Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bread of Life

When our daughter, Samantha, was 4 years old, she had Whooping Cough. As an infant she'd had a bad reaction to the first dose of the vaccine, so she couldn't be innoculated with the susequent doses necessary for immunization. It was a very frightening time and took six months for the disease to be completely resolved. It wasn't medically treatable either.

We fervently prayed and prayed that she would be healed, but day after day and night after night she was beseiged with frequent, horrific coughing episodes. I vividly remember asking God, "Where are you? Do something!" I vividly remember His response to me... "I'm right here. And I Am doing something. You just can't see it." As I thought about that, I acknowledged that while I wanted her to be all better right then, she was progressively getting better, week by week. And she didn't die from the disease, which could have happened. I could even picture in my mind's eye, Jesus holding Samantha and gently pushing on her chest as she was gasping for breath.

My attitude changed from disheartened to thankful. My prayers changed from pleas to praise as I recognized I had much to thank Him for.

I was reading a devotional guide this morning which Samantha had reommended to me. The book is Praying the Names of Jesus by Ann Spangler, and today's message was centered in Luke 24:30-32. It's the account of two men who had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, after He had risen from the dead. They were telling Him the disheartening tale... of His death... and didn't realize that He was right there with them. They felt abandoned and bewildered, until they recognized the "Bread of Life" in the breaking of the bread. They had an attitude change, too.

Ann Spangler says,
"We long for tangible evidence of God's love, but we fail to see it, in part because we have not learned to be thankful. It's not just that God likes to be thanked. It's that we need to thank him... Thankfulness opens our eyes to God's faithfulness, which in turn nourishes our faith. No wonder the word "Eucharist," a common name for the Christian commemoration of the Last Supper, comes from a Greek word meaning "thanksgiving". Skipping gratitude is like skipping the meal God has prepared for us. Without it, we merely move on to the next need, felling hungry and empty without the faith to believe that God will sustain us."
When I'm full of gratitude, I see things so differently. It's a pleasant state of mind.

I used to have a little decorative plaque that sat on my desk. It said, "If we pause to think, we'll have cause to thank." Wonder where I put that?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Antiques R Us

In our family room, we have a desk that had been in Bruce's family since he was a little boy. It is a lovely desk, but the surface is marked with some gashes and pock-marks. Bruce told me that as a young boy, he remembers his mom fervently pounding on the desk with a big garden claw. She also performed this same ritual with other wooden furnishings in their home. She wasn't angry or taking out her frustration on the furniture, but purposefully marking the furniture to give it the appearance of an 'antique'.

Antiques are valuable for different reasons. Some are worth money. Some are worth memories.
I redeemed a mirror from the dark corner of my grandma's garage several years ago. It was earmarked to be thrown out because she hadn't used it in years and had replaced it with a new one. However, it was part of the first furniture she had when she was married as a young girl of 17, and it became special to me because of what it had 'been'. It connected me somehow to her, though she had been dead for several years. It now hangs in our foyer, and tho' not pretty to look at, it is a treasure to me.

Antiques are not valuable because they are old, they are valuable because of what they've been through. Furniture that has been 'beaten up' can have scars of character. It's lasted, endured, and remained. There's a testimony that is hidden beneath the marks... a story worth remembering.

Most of us have scars... physical reminders of a wound. We may look at our scars and remember what caused them (usually some sort of pain); but we can also look at our scars and remember that they are wounds that are healed, pain that has been covered over. Some scars are unseen, written on our soul. My scars remind me of specific moments that God intervened in my pain, brought me through a hard situation, comforted me, taught me, and gave me character.

I believe that scars make us valuable. We've all 'gone through' things, perhaps even spent moments feeling abandoned in the dark corners of the garage, perhaps been beaten up with a garden claw... wondering how God was going to redeem the pain. When He does, He leaves us with a reminder that healing, restoration and redemption are part of His nature and His gift to us. HE has them, too.

I saw a desk once, in Williamsburg, VA, that was 'valuable' because George Washington had written upon it. How much more valuable are you and I when God has written upon us, given us a testimony, and left His mark on us?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Blue Bicycles and Other Delights

Sometimes I like to re-read books I read a while ago, not just to refresh my memory, but to get things I may have missed the first time. The second (or third) time around, I'm reading it with a different perspective. Sometimes, re-reading a phrase, but putting the emphasis on a different word gives a new meaning or a fresh insight.

Such a moment occurred many years ago, when I was reading Psalm 37:4 which says, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires." I had once taken that to mean that if I 'delighted' in Him, He'd give me what I wanted. However, as I re-read the verse that day, I understood it to say that He would place His desires in my heart if I let Him. I felt great delight in that, because I trust that His will for me is surely better than mine and greater than I can imagine.

Henry Blackaby (Experiencing God) gives a great example of this. He tells of the time he wanted to give his son a bicycle for his sixth birthday, and found a blue Schwinn which he thought would be perfect. He bought it and hid it the garage, because the boy's birthday was yet a few weeks away. Then, over the next week or two, he found subtle ways to influence his son to think that a bike was a great idea, even suggesting a blue bicycle was the ultimate.
Soon, his son wanted a blue bike more than anything. And it was already in the garage! Blackaby just had to convince his son to ask for it; he did; he got it, and he was delighted! ...Not just because he 'wanted' it, but also because it was a great gift which his dad knew he'd love. His dad didn't trick him into wanting something he'd bought on a whim. His dad knew about six year old boys, he knew about HIS six year old boy, and he knew what would ultimately delight him and be good for him.

Romans 8:26-27 says, "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will." Blackaby explains it this:

"What happens when you pray? The Holy Spirit knows what God has "in the garage." It's already there. The Holy Spirit's task is to get you to want it -- to get you to ask for it. What will happen when you ask for things God already wants to give or do? You will always receive it... Because you have asked according to the will of God. When God answers your prayer, He gets the glory and your faith is increased."

I just know my Father has a BIG garage.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fish and Bread

Sometimes, when reading about people who did extraordinary things, I forget that they are just ordinary people who took a risk or extra-sized their faith. When I read about the heroes of the Bible, I sometimes forget that they were challenged by the same doubts and limitations then, as I am today.
For example, in Psalm 103:1-2, David says, "Praise the LORD, I tell myself; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, I tell myself, and never forget the good things he does for me." It's as if he's saying that sometimes he forgets... and he has to remind himself who God is and what He has done. And then he recollects God's faithfulness and he remembers His sovereignty.

A while ago, I was reading Mark 6:52. He is referring to Jesus' close friends, who had been with Him for a while and had already witnessed so many extraordinary things that He had done. Mark says, "They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened." The "loaves" referred to an event earlier that day, when He fed 5,000+ people with five loaves and two fish. And, I thought, ... how could these guys not understand? Are they dense, or what?? Then a still, small voice in my head said... "YOU do not understand." See, I had just been praying about some things and I was whining... I was doubting that He would intevene in my situations, I was forgetting about the extraordinary things He'd done so many times before in my life... my loaves. I needed to remind myself of them, and remind myself that what he did before, He'd do again. I needed to praise Him. My heart was hardened by discouragement, and my understanding was flawed.

I mention this now, because I found myself in a similar snit this morning. I was fretting over some things which I've fervently taken to prayer, which have not yet been resolved. And that still, small voice reminded me He's the same yesterday, today and forever. He's not a man, that He should lie, and I can trust Him.

Just as David's reflection led him,, too! "As for me -- I, too, will praise the Lord." (Ps. 103:22b)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Butterfly Birthday

I had a wonderful time in St. Louis with Samantha to celebrate her 21st birthday! We spent the afternoon in Historic St. Charles, and had a yummy lunch at along the Missouri River at a small café.

Later that evening, Samantha, Kristen (her co-worker) and I went to dinner and then walked around a nearby mall. They seem to have a fascination in St. Louis with Carousels... every mall we went to had one... not the little coin operated kiddie type, but full-sized, double-decker Merry-Go-Rounds in the middle of the malls!

The next morning, Samantha humored me, and we went to the Butterfly House, located in Faust Park which also featured a Historic Village with restored 19th century buildings, and... a Merry-Go-Round.

The Butterfly House, part of the Botanical Gardens, is a conservatory with literally thousands of butterflies fluttering about. I was fascinated; Samantha was terrified! It was reminiscent of the Hitchcock movie, The Birds, but instead of aggressive birds pecking your eyes out, a myriad of delicate, colorful, gentle butterflies permeate the air and land on your head. There are flowering plants and trees everywhere, and closer inspection reveals that half of the 'flowers' are actually resting butterflies! What a great way to hide from your enemies, ...act like a flower! Or disguise yourself as a scary monster (or a cabbage patch doll).

As we walked the garden path, I repeatedly commented on the exotic colors and variety of the butterflies. Samantha said,... "I feel itchy!" Our perceptions were different, I guess, but I was grateful that she indulged my whim to go there.

The butterfly is symbolic of being 'born again'. It begins life as it hatches from an egg, eats everything it can get its hands on ;-), sheds its skin a few times as it grows, and then is encased in a chrysalis, in which it is transformed. It emerges in glorious freedom as a majestic butterfly... totally changed and looking nothing like the former ground-hugging catapillar. It only takes a minute for the butterfly to emerge from its cocoon, and in a few hours, it can take flight, find a mate, and the whole cycle begins again.

"He supplied... new clothes to replace his prison garb and allowed him to dine in the king's presence for the rest of his life." Jeremiah 52:33

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bird's Eye View

I grew up within walking distance of Greater Pittsburgh Airport (it wasn’t “International” then). As kids, we would often walk over on summer days to people-watch. I wasn’t overly impressed by watching planes take off and land… I could do that from my front yard. I remember when I was little, an aunt was visiting us for a week, and the first night of her stay, she came running out of her bedroom in the middle of the night screaming, “A plane is crashing into the house!!! Can’t you hear it?” She was alarmed by the noise of a plane landing nearby and thought surely it would hit the house. I was puzzled, because, well, I didn’t “hear” anything, and wondered what she was yelling about. Funny, how you can get used to the roar of a jet engine, and it doesn’t even startle anymore. What we 'get used to' affects our perspective

There was a cemetery near our home, right under the flight path of the aircraft. My dad would always say, ‘Bury me there, so when you fly in and out of Pittsburgh, you can wave at me ;) “. I know he was kidding, but I just waved...

I’m writing this entry from US Airways Express flight 3507, en route to St. Louis, MO to visit Samantha for her 21st birthday! I won’t be able to post it till I get home, and can access the Internet, but felt like sharing the perspective from ‘up here’. I always look for my childhood home and familiar landmarks, to get my bearings, as I fly over the area in and out of GPIA.

I just saw a FedEx truck travel down a road and stop in front of someone’s house; I know they are about to get a delivery before they do. This got me to thinking that, often times, we are in a situation, and we’re struggling or feeling discouraged, and God’s got the answer on the way… we just can’t see it yet. But soon, the questions are answered, the provision is made, the guidance is delivered, and we breathe again. Soon I’ll be landing, and my perspective will be more limited to what I can ‘see’, but I hope I’ll remember this ‘bird’s eye’ view. There’s always so much more going on in any given situation than I can know.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Singing Prayers

After two weeks in Estes Park, CO, Samantha and her co-worker travelled to St. Louis, MO to get their camp established. The time in Colorado was jam packed with training, but Sam had a chance to perform at the camp 'talent show' with another camp coordinator, Nicole, as the training came to a close. They performed "The Prayer", with a unique arrangement. One of their friends caught it on video, and I uploaded it to YouTube. The video portion quality is a little dark at times, but the sound comes through well. If you'd like you can click the link to watch the Video.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


My husband has lots of names for me. Some of them I like. The good ones, the ones that generate a positive reaction from me, reflect admiration or point out my good qualities. Even the silly ones are good because they often evoke a pleasant memory of something we shared, like an inside joke.

I spent some time talking with a friend today who is going through some difficult days. She told me that in the midst of her situation, she's learning more of God as she experiences Him in an area she hadn't walked before, and it's like knowing Him by a new name.

In the Bible, there are many 'names' of God. Some of the names, He called Himself identifying what He wants to be to us (ex: God Almighty in Gen. 17:1). And some of the names identify what He's done, often expressions of how He's met someone in a significant way at a specific time and place.

One that comes to mind is recounted in Genesis 16:13. El-Roeh, the One Who Sees, is a name attributed to God by Hagar, Sarai's slave. She had run away from Sarai, who was making her life somewhat difficult, and she was alone in the desert when God spoke to her. His attention to her gave her the impetus to trust Him enough to obey Him. Hagar's name for God declared gratitude and confidence in a god who saw her, and her plight.

I was reading the book of Ezra in my Bible this morning... Chapter 5 describes some of the opposition the Israelites met when they were trying to rebuild their temple. Near Eastern kings were noted for using spys... men referred to as the "king's eyes" and the "king's ears", and the guys who were making things difficult for the Israelites likely served those roles. However, verse 5 says, "But the eye of their God was watching over...the Jews, and they weren't stopped...", drawing a contrast between the limitations of the earthly kings who depended on men's eyes and ears, and the omniscience of the Heavenly King, who always sees and watches over His people.

My friend told me that she can't see how her situation will be resolved, but she has confidence that the One Who Sees, sees her. Her relationship with God takes on a new dimension, as she knows Him by a new name.