Category Archives: Where Are You Headed?

Does She Look Like Her Daddy?

Every time a new baby is born, all the friends and relatives insist that the hands-father-child-17297036[1]baby looks most like his father — or his mother — or Uncle Harry or Grandma Bess.  However, the fact is that, although infants may bear some resemblance to a particular relative, babies change as they grow.  One of our children was born looking like his daddy and ended up looking more like his maternal grandfather.  In other instances, the resemblance might not be physical, yet may be clearly evident in behavioral patterns or personality characteristics.

Family resemblances give us a clue to a spiritual truth:  Just as we tend to look like our human parents, Daddy God designed us spiritually to reflect Him in this world. When people look at us, He wants people to see Him.   That means I should walk like Him, talk like Him, forgive like Him, love like Him.  Of course, the transformation process of bearing His image is a lifelong one!   The good news is that, since I am powerless to change myself, the Holy Spirit Himself does the work.  The only requirement is that I be willing and available!

Paul explains the looking-like-Daddy-God process in 2 Corinthians 3: 18 (AMPC):

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Changing Seasons: The Joy of Harvest

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To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build p;a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NKJV)

One of the challenges in life is learning how to transition from one season to another with grace.   Gratitude for a season that is ending ultimately needs to replace the sorrow of losing its treasures; unfortunately for many of us, sorrow over loss can easily overshadow the gratitude for those treasures we held before we lost them.   Similarly, joyful expectation of the new season needs to overshadow any fear of the unknown; however, fear tends to rule our thoughts when we do not really know what that new season will hold.

We may not wish to move from winter to spring, or from our roles as students to new tasks as teachers, or from childhood to parenthood, because we have grown familiar with our roles in the old season. Indeed, it is a bittersweet experience to send a child to the first day of kindergarten or to admit the season of hands-on parenting is over when that child leaves for college. However, if we insist on remaining in familiar places where we are comfortable, we risk missing the joys of the next part of the journey.

The Church is entering a season of unprecedented harvest, if we will only be willing to position ourselves in our assigned part of the harvest field.   People who do not know or understand the Gospel are not flocking to us; instead, we must go to them.   The question is:  are we willing?   God makes us able, but we must be willing and obedient.   If the Body of Christ insists on remaining cloistered in the four walls of the church building, seemingly stuck in the old season of being fed and focusing on her own personal spiritual growth, she will be ensnared in self-absorption and will completely miss the rewards of the next season, the rewards of harvest.   

Training, teaching, and equipping are good practices to follow, but, at some point, we need to put that training to use by actually practicing it on someone other than ourselves and those in our comfortable circles.   Jesus commands us to go, not stay where we are.  The harvest is ripening at a giddy pace.   If we do not put on our work clothes and run to the field, we will never experience the joy of giving away what God has put in us during our training!

In the case of harvest, most of us have never actually experienced the intense season of labor a harvest entails, nor have we experienced the joy of the crops safely gathered in.    Perhaps we are afraid of the field (the people we will face or the location to which God might send us), or of the level of commitment requisite for the task, or of our own inadequacies.   We forget that the joy of the Lord is and will be our strength, and that His power is made perfect in weakness.  

However, the harvest is PREPARED, and the fields are ripe.   The Lord is calling us there now.  Father, show me the plot of land you are inviting me to harvest, for THERE is my true inheritance!   Empower me to take a leap into the field You have appointed for me!

 

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Re-Defining Home

d12edeb1a0bce4778fefb21e1ecc327cGrowing up, I was never from a particular place, as we never lived anywhere more than three years.   We learned to associate “home” with where our little family happened to be; home was more a relational concept than a locational one.   I grew up without ever feeling connected to a hometown and occasionally felt envious of friends who actually had an association with a physical place and context   However, my home was always connected with my parents and sisters and whatever friends happened to gather wherever we happened to be living at any given time.  The house was full, and my parents were charismatic and generous; they attracted people to themselves like a flame attracts moths.   I thought this phenomenon was normal; it never occurred to me that it was unusual.

When I married, I was attached to my husband and did not care one bit where we lived; however, after giving birth to three of our five children in Norway over the course of over seven years in that breathtakingly beautiful land, it was a challenge for me to move back to the States.   Moreover, I didn’t feel very “at home” in the tiny Texas town to which we were transferred.  As a result, my sense of “home” remained  relational rather than physical — connected to my husband, children, and parents (who always were several states away from us).

We set about building a sense of home, rooted in traditions but designed to reflect our personality as a couple and as a growing family.   Over the course of decades, we have hosted hundreds of people in our home from all manner of nations and backgrounds.  After all, that is what I was taught to do!  As wanderers, we included other people as a matter of course, people who were different from ourselves.

Ultimately, my parents retired and moved to the Rocky Mountains, where they personally shared some history.  They built a beautiful home on six acres of land — their dream home after decades of moving around the country — and welcomed us and whoever else wanted to visit them.   Unfortunately, my mother began an arduous downhill spiral not long after their much-anticipated move to the Rockies.  It seemed one affliction struck her after another, and soon the family gatherings were tainted by her pain and our collective concern about her health.

Through all the challenges, my father remained resolute in supporting my mother in word and deed.  When her infirmity became psychological and neurological, he did not waver.   Much later, we finally realized that she had been tormented for years with progressive phases of dementia; after several trying years, Dad reluctantly admitted  he was no longer able to care for her, and we assisted him in placing our mother in an assisted living facility two miles from the house they had so excitedly built together.  There were many tears, and our father was left alone in a hollow house replete with memories, yet with the love of his life absent.

Undaunted, my dad visited my mother faithfully every day; he was resolute and unwavering in his devotion.   When he entered her assisted living apartment, she would briefly snap out of her doldrums and beam in recognition.   As she weathered the trials of a fractured hip and a broken femur, as well as multiple bouts of pneumonia, he was always at her side, only returning home at night to eat and sleep in the empty house that echoed with the memories of long-evaporated dreams.  During this time apart, he adjusted to Mom’s absence and the sense of distance created by dementia, and he faithfully cleaned the house, learned to cook for himself, paid the bills (always my mother’s job), and grew familiar with a life of relative solitude that revolved around his daily visits to Mom.

Recently, the time came when Dad could no longer live alone, despite his valiant attempts to manage everything himself.   His own health had deteriorated, and my sisters and I suggested that perhaps he should join our mother in her apartment.   He could no longer drive and spent his days fretting about how he could visit her, worrying about how she was faring, and desperate to be with her.   Ultimately, an emergency situation prompted his physician to recommend he not be left alone in the house any longer.   Reluctantly, he relinquished his independence and chose my mother in her little apartment over the beautiful home full of memories and majestic mountain views.

When the day came for the transition to her apartment, he worried she might reject him.   He wondered where he would sleep.   We assured him there was plenty of room in that apartment for the two of them, and, intending to comfort him, we reminded him that Mom had been sleeping in the recliner of late.  He responded wistfully, “I wish she would sleep in the bed with me.”   That statement brought tears to my eyes.

The first night after installing him in the apartment with our mother, the two of them slept together in the bed they had shared decades before, on the same sides of the bed we remembered them sharing when we were children.   It was as if they had not missed a day together, and the four-and-a-half year gap when they had been separated by Dad’s inability to care for Mom at home simply evaporated.   Now they are together every day, all day.   Although Dad is a bit bewildered at times by what is happening with the physical property that was their home for twenty-five years, he is not looking back.   He has clearly chosen our mother over their physical house.   He belongs with her, and he does not question that.

Nothing means more to me than watching my father gaze admiringly at my tiny mother (who is gradually losing her teeth) and proclaim, “You look so pretty today!”   Sixty-five years of absolute devotion, commitment, respect, and admiration far exceed any physical house anyone could ever build.   My father has chosen well, and he loves my mother unconditionally and forever, whether she speaks his name aloud or not (and sometimes she does).  Instinctively, she knows he is home; and HE knows he is home.   And I know that I have inherited matchless treasures.   My heavenly Father is revealing His Kingdom to me, this side of heaven!  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:21 (NIV)

My father chose well — his treasure was in relationship, not in any building or possession. Just as Mom had left many friends and houses behind when Dad’s job repeatedly required  re-location over the course of their life together, he forfeited all for her and never looked back.   May I be as devoted as he — first to My Savior, and second to my earthly husband!  Thanks, Daddy, for an invaluable heritage and your priceless example!

 

 

 

 

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Loss, Legacy, & Life

20170121_081936Recently I made an unexpected trip to assist my father in conjunction with a move based on safety issues and health concerns.   As usual when in my mother’s kitchen, I decided to bake my dad a pie.  During the process of rolling out the crust on my mother’s time-worn, decades-old pastry cloth, I suddenly found myself overcome with waves of sorrow rooted in the realization that this banana cream pie was the last pie I would ever bake for my dad while he was actually still living in the house he had shared with my mother for many years.   As the pangs of loss threatened to overwhelm me, I realized that, although my parents might be slipping away from me, they were leaving me an invaluable legacy that not even death will be able to plunder.

Baking a pie is really a simple pleasure and an easy task — or so I had thought when I was a small child.  My mother could be found baking pies in our various kitchens (we moved often) two or three times a week.  I did not find that remarkable at the time, as that process was a normal part of life for our family.   When my dad was out of work, my ever-resourceful mother continued to bake pies using the rhubarb that grew wild in the back yard.   One of my friends even preferred watching my mom bake pies to playing with me, which hurt my tender feelings.   I could not understand how such a routine activity could fascinate my friend to that degree.  (I discovered years later that her parents were alcoholics, and her mother never baked anything.)

When I was about ten, we were eating in a diner (a rare treat), and I insisted on ordering a piece of my favorite pie (sour cherry).  Despite my mother’s polite warnings that it might not taste like what I expected, I ordered that piece of pie.   To my chagrin, the crust was leathery, and the filling consisted of a few artificially-colored red cherries floating in a sea of corn syrupy, gelatinous liquid.   The light was dawning….

My sisters and I grew up by my mother’s side and learned to bake and cook as part of the ordinary rhythm of daily life.  Friendly and inclusive, my parents both came from large families and believed in including everyone else in our family.  That process involved hosting many overnight guests, inviting everyone imaginable to dinner, and even preparing food for parties of various types in our home (including my father’s office events).  There was nothing my culinarily curious and talented mother could not do, and my sisters and I considered this lifestyle of cooking and hospitality as normal.   It never really occurred to me that few people ever reciprocated, or that it was possible  NOT to know how to bake something as simple as a pie with a good crust.  Cooking and eating together were ordinary and fundamental parts of family life.

Ultimately, I grew up and realized many of my friends could not cook and bake or were afraid to try preparing anything new.   Their mothers had never allowed them in the kitchen, or their family circumstances had not been conducive to inviting people over.  I also noticed that most of the meals my husband and I enjoyed as young adults were in our own home, to which we immediately invited people not long after our wedding day.  Rarely did someone invite us to dinner.  What was the simplest and easiest dessert for me to make?  Pie, of course!  (I have learned to prepare many delicious desserts, but pie is still my favorite!)

Decades later, we realized my mother was suffering from a form of dementia; one of the saddest, most telltale signs of her decline was the day she called me and asked me for her own pie crust recipe.   I felt a deep sense of loss at that moment as I explained her recipe and method to her.   I knew something serious had happened in her mind, as pie-baking had always been instinctive for her.

Back to the counter and the crust for the banana cream pie:  while contemplating the fact that this pie would be the last pie I would prepare for my father before he moved out of the house, as the undertow of grief threatened to swallow me up, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that a simple pie represented a tremendous, enduring legacy of hospitality, inclusion, life, and love — a legacy that no one can rob from me — a legacy of caring about others, a legacy of good food and laughter, a legacy of sharing simple pleasures, a legacy of conversation and fellowship, a legacy of giving.   How could I ever have regarded THAT as boring or ordinary?  As a child, I had taken all those things for granted and failed to realize what treasures I enjoyed on a daily basis; of course I appreciated them, but I had considered those routines normal.  As an adult, I recognize what a priceless inheritance my parents imparted to me, an inheritance that reaches beyond possessions and bank accounts.

Gratitude flooded my heart.  “Besides,” I thought to myself, “I will be able to bake Dad a pie when we visit the house and bring him home for dinner.”   I pray I will bake hundreds more pies for people in the years to come; my mother would do so, were she able.

Moreover, I have begun to search my heart with this question:   “How many treasures in Daddy God’s Kingdom have I taken for granted and considered ordinary?”  I am asking the Holy Spirit to reveal His legacy to me, in me, and through me to others as I navigate the remaining days of my own life.   May I not overlook the priceless gems lying in the ordinary places of day-to-day life!

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The Power of the Trickle

water_dropletI am learning that we should never underestimate the power of the trickle to erode strongholds in our lives and to flood us with God’s goodness.   Most things begin with small cracks in the fabric of our everyday routines. Typically, nothing changes dramatically overnight, and even the apparent dramatic changes are, in fact, the fruit of a protracted period of systematic beating against walls of resistance to what God desires to establish in our lives.

We read in Ezekiel 47:  1-12:

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The Power of Trans-Generational Partnership

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SYNERGY:  1 + 1 > 2

The principle of synergy consistently characterizes God’s economic system:  He is capable of making more of what we have (or think we do not have) and seems to function above and beyond the physical and mathematical laws He Himself has created. The feeding of the five thousand and scores of other miracles recounted in Scripture illustrate His creative and multiplying power.  When we contemplate the power of partnership between generations, this principle of synergy proves particularly powerful.

According to our linear, western rationale, one generation succeeds and ultimately supersedes the previous one.  Certainly, the flower children of the sixties scorned the “establishment” built by their parents’ generation and demanded a fresh brand of freewheeling independence. They rejected the lessons of the past and attempted to develop a completely different culture. However, identifying  another’s mistakes does not necessarily mean we should completely discard everything about another person or group of people.

In contemplating the gifts of my children and their generation, I can readily see a sense of daring, love for adventure, and intolerance for hypocrisy and pat answers.  These young people are fervent about pursuing their dreams; they are also quick to identify the failings of their parents and grandparents without losing the idealism young people need to fuel their passions.  

On the other hand, those of us who are older and more experienced might prefer to take fewer risks and instead adhere to systems we feel have worked well in the past, even when facing new challenges that might demand different modes of operating.  Some of us have lost our passion and perseverance; we may be exhausted and disheartened at the lawlessness of our culture and tempted to separate ourselves entirely from what we see happening around us.

In view of our different perspectives, do we truly understand that parents, grandparents, and children carry a corporate anointing for partnership and that we need each other?  While it is easy to rest on our respective strengths and discount what we perceive to be the flaws in another generation,  we would be wiser to actively cultivate their partnership to effect lasting transformation in a chaotic world that desperately needs to know the love and power of Jesus Christ.

Ruth, a Moabite widow, refused to abandon her Hebrew mother-in-law (Naomi) when the latter made the decision to return to her hometown of Bethlehem.  She committed herself to Naomi, to Naomi’s people, and to Naomi’s God.  As the story unfolds, we find that Naomi was not the only beneficiary of this partnership.  Not only did Ruth work to provide for Naomi, but Ruth herself ended up marrying Boaz, a wealthy, kindhearted relative of Naomi’s deceased husband.   Ruth gained a family and a heritage, and her son with Boaz is recorded as an ancestor of our Messiah.   

Similarly, there was partnership and mutual affirmation between Elizabeth, the future mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the future mother of Jesus.  Mary heard from the angel Gabriel that her older, formerly barren relative was pregnant, and she went to visit her.  The yet-unborn John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of her Lord.  She uttered a prophetic blessing on Mary, who then broke into a prophetic song of her own magnifying God and affirming what He was doing to save His people.  

As a mother and grandmother, I am asking God for specific ways to partner with the younger generations.   I want to collaborate with the Holy Spirit to affirm and honor the gifts He has deposited in them; I love encouraging them to pursue their callings and their dreams.  I NEED them, and I believe they need us, the more experienced generation, as well.   We can certainly learn from one another.   Surely one generation plus one more generation add up to more than two!   Who knows what God will do when we cease dismissing and criticizing one another and begin to actively cultivate righteous partnership?

Psalm 145: 1-4 (NASB) 

I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.

 

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I Am Not Your Mother, but…

I love this story about a baby bird that hatches from its egg while its mother is away imgresfinding food.   Greeted by an empty nest, the hatchling has no idea where his mother is or what she looks like.  He consequently sets about searching for her.   When he asks various animals in turn, “Are you my mother?,”  he repeatedly receives a negative answer.  In the end, the little bird is catapulted back into his nest by a power shovel, just in time for his mother’s return to the nest.  Unfortunately, real life does not always match P.D. Eastman’s plot line!

As a mother of five children born over the course of just under nine and a half years, I was thrilled with my little brood.   Had I wanted to have more children, I could have continued that process.  Although I desired to be their mother and wanted each of my own children, I was patently unprepared to parent all their friends and the friends’ friends. After all, I was not THEIR mother!

However, God used one event to completely transform my attitude.   During my fifth pregnancy, a pleasant little boy lived next door us; apparently he preferred our house to his own, most likely due to the availability of multiple playmates.  As the months of my pregnancy wore on, I was lumbering around the house like a beached whale and often needed to lie down for a few minutes during the afternoon.  This neighbor boy would walk home from school every day with our oldest son, run next door to drop his backpack at home, and return to our house until dinner time.  Sometimes he would stay for dinner as well.  He was well-behaved and polite, but, as a responsible adult, I did not think it wise to be asleep while other people’s children were in the house.   One particular day, I was exhausted and desperate for a quick nap;  when my eldest son came through the door after school and made a beeline upstairs, I instructed our second child to please inform the neighbor (when he knocked on the door, which he surely would in a few moments) that I simply could not have him play at our home that afternoon.   A few moments later, I was lying down when the doorbell rang.  Through the fog of half-sleep, I heard child number two run to the door and open it; not one to mince words, he declared, “Go home!  My mom doesn’t want you here!” and proceeded to shut the door.   My heart was filled with remorse at his choice of words.   Nonetheless, as I explained to my son that diplomacy was important, I was also grumbling silently to God that I would’ve birthed a pile of nine-year-olds myself, had I wanted a pile of nine-year-olds.   The Holy Spirit wasted no time in correcting my attitude:   He spoke distinctly to my heart at that moment and instructed me to get up off my bed  when that neighbor rang the doorbell the next day, smile at him, welcome him, and receive him as if he were my own.

From that day on, I did exactly that.  In fact, that little boy was the first of  numerous “sixth” children in our family.  To this day, I treasure fond memories of him (he is now 35!).  Moreover, nine months after that particular day when the Lord so clearly reprimanded me for my attitude, that little boy’s mother died unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism.  Can you imagine the guilt that would have shrouded me, had I not received this child and made him feel welcome after school in our home?  

I may NOT be someone’s mother from a physical point of view, but God calls me to be available like a mother whenever He sends me someone He has called to be a part of my life.  Everyone needs to be welcomed, included, listened to, and loved.  My sixth children have truly blessed me in ways that words fail to describe — and I consider myself the richer for the experience!  “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!”  (Psalm 68:19, NKJV)

 

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