Sunday, December 4, 2016

Father's Back

Mark’s dad died in a work-related accident.  A steel girder fell on his head during construction of a bridge.   He left three children, all under the age of four.  My son-in-law, Mark, the oldest, has two younger sisters. 

When I think of family love, I see the upside of this tragedy.  Mark’s family grew up in a large Victorian home with other family members.  Also, cousins lived close by.  The family did life together and, even today, lives in close proximity.  I enjoy them on Facebook; my feed rolls with photos of their antics and laughter.

Mark and Amy asked us to drop by their house to feed their cat when they drove up to the mountains to spend the weekend with his siblings and cousins.  They celebrated a cousin’s birthday.  One heartfelt present brought tears to Amy’s eyes when she told us about it when they came home.

The gift, a box of old photos, entertained the group as they each reached in and grabbed a handful of memories from their youth.  Gail, the youngest sister, broke into a happy smile when she stumbled across a photo of her mom and dad.  She treasures photos of him but never saw this one before!  The picture, taken from behind, revealed more than a pose.  She viewed her dad’s stature and observed his physique from the back and she couldn’t contain her excitement.

“That’s what he looked like walking next to my mom!”

My heart tugged when Amy choked up from Gail’s reaction.  She described Gail as lit up from head to toe as she viewed her dad from a different angle.  

I remember when Moses met up with Father God in the mountains and enjoyed close man-to-God conversations.  Moses wanted more and he begged God to let him see Him physically.  God told him no because man cannot view His glory while alive in this body.  But Moses would not back down.  Father placed him in a cleft of the rock and passed by him to let him view only his back.   It satisfied Moses!  Exodus 33:20-23.

We want to see our fathers.  We want to feel their touch and hear their voice.  We want to be with them.  We want to feel their embrace.

Scripture explains that when Moses came down from being with God in the mountain, his face shone so bright he had to cover it with a veil. 

Gail, thrilled to hold an old photo of her dad, lit up the room.  Her jubilant mood affected the cabin and made everyone happy.

I reflect on Gail and Moses and the joy that radiated from their faces.  How do we bring inspiration and joy to others? 

They looked to their father.  I think I will quiet down and do the same.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Cheesecake Delight

My pastor made a great point in his sermon a few weeks ago.  Are you plagued with questions, frustrations, addictions and anxieties from time to time?  The solution, of course, rests at the feet of Jesus where we can be ourselves and ask our questions.  The pastor spoke of the delight of quiet time with Jesus and compared it to dining at the Cheesecake Factory!

We relax in the beautiful setting at The Cheesecake Factory.  Oh, to eat a good meal and then walk to the front of the restaurant, stare into the dessert counter displayed behind glass and swoon at the array of every cheesecake imaginable.  How does one choose?  No matter how stuffed we are from dinner, we must leave room for the rich delicacy. 

About eight years ago, my sister and brother-in-law flew in from Chicago during the Christmas holidays.  My daughter and I picked them up at the Phoenix airport.  After we hugged them profusely and packed them into our car, we headed to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner.  The four of us sat in a big booth where we chatted, laughed, and shared our food.  Yes, we are one of those families that tastes each other’s food.

“You’ve got to try this; you’ll love it!”  We exclaim as we dish out bites of our meal on each others’ plates.

Good food, togetherness, joy, and delicious dessert await us at a beautiful table to enjoy.

It’s like that with God.  Maybe not for all, but for those of us who know the joy of His presence, His acceptance of us just as we are, and His faithfulness to enrich our lives and fill us to overflowing.  He spreads it all out for us and  invites us to come to Him and to be with Him.  An extravaganza of love awaits us as we arrive.

I find it a great delight when family comes to visit, not a chore.  Likewise, I don't find it a chore to sit with God in my ordinary days.  I never feel “I have to” but “I can’t wait to.”  His peace fills me and I’m full to the max!

Yeah, I like the Cheesecake Factory description of my special meet ups with God!

You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.

Psalm 23:5

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Day at the Arboretum

The mountain cities north of us show off an array of fall beauty.  Our family decided to get in the midst of all the yellows, oranges and reds as we drove up to Flagstaff, Arizona, a few weekends ago.  We visited the arboretum!


A new exhibit features butterflies.  We had to carefully enter one of the greenhouses and watch where we stepped as fragile butterflies freely landed, sometimes on us!


This photo features the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona.  Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona stands 12,633 feet.

We experienced perfect weather that day and enjoyed getting out in the fresh air on this little hike at the Arboretum.  It is a special memory of a day with family. 

"While the earth remains, Seed-time and harvest,
 And cold and heat, And summer and winter,
 And day and night shall not cease."
Genesis 8:22

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Hanging on to Hope

I’m struggling.  My best friend’s husband is dying.  I feel clumsy, so clumsy.   I want to help; I don’t know how.

My emotions feel raw.  My eyes fill with tears.  I love her so much and feel her pain.

“This is life,” she tells me “And it’s the pits.”

I’m honest and ask her if I’m doing enough.  Does she feel my prayers?  Does she feel God’s strength pouring into her to feed him, clothe him, and shower him?

Her petite frame looks worn out.  She quotes the Word.  God will never leave me or forsake me.  He is my strength and my song.

She tells me too many people drop by the house.  It overwhelms her.

She has to say, “Please don’t come.”

She needs quiet and space to refuel.  Seems other friends want to know their part in this too!  She assures me she knows she can text me or call.  She knows she can count on me.

I get the text to meet in Old Town for breakfast.  In the restaurant, we cry over eggs and bacon.  I tell her I hate cancer.  I speak lovingly of her Christian husband and reminisce about those inspirational times at lunch as a foursome.   I’m sad he is fading, but I praise God for grace.  The slow process gives her time to adjust to the idea of death.  She agrees.

She’s always been picky about her coffee.  She pays a company in Old Town to roast it and grind it special for her taste.  Her order is ready.

“Know that I can pick up coffee orders and deliver them to you.  Or do you need to get out of the house?”  I ask.

“Yes!  I need to draw strength from you, a good breakfast and someone to cry with.”

She tells me the kids flew home last month.  She expresses their loving talks and tears with their father.  His strength fails day by day.  We praise God for perfect timing to say goodbye.

She wants me to talk about my family.  She giggles when I share stories of my grandchildren and I smile when I see her spirit lift.

That evening I get her text telling me our time together uplifts her.  She thanks God for everything.  She thanks God for me. 

It makes me cry and I seek comfort in my husband’s embrace.   I hear him say everything will be okay.  Death, the ultimate healing, nears.

Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed.
 Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.  Galatians 6:2

Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy;
 share tears when they’re down.  Romans 12:15

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Let's Stop Pretending

I smiled when the kids dressed in costumes for their harvest parties.  Carrie’s family looks like they stepped out of the story, Frozen.  Mark looked great with Tom’s red tie for his Trump suit and Amy borrowed my grey pantsuit to go with her Hillary mask. 

Oh, the fun and laughs when we pretend to be somebody we’re not!

Masks, however, are no longer fun when we see hypocrisy in the Body of Christ.  I’m troubled when Christians teach Bible studies and write Christian books but rebel like the world.  Are they deceived?  Is it all about financial gain?  Do they believe the gospel?

They lead people astray.

A popular female Christian Bible teacher whose books line many women’s shelves appeared on a Christian TV program and talked about her latest endeavor, a fiction novel.   I liked her ministry back in the days when she, though molested, chose to leave it in the past and focus on victory in the Word of God.   I noticed on the TV program that she spent too much time on the molestation topic.  Redeemed women still have days in the pit, she moaned, almost inviting self pity. 

The next day, she appeared in the media again, this time ranting against Trump’s hot mic incident.   In her tirade, she lashed out to her evangelical brothers who dare back Donald Trump after his disgusting locker room talk eleven years ago, even though he apologized publicly and asked to be forgiven.  She whined that the brothers should protect her and the barrage of abused women who follow her.

Now I’m Mad.
I scheduled an imaginary coffee time with Father and asked him to tell her to knock it off.   But God, a cool parent who knows how best to deal with sibling rivalry, showed me my own heart and the man who abused me.

What a surprise.

Whereas I never suffered sexual or physical abuse, his rudeness and mean words cut me down. I hated the holidays and his visits especially when he drank too much and humiliated women.  I couldn’t escape our family celebrations and I became bitter over the years.

I am no different than my Christian Bible teacher-author-sister, really.  I have confessed my anger many times, even shared the gospel with my abuser on his deathbed and watched him commit his life to Christ and repent of his awfulness that broke my spirit.

You may be stronger than me but I can destroy you with words.
But I admit, I still fall in the pit.    A memory appears and I grab what I think gives me power, angry words that reveal hurt.  I get the whole “abused woman’s anger” cycle.  Thank God it happens less and less.  I am working out my salvation, too.

God doesn’t seem to care if his daughters influence millions in the faith or a handful.  It is compelling to hear God’s voice say He loves me and His mercy never ends because I’m His.

Let’s not pretend to be something we’re not.  If God forgives us, we who follow Him should forgive others.  Let’s leave the drama for Halloween.

We who belong to Jesus have been saved by His blood.   The gruesome beating and crucifixion cost Him his life, and anyone that believes it and finds refuge in Him is saved.  He is no respecter of persons.  One tiny drop of His powerful blood brings cleansing.  Even for Donald Trump.