Casting Off

Just Thinking…..

LINDA LOMAN:  Well, dear, life is a casting off. It’s always that way.   (“Death of a Salesman”)

Linda’s line has various meanings, all relevant to the play.  “Casting off” can refer to the finishing step of creating a knitted item.  It can refer to beginning a voyage.  And it has meaning in the discarding of items.

I think of this line often when considering all the “things” of life.   Knitting projects begin with the casting on and end with casting off; ‘ the item is complete.    Casting off in terms of a voyage means to undo the ropes that hold a boat tight to the dock.  It is leaving one place and heading towards another.   And when it refers to discarding items,  cast offs give the image of things not needed or wanted anymore; they are left behind.

An old joke says that you can’t hook a U-Haul to a hearse.   The old saying is “You can’t take it with you.”   And yet…..

….yet….. we accumulate all this “stuff”.  If a pioneer family living in a soddy or log cabin were to be transported to my house, they would gasp in amazement.  My house is probably the size of 10 or more cabins.  It is filled with furniture.  The drawers of dressers and shelves of cabinets, and racks in the closets are filled.    Keep in mind that I am not a hoarder, at least as you might see them depicted on TV.  But we have four recliners.  We have four rocking chairs.  And the list could go on.

Open the drawer in my kitchen where I keep utensils.   You will find four spatulas, three pairs of tongs.  Look at my stack of pot holders…… numerous.

Look at our closets.  More clothing than we can wear out….. clothing that we seldom wear.

Look at my bookcases.  Shelf after shelf of books.  Most are read and loved.  Some are seldom read.  And some have never been opened.

I admit it.  I have cast on all these things.  Sometimes my husband and I talk about the very real possibility that we will need to move to something smaller as we grow older, perhaps a condo or apartment.  Then that leads to a small assisted living space, and finally to a bed in a nursing home.  It’s a certainty that all my “stuff” cannot go with me.  And when I finally cast off from this life, I won’t be clutching one single item in my hands.  That final passage will leave cast offs in the wake.

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Linda Loman was right about life  having always been a casting off.  I no longer wear my baby clothes; I have cast them off and grown through many sizes in the decades since then.  I have cast off places that I have lived.   I have cast off relationships….. no longer in love with that high school sweetheart…. or the college heart throb.  They have been left behind.  I have cast off my career and am now retired.    Once upon a time I decorated my kitchen with all kinds of baskets hanging from the ceiling.  Now I cringe at such decor. I have cast off that thinking.  There was a time when I was quite judgmental of certain kinds of people.  I have cast off that hypocrisy…. still despising the sin, but having compassion and empathy for the people.

Sometimes I have an image in my imagination of someone headed toward the life finish line, and dropping stuff behind them.  It is sort of like folks on the wagon trains having to discard the family organ or that big clock  along the trail, or a sinking ship tossing barrels overboard to lighten the load.    In each case, there is a destination…. a goal…. and getting there is more important that the things carried along.

I have great attachment to some things in my life.  Family pictures, the pottery we have collected, my books,  the dishes my mother gave me, a ring from my mother in law…… These things bring pleasure and beauty and memories to my life.  But there will come a time when they are no longer mine.  I have spent my life accumulating…  and then…..   they are gone.

In my parent’s church is a motto on the wall:  “One life…. ’twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

It will all be cast aside except for that.  And all I can carry into Heaven will be the blood of Christ covering me.

I want to hear these words as I cast off from this world and go into the next:  Well done, good and faithful servant!”  (Matthew 25:21)  It won’t be, “Oh look at the lovely dishes you have collected.  Bring them on in for eternity.”

Father, help me keep the things of this earth in their rightful place.  Help me to focus more on people and less on things.   Help me cast off the non-essentials and focus on You and Your glory.  Amen.

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on July 15, 2019 at 1:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Back to School Dreams

Just Thinking….

Ask any teacher.  He or she will tell you that they have back to school dreams.  The dreams usually involve the teacher not being ready to teach, the room in disarray,  rowdy students, forgetting something very important, or teaching while dressed inappropriately …… or  not dressed at all…..  The dreams may start in late summer, as teachers’ minds turn to going back to the classroom.

I’ve had my share of these dreams, as an educator for a few decades.  But I have been retired  for 12 years now….. and the dreams are still coming.  Just coming earlier, like June or July.

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I’ve had a recurring dream this year.  The setting is the same for every dream.  In it, there are stairways on which we can only go up or only go down….. and the one that I need is always on the other end of the building.  I realize that I have no idea of my schedule, my student rosters, or the rooms in which I will be teaching.  I am in panic mode.  Organization has always been my strong point, and I found myself totally disorganized.   I was running down stairs and to a glassed in hallway.  I thought my room was somewhere along that hall.   I found my students and they were surprised to see me.

“Mrs. P….. we’ve waited three months for you!”

“I’m sorry.  We have so much work to cover, and only a week of school left and I haven’t taught you how to do a research paper yet. ”

I look for the packet of papers that I always gave my students when we started research papers.  They were nowhere to be found.

“Ah….. I’ll have papers for you tomorrow.  You need to do all your research tonight and bring it tomorrow.”

Neve mind that research takes a while.  We only had a week of school left, and I was determined that they would know how to write that paper!!!!!

Then the students lost interest and were staring out into the hall.

“What????”

The students informed me that it was graduation, and that their friends were graduating and marching up the hall at that very moment, and that they wanted to go see the graduation.  I thought that was a grand idea, so we all walk across the hall to see graduation.

But then I had to use the bathroom.  Again….. the same bathroom pops up in every dream.  It’s a bathroom where there are no doors on the stalls, except for one.  I made a beeline towards that one.  Once the door was safely locked, I heard commotion.

They were rolling back the walls of the bathroom, and students in beautiful gowns and suits were coming in.  It was Prom!!   And I was in the bathroom stall, scared to come out.  Whose stupid idea was it to hold Prom in the girls bathroom????

Somehow I got out and went to the school office.  I realized that I had never picked up my mail and notices there all year.  The principal stopped me to say that I was in charge of the yearbook and newspaper, and I double panicked.

Why was I just learning this now?   Yearbook journalism has to start in the summer before school started!!!!!! How in the world could we accomplish this in one week?????

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At this point I am hyperventilating, and then then I wake up in a sweat.  I am a failure as a teacher. I’ve let the principal down;  I’ve  let the students down; I’ve let ME down!!   It takes me a few moments to realize that it is just a dream.

I loved teaching.  I was passionate about my students learning and growing and becoming.  I took particular joy in seeing the light come on in their lives.  So I guess it’s not out of character for me to be dismayed at doing such a poor job.

Father….. Thank You for allowing me to be in a career that was so enjoyable for so many years.  Thank You that I had a chance to impact students.  Thank You for how you provided opportunities along the way to honor You.  I pray now for the teachers who are preparing to return to the classroom.  Help them calmly organize.  Be with them in a special way, especially those who are taking time even now to pray for their incoming students.

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on July 12, 2019 at 5:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Watt? Shocking… ReVOLTing….

 

Just Thinking….

We have been having electrical woes.  And of course, they all happen either at once or one immediately after the other.

Today I was doing laundry and a load of dishes.  I went downstairs to take the laundry out of the washer, and nothing was happening, except a load of sheets sitting in water.  Uh oh……

I tried moving the dial. No go.  I tried putting it on another function.  No go.  It was dead.  I called Hubby, who  then called an electrician.

Sometimes electricians are slow, but this time he was here promptly.  He decided we needed a new breaker.  Off he goes to purchase breaker.  New breaker is installed….. and my washer is working again.

Yay!!!!!!!  Perhaps we will still have clean sheets to sleep on tonight!

Then I started going going around the house to reset all the clocks that went off when we shut off t the main breaker.  Coffee pot clock?  Check.  Stove clock?  Check.  Microwave clock.  Nope.  The microwave is dead.

Time to call the electrician back.

Finally everything is running again.  The washer is washing.  The dishwasher is washing.  The microwave is waving.

Watching the work on these reminded me of my dependence on electricity.  I know nothing about electricity except that it shocks and that it makes things work.  I don’t have to understand  ohms and watts and breakers for them to work.  I do have to understand some safety first rules in order to stay alive.

I have had the embarrassing experience of getting frustrated when an appliance won’t work….. only to find that it isn’t plugged in.  Seems that that is a requirement …..

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Sometimes my Christian life is affected by lack of power.  I’m reminded that I need to stay plugged in to God, the source of my power.  Unplugged from God is sort of like pulling the plug to my toaster oven….. nothing happens.    But when I plug it into the socket…. viola!  Power and toast!

Believe me, I don’t understand how God works.  His ways are not my ways.  His thoughts are not my thoughts.  It’s enough for me to understand that God is sovereign and that He will work in His own perfect time and His perfect ways.  Sort of like our electrician…..

When the electrician is here, I stay out of the way.  If he needs me to hand a screwdriver, I do it.  If he needs me to see if a light has come on, I do it.  But otherwise I step back and observe.

When God is at work, I observe.  It’s wonderful to see God at work in people’s lives!  I don’t try (usually) try to step in or take over or dictate. But when God gives me direction to do something or say something, I have learned that it is much better for me to be obedient.  Even when I don’t understand.  It’s as if God has all the ohms and watts and breakers precisely and exactly moving in the perfect direction, and everything is coordinated for His glory and purpose.

Shocking, isn’t it…..

Father, help me remember that You are in control, and that I need to stay plugged in to You as my source of power.  Thank You for being the Master “Electrician” who understands what I cannot understand, and who works in ways that I cannot fathom.   Thank You for being the one I can depend on.

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on July 11, 2019 at 10:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Which Way, Lord?

Just Thinking….

Suppose you get marching orders….. and they seemed sort of ….. well….. weird.  The order goes something like this:  Pack your bag.  You’re leaving home.  I will show you the direction and guide  you to your destination.

So I pack a back pack and step out the front door.  Now what?  Do I take a step forward?  To the left?  To the right?  Or should I go back inside and head out the back door in the opposite direction?

I have no idea.

Consider Abram (later known as Abraham):  The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Abram:  Which way, Lord?

Lord:  I will show you.

So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives.   Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left,  I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”  (Genesis 13: 8-9)

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The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south,  the east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring  forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.  Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

Consider Moses:   [The Lord said]  So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”  (Exodus 3: 10)

Moses: Which way, Lord?

Lord:  I will show you.

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  (Exodus 13: 21)

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Consider the Magi:  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  (Matthew 2: 1-2)

We don’t know from Scripture is the Magi worshipped God, but they were obedient.

Magi:  Which way, Lord?

Lord:  I will show you.

 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  (Matthew 2:9)

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Consider me:  My parents were elderly and their health was worse.   We lived in Missouri and kept getting calls that we needed to rush back to Iowa, where they lived.  We both  were retired, and our dream was to enjoy our years in Missouri where we had built our home, had many friends, and had our reputation established.   Not to mention that the cost of living was lower in Missouri.  Yes, I wanted to grow old in Missouri.

Both my husband and I began to have to have a feeling (translate:  God calling us)  that we should move to Iowa.  I resisted the idea. Like Moses, I dredged up all the reasons why I should NOT move.  We had no idea where we would live.  It was cold in Iowa.  There were no Cardinals or Blues up there. Our pension would be taxed.  Whine, whine, whine.

Us:  Which way, Lord?

Lord:  I will show you.

So off we went into the cold north yonder to look for a house.  We had put our dream home up for sale, and it had not yet sold.  There was no way we could afford to buy another home until our current home sold.  I secretly rejoiced:   If it doesn’t sell, then I won’t have to move…..

We looked at several houses, and my heart sank.  They were pits…. awful.  House after house:  mold, rot, rickety …. and I wondered….. Lord,  where are you taking us?  He answered by taking us to a house that was surprisingly in good shape, affordable, and also closer to my parents.

Still….. our current home had not sold.  And then…. suddenly….. in the Lord’s perfect timing…. it sold.

I’m not yet at the stage of saying this is the promised land.  My heart still is in Missouri.  But the Lord has been faithful to provide what we needed in this strange land called Iowa.

Over and over in Scripture, the Lord calls people to destinations that they know nothing about…. or that they do not desire….. or  that they do not understand.  He guides them step by step… maybe with a  sign, maybe with clouds and fire, maybe with a star…..   Maybe by words  or choices of other people.  They are sometimes confused, overwhelmed, frustrated.    And over and over, the Lord assures them:  Do not be afraid.  Be strong and of good courage.  Trust Me.  Worship the Lord your God only.

Consider those called into missions:

Missionary:  Which way, Lord?

Lord:  I will show you.

Father, help me remain dependent on You.   Help me listen to Your voice, discover You in Your word,.   When I don’t know the way, assure me that You are the way, the truth, the life.  Help my doubt. Help me remember to pray for others who have doubts about which way to go.

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on July 8, 2019 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wedding Day Snafus

Just Thinking….

Our wedding was a comedy of errors.  Oh…. I married the right guy.  And all the right people showed up…. both wedding party and guests.  But so many things did not go as planned.

Where to begin?  First of all I wanted my bridesmaids to be barefoot and carry a single daisy.  I wanted to be barefoot, also.  Can you tell that I was child of the 60’s?

Our colors were poppy, avocado and wheat.  Nice nature colors…..  I found the perfect flowerchild material for my bridesmaids.  Flowered dresses…. orange aprons.  Cute….. But I got nixed on the bare feet.

A friend and I made my wedding dress and  veil.  At the time I  was enamored with dotted swiss.  So the dress was satin and dotted swiss, and the veil was dotted swiss with hems of cloth daisies.  It was pretty.  And it was hot.  It was pretty hot.   I didn’t realize how much I would sweat in that dress.

We were married by the Pope.  Actually he spelled his last name POPP….. but it was pronounced POPE.     I had asked the Pope to read 1 Corinthians 13 as the Scripture for the ceremony.  What I did not realize was that he was a very S  L  O  W  reader.  VERY SLOW.   So slow that my little flower girl gave up and sat down on the steps with a sigh.  So slow that my sweat condensed and ran into my eyes.  I had to wipe them with that dotted swiss veil.

We had hurricane lanterns attached to the pews along the aisle.  I had asked my uncles to light the candles and put the glass over the candles.   Bless their hearts; they forgot to put the glass over the candles.  The candles were burning brightly.  A better word is  blazing.  And I feared that the big hair  styles with all the hair spray would explode in the flames.   We all made it down the aisle safely, and as far I know, no guests were charred in the making of this wedding.

When the ceremony was over, I was ready to dance down the aisle.  But my new husband kept holding me back.  Why?  He was told by the photographer that brides tend to walk fast, so slow her down.  And he did.  You should  see the picture of him sort of grimacing as he tried to keep me in line.

And then there was the matter of the cake.  I wanted pie for the reception as I didn’t like cake.  My hubby and I were paying for wedding and making the plans, so I was ready to order or make pies.  Nope.  My parents said they would pay for the reception main event….. and that it would be CAKE.  But where to get the cake?  Aha. My parents knew this girl who made cakes.  Her father was a barber and the barber chair was right in the kitchen and they had watched her make cakes  while getting a haircut.  To her credit, she made a nice cake.  BUT…..  the poppy color was a little difficult.   It was more red…. Christmas red…. and very bitter.  But the only cake I ate was what my new hubby put into my mouth, so all was well.

Now it was time to make our get away.  My fun loving family had parked my little Opel Kadet  in with their big cars.  They filled the back with balloons.  They put rocks in the hub caps.  And they put a note on the gas cap that said, “Help.  This man is kidnapping me.”  It was a most interesting get away.  And I haven’t even mentioned all the rice in the car…. in our hair…. in our fancy clothes.

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You have to remember that the 70s were not great fashion years.  Think platform shoes and bell bottoms.  Think polyester pant suits.  Think of my gift to my husband of a blue, yellow and white plaid polyester suit for our honeymoon getaway.   It was complete with a blue shirt and yellow tie.  Yes, we have pictures.  He was not thrilled.  I had an orange polyester dress.  Loved it at the time, but looking back we were somewhat hideous.

Finally, we had the little fiasco at the motel.  Hubs had made a reservation.  Or so he thought.  But when we pulled up to the Holiday Inn, there was no “Congratulations Perry and Diana” on the marque.  I sat in the car, getting more nervous by the second, and when he finally came back from the office, he just sighed.  It seemed that the clerk who took the reservation either quit or got fired on the same day, and the reservation was never filed.  And there was no room in the Inn.  The friendly folks at the desk tried to help by phoning another  motel in town, and so we went there.  Not exactly what we had in mind….. but it was better than going back to my parent’s house.

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But you know what?  This marriage, despite all the comedy of errors of the wedding, has lasted 40 plus years….. and I am more in love with this man than ever.

Father…. Thank You for the gift of marriage. Thank You for the gift of this man in my life.  Thank You for the many ways You care, and provide, and protect, and guide us though this wedded life. 

To God be the Glory….

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Published in: on July 8, 2019 at 3:35 am  Comments (1)  

If Life is a Path…..

Just Thinking…..

If life is a path or a journey, then three kinds of people touch my path:  those who walk beside me, those who cross the path, and those who sit down in the middle of the path.

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I like the analogy of life as a path or journey.  It makes sense to me.  “This world is not my home…. I’m only passing through….”.    And I know that I am not alone on this journey.  But sometimes I wonder about those who intersect my path or travel my path or block my path.

There are those who walk with me.  Some of them are not who I deliberately chose…. people like family.  I’m glad they are there, but none of us choose our parents or siblings or cousins or our own children.  Others are the ones we chose to walk  with us.   I chose my husband, I chose my adopted child, I chose my friends.  I am grateful for every one of these folks.  They are here for the long haul and they inspire and teach me constantly.

This spring and summer, I had the opportunity and privilege to visit three of my aunts.  Two were my mother’s sisters and one was my father’s sister.  Each is so important to me in differing ways.  We told stories of my parents, we reminded each other of how much we love, we kept those family ties tied.  Those people who know our past and present are invaluable.   I remember my grandfather saying that the worst thing about growing old is that there were fewer people to share the same memories.  Those folks who walk the path with us help us hold on to those memories.

I wonder much more about those who cross my path.  My neighbors, the woman at the grocery store,  the technician who does mammograms, the guy walking the dog from the Humane Society, a teacher.   Sometimes I ponder why that particular person was in my life for that particular time.  I don’t doubt at all that God put people into my life for a purpose, but sometimes I don’t know what the purpose is.

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A few years ago, I was at the library, and getting ready to go home.  However, a funeral process came down the street and I had to wait to cross to the parking lot.  When I neared my car, I walked by a lady who was sobbing.  I asked her if anything was wrong….. could I help her.  She referred to the funeral procession, and talked about how sad it was.  I asked her if I could pray for her. She immediately took my hand, and I prayed.   When finished, she told me a remarkable story.

She had been in grief about the death of this person.  And someone told her that she would meet someone who would pray for her and help her.  She grasped my hand again, and said, “God sent you  right here….right now….to pray for me.”   I never saw her again, never learned her name.  But she crossed my path, and reminded me of how important it was to stay in God’s will.

And then there are those who just sit down and block the path.  For whatever reason, they slow me down….. or stop me completely.  They challenge me to keep on… to find a solution…. to discover a way to continue.  They make me angry until I somehow get past them and reflect  on the impact they had on me.  I may never know them or see their face.  But they are real people…. real path blockers….. real challenges..

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Many years ago I applied for a  teaching job at a junior college.  I was informed that I was one of two finalists for the job, and was invited to come back for a second interview.  That was exciting!  And then….. I got a call on the morning of the interview.  The man on the other end of the phone line was apologetic, but he said that both finalists were white….. and they were required to hire someone who was black, so they had to start all over.  That was a definite blockage on the path.  I was upset that I had invested so much time into getting this job, only to be turned down by something that I had no control over.  But as time went by, I realized that it actually was for the best.  It was not long after,  that I received another job offer, and it was a wonderful position.  I truly think that God was in control of the path-blockage.  Perhaps the black person who got the job was just the perfect fit for that particular job.  And I know that the job I accepted was a perfect fit for me.

I still don’t know why God puts certain people on the path with me, or allows them to cross or block the path.  I don’t understand His ways. Why does He sometimes let smelly stinky people on  my path?  Why does He allow people who will lie to me, cheat me, steal from me, use and abuse me….. to cross my path?  Why does He let some people block my path for no reason that I can discern and for more time than I think necessary?  I just don’t know……  God puts people into my life that I would not willingly put into my life.  Then I think of Jesus….. who willingly went to the lepers, the adulterers, the tax collecting cheats, the dregs of society.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways 
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.  (Is. 55: 8-9)

All of this reminds me of my nephew, Nathan.  My sister and her husband adopted Nate as a baby.  He was beautiful.  But he was not well and didn’t seem to thrive.  My sister is a nurse, and she knew something was not right, but it was hard to get a doctor to believe her concerns.  After almost losing him, they finally got a diagnosis:  cystic fibrosis.  It was a death sentence.  Nate was in and out of hospitals for his entire life.  He was brilliant, charismatic, fun.  He endeared himself into our hearts.   He lived much longer than doctors had predicted,  graduating from college and starting a job.  But his days were numbered.   Nate died awaiting a lung transplant.

He was one who walked the path with me for a distance.  He was one who crossed our path through adoption.    But his condition and death blocked my path for a while.  Then God allowed me to reflect on Nate.  He was adopted into a family where his mother was a nurse, and where his father had a job with insurance that helped generously to pay for Nate’s bills.  He was adopted into an extended family that loved him unconditionally and where his many cousins and siblings loved him.  I began to see how God’s plans were working.  All of this was for Nate’s benefit.    And yet….. his life touched my life in ways that I am still discovering.

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Father,  Your ways are so much higher than my own.  Forgive me when I try to impose my ways and do not understand Your ways.  Thank You for the many kinds of people You bring into my life, whether for a lifetime or only for an instant.  Thank You for those who block my path and force me to seek Your will.  Help me to always value each person, no matter what.   Grant me patience.  Amen.

To God be the Glory…..

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Published in: on July 1, 2019 at 7:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Fix-it

Just Thinking……

I did it!!!!!

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I’m a determined fixer…… refrigerator freeze up? I fix it. Towel dispenser not dispensing? I fix it.

My tools are simple: duct tape, paper clips, magnifying glass, hair driers, table knives, occasionally a screwdriver, and lots of deep breaths to blow into tiny spaces.

Today I fixed my Keurig. It decided to be a nincompoop and quit pumping the water. I showed it who is boss! One toothpick, paperclip, magnifying glass and paper towel later…. and taDA!!!!!!!! Back in business. Thank you very much.

And about that refrigerator freezing up?  A hairdryer and a table knife do the trick.

Just call me “Mrs. Fix-It”.

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But some things are not so easily fixed.  That broken relationship.  That careless word.  That missed opportunity.  The family falling apart.

There are tools:   A right word.  Silence.  A hug.  A note.  A visit.  Trying again.  And again.  Patience.  An “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Time.

And there are the right times and the right places to use the tools.  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. (Prov. 25:11)  It becomes a thing of beauty.  And sometimes I have to realize that the fixing is beyond my control.  That’s when I give it to God.  That word, fitly, is sooooo important.  If my attitude is wrong, then my words won’t be fitly.  If my timing is wrong, my words won’t be fitly.  If I mean well, but don’t totally understand the situation, my words aren’t going to be fitly.   And certainly not fixly.…..

If only I could mend broken fences as easily as a broken coffeepot.

Father, It’s hard.  It’s hard to put shattered people back together.  It’s hard to fix those relationships. And yet….. we try.  Please grant us the ability to see others as You see them, even if it is only a snippet of what You see.  Help us love as You love, even if only a fraction. Help us to know the right times, the right places, the right words, the right actions.  Help us to know when it is best to hand it over to You, and then step back.

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on June 25, 2019 at 4:06 am  Comments (1)  

More Than……

Just Thinking…..

Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day.   Seventy five years ago, young men, some  only 18, some younger,  willingly entered the waters near Normandy, France, and tried to come ashore.

More than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches.

More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion.

More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded.

More than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard march across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler and his troops.

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An ever dwindling number of WW2 veterans met today on Omaha Beach at Normandy to reflect on that occasion and share memories.

“We know we don’t have much time left, so I tell my story so people know it was because of that generation, because of those guys in this cemetery,” said 99-year-old Steve Melnikoff of Maryland.

This day deserves to be remembered.  I have a grandson who is just slightly younger than many of the men who battled that day and gave their lives.   I don’t want him to have to go through something like this.  Yet I am grateful for who those secured my freedoms today.  They did more than what anybody expected at the beginning of the conflict.

All of this happened only five years before I was born.  It is difficult to imagine the world I would now live in if this “crusade” (Eisenhower’s  word) had not taken place.  I owe so much to the bravery of those went before us.

This whole concept of more than…..  It’s mind boggling.  So much of our world today is self centered.  It’s a “what’s in it for me” concept.   It’s “every man for himself”.    Can you imagine the soldiers of D-Day saying, “What’s in it for me?”   Saying, “Every man for himself?”  They knew with utmost solemnity that the first ones down in the water, the first ones on the beach would surely be mowed down.  There was scarcely a chance of coming out alive.

When then-Col. (later Brig. Gen.) George Arthur Taylor, who commanded the 16th Infantry Regiment, arrived on Omaha Beach, he yelled,  “There are only two kinds of people on this beach. Those who are dead, and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here.”

Yet they had more than their own safety and well being at mind.  They knew  that the sacrifice, horrible as it would be, was what would eventually secure freedom.   They had a vision of a future that would not include them.  I have read that many wrote last letters on the way to the invasion.  Many prayed.  They knew what they were stepping into.  They could have turned coward.  They could have turned tail and run.  But they didn’t.  And it made all the difference.

“Greater love has no man than this:    That he lay down his life for his friends. ” (John 15: 13).  These men were not my friends….. not in a traditional way.  But in that  they laid down their lives for someone who had not even been born, that is more than friendship.

And this is what Jesus did in a far more expansive way, covering space and time:  He laid down His life  so that all who believes in Him would be more than conquerors.    It is more than I deserve.  It is grace….. and mercy.

Would you spend a moment today reflecting on Jesus’s sacrifice and on D-Day?

Father, let me not forget.  So many who have gone before me have sacrificed the ultimate and I am grateful.  Thank you for Jesus who paid that price for my eternity.  Thank you for the men at D-Day who paid that price for my temporary time on earth. Amen.

To God be the Glory……

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Published in: on June 6, 2019 at 11:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hilarious Grace

Just Thinking……

I want you to picture something in your mind.  You are in church, and the ushers are collecting the offering.  You hear a strange noise, and look about.  Folks are giggling, laughing…. so hard that they have to stop and wipe the tears streaming down their cheeks.

“Over here!” you hear….. and look….. and woman is clutching a handful of bills getting ready to toss them into the plate.   She laughs heartily as she does so.

“I’m next!” shouts a man, who folds u a check and slides it to the bottom of the plate, smiling and laughing.

“Me, too! ”   Some teens have a 5 gallon bucket of change, which clearly won’t fit into the collection plate, so they drag the bucket to the altar, laughing all the way.   The ushers aren’t far behind as the plates are overflowing, so they dump them at the altar, and go back into the congregation.

Everywhere:  smiles, grins, cheers, laughter, the occasional fist bump.  Joy….JOY…. in  being able to give!!!!

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Were you able to imagine it?   Or does your imagination, when asked to picture giving an offering in church, conjure up a picture of dour faces, reluctant giving?

Today I was reading about Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles.  I would have loved to meet this guy!!   He was busy getting the nation headed in the right direction, and part of that was getting the Temple going again.   King Hezekiah first contributed from his own wealth, and then ordered the people to give so that the priests could concentrate on their own work.   And here’s what happened:

 As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.  The people of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the Lord their God, and they piled them in heaps.  They began doing this in the third month and finished in the seventh month.  When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the Lord and blessed his people Israel.

Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, “Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the Lord has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over.” (2 Chron. 31: 5-19)

Unbelievable.   The people brought heaps…. HEAPS of their treasure as a gift to the Temple, a gift to God.    There was so much that there was wealth to spare!  When is the last time a church said, “We are in the black on the budget…. and not only that…. we have money to spare!!!”  All the bills were paid.  All the salaries were paid.   Community needs were met.  And still money remained!!

So……. what would happen if all the members of a church tithed?  I know that a tithe is not the required amount in our time, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s say that each member gave one tenth of his/her income.    Basically it takes 10 tithers to be able to pay the salary of one pastor.    If there is an assistant pastor…. or secretaty…. or other paid personnel, it will take about 10 more tithers to meet the needs for each.   It will take another 10 tithers to cover things like utilities, upkeep, mortgage payments (if the church has a loan), materials for education and worship, outreach costs, and so forth.   If you have just one pastor, then about 20 tithers  would easily cover costs.   But let’s suppose that the church has about 80 members.    Imagine what could be done to spread the gospel if those 80 tithed?   And I’m not talking about people who  make big bucks.  Some of those 80 members might be widows who give a mite.  Some might be children who bring in a dime  out of their dollar allowance.  The teen who made $50 last week detailing cars tosses in a five dollar bill.  And so it goes.

 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  (2 Corinthians 9: 6-8)

Note  in the above passage….. the word “cheerful”.  This word has been translated as “hilarious”.   And that’s the scenario  with which I opened this blog: people laughing all over themselves as they give of their money.

This is giving with grace.  Grace: Receiving what we don’t deserve.   God’s grace reached down to us…. giving us Jesus.   God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.   God gave so that we could live.   And this is the ministry of grace-giving:  We give to honor God, and in turn those funds go to spread the gospel….. so that others might live.  Amazing grace…..

And that’s something to bring a smile to your face!

Father…. help us to give with joy.  Help us to understand grace-giving. 

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on May 6, 2019 at 7:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Light is Sweet….Pleases the Eye

Just Thinking…..

Our family room is dark.  Not like totally black, but in the day time, it just seems dim.   We often turn on the overhead lights  to make it seem more inviting and friendly.  The kitchen, dining area and family room are all  one big area.  There is a medium sized  north window in the kitchen, and a nice large west window in the family room.  There is also a set of double glass doors there, facing west into the sunroom.  Yet…… it seems dark.

The rest of the house has nice light.  The living room has large windows to the east and to the north, and the bedrooms have large window to either the west or the south.  It is almost jarring to walk from the  light and airy living room into the shadowy family room.

We talked about adding windows to the family room, and called in a contractor friend.  He assured us that it could be done.  We spent the winter looking at the wall where we thought the windows should go, and this spring we called the Pella representative to come and measure.

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Then we cut a sheet of white plastic to the size of the window that we want and taped it in place.   We have now spent several days staring at this, and trying to imagine that it is glass.  There actually will be two of these: one shown here, and the other at the other end of the wall.  These should allow quite a bit more natural light to fill the family room.

This whole process got me to thinking about light as found in Scripture.

“I am the Light of the world,” says Jesus. (John 8:12)

The Word is a “lamp unto my feet  and a light unto my path ” (Ps. 119:105)

Let there be light! (Gen. 1:3)

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”  (1 Cor. 4:6)

Light is sweet,  and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.”  (Ecc. 11:7)

 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.  With Him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”  (James 1:17)

Light represents such positive attributes and aspects.  It illuminates, clarifies, gives safety and  security,  gives heat and life.  It can be reflected.  When concentrated, it can cut.  We continually try to cancel the dark with flashlights, spotlights, headlights, night lights, emergency lights, reading lights, solar lights, task lights.

Characteristics of light include that it fills space, yet travels in a straight line.  If there is an obstacle to the light, then a shadow forms.  If the obstacle is larger, then darkness forms…. and so it is with evil.    The good news is that light overcomes!!!  It not only scatters the dark, but also can completely erase it!

Here is my enlightenment…..   I worship a God of light, and a risen Savior who is light to the world.  No wonder we were uncomfortable with the darkness in the family room; no wonder we craved light!!!  These new windows will forever  symbolically  illustrate that light is sweet, pleasing the eye.

Father…..  help us to be always like the moth….. coming to the light.  We thank You for the light that is on our path….. showing us the dangers to avoid  and the way to go.   Thank You that darkness will not overcome light. 

To God be the Glory…..

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Published in: on May 3, 2019 at 3:43 am  Leave a Comment