Monthly Archives: February 2012

Books are Friends

“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”  C.S. Lewis

“The familiar faces of my books welcomed me.  I threw myself into my reading chair and gazed around me with pleasure.  All my old friends present – there in spirit, ready to talk with me any moment when I was in the mood, making no claim upon my attention when I was not. ”  George MacDonald

My husband Howard has loved to read, really loved to read.  He has kept lists of books he wanted to read and systematically crossed off one book at a time.  Our local library staff have become familiar with him, as he arrives at their desk often to pick up books he has requested from the larger library shared by multiple counties in our state.  I once bought him a sweatshirt that said: So many books – So little time.  He has emphatically taught our grandchildren that books are friends.

Once our darling granddaughter Miah questioned him about this doctrine of books.  With teasing eyes and a wide smile that showed off her dimples, she asked,  “Grandpa why do you call books friends?”  She then emphasized firmly, as if her beloved papa was as silly as old Pooh Bear, “Books aren’t friends!”  He defended his position, trying to explain how a book is a friend, although Miah was old enough to understand perfectly and just wanted to have a little fun teasing her old, book loving papa.

There are some authors that I owe more a debt of gratitude to than others who have merely offered me hours of entertainment.   When I was a young woman questioning my faith, C.S. Lewis’Mere Christianity strengthened it, gave it intellectual roots.   In my imagination, Lewis’ Aslan in the Narnian Series became a profoundly rich illustration of Jesus, The Lion of Judah.  The novels of George MacDonald gave me an understanding of who Father God is.   They painted a picture of Him that I fell in love with.   Learning my “friend” Lewis had been influenced by the writings of my “friend” MacDonald only made my admiration for him bigger.  Someday in Heaven, I will have to seek these two men out and thank them for the ways they impacted my life for such good.

Father, thank you for C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald, who have been such good friends to me.  Thank you for the gifts they have given to me.  Thank you for the way You have used them to build and grow my faith. 

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A Secret

“…we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God has destined for our glory before time began.”   I Corinthians 2:7

“…the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Colossians 1:27

Last autumn when I visited my five-year-old granddaughter, Anjela, she engaged in a sweet little game with me.  With a twinkle in her eye and a motion of her hand to come close, she said, “I want to tell you a secret.”  I leaned near to her, my ear next to her mouth.  She then placed a soft, butterfly kiss on my cheek, drew away, and giggled.   I lost count of how many times in two weeks she did this.  My grandma heart melted each time she reminded me how much I am loved.

There is a secret, mysterious kind of intimacy for each child of God.  The Holy Spirit makes His home in each of them and whispers with soft, butterfly kisses, “The Father loves You.”  To know this love and to live in it is a glorious mystery.

Father, thank You for Anjela’s butterfly kisses.  Thank You for Yours.  Your love and the hope of glory make me rich.

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A Perfect Day

When our step grandson, Thiago, was sixteen, he spent most of the summer in Brazil with his father.   He flew back to his home in Denver with his Brazilian grandparents, Ivonette and Wesley.  They stopped in Minneapolis so that he could introduce his grandparents to us.  The five of us spent a simple day together while Thiago translated.  He was delighted to have his Brazilian family get acquainted with his U.S. family.  We took them to the Sculpture Gardens and drove them around the city.  Thiago was the leader and set the agenda.  We ended the evening over dinner at a sidewalk cafe downtown because Uncle Jon was working late at the office and meeting nearby was most convenient for him.   As we lingered over a good meal in the warm twilight, Thiago leaned toward me and sighed, “It’s been a perfect day.”

His statement reminded me of a few lines from a favorite movie of mine: The Ultimate Gift.   In this movie a young man asked a small girl, who was dying of leukemia, “So, Sweetie, what’s your dream?”

The girl replied, “My dream was a perfect day.  A day I am just finishing.  My dream was to be with people who love each other, who love me.”

Father, make me like Thiago.  Let me define perfect as being with people who love each other and who love me.   At the end of each day, let me lean near You and whisper, “It’s been a perfect day.  Thank you.”

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People Are The Best

In 2007, Howard, my beloved husband of thirty-seven years, was blessed with warning chest pain.  During his heart catheterization, the cardiologist determined that his left descending coronary artery was ninety percent occluded at the spot known as the “widow maker.”  Had there been a total occlusion, Howard would have suffered a massive heart attack and most probably not have made it to the hospital alive.   The cardiologist was able to resolve the occlusion by placing a stent.   Our family was keenly aware that husband, father and grandfather had narrowly escaped death by the grace of God.  We were also mindful that the additional gifts were his not having had any heart muscle damage and not having to go through open-heart by-pass surgery.

Soon after his stent placement, Howard and I attended one of our grandson Noah’s baseball games.   It was a hot, windy day in June.   Even though a second game was scheduled, Howard and I left for home after the first one was finished.   Julia, Noah’s seven-year-old sister, decided to get out of the heat and hang out with Grandma and Papa at their home in the air conditioning.   She climbed up on a stool at the kitchen island while I prepared a snack for her.   I noticed her looking intently across the island out the window at the oak trees, as if in deep thought.   Then I heard her say, “I suppose no one ever wants to die.”

I replied, “I think you’re right.”  Then I waited to see if she would say more.

A few moments later, she rhetorically remarked, “People are the best, aren’t they, Grandma?”

“Yes,” I answered.  “Yes, they are the best.”

After staring death in the face, Julia at seven, calculated that nothing in life matters more than relationships with the people we love, since the number of days or years we get to spend with them is uncertain.   She had established a priority.

Jesus told us that the greatest commandment was to love God and that the second commandment was to love others.

Lord God, help me to prioritize my life and spend my time like I really believe nothing matters more than loving You and loving others.  I thank You for the people in my life.  Next to You, they are the best.

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A Twinkling Of An Eye

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”  I Corinthians 15:51-52

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words.”  I Thessalonians 4: 16-18

Five of my years as a nurse were spent working in child and adolescent mental health.   It was my calling to work with the emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children.  Having been a sad, angry child, I had a special compassion and love for children who struggled with those emotions.  One of the therapists once told me the job fit me like a glove.

Bear with me for a moment, as I digress to the verse at the beginning of this essay.   I had always thought the word twinkling was a reference to the quickness of a wink of the eye, and that is most likely the case, since the preceding words are: in a flash.  I had an experience while working on the Children’s Mental Health Unit that gave this verse another nuance.

One morning after breakfast I was cleaning up in the kitchen.  I sensed someone was looking at me and suddenly turned around to face the dining room where my gaze met the face of a sullen, little boy who was staring intently at me, as if he was trying to figure me out.  As our eyes locked, I smiled and winked at him.  My reward was a spontaneous grin from a boy who was most often downcast or irritable.   All day I kept reliving that moment, playing it over and over in my mind, and cherishing it in my heart.  On my commute home I continued to ponder the significance of that moment in time that had so warmed my soul.  Then I remembered the words from I Corinthians 15: “in the twinkling of an eye.”   I wanted to study Jesus, like the boy studied me.  I wanted to keep my eyes on Him, like the boy’s eyes were glued to me.   I had a beautiful, new picture of how one day my Savior will look at me, wink, and shout for joy to come on home to meet Him in the sky.

Lord Jesus, thank you for loving the sad, mad little girl I was.  You rescued me, and I am forever grateful.  Sometimes I am still sad and mad, and I keep needing you to rescue me.   Give me grace to keep my eyes on You, to keep studying You.  I can’t wait for that day when You wink at me and pull me up to Heaven with all the Family of God, where I will always be with You, My One and Only. 

 

 

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How to Tie a Necktie

In 2003, our youngest son Joel moved from Minnesota to the Washington DC area with hopes of finding a job.   He called frequently to update us on his prospects and to request our prayers.  Close to the time his money was running out and the situation was becoming critical, he called and informed us he had an interview lined up.  The night before his interview, I returned home from work around midnight.  When I crawled into bed, my husband stirred which was unusual, since he was used to my evening shifts and rarely woke up when I came in.  My antennae was immediately up and on alert.  In distressed tones he said, “I failed as a father.”

My heart sank, and I asked anxiously, “What do you mean? What has happened?”

He replied, “I didn’t teach our son how to tie a necktie.”

I sighed with relief and then suppressed my giggles, since my husband was obviously, genuinely guilt ridden over his sin of omission.   It must have been a male thing, some rite of passage between a father and a son that I did not get the importance of.  My husband went on to describe his phone conversation with Joel earlier that evening.  I continued to bottle up my laughter as Howard seriously told me of how he had tried to give necktie instructions over the phone.

The ncxt day, I called Joel to see how his interview had gone.  I asked, “Did you wear your tie?”  After he replied yes, I questioned, “So your father’s telephone instructions were successful?”

“Are you kidding me, Mom?  Dad should have been videotaped.  He kept putting the phone down and then walking to the bathroom where he looked in the mirror and did the next step.  Then he walked back to the phone to try and tell me what he had just done.  He was so flustered and upset.”

“How did you learn how to get your tie on?  Did your roommate show you?” I asked.

“I found Internet instructions, Mom.”

Do boys need dads in the age of the Web?  As I pondered this question, I thought of all the things our son had learned from his father, things the information network might hold as important but can never teach, things that have to be caught –  compassion, kindness, respect, honesty and integrity.  Boys and girls still need parents to role model values.   Our son wore his dad’s character traits to the interview.  They were more important than his new tie.   Oh, and by the way, he got the job.

Father God, let me wear your character each day.  Let my character reveal what a good Daddy You have been to me.  Let my behavior prove that I spend time watching and copying Jesus, not by my efforts but by Your power at work in me.

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Gladness

“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the Lord’s house.””  Psalm 122:1

Before our granddaughter Alyse learned to talk, she lived only fifteen minutes north of our home.  When her parents drove into our neighborhood on their way to run errands, they observed her kicking her feet, making happy noises, and pointing to Grandma and Papa’s house as she passed by.  Perhaps she thought they were bringing her to play or perhaps she was just letting them know she wanted to stop and visit with us.

When our grandson Noah was very small, he too would get excited as he recognized landmarks and knew he was getting closer to Grandma and Grandpa’s home.  One time as his father was waiting to make a left turn onto our street, Noah pleaded, “Hurry, Daddy!”

I was thankful that my home was a happy place for my grandchildren and that coming to see me made them glad.

Oh, Dear Father, may I exhibit Alyse’s and Noah’s gladness on Sunday mornings as I go to church to worship.  May it not be an empty duty or ritual, but may my heart be filled with excitement and anticipation about what You will have to show me and say to me.  May it be said of me that I was glad when it was time to go to the house of God.

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Simple Pleasures

When Alyse was four, she spent an extended spring weekend at my home.  On Sunday after church, she colored and made some art projects.  Then Papa and I took her to the park in our neighborhood.  We walked while she skipped between us, holding our hands.  She played on the climbing bars and enjoyed the slide and swings.  When we returned home, since it was unseasonably warm, she asked for some water to play in the backyard.  She carried some small plastic dogs and cats outside where she and Papa gave them baths.  She made a game of hiding her freshly scrubbed pets, and Papa had to find them.   I interrupted their play to call them in for a simple meal.  It had been a quiet day filled with simple pleasures, but Alyse expressed extravagant thankfulness as she ate her dinner.  “I had such a good day.  It was soooooooo much FUN!  I just love playing at the park.”  Her little face glowed with happiness.   Her joy warmed my heart and made the uneventful day memorable.

Oh, God, how I want to be like four-year-old Alyse.  Please restore me to the innocence of childhood and grant that I would take pleasure in the simple gifts and wonders of each day.  Help me, Lord of Creation, to remember You hold my hand, like I held Alyse’s.   Remind me each night to thank You for the good day You shared with me. 

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God’s Gracious Love

“We love because He first loved us.”  I John 4:19

According to the NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible by Douglas and Tenney, grace is: “the undeserved favor and kindness of God and the sustaining influence enabling the believer to persevere in the Christian life.”

As a toddler, my first-born grandson, Noah James, greeted me with big smiles.  He came through the doorway of my home, giggling with delight.  His pleasure in seeing me and spending time with me made my day.  Being with him gave me joy.  He loved me because I first loved him.  My love for him took root and grew over the months his mother carried him in her womb, long before I knew him.  I loved him simply because he was and because he was my son’s son.  Noah did not have to do anything to earn or sustain my favor and kindness which are evidences of my unconditional love for him.

Noah has become a handsome young man of fifteen.  The last time I saw him, he greeted me with a mega watt smile that nearly stopped my heart, that nearly took my breath away.  How blessed beyond measure I have been to be the recipient of his love and grace toward me.

Father, thank you for loving me first, long before I loved You.  Thank You for the kindness and favor that I have not deserved but which You have lavished on me again and again.  I am glad I can hang out with You at Your place today.  I am knocking on Your door with a grin on my face, giggling with delight.  I hope that gives You joy, just like the joy Noah brings me.

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I Think She Loves You

My granddaughter Julia and I established our relationship when she was only five months old.  She was an alert baby, all smiles, and busy learning to make sounds.  One day while visiting at her home, I bent down over her infant seat, smiled, and began talking to her.  She responded with bright eyes, a big grin, and her infant babbles.  After I replied, she further delighted me with sweet coos.  Her big brother Noah, who was four at the time, heard our conversation, walked over next to me, and observed us.  He looked at his baby sister, and he looked at his grandma.  He looked back at her, he looked back at me, and then he emphatically spoke his conviction, “I think she loves you.”

Noah knew Julia loved me because she was bright, with joyful smiles and animated conversation in my presence.

Lord, may others know I love You because I am radiant in Your presence.  May I worship You with uninhibited joy.  May I share my thoughts and feelings with You, as freely as Julia shared some of her first babbles with me.   I want You to know I love You.

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