The Yellow Kitchen

 

Our Michigan house was built by my parents, and its rectangle kitchen was cleverly designed, with three entries: one to the bedroom hallway, one to the dining room where we took our evening and Sunday meals, and one to the back porch beside the telephone desk. On either side of the hallway door’s entrance began two paralleled counter tops, the stove on one side and the sink in the other.  The fridge stood adjacent to the stove side. The sink’s counter side stopped short, to provide passage into the breakfast room. Behind the sink was more counter, making its section an island with a rounded end graced by lower shelves to match the curve. An overhead cupboard was to the sink’s right and the rest of the island opened into the breakfast room. In that sweet room lived a yellow linoleum covered table that matched the floor, seven chairs, and the small telephone desk.  If you sat on the north side of the table, you could see evidence of the current season in the backyard, through divided window panes. If you sat on the south side, you saw the kitchen’s floor plan:  island sink, stove, refrigerator and door to the dining room and bedroom hallway.

In this warm room, we took breakfast and lunch, played table games like Monopoly, War, Parcheesi and checkers and my live-in grandpa played Cribbage every Friday night with Uncle Bernie there. On those kitchen walls, this three-year-old got crayons and scribbled from one corner to another before my mother caught me. And on the kitchen island my father laid me flat, to stitch a cut over my eye, when I fell headlong on the back-porch steps one rainy day in 1955. I still have the scar from that cut on my body.

Deeper still, I have the imprint of that yellow kitchen, in my memory.

What indelible scar do you carry in your body? What memory from your childhood home?

 

~A Prayer~

Thank You, Lord that You see all that happens to us. You see us in our childhood kitchens, you see us today.  You heal us of our cuts and wounds, because You love to show us mercy and kindness. Please bring this to those who are without it. Put them on our minds, so we can pray for them.

Please bless our good memories and heal us of what brought us scars. Thank you that scars are evidence of Your presence, then and now. Thank you for salvation through Jesus who for our sake, endured scorn, false accusations, assault and battery, and a criminal’s death, to provide for us a life where we can have a kitchen place on earth, where we might learn of Your love. But even better, a place in your heavenly kingdom, the Big kingdom, the One that matters most of all.

“May Your kingdom come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.  ~Matthew 6:10

The Fight

The Fight

The siege in our land is as ugly as the Civil War days. We’ve made some progress, writing laws calling for equality and 190 years later, equality and kindness are larger. But prejudice still exists. The Law is the standard, but the ability to embrace its rule of kindness lies within the human heart. Scripture says our heart is either flesh or stone. Flesh brings love and kindness for others. Stone doesn’t–it believes it’s better than others, and breeds hatred.  Prejudice is outlawed by law but still lives in human hearts, as in 1865: those who believe all men are created equal and those who don’t.

Where we fail Lady Justice, we must work for change together. Peacefully.  I agree with Harris Faulkner: we need to fight for America, not fight each other.

Seeing that police officer keep his knee on George Lloyd’s neck made me sick. Why did no one push him off? Bystanders could have rushed him, together. The officer’s heart was filled with hate. As was the man who hit the police chief over the head with a baseball bat. And the person whose stray bullet hit a baby in the chest and killed him. Such crime deserves arrest, a trial and possible imprisonment and no release without bail.

And let us not persecute and punish all officers who do their job superbly, taking risks, putting their lives on the line. And let us also not assume all protesters are alike. Let us not judge the majority for the sins of a few.

May God forgive us for our hearts of stone. May He change them to hearts of flesh, convict us of sin, bind our enemies and save us.

The Blurry Pandemic

 

The CO-VID parasite take over is the weirdest thing I’ve known. As a child, my cousin got scarlet fever and that was weird too, since she came to our house and was in quarantine for ten days in a contained bedroom; my mom took care of her around the clock. But there were medicines for that in the 1950’s.

This pandemic is different. Its contagion ability is strong and far reaching. It has no exact cure. Except for places it cannot find people in close proximity, it thrives and spreads. It’s worldwide. Those who travel with it (even if unknowingly) successfully transfer it to new regions. A single case of it arriving in New York multiplied in six weeks to thousands. An older woman visiting family in Spain returned to the states, then traveled to South America (with a fever) and transferred it to her family there. Both she and her sister died from the virus.

I’ve gone round and round to comprehend it. My conclusion? It belies understanding. The conflicting reports are confusing and unresolved. Have you heard them?

  1. it’s insidious/no, it’s no worse than the flu except for those with preexisting conditions or the elderly who aren’t equipped in their immune system to resist it
  2. it’s spreadable only by droplets in the air from a coughing or sneezing person/no–it’s highly contagious and just being near it can give it to you
  3. wearing a mask slows it down/masks are only for those who have a cold, to keep germs in
  4. gloves are good/no, not necessarily
  5. hydrychloroquine turns most patients around in a few days/hydrychloroquine is unproved and has serious side effects
  6. the sheltering in place is working/no, the sheltering isn’t making much difference; numbers are still climbing
  7. the wave will die by May/the wave will go into the summer and flare again in the fall
  8. heat doesn’t kill it/summer might very well lower the numbers some
  9. if the healthy are not exposed (most can fight it off), not enough people will develop antibodies and reduce the numbers the next time it hits/no, the herd immunity plan isn’t conclusive or trustworthy
  10. Sweden and some U.S. states aren’t sheltering in place and not any worse off than the countries who are/no, they will suffer the consequences, just wait and see
  11. the virus began in a Wuhan China lab or wet market/no it didn’t…we don’t know how it began
  12. China infected all of us/no, China did a good job of keeping it contained the best they could
  13. the W.H.O. has ties with China and is hiding the facts/WHO supports China’s story that the virus was dealt with correctly
  14. President Trump’s not truthful, isn’t doing a good job or enough, says what he thinks makes him look good and pats himself on the back,  isn’t getting the tests out to the states/ or…Pres. Trump is under immense strain, is in the same boat we are, has only partial knowledge about what’s best so went with the sheltering in place, hoping for the best/has our best interests in mind
  15. Dr. Fauci’s the expert and has the best ideas and we should follow him even to a 2021 lock-down/Dr. Fauci knows a lot but can’t prove sheltering is working
  16. A cure for the virus will take a year or more/we may never have an anti-virus for CO-VID; there’s been no anti-virus for HIV+ years later
  17. nursing homes might be a breeding ground for CO-VID/no, most nursing homes take extreme precautions and fight the infection quite well
  18. the state is overstepping our civil liberties with a lock-down/ no, we have to obey this–they have jurisdiction when a state of emergency or war is declared

My son in law works (virtually now) for the CDC and has no inside story on it. He says it depends on who you talk to regarding any question or ability of the virus.

At best, the picture is blurred. Only God knows what this is and what its outcome shall be. If reporting is bent on creating despair and panic, or disparaging or glorifying our president, take heed.

Arizona’s cases don’t follow a norm. We have outbreaks and high numbers in Maricopa County but not necessarily in only metropolis zones. Many are rural cases, including the Navajo nation in the northeast corner, where it attacks those in poverty/poor health or living far from medical help. We also have a vast number of older retirees. And care facility residents. When breakouts occur in some of these homes, this conflates numbers.

Besides those in the 65 and older group, we have high numbers of cases in the 20-40 age group. Do the younger adults not have enough antibodies in their system to fight this, as was the case in the Spanish influenza of 1918?  Is this group not staying at home? Did some have compromised health before they got infected?

We don’t know. We can’t judge. I gently conclude with three questions and a caveat.

  1. How is the virus really caught?
  2. How can we know if sheltering in place truly keeps numbers down? (It’s been six weeks, with a lock-down and Arizona’s numbers are still climbing. Recently reported death/cases are about 300/5700+, but cases continue to come forward. Why?)
  3. Can you curtail something silent and invisible?

For Christians, we might wonder what God is doing. Things don’t happen without reason/s. He has things to show us. Better than wondering is praying—for His healing, His help, for scientists to discover His solution, and for His comfort to those in deep grief. Praying is a golden chance to cooperate with the divine. Let us yield to the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6. And to the Greek song/prayer:

Kyrie Eleison: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

 

 

What’s Going On?

 

 

 

I think it’s official, the world has lost its sense of balance. Yes, we have a pandemic going on, yes, it’s serious, and yes we need to take precautions.  But is all this fear and panic justified?

In order to buy our groceries and not feel like a packaged sardine, I have to shop when things are not crazy.  And when would that be?  I dislike ordering things online.  Supposed early hours for those over sixty-five doesn’t help since there’s a large constituency of that here in Tucson.  Not much advantage. Add to those numbers folks who disregard the age recommendation and come anyway.

This morning I decided to try Costco at 8 a.m., being told the first hour on Tuesdays was for seniors.  I figured I’d avoid the initial rush and go about ten minutes late. Ready to leave, I couldn’t find my car keys. An indoor hunt led to nothing. I tried the car itself; there they lay on the driver’s seat. Huh? I left for my mission, only to round the corner and face an orange sign: STREET CLOSED.  Two obstructions in five minutes.

Obstruction three. Arriving at Costco was shocking.  The left turn lane was filled halfway back to the post freeway intersection.  Oh joy. Waiting to even turn IN took the patience of Job. Policemen arrived, found places to park, put on their fluorescent vests to direct traffic, of course after I made my left-hand turn.  By now, I gave up any hope of being able to park much less get through the Costco doors. I wasn’t mad, but it wasn’t something I wanted to navigate. I consoled myself that I could get away and go home easily by taking the business loop around to the next intersection.

Wrong. Bumper to bumper cars prevented a speedy exit for anyone. Now I was getting mad, another obstruction. And of course, this most northern intersection into Costco was not policed and people do what people do best, enter the intersection tentatively when the light turns green instead of stepping on the gas. I was stuck in that passageway twenty minutes, creeping my way to the light. Ten cars short of it, a cop arrived from the other direction to make his way to park and set up shop at the light. Of course.

Before I drove much further, I looked for a place to pull over, to adjust a 25 pound weight rolling around in my RAV trunk.  I’d forgot about it, before this errand. (An anchor cylinder for the dogs’ running leash at the park.) Its presence scared me, imagining it could slam its way out the rear door. I pulled over and hauled it to the floor of the second seat.

By now, a blog piece was forming in my mind. I decided to take a photo of the road sign that said STREET CLOSED, a symbol for what’s going on these days. But I left my phone at home. Obstructions five and six, the dangerous weight and forgetting my phone. When I returned to the site with my phone, the sign was gone; the street crew was loading up! So I parked and walked to the one around the corner that said STREET CLOSED AHEAD when I heard a beep beep.  I looked down to see my phone die right then and there. Obstruction seven.

What’s going on? Our world is upended. Unless you live in the arctic or jungle or Sahara Desert, you’re impacted by the obstruction and restrictions of this insidious Corona virus. My exciting March calendar was trashed; the events were once-in-a-lifetime things, big sacrifices for me. So events are cancelled, church is postponed, schools and stores closed, restaurants forbidden to serve, gatherings frowned upon; it goes on.

Normally, I try to take things in stride, albeit I have to work at that. I err on the side of skepticism; it’s been hard to agree to quarantining. I accept that the Lord’s in control– Christianity 101 says so, however that doesn’t mean things are easy nor that I have to like obstructions. God has an enemy and evil is having a heyday.

But Satan’s pot stirring has its limits, praise God. One morning I’ll get up, know where my keys are, be able to go to the store and not find half of Tucson in the parking lot, not get stuck in unnecessary traffic, not be endangered with a heavy weight, and not be so careless as to leave my phone behind. Whether the blame is on myself, life’s circumstances, God’s enemy, general stress, sin, Murphy’s Law, or a threatening virus, God’s still in charge. I want to find better ways to cope than giving in to despair and anger.

This is too big of a crisis not to acknowledge the inherent Big Ideas in it. Years ago, when my first marriage was heading toward a shoreline of rocks, I came to realize God’s presence with me.  Things were so awful, dark and overwhelming that all I could see were dark clouds. I despaired, picked up my Streams in the Desert devotional, and turned to the day’s entry. There, I read that God dwells in the clouds. My balance came back, my burden was lifted.

God’s in this. Bad things can happen. When they do, He’s still there, wanting to show us stuff we haven’t yet seen. Who knows what amazing things will come out of this storm?  Instead of pining for the items I wanted to bargain buy at Costco, I can trust Him to show and give me things a lot more important than a bucket of dates.

We are growing as a country and medicines are coming forward. Ideas showing how to be better prepared are forming. On a personal level, I recognize other things. Here’s my starting list.

  1. Remain calm and quell my agitation.
  2. Pray to stop being selfish and lamenting my inconveniences and losses.
  3. Let God speak to me. Read the Bible and journal.
  4. Pray big, pray for myself, for others, for families whose loved ones have died, for the infected and those with other illnesses in the midst of this turmoil. Pray for the countries and areas hardest hit. Pray for a vaccine and ingenious scientists. Pray for those caring for and bringing medical supplies to the needy. Pray for those out of work and pressed for money to pay bills. Pray that the animus is quenched in our country, and for those deciding how to best help us. For our economy and other countries struggling. Pray for selfish agendas to be crucified. And for myriads to come to Jesus.
  5. Who can I help financially wisely?

What’s on your personal list?

We have two small dogs, one who got to be with us from her weaning and one probably on the streets for a year. You can guess which one is the calmer, happier dog. Lucy-Hazel missed an entire year of our love, assurance and correction. We must train and re-program her and hope she can calm down and realize she’s safe and doesn’t have to be so defensive, nurture balance in her life.

Perhaps this is a time for us to draw closer to God. Only He can lift the burdens from our shoulders. I believe that street sign was removed on purpose, so I’d see that yes, there are road closures at times in our lives.  But our Lord removes them when the work He’s doing is completed.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; He won’t permit the righteous to fall.”   ~ Psalm 55:22:

 

 

Things to Remember

 

I will remember the cold of 2017 on several planes. And actually, having returned from a cold snap in Tennessee, the onset of a new year still feels cold.

Without the presence of some beloved family members and some dear friends, life can feel like the blast of a cold wooden floor under your not-yet-awake morning feet.

The joy of working on an adorable Vintage investment home turns cold when your clay sewer system and basement leaks, forcing the relinquishment of big funds for repairs.

And being rejected by a promising publisher can chill your bones, as well. When I was told in a two liner email that my historical novel did not line up with their company’s plans for the coming year, it seemed as though they’d taken a needle to my lungs and deflated them.. I did not even tell my husband about it for months.

But one must not sit on their hands.

To wit, it so happened that two sweet ladies at church asked me to read my story to them, as often as we could meet. We are more than halfway through. All the while, I see flaws and oversights, character development needs and basic errors that couldn’t otherwise be detected, without an out loud read with an audience. They have fun speaking up, suggesting tweaks and turns, which I as the author weigh in the balance. Without realizing it, I am learning how to be a presenting author, learning how to defend my story with confidence.

Perhaps the cold will turn to warmth this next year. Revision is never foolish.

I must go on. In fact, I take hope in the words of Kathleen Kelly, the protagonist from the movie You’ve Got mail. She answers her second co-star Greg Kinnear (one of my favorite actors , as they break up, that no, she does not have a boyfriend, but there remains the hope and promise of one. Stars are in her eyes.

Unpublished writers, be pro-active and keep the stars in your eyes.

 

Another Kind of Goodbye

 

 

As long as ten years ago, I would sometimes drive by a beautiful building, or a well cared for small house, and wonder who owned it, and how they obtained it. It wasn’t an envy, more like an admiration kind of thing.  But I did wish and ponder if I would ever be able to own a second piece of property, as an investment.  I had a conversation with the Lord about it— asked Him what he thought of such a notion, would it be all right with Him?  Then I went about life, and didn’t think too much more about it.

The Lord remembered me.

My parents were blessed with the ability to leave my siblings and myself a good inheritance. Though the summer God plucked my Mother was a forlorn one, it opened up an avenue for me, heretofore untraveled.

I was happy for Mom’s new eternal residence, but my spirit felt dampened. Curiously at the end of a few weeks, I felt a heart tug, to go back to Grand Rapids, my birthplace. It was a yearning, a longing.  I knew things were not as they were sixty years hence, but I still wanted to go. To see my childhood house again, and to walk down Garland street, find my playmates’ houses was compelling. I could find two of my grandparents’ homes, and see the South Methodist church and my old elementary school. Best of all, perhaps I could find our cottage on the lake, a thirty minute drive from the city. A cousin did some hunting, and through her efforts, found the area of the cottage on Big Lake. Astoundingly, it had become listed for sale/Open House, two days after my mother’s death.

I did not take this as a sign, nevertheless thought it remarkable, and by summer’s end, made plans to fly “home” to answer what felt like a call on my heart.  Having grown up in Grand Rapids with summers at this cottage, it was a powerful thing to do.  My joy abounded.

Recently, I read Psalm 87 and at verse 6, was caught in its wonder. “The Lord records as He registers the peoples, ‘This one was born there.’”  Following the script, it said ‘Selah.’  This means stop or pause and think about it, something my mother taught me.

I flew to Grand Rapids that August, with my husband. It was exclusive and thrilling to re- visit our 1950’s dollhouse cottage, put myself inside its walls, climb its steps, touch the knotty pine kitchen cabinets my father had made, go down to the lake and sit on the dock, (albeit a different one)and find the old fish house, with some of its foundation blocks still in place.  As I stared at them close up, a Daddy Long Legs came up over the top edge of its wall, as if my own father sent it, to acknowledge he knew I was there. He was the one who taught me not to be afraid of spiders, and I still remember how he did so, letting a Daddy Long Legs crawl over his hand.  Emotion washed over me.

Long story shortened, God did not have the cottage in mind for us to purchase.  It was too pricey, and too remote—on a dead end road, not safe to be there on my own. My husband said a lake property didn’t interest him, and he would only come twice a year. Other things soured the option. There was no internet service, no city water, no sewer service, it had a propane tank, and the nearest town was ten minutes away. I realized I wasn’t a wilderness kind of gal. I wanted to live in a small town, where there was a sheriff.  Because God drew these parameters for me, I could let go of the cottage.

We looked at other houses.  The nearest fun town was Allegan, so we took that road. After months of searching, and a major rejection on an offer, by December, a perfect little house near the historic downtown opened up for us.  It was ideally suited to our needs in every way. And it was for a price that if in Tucson, would sell for three times as much! Amazing.

A 1933 home requires a lot of tender, loving care and grueling work.  We enjoy it three times a year, to partake of three seasons: spring, summer and fall.  We are making improvements that are safety driven, function driven, and beauty driven.  We have found a loving church family nearby, so what more can we ask for?

Now the hard part is leaving our home in Arizona to come here, and leaving Michigan to go back. I hate good byes. It was hard enough to say goodbye to Mother, and I can’t say I did it well.  I leave both Arizona and Michigan reticently, when it becomes time to depart.

Recently, it became that time again, to return to Arizona, and the blues set in. I was bothering myself about it, for days. I didn’t know how to help myself past this.

God remembered me, again.

I was babysitting/playing cards with the pastor’s kiddos, when it was near time for me to say goodbye.  I told them, “After this game, I need to leave.”  (Giving cues is helpful to small children.)

The second oldest boy’s face lit up and he said,“Oh boy!”

Talk about laugh out loud!  His mother heard, and corrected his manners. She explained she told him he could play a video game after I left.  No wonder he was thrilled.  Ha!

Immediately, I realized God had given me a gift.

If the Lord calls us from one place to another, we can receive it with some component of joy, if not in full measure.  Sorrow has its place, and is appropriate in its timing.  But at some point, sorrow needs to take a back seat—it cannot be so big that it rules us.

God has things to give us, sometimes elsewhere or without the person or things we want to cling to.  He has things to show us, because He loves us so much.

So, I’m flying back to Arizona tomorrow.  Oh boy!

 

.

The Better Way to Elsie

One cannot expect things to go smoothly on all counts, every day.  But when you travel, it’s not wrong to pray for this.  I mean, literally and out loud.

So we took a day trip through Grand Rapids, from our little home town of Allegan, south of there.  To wit, we’d be leaving our car for the day at the Toyota dealership over a recall item, get a rental and drive north of Lansing, to Elsie.  There, we would meet the family of a darling elderly friend who passed away suddenly last Spring.

We started a few minutes late, but not enough to upset the fruit basket. Still, we had to get gas.  And, it started raining.  I don’t think that was three strikes against us, but it made me wonder.  We were now nearly a quarter of an hour behind schedule, and not how I wanted our day to begin.  I prayed silently for a safe trip, and for us to have clear directions.  We had a Michigan map, hand written directions from the Peterson’s to their house, and both our smart phones.  It seemed like those, and our plea for mercy would make the trip foolproof.

My husband had taken charge of the dealership arrangement, and its address was straightforward,  an uncomplicated 28th Street exit off state highway 131 North.  No problem. An easy find. Can do.

As the front seat passenger, I had to privilege of reading and writing, and my head was down. The straightforward exit somehow got passed.  Alas! Had only we caught that turn,  our turmoil would have been avoided.  But in a car zooming along at sixty miles an hour, there’s no time to lament one’s demise. One must gather their wits, like it or not, and come up with a cool Plan B.

I never do quite understand why sometimes it’s as though shutters close upon us, even when you have done all you can to avoid them.  But they do.

Immediately I brought up the GPS , and we took the soonest next exit, Hall Street, it said.  But it directed us left, not right.  What?  The dealership was east, not west.  Faith flew the coop.  My mate wanted to get back on the freeway, and keep heading north, thinking 28th Street was still ahead.  We plodded our way back to the freeway, having pulled off on a one way street, facing the opposite way. Of course.

Once there, state highway 131 N thrust us immediately into downtown Grand Rapids, north of the dealership.  The GPS confused us again, because we thought it directed us to get off. This made no sense— we were squarely in the middle of the business district.  Obviously, we misinterpreted its nanno second direction to take the 96 East.  How could that be the way?  We weren’t ready to head to Lansing yet.

So we now we were lost again.  The GPS  talked us back to the freeway, but its direction to go left at the light onto the freeway was not the truth.  We were supposed to go straight, and then left.  GPS’s never differentiate when to turn left, have you noticed?  We made an illegal turn to return to the intersection, and finally made the turn correctly.

96 East then took us around the top of the city, east to the Beltline, where we could exit, and connect to 28th Street, five miles away.  A very out of the way, turmoiled route, confusing, upsetting, and hard to follow.  Not the foolproof trip I’d hoped for. And all because those ‘shutters’ blocked us from seeing that 28th street exit.

Once the trading of our vehicle was done, hope sprung eternal, and we found the 96 East easily this time, and headed toward Lansing.  However, the Michigan map got left behind in the Toyota, oh joy, and now we were down to my trusty hand written directions, and our fully charged smart phones.  Nevertheless, we thought we were safe. And this time, we took time to pray out loud together, asking for no further complications.

The first connection was made  easily to 69 East, but when Michigan 21 came up, there was a north and south distinction, as I recall. We figured that out, only to be faced head on with a split in the road, asking us if we wanted to go to St. Johns or Clare?  Boom!  Just like that.  We were supposed to know which one ?  My hand written directions were folded up.  The GPS didn’t talk soon enough, and I was asked to make a nanno second decision for which I was not qualified.  And so we digressed. Again.

I put away the written directions.  We were getting to Elsie by way of an entirely different route. The Michigan map had been left behind, there was nothing we could check.  My phone was losing its power, and we could not spare pulling up maps, with the remaining power of the second phone. I had to just sit back, and let my husband follow the GPS with Plan C.  And hope for the best.

In the end, we got there.  As fate would have it, this new route was shorter, with fewer twists.  We had an absolutely delightful visit with our new friends in Elsie.  In this particular instance, all’s well that ends well.

But we never know that, no matter the juncture.

We travel this thing called life, and proceed, as best we can.  Shutters hide things from us, at times.  Split second decisions converge.  We pray, and give ourselves up to the Lord.

We are not guaranteed we’ll find our way, the first time out.  We’re not promised we won’t get lost, or escape momentary confusion.  Praying is smart, and it is fine to hope for good results.  But the results are in His hands.  He gives us something better than good results, He goes with us.  The Lord will be with us.

I love that about Him.

“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”  ~Matthew 28:20

 

~A Prayer~

Thank You, Father God, that this is true.

You go with us. You dwell with us.

Sorrows may inflict us momentarily, or reside with us, for a time.
But You are there, beside us.

Help us content ourselves with this consolation. And draw close to You.

Amen.

 

 

Set Aside

 

Part I of a treatise on the miraculous, for Lent

Everybody wants to be loved, we latch onto it. Love helps us cope with life. In 1958, Phil Spector cut a song, To Know, Know, Know Him and I thought it was cool. Here are the first nine lines.

To know know know him
Is to love love love him
Just to see that smile
Makes my life worthwhile

To know know know him
Is to love love love him
And I do
And I do
And I do

As a young girl, I began to feel I was not quite like other people.  That I was different and not preferred.  I wore glasses from the age of two. When I was five,  I was given penicillin for a boil on my behind, and broke out with a rash that never left. I was the middle child of three. My older brother liked my sister more than me. Or at least it felt like that. And my foster brother also liked Karen more.

Happily, there were some reprieves from my poor self image. I did well in school and I learned piano well. I also had two good friends, Marilou Hage, and Marcia Dorman.  My parents and grandparents loved me dearly, and my sister adored me. These things brought me great happiness.

Still, when winter came to Grand Rapids, Michigan, my life got hard. The harsh and frequent snow, and icy weather had an immediate effect upon my skin.  It chapped, cracked and bled.  I had scabs and sometimes staff infection entered the wounds.  I’d have to stay home from school to recover. My parents gave me support and understanding.  I was taken to doctors and later, the Mayo clinic to seek solutions.

Kids asked questions about my rash and scabs and it was embarrassing.  I can remember how I flushed, as I gave them a reply. I tried to hide my skin, but the eczema broke out everywhere there was a joint or flap:  behind my knees, armpits, my neck, at the bottom of my ear lobes, every finger knuckle, my wrists, and then on my lower arms, where there were no joints at all. Though my siblings never made fun of me, my classmates’ curiosity and probing made my self-esteem plummet.  Michigan winters gave me a good understanding of what it was like to feel ‘set aside.’ But I think God used those winters to offset my life in a permanent way.

I think each of us has a life experience that leaves a lasting mark. A relative of mine was abused as a girl.  My mother lost her thirteen year old brother when he ran away from home to find his mother who left the family. Georgie jumped off a train from a bridge, into the river below, and drowned.  My grandfather’s eyesight failed in his twenties, and he lost his accounting job. My former husband was mistreated by both his parents his whole life without reprieve, and no apology was given him later on. These kind of things make us feel as if we’ve been ‘set aside’, singled out, a product of the extraordinary.

Could it be that God marks us, as if to distinguish us—in love?  Surely the One who made us couldn’t want that we should have a life of unrelenting hardship and abuse.  Yes, there are cultures where cruelty and persecution goes on for years.  In The Immortal Irishman, we read how the English Parliament suppressed and battered the Irish for years, believing them to be inferior Catholics. How sorrowful that some cultures must endure dictators, oppression or depraved poverty without relief.  These things defy understanding except we know that in this earthly life, evil sometimes gains an upper hand.  A good God raises up the good to fight against the evil, for His intention is for it to be conquered and replaced with goodnesses.  Praise God this is so.

The Lord marks all of us, one way or another.  He calls all people to come to Him in earnestness, to “know, know, know” Him. True followers are given a gift, His Presence inside them. Philippians 4:11 says, “The Lord is near.” With this gift, we are ‘set aside’ from the world.  In good ways, in servitude.  For to know His presence is to love Him.

Part II will consider this amazing presence of God within us, a most miraculous thing.

Smart Counsel

Smart Counsel

Per chance, I found a poignant book called: My Lord and I- Daily Meditations, by Harry Tippett in a thrift store some months back.  I was smitten, given it was a cross-hatched 4.5 by 6 inch thick book, and published in 1948, the year of my birth.  Its entries are nothing of regular nature.  It’s a pearl. I relish each reading, albeit not all entries are just for me.  You know what I mean.

But on my August birthday, I was hoping for a gem.  I wasn’t disappointed. Its title of Jesus Our Counselor was followed by Eccl. 9: 11 “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

To wit, this could mean that no matter how quick, strong, wise or skilled a person, it is not these that God blesses, but rather He bestows in time and through His own choosing what will happen.

And on this note, I’m at peace.  We live in crazy times, a world with crumbling order, terrorism gone wild and denial of its threat thereof, race relations under attack, corruption in highest levels by-passed, it would appear, by our justice department.  Harsh statements, falsehoods, accusations, misleadings are the deluge— how shall we be saved from this state of affairs?

I bewail a lack of integrity in but a few leaders today. Can the Lord intervene and do something miraculous?  Of course!  “Time and chance happeneth to them all.”  Yesterday in a sermon, I learned about Don Piper who was killed in a head-on collision in 1989.  A passing by pastor was directed of the Lord to stop and pray, but was told the driver of the car was dead; they tarped the gruesome car, waiting for authorities to come remove the man.  The pastor went into the car, and prayed for the deceased Mr. Piper. After an hour, he ran out of things to pray and began to sing, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’  Suddenly, a voice joined him.  Mr. Piper rose to life!

Who in this world would follow such a God directive, to pray for a dead man?  To believe it mattered?  Instead, we gauge the worth or progress of something by outward appearances, or numbers, am I right?

The author Tippett:  This emphasis upon worldly advantage has captured modern thinking…our measurements of value…often gauged by mere bulk or numbers.  Counting noses in God’s work has been frowned upon by Heaven ever since the days of the numbering of Israel against His express command.  We triumph in majorities and hold contempt for minorities.  We honor men who boast, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built…by the might of my power?”  Dan. 4:30.  This veneration of size and truckling to power…{is called} megalomania, the craze for bigness.

But Jesus was never overawed by size or majorities.  The temple of Herod was the greatest pride of the Jewish church.  The priests were dismayed when Christ predicted its destruction.  In the teachings of the Master, mountains of difficulty give way to simple prayer, and “out of the mouths of babies and sucklings” He ordains strength.  End quote.

My former pastor’s young daughter recently took issue with the gender bathroom controversy.  On her own but with her parents’ permission, she gathered signatures and sent them to the state legislature to protest the allowance of the cross gendered to enter the bathrooms at her elementary school. She petitioned for a bathroom of their own.  She sent it to her legislator and now, the legislature is voting on a law that will make all persons use the bathroom of their birth.  This child has been invited to come speak to the legislature about her concerns. Is not this phenomenal? I rejoice to see how the Lord is using this young girl to accomplish His ways on earth. If the bill is passed, this child’s name is going to be on it!

Tippett: “He ordains strength.”  Psalms 8:2.  All through the Bible, greatness in worldly evaluations is in sharp contrast to the humble heart and teachable spirit Christ lauds as Heaven’s true cloth of gold.  [It is}…not the cause with the greatest financial backing nor the leader with the best education, nor the artisan with the swiftest skill—none of these are necessarily signs of favor with Heaven.  “Not by might and not by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord” is the formula.  End quote.

I believe that when we pray, we invite Jesus’ counsel. It doesn’t get any smarter than that.  May’nt this be a way out of the current bungle of politico?  His plans are remarkable; He directed a pastor to stop and pray for a dead man, a child to gather signatures of protest. He directed me to pray for my mom’s rescue from death often.  I prayed with a friend and then on my own as I drove to my sister’s side, not knowing she was having a fibrillation attack.  I called out to Jesus by name when I was nearly hit head on with my babies in the car with me.  He so wants our prayers, prayers for others, prayers for our needy country. Time and “chance” belong to Him. Pray, pray hard.

 

When did Jesus send you a directive to pray and what was the result?