Monthly Archives: January 2012

Guidance and Tundra Swans

One gray, cold day late in October many years ago, my husband, Howard, and I were traveling home to Minneapolis from Michigan. We pulled into a rest area on Interstate 94 in Wisconsin. While Howard used the facilities, I looked at a map. My eyes focused on the spot where I 90 splits from I 94 and turns west to LaCrosse on the Mississippi. Then my eyes crossed the river and followed it north to the Twin Cities. Suddenly I felt a longing to take a new route and observe the scenery along the waterway. When Howard returned to the car, I asked, “Hey, Honey, would you be willing to change our usual route home?” Even though it was not a good day to be sightseeing, my husband agreed to my proposed adventure. We crossed the bridge in LaCrosse and turned north on the road that winds along the Mississippi between the high bluffs that border it to the east and west. The sun began shinning on the water through a break in the clouds. Then I noticed a row of large, white birds flying over the river. Knowing by their shapes they weren’t egrets, I wondered what they were. We soon passed them. A few miles ahead, I saw a large number of the same birds swimming in the shimmering water. We turned a curve where the road came close to the shore, and I gasped. To my astonished pleasure I was looking at swans, hundreds of them. Later that day I learned the river is a fly way for the Tundra Swans each spring and fall on their migrations.

I thanked God that day for guiding me to a new road home. I marveled over the love that surprised me with beautiful swans because He knew they would give me joy. Later that experience became an object lesson. It was as if God questioned me, “If I can guide you to the river at the exact moment the Swans are there, can’t you trust Me to guide your steps and decisions in other matters as well?”

Lord, my trust in Your guidance has grown. When I am tempted to doubt, remind me of the Tundra Swans.

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Pray Without Ceasing

“Pray without ceasing.”  I Thessalonians 5:17  ( New American Standard Version Bible )

Adreza, my son Joel’s wife, developed a blood clot in her abdomen early in her pregnancy.   Her physician told her that her life and the life of her unborn child were in danger.   She and Joel committed her life and the life of their baby into the care of Almighty God.   As Adreza began taking the subcutaneous injections of blood thinner each day, our family committed themselves to praying for her safety and the safety of the little life she carried.  We asked our churches to put Adreza on their prayer chains.  We called our friends asking for prayer.

During an ultrasound Joel learned he had a daughter and named her Anjela.  I began praying for my granddaughter by her name as I pleaded for her life and the life of her mother.   As I prayed, I imagined myself with my arms around Anjela.   One day my middle son Jim called to ask how his brother Joel and Adreza were weathering the crisis.  Jim said, “Mom, God has reassured me that Adreza and the baby are going to be fine, but we need to keep praying without ceasing for them.”

My older sister Mable, who lives in another state, did not know how I held my grandbaby in my arms as I prayed for her or that Jim had been challenged by the words from I Thessalonians 5.  One day that spring I found a package in the mail from my sister.  She had sent me a cross-stitch project she had found at a garage sale.  The pattern was of two adult arms encircling a baby.  The adult’s hand were folded in prayer.  The baby’s head rested on little hands also folded in prayer.   The words beneath the artwork were: Pray Without Ceasing.  To say I was stunned is not an exaggeration.  I called my sister to thank her and to let her know that she had just participated in a God thing.  She told me that she had picked the project up and put it down several times before she purchased it.

I began stitching it, as I continued to pray without ceasing.  I finished the project, framed it, and gave it to Adreza before her  delivery.   Anjela Calazans Stone was born healthy and whole on August 11, 2006.   We thanked God and rejoiced over the lives of the baby and her mother.

Father, You are a God of wonder and miracles.  Words can’t do justice to the gratitude I feel, but you know my heart.  Thank You.

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Everlasting Arms

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”  Deuteronomy 33:27

Heather, my daughter-in-law, had complications that required hospitalization following the birth of her second child, Miah.  I traveled to their home to care for my newborn granddaughter.   In the mornings I packed the diaper bag and formula and took Miah to the hospital to spend the day with her Mommy.   When the evenings came, I took Miah to her home.   It had been a long time since I had been up in the middle of the night to feed a baby.   During the dark night as I held Miah in my arms and prayed for her mommy, I was comforted by the beautiful word picture in Deuteronomy 33.   I imagined God holding Heather just like I was holding Miah.   Even as I cared for Miah in her home, I was at home in my eternal dwelling place, God Himself.

Miah was only six months old when her great grandmother Olga, who had Alzhiemer’s disease, died.  I was comforted again by the ancient words from Deuteronomy.   Olga’s refuge had been the Lord God through a long life of joys, sorrows, and challenges.   He had held and carried her through the death of her mother in childhood, the death of her father in adolescence, the death of an older sister in early adulthood, her husband going to war when she was expecting their first child, the diagnosis of her second son’s congenital heart disease and twelve years of waiting for his open heart surgery which was still being pioneered and could only offer a fifty percent prognosis of survival, the death of an older sister from cancer, and finally her own diagnosis of Alzhiemer’s.   The everlasting arms that carried her through life carried her to her home in heaven.

Father, I am awed by the refuge you offer and by the protection and comfort of your everlasting arms. 

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Waiting

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”  Mark 9:24

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”  Psalm 37:7

Julia had wanted a Bitty Baby for a long time.  She knew Grandma planned to give her one on her fifth birthday.  When her father asked her what she would like, she enthusiastically replied, “A dolly with eyes that open and close, Daddy.  You know the kind with eyes that close when you lay them down and open when you pick them up, but don’t get me one, because Grandma is going to.”  As her birthday drew nearer, the suspense grew and so did her anticipation and doubt.  Two months before her birthday her mother said, “These are going to be the hardest, longest months of Julia’s life so far.”   Julia did believe Grandma would give her the dolly she yearned for, but at the same time she didn’t believe.   Two weeks before her birthday in a phone conversation with me, she sought reassurance, asking if I was going to give her a Bitty Baby.   “Oh, Honey,” I replied, “I can’t tell you because then it wouldn’t be a surprise.  In the meantime keep remembering how much Grandpa and I love you and how much we like making you happy.”   Even an hour before Julia opened her gift, she handed me an American Girl Postcard and said, “Grandma, this is to remind you about Bitty Baby.”   Bitty had long been purchased, wrapped, and hidden in my closet.  I will never forget Julia’s joy as she opened her present and the awe and wonder on her face as she lovingly looked down on the dolly she snuggled in her arms.

I’m a lot like Julia at  age five.  It doesn’t matter that I’m 63.   I believe God, but I don’t believe.   I know He loves me.   I know His promises are true and trustworthy but that doesn’t mean waiting for their fulfillment is any easier.  Waiting is hard work.

Oh, God, I do believe.    Help my unbelief.   Give me grace to wait patiently.   Remind me to keep remembering you love me.   Remind me that the surprise will be worth the wait.

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Stones to Jewels

“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.” I Peter 2:5

” “They shall be mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day I make them my jewels.” ”  Malachi 3:17 (New King James Version)

One day last summer I was in my kitchen working while my grandson Chris was outside picking rock with his grandpa on our lot in the woods.   I heard the patio door open and close.   “Grandma, can I have a bucket, some soap, and a rag?”   I collected the requested items.   “Thanks,” he said as he bolted back outside with his cleaning supplies.   A little while later, I decided to wander outdoors and check out what my guys were washing.   I turned the corner of the house.   Grandpa was still picking rock.   Chris was bent over the bucket, scrubbing and rinsing stones, his favorite stones, the stones he was going to take home.   “Look at this one, Grandma.  Isn’t it pretty?   How about this one?   I really like it.”    So our Chris whose name had lately become Stone discovered a passion for stones.

Since that day, I can imagine God bending over His bucket of living stones.   He is working hard to remove all our dirt and grime.   After rinsing and drying us off, He puts us in the tumbler and begins the laborious process of polishing us.   At the end He takes us out, lifts us up, examines His work, and declares us His jewels, His inheritance.    “Look at this, would you?   Isn’t he a gem?   How about this one?  Isn’t she a beauty?”   There we are ready to make a building elegant or to adorn a crown.

Father, thanks for laboring over me.   Thanks for cleaning me up and making me shine.   It’s uncomfortable being scrubbed and tumbled, and I don’t like it very much, although someday it will be worth it all.   So have at it, Lord.

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Family

“In love He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and His will – to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.” Ephesians 1: 5-6

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

My father’s heritage was a large part English.   My mother described her nationality as “Heinz 57” which I took pride in.   I thought it made me an all-American.   My husband, who is one hundred percent Swedish, diluted the mix when he married me.

Two of our grandsons are African-American and adopted.    Jim and Heather brought Isaac home when he was an infant in 2006.   Jon and Sarah brought Chris home when he was ten in 2007.    These boys have been grafted into our hearts and belong to us just as much as our birth grandchildren.   Their addition to our family made it richer and brought awe and wonder.

Our youngest son, Joel, married Adreza who is part Brazilian and part Italian.    We call their daughter, Anjela, with her curly hair, our Brazilian Shirley Temple.

Our family reminds us that all God’s kids are adopted.   It reminds us that, although the Family of God is diverse, it is one.

Father, thank you for adopting me and giving me the right to be called your child.   Adoption was costly for Jim and Heather and Jon and Sarah, but it cost You the life of your only Son.    Help me never to forget I was bought with the precious blood of the Lamb of God.   Let me be an instrument of love and reconciliation in Your diverse family.

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A Call to Courage

“Be strong and courageous.   Do not be afraid or terrified…”  Deuteronomy 31:6

Our grandson, Chris, lived in Alabama and had been in foster care since age three.   When he was ten, his long time child protection worker informed  him that she had found a family to adopt him.    There were factors that aroused fear.   Chris, as a  African-American, was not sure he could trust a white family.   All he knew was the South.   They lived in Minnesota.   After having some time to process the information, Chris decided to accept the offer to join their family.   Chris was courageous.    My son, and daughter-in-law, and their birth children were courageous.

There are seasons in life when God reinforces lessons.   Lately through multiple sources and experiences,  I have been reminded of the Lord’s frequent command in Scripture “to be courageous.”   I am thankful that courage isn’t the absence of fear.  There is a plethora of circumstances in our day and age to arouse legitimate fear.   There are wounds in my personal baggage to arouse irrational fear.

Thank you, Lord, for the courage of my son and his family.   They inspire and encourage me.   Father, make me courageous.   Don’t let my fear rob me of your peace.   Don’t let my fear keep me from following Jesus or from doing what He tells me to do.

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Surprise

“Here I am!   I stand at the door and knock.   If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”    Revelations 3:20

After I posted my blog entry last Friday,  I kept thinking about sweet Julia with her blond hair and amazing blue-gray eyes as a toddler and at age eleven.  I also kept wondering about doors.   I wondered what door God is currently telling me to knock on.   He knocked on my door during my childhood.   I heard and said, “Come in.”    He and I have been hanging out at my place, so to speak, ever since.   Late in the afternoon when I finished my short to do list ( there are advantages to being old and retired),  I sat down on the sofa, put my feet up, and began reading Terry Esau’s book,  Surprise Me  ( I highly recommend it).   Suddenly God intruded.   Instead of a page of print in my mind, I was seeing a picture of a door.  The door was one of the doors in my former home, one of the doors Julia had closed and asked me to open.   I decided to cooperate with this adventure in imagination.   I imagined myself knocking.   Then I saw the door open.   Although I did not see a presence, I felt God standing inside the door with a silly grin from one side of his face to the other, saying, “Surprise!”

Laughing in my spirit, I thought, “Oh, I get it, God.   This isn’t about some big, new opportunity for ministry or influence.   This is about hanging out with You at your place.”

This is  a new thought for me, although I have always gravitated to Colossians 3:3, sensing a reality, unable to grasp its mystery.  “You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. ”   Is Jesus asking me to hang out at His place, rather than at my place?

Jesus, it is amazing beyond comprehension that You hang out with me at my place.   Thanks for the invitation and welcome.  I’d love to hang out with You at Your place.   I have no idea what this is going to look like, but You do and that is all that matters.   I think it might be about more of Heaven on earth, and that is exciting.   Whatever, Lord.   As Terry Esau said, “Surprise Me.”

 

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Knock And The Door Will Open

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.   For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7: 7-8

“What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.”  Revelations 3:7

When my granddaughter Julia was two years old, she spent a few days alone with Papa and me.   It was wonderful one-on-one time for her.   She did not need to share our attention with her brother, sister, or cousin.   Developmentally, she was at the stage of repeatedly climbing up and down and putting things on and off or in and out.   She devised a new game that none of my children or any of my other grandchildren played.   She stood on her tiptoes, reached high above her head, grabbed the knob and pulled doors closed.   The moment each door was closed, she wanted it open again, even though she was unable to turn the knob.   She looked up into my face and excitedly commanded, “Open!”   I cannot tell you how many doors I opened before I managed to interest her in another game.

At some point, while I opened doors for Julia, I heard God whispering in my heart, “Knock.  I’ll open.”   God had closed some doors for my husband and me, and no amount of knocking had re-opened them.   I was tired of the process, discouraged, and not ready for another disappointment.   Perhaps the crucial matter was to discern what door God was telling me to knock on.

Julia is now eleven, and I am sixty-three.   Again I hear my Heavenly Father saying, “Look up into My face, with trust and anticipation like Julia did yours.   Ask me to open a door.”

Father, I have no idea what door we are talking about.  Open whatever door You choose, but I’ll need you to make sure that I realize it is a door You opened and want me to walk through; otherwise I might miss the opportunity.    All things are possible with You.  May Your will be done.

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A Daily Decision

Jesus:  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23

Paul:  “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”  Galatians 2:20

Peter:  “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”  I Peter 3:15

 

One of the adolescent conflicts with my middle son, Jim, escalated into a particularly confrontational verbal altercation.  Our tempers flared.   I said something terrible.   My words were sinful.   I felt remorseful and repented.   “Jimmy, I am so sorry,” I said.  ” Please forgive the sinful words I spoke to you.”

“Mom, I forgive you, and you need to let go of it now.  But I don’t understand.  How could you say something like that?   You read your Bible and pray everyday.”

“That’s who I’d be everyday, Jimmy, if I didn’t start my days with Scripture and prayer.”  I was surprised by my answer.   I knew that I had not spoken, but that the Holy Spirit had spoken powerfully through me to me.   He used my sinful failure to reinforce my need to choose each morning to die to self and live for Christ by His resurrection power – to take off my old self and put on my new self – to set Christ apart in my heart as the Lord and King to be followed and to be obeyed for another day.   Some days I have stayed surrendered to the will of God, but some days I have capitulated to the old self.   One thing I know, though.  I am not who I would have been without the One who told me to take up my cross daily and follow Him.   His Grace covers the failures and His Spirit picks me up and prompts me to call on Him to try again each new morning.

 

Jesus, today I want to follow You and obey You.   I choose to set You apart as King on the throne in my heart.   I choose to die to myself and my agenda and live for You and Your agenda.   I confess that I am  stubborn and rebellious and in my flesh I can’t pull it off for more than a few minutes, if even that long.   So please Holy Spirit, fill me and empower me to live for The King today.

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