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?

Blue

 

 

Anybody feeling blue today? “I feel blue, you would, too. If each plan that you had done fell through,” goes the Ricky Nelson song. I can hear its melody in my head. Loved his singing voice.  And Bobby Vinton sang, “Blue, blue, my world is blue…” Maybe it is the most popular color sung about.
I have a melancholy personality and can turn blue from one hour to the next. But it comes on gradually usually. And it takes more than one thing to make me blue. I have to gather four or five eggs of discouraging issues and then it arrives. Thankfully it is short term since I do things to chase it. I take a funny sounding herb to enhance my mood and it works every time, St. John’s Wort. Laugh all you want to, it really works. Psychologists say that anti depressants have St. John’s in them. I exercise, swimming is my favorite but only on my bad hair days. I pray, read something in the Bible of inspiration. I talk to a friend, my sister is an instant pick me up.  I sing a peppy song or play the piano.  You can use a CD player, just as good.
All around us is blue. So it’s not supposed to symbolize depression at all. Water reflects the sky and each ocean or lake or pond has a shade of blue all its own. And of course, there is the sky.  What about that sky?  Is this not one of God’s most amazing glories.
I think probably sky blue is my favorite blue. And another way I perk up. I look at the blue sky. “Blue skies lookin’ at me, nothin’ but blue skies, can’t you see?”

 

What do you do when you feel blue?

A Yellow Fan

I have a fun childhood memory. Each time my father answered the telephone, he’d open with two words and I always got such a kick out of them.“Mmmm…..’ello!” The “‘ello” that followed the M sound made it seem like he was saying “….yellow.” And it was not a question, but an exclamation mark! I can still hear his voice to this day, and the intonation of the words. The first part of the word got the accent.
Years later, yellow became my favorite color. I doubt there was any link between my dad’s unintentional modification of ‘Hello’ to the delight I took in yellow, but who knows what goes on in the mind. What can it hurt to think that one prompted the other?
Every shade of yellow, every use of it in nature comforts my soul. I love it. I make sure some places in my homes are decorated in yellow. I have yellow kitchen accents in our base home, and plan to make the kitchen in our small getaway house in Michigan red and yellow with a retro theme.
I tried to enjoy a pair of yellow leather shoes recently, they were so cute, I bought them at a yard sale. But alas! They provided no support to my soles, and I had to pass them along. Just goes to show how once you get yellow into your brain, it can lead you down a wrong path. Ha.
Looking for clothes, I’m always drawn to see what’s yellow on a rack. “Yellow Ducky, I Love You” I frequently sang to my girls in the bathtub. “Call me Yellow Mellow” is a catchy tune as is “Yellow Bird Up High in Banana Tree,” although the rhythm and melodies of those two songs probably have a lot more to do with my attraction to them.
And so, now you know. I’m a yellow fan.
They say God will have all kinds of colors in heaven, besides our basic primary, secondary and tertiary palates. Colors never yet seen by the human eye. Wow. I can’t wait to see them, but I bet I’ll be looking for yellow in the mix. Ha. Color is one of God’s terrific gifts. What’s a color that delights you?

Jack

Children often ask for things that are not even remotely attainable. Their eyes don’t count the cost. They see only the object of their dreams and they dream big.

I was one of those little kids who wanted a pony. I had no idea how much they cost, or how we would provide shelter and food for the animal. I just loved horses and thought a pony would be a dream come true. A Palomino. Perhaps I was influenced by seeing the horses my uncle had on his farm in Allegan, Michigan.  Naturally my parents explained more than once how we could not afford a pony or horse, and this was not going to happen.  They were soft and kind about it, so my dream was not crushed.

But then Dad did something remarkable. He made a stall in the back of our garage and bought us a donkey. Now is that love or what? “Jack” came to live with us, a surprise to myself, older brother and younger sister. He was a beautiful creature with a darling face and gray toned coat.  Gentle, for I did not witness him balking.  But then I was only about seven.  Dad would put two of us on his back and tether Jack, walk us around by turns.  It was dreamy.  I loved Jack.

The fun rides we took were short lived.  My brother was supposed to feed him and muck out the stall.  If I had been older and capable of understanding the work Jack required, I think I would have helped more.  I have no recollection of either Michael or Dad caring for Jack.  All I knew were those rides.

When Dad saw that this task was not being well done, Jack was given away to a local farmer.  Perhaps this was for the best.  We lived on the western edge of Grand Rapids in the 1950’s—not an ideal place Jack. But I have not forgotten him, not only for the fun and joy he brought but for the sacrifice made to allow him into our lives.  I realize now Jack was a token of God’s love, demonstrated through the hands of my parents.

What is in your childhood as a token of God’s love for you? If that is hard to bring up, what are some ways He’s showing His love to you lately?   Let us count the ways He loves us—how long would our list be?  Why not start one and see? We have all this and Heaven, too if we love Him back.

“…God put His love on the line for us by offering His Son in sacrificial death while we were still in our sins.”  ~Romans 5:5

 

 

Still

Still
The big bulb Christmas lights reflected in a Swanson’s tin potpie pan behind it are now replaced with soft white twinklers that come with the fold out tree. No more cookies and milk for Santa but the smells of freshly baked banana bread and apple pie late on Christmas Eve fill the house in preparation for tomorrow. Writing of Christmas cards sealed with tuberculosis lick and stick seals mailed with a three cent stamp gone forever, inflated to overpriced cards and a forty-nine cent stamp. Turkey and ham dinners still richly enjoyed, but modern cooks like fancy recipes, or grill meat on the barby. No more wire telegrams or expensive long distance phone calls from relatives; contemporary cell phones make those connections for pennies. Black and white photos taken in advance now streamlined in color via Skype images or cell cameras posting in nano seconds for all the world to see. But the presents are still the same, brightly wrapped under the tree, exciting the children or the kid in the adults, and the best gift of all is still available and free.  Love came down on Christmas, softly, quietly in the night He arrived, under the stars of two thousand years ago, today the same ones, and His presence still graces mankind, ready to comfort the mournful or depressed, carry the weary, and bless those who want Him. I love the first Christmas story the most, still here, vivid and wonderful as ever.

 

Merry Christmas all!

Dancing in the Dark

Dancing in the dark is not unlike practicing Christianity.

Faith calls for stepping out into the unknown, the unforeseeable, a covered outcome. Life at times can be tragic, and in it, we are cast into a darkness.  We might feel alone, we might not see a way out.  Then comes the master dance instructor and offers us His hands in a classic dance pose.

Have you ever been a beginner ballroom dancer?  Do you know what it is like to be taken into the arms of the owner of the dance studio and whisked around the floor without making even one mistake?  At first you hesitate and blush at the awkwardness of being given such a privilege. But soon you find yourself gliding with your partner, under the strong signals of their hands.  Your beginner status is undetected by the observers; you are safe in the arms of the expert.  What have you to fear?

Not all dance floors are like a ballroom’s. Some are living rooms cluttered with furniture, others like the small dance floor of a bar, crammed with people.  Other dance places may have cluttered floors or small walls with hardly enough room to turn around in more than twice.  But the lead of the partnership dance knows his environ impeccably. He places his hand on the upper back of his partner, and holds out his left hand to them.  One hand steadies them, the other guides them effortlessly.  They feel him steering them forward, avoiding all obstacles in the path.  The gentle pressure upon their back is re-assuring.  A good instructor gives very little verbal cues during the dance itself.  It is all in the hands and the dance frame.

Lee Ann Womack sang,” “I Hope You Dance,” in 2008.  But Gladys Knight wrote it. My favorite line is I hope you give faith a fighting chance.

How we do that is to dance. The master instructor opens His hands to us.

The Lost Checkbook

The Lost Checkbook

Have you ever lost something so important that everything was forced to come to a screeching halt to find it?  Like losing your driver’s license the day before you are flying out of state?  Like losing an expensive book your friend needs back and is arriving that day to pick it up?  Like losing a critical contract you were supposed to bring to the bank to get notarized to inherit money?  Like misplacing your car keys and having no spare set?

Why do these things have to happen to us in life?

Yesterday, I lost my checkbook, in which are housed one debit bank card, money, insurance and travel card, a department store card, coupons and discount membership cards, the bank register and checks 3337 through 3355.  Great, just great.  And I was due to drive across town to visit my stepfather in two hours.

A thorough search of every room in the house turns up nothing. A ransacking of the garbage is without effect.  It’s not between the seats of the car, nor under a seat.  That would be far too easy.  Oh no, it is gone, just plain GONE.

Where did I put that valuable thing?  I know I just touched it awhile ago, but if that is true, then where is it now?  How can inanimate things sprout legs?  Upending upholstered chairs shows nothing and the space under the couches are barren.  Not on the bathroom counter, not on any shelf I might have absentmindedly laid it on as I walked by.  Of course not in my purse, did you think I would not look there thrice?  Not in my carry bag either or my old purse I transferred it from three days ago.  It is completely out of view. I don’t get it. I think I’m losing my mind.

Lord, are You there? I’m down on my knees begging You for help, please reveal where I put this thing.  Silence. My stomach hasn’t been fed, but it doesn’t care. Nerves are running the show now; I am stressed.  I can’t concentrate on anything but the loss of the checkbook. It has to be here, so why isn’t it?  And why won’t You show me what I did with it, Lord?  I know it’s not Your fault, and You are not my servant.  But I’m so frustrated You’re not saving me from myself.  I will now have to call my stepfather and tell him I can’t drive across town without my license.

So fine. I’ll go to the DMV to get a duplicate license and stop at the bank and cancel the debit card. Though the wallet probably is still at home, when will I find it?  Today?  Tomorrow?  Next week?  I cannot go without a license, nor chance someone using the two credit cards, just in case I misplaced it in public.

So, here I am in a standing room only lobby at the DMV.  The only thing fast at the DMV is the arrival line that gives you your identification call number.  Mine is A-38.

I keep my eye out for a vacated seat.  Though the robotic voice calls out cover numbers quicker than a Bingo loudspeaker, I’m shocked no one gets out of their seat.  Finally, several more numbers are called and I can sit down. Maybe reading will settle the stew of disgruntlement brewing within me.  Right now, the dial is set on “9.”

I breeze through five devotional entries. I open my grief workbook to do my homework. My day feels utterly wasted.

But then I read something by author Larry Crabb. When something huge happens, it is helpful to acknowledge it, and realize this is where you are at that precise moment. God has placed you right here and right now. And that to best cope with that truth, accept it.

I turn the burner on the stove off, the stew is quieting.

At that precise second, in the middle of the DMV, with the decibel “10” mechanical voice babbling, “O-42, please report to window 17,” and shortly thereafter, “B-65, please report to window 12,” in a distance and time only a track runner could breach, I feel a peace flood my soul.  I came into agreement with the Lord that I did this checkbook thing to myself, and just because He did not reproduce it upon request did not mean He was not at work.

I realize that nothing is squandered with the Lord.  I might be disappointed, for this is not how I wanted to spend my day.  But the day is not wasted.  Some things became clear.

First.  Things like this are going to happen.  This is a flawed world and our brains can only handle so much.  The Lord reminded me of a time Mom lost her checkbook some years back.  She put it on top of the ATM, to use her card.  She walked off with her card and money only, and drove home. When she got there, she realized it and hurried back.  It was gone.  A thief took it, and could never have thought about how much joy he would’ve brought Mother had he/she turned her wallet into the bank.  With this memory, I feel close to my mother.

Secondly, I can be more careful to prevent loss. I will no longer separate my checkbook from my purse, not unlike its mother.  Instead, I will bring my purse to where I am and use the checkbook from there.  Then, back inside it goes.

Thirdly, I want to come into agreement with the Lord about what occurs.  I don’t have to like it, but I can accept it.  Acceptance is different, and gives you a magnificent gift:  peace.  God might not have let me find my checkbook any faster, but the tradeoff were these truths written on me with indelible ink.

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When I got home and start looking again, there was more silence. I tried to resurrect my memory of having touched the wallet that morning.  Nothing. But then, while I was walking to the garage, something occurred. I stopped in my tracks.  A recollection arrived! My husband had given me a ten dollar bill the night before and I put it in the wallet! That meant it was in the house somewhere. Hurray! Thank You, Lord.

My husband helped me look. As he scoured in unusual places, something sent me to the dining room. The Holy Spirit? I turned on the light.  I moved around a pile of things on the tabletop. I uncovered something and stared. There lay my blue floral checkbook!  I must have laid it down that morning when I was preparing to send Mom’s sweet belongings to my daughter in Georgia. Now, here it was!  Waiting for me.  (Luke 15:32, …make merry and be glad:….the lost..is found.”

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Thank You, Lord for Your patience.  Sometimes You do not correct life distresses instantly. In our humanity we misplace things.  But You do not condemn.  You find the lost.  Help us to come into agreement with You, and accept what happens in life. You are in the moment with us, always.  Please let us sense that.  Amen.

The Pause That Refreshes

I have the delight of receiving an email daily devotion from Loyola Press accompanied by photos and a melody.  Many times these postings give me a way of looking at things differently.  Today’s was no exception.  I changed the we to first person, but otherwise want to share its wording in bold, from Friday, September 18, 2015.

A scripture well known is from I Corinthians 13, “Now three things remain….faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

The world (and I propose things like depression or self or addiction or evil, the list can go on) holds or tries to envelope us in its concerns and perspectives. But I can change my focus.  Look at faith, hope and love.  Faith allows me to believe in Christ and give myself totally to God.  Hope gives me the assurance that God’s will be done.  Love frees me to give (myself) completely to others.  These three gifts are poured out on us by the Holy Spirit.  

      If I lived by them, how would my life be different?

      Prayer: Lord, You know the issues that cloud my mind and heart.  Send forth Your Spirit that I may with greater clarity embrace and act upon the gifts of faith, hope and love.  Amen.

I pray today for those who touch me, and for those I wish I could touch.  For my neighbors who keep to themselves, for my family both near and far, for my daughters so dear, for my grandchildren to reject the world, for my church and its pastoral staff.  For my husband who tries his best to understand me.  For my stepfather and his son and daughter in laws. For our beautiful city and wonderful country, for the leaders present and future.  I pray for my doctor who will give me a stress test today, for my realtor, for the pilot who will fly me on my next trip, for the motel staff who might oversee a stay, for those to whom I write in emails, or in cards of encouragement or friendship. For the company to whom I send a payment, for the ministries I support.  For the children and oppressed women in Third World countries. For those I envy, wishing I had their talent or acclaim, forgive me Lord.  For that person whose message on my machine was most unusual, for You to meet their need.  For the person who knocks on my front door.  For the motorist I get irritated with. For those I might see at the pool today when I go swim. For those grieving for a family member or struggling with a chronic illness or recovering from surgery.  For the lonely. For my piano students and for the ones I do not yet have, but hope for. For Christian artists, musicians, writers, teachers, preachers who are spreading the Word widely.  And for who else You will show me to pray for, thank You, Lord.

We all have hoards of people we make contact with.  Is there some way we can share the Lord’s love with them?  Prayer is one way.  Please leave a comment telling of another way to share God’s love or exercise faith and hope?

Thank you for your friendship. I also pray for you, my readers.

If you want a lovely pick-me-up from time to time, I recommend an email subscription to Loyola Press. There’s no fee and it takes only minutes to read.  Not every post is as inspiring as this one, but that does not matter.  Being refreshed does.

3MinuteRetreat@loyolapress.com

Coming Home

I have the joy of being a grandmother to four and seven grandchildren, four of which live in my city.  I miss my two that are farthest away in Georgia the most for justifiable reasons. Two of the four in town are near us, and it is privilege to get to see them regularly.  Our contact with the other two in town is limited, by distance and schedule.  The remaining five grand kids live two hundred miles north and unless we are the ones driving up to see them, we see them only occasionally.

Having just returned from a ten day journey in Michigan, following the unexpected death of my mother in June, we skidded back into town late one evening with barely time to breathe.  The following morning, I was needed to care for Liam and Callie since it was an all day teaching planning day for their parents.  The timing was not great, but the fact that I had returned and was available proved to be helpful all around.

Is there any easy way to acclimate to life after a trip?  If there is, would someone tell me what that is?  I rarely take a vacation that is punctuated by long periods of rest and relaxation.  There are far too many places to see and people to spend time with.  And that energizes me.  But returning is a big stretch to touch back down, unpack, reboot, and feel the former rhythm of life.

For starters, we were three hours later than Michigan time and our bodies knew it.  I thought we were returning by 5 p.m. Arizona time.  But I was wrong: it was almost 8 p.m. and the sun was crowning on the horizon. We had a long drive home to Tucson from the airport in Phoenix.  Already having endured standing for our delayed (layover) flight in a crowded, raucous Minneapolis airport, this drive home felt like navigating a busy, endless river in a sea of darkness.  The option of spending the night in Phoenix was out of reach, since grandchildren were arriving the next morning.  So we plodded forward, in order to embrace what our destination held for us.

The joy of re-entering your abode and finding things in order and at peace is wonderful!  The joy of seeing the faces of your loved ones makes the effort even more fulfilling.  Grand parenting is delightful. Though my body dragged along, I pushed through the day.  To make things have more depth and pleasure, we planned a schedule together. There was computer time for both children. Time outdoors if they wanted it, and the errand to the post office to pick up mail and grocery store to buy lunch items and treats was engaging.  Snack time. There was story time with three great Bible truths to ponder, my favorite part of the day.  Creativity time next, making and using play dough or creating a greeting card.  Then, lunchtime.  Rest/quiet time for independent reading felt glorious!  Then, the neighborhood swimming pool and to end the day, cartoons. All good stuff.  The only discipline required was to put a kibosh on some back seat squabbling while on errands.

Ah yes, “Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jog.”  Love that saying.  Returning home might not be easy, but it certainly has its rewards.

No grandchildren to care for?  No matter, find a way to demonstrate care to someone who would enjoy a little of your company.  No trip to enjoy?  Travel vicariously with a video or a book about your geographical dream spot.

Going somewhere special is a privilege and treat all to itself, but coming home is even better.  I liken this to earth and heaven.  As my grief storm for Mother calms little by little, I see something.  The things in this life can be special and full of delight, and enjoying them is good.  But it is in coming home that we have the greatest comfort.

May the Lord give us joy in this knowledge.  Ecclesiastes 12: 5-7 says:  “…man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets.  Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed…or the pitcher shattered at the fountain.  The dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God Who gave it.”

It was soothing to see the home and cottage in Michigan that my parents built, with friends. Now I am even more comforted that Mom has returned home to God, her eternal dwelling place.

An Ode and a Prayer

An Ode and a Prayer

To my mother in her death. and to us in our sorrow

by Deborah Thomas

The Ode

Mom, only weeks ago, you were here.  Now you’re gone.

And dearest friend, my heart for you longs.

I wasn’t quite ready, begged God not to let you go.

I hated to see you suffer on your bed, your body laid low.

So oft before, He’d spared your life in close calls.

We rejoiced for each reprieve, treasured God’s saving grace, all.

But this time was the precise moment He whisked you to heaven.

And we did not know until  late, in the dough was the leaven.

You lived your life fully, faithful and devoted,

to all of your family and for your children provided.

Your sense of humor was delightful, your face cute as a bug.

And the last thing you did before dying was give hugs.

On a tiny slip of paper you wrote, “Do not fear death,” instead

“…remember it’s the trip of a lifetime,” nothing to dread.

For you, death is gain, for me, terrible loss.

I must sacrifice your body to the Father, as Jesus did on the cross.

The Prayer

Lord, thank you for my beloved mother, with whom I was able and comforted to share a closeness.  Please soothe my aching heart, and help it re-start. Each day feels ravaged without Mom’s presence in it, for on this earth she shall never re-appear.  I miss her voice and getting to hug her. My eyes run with tears.

Help me in Your strength to carry on, and if I am to write her life story, please inspire me. Console me in Your love, and upon the dark floor of my soul where at times all I do is shuffle, please shine the light of Jesus. If I am correct, please help me feel that Mom is near me still, just out of sight, that’s all.  I look forward to heaven and thank you for its provision through Jesus.  Please in mercy, sustain all who are grieving, and give us hope for today and the next day and the next. Fill up the holes our loved ones have left with the soothing indwelling of Yourself.

In Jesus’ name,  Amen