in Pittsburgh (native Pittsburgher) said to me, O, I know all about you Southern girls!  You just take to your bed for three days when you get a little headache.  Now, mind you:  She hardly knew me and SHE CERTAINLY DID NOT KNOW ME!!! 

Well, after I picked my jaw up off the floor, I looked her straight in the eye and said, O, you must not know there is more than one kind of Southern gal - There's the Southern Belle and then there's the Steel Magnolia!!!

It is so interesting from a people-observation perspective and also so sad from a Christian world-and-life-view that there are actually Christians who find being a bench sitter good enough, thank you very much!  I don't think so!  The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17:  17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  My Jesus and His name deserve MUCH more than warming a bench!  ONLY my best will do, and that's my best in EVERYTHING!

Now, bench warming is much less risky!  Chances are that bench warming will net you FAR less criticism on a grand scale, but it also won't get you to 1st base!  It won't even get you up to bat!

I don't care where you live and walk; it's a choice: Batter Up! or warm the bench!  There isn't much wear and tear to bench warming.  Batting, pitching, catching, running the bases and the field cost: time and energy and can tug on your heart big time! BUT that's where the game of life is played - IN THE GAME - NOT on the bench!  Being a player participating in the game may be messy and challenging, but it's worth it every time!  Especially because that's the ONLY way to do EVERYTHING in the name of the Lord Jesus to hold Him up before the watching world! Just sayin'!