Worthless Idols

“Unprecedented” is a word we hear constantly these days as we struggle to describe the events unfolding around us.  Between the Covid-19 pandemic,  the racial unrest, the protests, violence and destruction we see in our cities,  solutions are a dime a dozen.  We all want to return to what we now see as “the good old days” and we have our own perspectives on how to accomplish it.

Let me begin by saying that, today, I am speaking  primarily to believers in Jesus.  If you are an unbeliever, this is not directed to you.  As I survey the news, social media and other publications, I am saddened to see that we are responding to the events of our days just like those in old testament times,  when faithful peoples chose to seek  substitutes for the one true God, forsaking Him for what they considered better, more timely solutions.

We may not be constructing  asherah poles,  molding golden calves or  worshipping at the altar of other graven images, but, we have often gravitated toward other idols just as dangerous.  Many believers are putting  hope in  protests,  political reform, physical health and/or beauty,  specific individuals or groups,  economic sanctions and other worldly solutions to what are spiritual problems.  If you don’t see yourself as guilty,  I challenge you to review your social media accounts and what you’ve posted in the last thirty days.  Are your posts pointing others to the God who can move mountains, redeem sinners and give new hearts or, to your political bent or cause?  Who are you quoting? Who are you following? As you answer each of those questions, ask yourself if you might be placing an inordinate amount of hope there.

This morning, I read in the book of Jonah, his lament after being swallowed by a large fish. God had called him to go to Nineveh, a city every bit as wicked as any of our cities today, to confront their wrong living. Jonah, believing the Ninevites didn’t deserve the opportunity to repent, ran from God instead.  (side note: It’s pointless to run from the One who  knows where you are even before you get there.) The result was that he ended up in the belly of a fish with nothing but time to consider his lot.  Here are his conclusions:

“When my life was ebbing away, 

I remembered You, Lord,,

and my prayer rose to you,

to Your holy temple.

Those who cling to worthless idols

forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

But I, with a song of thanksgiving,

will sacrifice to you. 

What I have vowed I will make good.

Salvation comes from the Lord.”

-Jonah 2: 7-9

Two points I want to hone in on.  First, “Salvation comes from the Lord.”  Note he didn’t say the government, an individual apart from God,  a political ideology or any groups or movements present in our world today.  He is our hope and our salvation. Period.

Secondly,  if we are focused on any of those things as the “be all-end all,”  we are guilty of idolizing them over worshipping our God.   These are the kind of “worthless idols” Jonah referred to.  We are commanded to have no other gods before Him.   Our hope must always be, first and foremost,  in Him.  He may well choose to  use individuals and  movements to further His purposes, but it is He we are to look to for our salvation.  This is true both for  individuals and  nations, and it is HE we should be pointing  others to.

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– He who watches over you will not slumber…The Lord watches over you…the Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life, the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” 

-Psalm 121:1-8

God is good.  He wants us to trust wholely in Him, and when we do, He is gracious and kind, attending to our every need.   Let’s not forfeit the grace that could be ours.

Still “Safe at Home”

I write this on  day sixty-four. Sixty-four days of a mandate to “flatten the curve” of the Corona Virus by staying home.

img_4264As mandated, we began this experience of sheltering in place. Businesses, schools and churches were closed. Many companies directed employees to begin working from home.  Others were furloughed or terminated.  Sporting events, concerts, conventions, meetings, and travel all came to a halt. There would be no celebratory ceremonies for 2020 graduates and only online classes  for the fall semester in sight. The economy is in shambles with 39 million Americans out of work.  Yes, many are ill with the virus.  Many more  have recovered, but there have been many deaths as well-over 95,000 nation wide.

fullsizeoutput_d01dThis pandemic has brought our world to its knees. We’ve been directed to enact social distancing, copious hand washing and disinfecting and to only leave  our own homes for absolute essentials such as food and urgent medical needs. fullsizeoutput_d2eb

The experts continually contradict each other. The politicians tell us one thing today and edit it  tomorrow.  We should wear masks and they’re useless. We should stay in and we should pursue herd immunity,  we need sunshine but the parks are closed. The “experts” are clearly figuring it out as they go along.  Nursing homes in one major city were ordered to admit recovering Covid patients despite the fact that their general populations consisted of the frailest and most fragile individuals and   highly susceptible to infection. The results were disatrous.  In my own city, last I heard, 80% of all deaths were nursing home patients.

Toilet paper has become the new currency with beans, disinfectants, paper towels and now meat in short supply. We are required to wear masks when entering stores after standing in lines for the privilege of shopping. Stores have set up plexiglass barriers between employees and shoppers as well as marks on the floor designed to tell us where to stand while waiting in line so as to maintain appropriate distancing. 

Restaurants, like other businesses have either closed or are allowed only to provide pick up or delivery options. Many of them will never reopen if the so-called “new normal” mandates are required. They cannot survive if only allowed to serve half the customers they have room for when they’re paying rent for a larger space intended to accomodate more.  Walmart, Target, Home Depot and the big grocery chains are still open, but the mom and pops and other small businesses have been forced to close their doors.  

For the first time in history, the healthy are being quarantined.  Those who say its time to open up the world again are accused of wanting people to die.  Those who believe we need to stay hunkered down at home beleive to do so will bring a new surge of infection and death.  

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There is little talk of finding a cure, but a lot about a coming vaccine that may well not be optional.  We we’ve been told that ventilators would be in short supply but that didn’t materialize.  Instead, hospitals are now laying off physicians, nurses and other staff because their censuses are so low.  All elective and non-emergency surgeries have been put on hold.  Many illnesses are not being diagnosed or treated currently.  There are those who believe a vaccine is the answer.  Others point to hydroxychloroquine, a medication costing less than a dollar that has had good results.  Again, experts around the world disagree.  

I don’t have all the answers, but I know Who does.  I am definitely not an expert, but I have tried to listen to both sides and come to my own conclusions.  I must say it isn’t easy to hear both sides because the national media hasn’t reported on those with differing opinions and social media doesn’t allow what differs from their perspective or agenda to remain online for long. What are they afraid of? Are we not capable of drawing our own conclusions?  

Here’s what I do know.  Suicide hotlines are jammed. Businesses are failing.  Families can’t pay their mortgages or put food on their tables.  Domestic abuse is increasing.  Alcohol intake is on the rise.  Depression is rampant. Anxiety is out of control. Social isolation has rendered many seniors profoundly lonely without physical touch or comfort.   Many believe that all of these factors are pointing to a national mental health crisis.  Clearly, the virus isn’t the only thing wreaking havoc on our population.  We need to address all of these issues and soon. 

I sincerely believe that it’s time to return to life largely as we knew it sixty-four days ago.  Young, healthy, able bodied individuals need to get back to work, kids need to return  to school and churches reopen. More importantly,  we need to acknowledge and  turn our eyes to the One who holds the universe in His hands. 

You may well disagree with me and I’m okay with that.  I understand the power of fear and how very convincing the fear mongers have been.  I will willingly wear a mask in your presence if it brings you peace of mind.  I will wear one when I shop as required where I live.  I respect that you may think me foolish or uninformed.  I have listened to both sides and engaged in discussions with those with opposing views, but in the end, there are “experts” on both sides of the divide, and I hold to the fact that good, smart people can disagree.  I’ve landed where I’ve landed and hold no malice toward  any of you who have landed elsewhere.   

No, I don’t want people to die.  And no, it’s not about going to the beach.  It’s not even about my personal comfort or financial needs.  If I’m sick I’ll stay home and I hope you will too.  I understand if you feel safer at home and won’t mock you for choosing to do what you believe is best.  I will be a good neighbor, friend and citizen and will be respectful of the authorities over me.  But I will not live in fear of speaking what I believe.  I am not a hater. 

I am going to continues to practice good hygiene.  I’ll respect those in authority as well as those who may vehemently disagree with me.  I’m going to hold and hug my grandchildren and spend time with those I love.  I’m going to continue to honor and stay in relationship with those who choose to remain socially distant regardless of their reasons. I’m going to continue praying for health and healing.  I will respect the opinions of those who differ from mine.  God gave us all minds so that we could seek His wisdom and discernment. When we do, we will make the best decisions we can with the information we are given.  That’s what I aim for. 

I trust that my God, who created this universe, has His purposes in allowing this plague to exist.  It is obvious that many of us have come to grips with the fact that despite our bank accounts, homes, jobs, education, accomplishments, fame, credentials and belief in our ability to handle anything that comes our way, we’ve seen that in a moment everything can change.  With it, we’ve been forced to acknowledge that we literally have no control.  Hence, we look to the One who has all control. I’ve always said He will go to any lengths necessary to get our attention.  Does He have yours? 

God has appointed a day for each of us to be born and a day for us to die.  We don’t know either before hand.  What we do in between those two dates matters to Him.  Where our hope lies matters to Him.  The experts have not been 100% convincing on either side.  My confidence doesn’t lie with any of them, but in the message of an old hymn written by one Edward Mote nearly a century ago:

“My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

 I dare not trust the sweeetest frame

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,

 All other ground is sinking sand. 

All other ground is sinking sand.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Like the “Other” Mothers

I write this on the eve of the anniversary of my mom’s death eight years ago.  Ironically she crossed over on Mother’s Day.

I’ve learned a few things since then.  Through the eyes of others who loved and enjoyed her, I’ve learned to appreciate gifts I didn’t fully acknowledge when she walked through this world. I recently came across a handful of sympathy cards we received back then and my heart was warmed by the remembrances of many dear friends  and loved ones.

She and my Dad both adored babies and taught us all to love them, too.  One friend said that she was someone who especially cared for children who were sometimes forgotten by others.  She had an ability to relate to little ones in ways most adults have forgotten.  She had a childlike quality that allowed her to come down to their level and make them squeal with glee and long to be in her presence.

A friend and neighbor  recalled that she could remember my Mom so clearly-with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth as they cut up a ton of plums, trying to make plum jam.  “She could talk me into doing just about anything.”  I find that story especially amusing because in my lifetime, I don’t remember my mother EVER making anything remotely like plum jam.  Cooking was not something she particularly  enjoyed, but viewed it more as a necessary evil.  Still, she convinced her friend to give plum jam a go.

Others called her “a character,” referred to her big heart, remembered her as loving and generous and a great friend.  One said “she always made me feel welcome and a part of your family.”  The one that made me laugh the most though, was, “she loved giving advice.”  Yes.  Yes she did. Lots and lots of advice to lots and lots of people.

She was different from the “other” moms.    She rarely wore dresses or  any makeup and she cursed with some regularity.  Her hair was always cut short and she wore  jeans long before they were  fashionable.  She drank Coke for breakfast and then throughout the day.   She knew the managers and the clerks at the market and the drug store and was on a first name basis with the bank president.  She used her connections to get countless friends and family members  jobs when they needed one.  She was a master networker before  networking was a thing.

It occurred to me that she planted the seed of hospitality in me.  Looking back I remember how she and my Dad welcomed a long parade of family members and friends into our home to live with us for brief periods.  There were foster babies waiting adoption,  relatives in transition, friends experiencing  hard times and once even one of my mom’s hospital patients who needed a place to recover.  The welcome mat was always out and there was always an extra seat at the dinner table for whoever stopped by.

She would regularly  strike up  conversations with  total strangers at the mall and knew all her neighbors and all of their kids.  She loved to “go visit” and we often had to track her down because it hadn’t occurred to her to tell us where she was going or when she’d return.  She was unpredicatable.   Whatever was on her mind often slipped out of her mouth to the horror of her children and those who didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  She wasn’t mean, just oblivious.  And so, sometimes,  we got cranky with her.  Real cranky.

I have never believed it was necessary  to pretend that one who has passed was someone different than who they actually were.  What I’ve learned  though, is that there is so  more to each person than we may see.  And, that with the passage of time, we can let go of what wasn’t perfect and learn to appreciate the good, the quirky  and  the gifts they brought to others we weren’t privy to.  We all touch a lot of people in our lifetimes and no one has visibility of all of it.  Those things are often revealed only with the passage of time.

I’m thankful for the life my mom gave me, for the many things she taught me, for the  sacrifices she made, for the hopes she had for me, for loving me when I wasn’t lovable and for not disowning me when I almost burned down her kitchen.  Who knew you shouldn’t leave baby oil warming on the stove and forget about it?

I’m thankful for the period of time when she constantly sang “I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener” and for the trips to the Sundae Bar at Woody’s Smorgasborg.  I’m grateful for her teaching me to love children, to care for babies and for the many memories that still can make me laugh out loud.  She taught me how to clean a house, to be silly with some regularity and to not take myself too seriously.   Other times she was serious.  When I was six years old and told her I hated someone, she looked me straight in the eye and said,  “you don’t hate anyone.”  She said it with conviction and I never forgot it.

In the eight years since she left us,  I’ve let go of  all my unrealistic expectations of what a mom should be.  I’m a mom myself now and I know that I fall short in many ways.  I hope one day my own daughter will  remember the good, let go of my own imperfections and forgive me where I’ve failed.  I pray for grace as I’ve learned to extend it.

My funny, quirky, unpredictable mom–  I’m thankful for the beautiful life she gave me the day  she brought me into this world and  to have been with her when she left it–on Mother’s Day.

‘Remembering her with great  love and affection today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EASTER 2020 One Like No Other

I expect that Easter 2020 will be like none I’ve ever experienced nor like any I am likely to experience again.  There is a global pandemic in progress, people.  And, it has changed just about everything.

There will be no overnight guests in our guest room.  We will not tumble out of bed when it’s still dark, bundling up in warm coats to wear to Sunrise services.  We won’t sing together with our family and friends as we look toward the Pacific ocean as the sun rises behind us and our Pastor gives the Easter message.   We will not be hugging our friends and loved ones as the crowd disperses.  Neither will we then drive to Norm’s for breakfast. There will be no need to rush home to hide eggs in the backyard  for there will be no  children arriving to find  them.  There will not be massive quantities of food in the kitchen, nor will the table be set beautifully, because our annual brunch won’t be happening.

CANCELLED

I confess, I’m going to miss all that–the tradition of it all, but, especially all those faces I love.  I must also admit  I have never been more excited about Resurrection Sunday.   I have never felt so at peace, so thankful or so full.  With “Safer at Home” orders now entering week three and another five potentially ahead of us,  we are learning to live a life far quieter than we ever imagined we would or could.

Some of the sweet faces I’ll be missing

The results have been oddly wonderful. We are retired and don’t have places we need to be or assignments we are expected to complete. We have no debt.   Our biggest challenge has been to stay at home with the exception of  essential outings such as the market for food. We are not prisoners but, we are confined for the common good.

In the midst of all these changes, our local church has been incredibly pro-active in rising to the occasion.  We’ve been blessed to wake-up to video messages from members of our pastoral staff nearly every day.  These brief videos have encouraged us with scriptural principles that have beautifully set the tone for us as we begin another day in the great unknown.

My Wednesday morning Bible Study still meets via Zoom as does my Bible Study Fellowship group on Monday evenings.  The husband’s Saturday morning study also meets online.  What a blessing online meeting sites have proven to be in the midst of these often alarming times.

In our “new normal” we  livestream church services on Sunday morning, usually with me still in my jammies,  both of us with coffee in hand as we watch on an ipad. We sing along with the worship team,  read scripture and  listen to a teaching from one of our  teaching pastors. We take communion with saltines and grape juice.  There’s something new and special about it. There is great intention surrounding our  virtual gathering together.  No one is dressing to impress, but showing up to receive His blessing.   It sounds strange, but, it’s been strangely beautiful.

In addition to online opportunities, we’ve been encouraged to spend at least one hour a day in prayer and in reading the scriptures as we approached Easter.  We were given a goal of reading the entire New Testament in 21 days.  I cannot tell you what a powerful experience this has been for us to sit together, reading aloud to each another and discussing not only what we’ve read, but how we can  apply it to our daily lives.

CONFESSION: We have never before consistently done this together.  This is a great big deal.  Something of a miracle,  if you ask me.

As a result of this daily time, we’ve had some incredibly rich conversations and have  been able to unite in prayer, every morning for those we love, for those in authority over us to be wise,  for those enduring great suffering, those who are grieving, those who are tirelessly serving in the midst of this pandemic and for revival to come to our world.   Big prayers indeed.

Through the reading of God’s word, we have read four accounts of the events leading up to the resurrection by four different men God ordained to write the Synoptic Gospels:  Matthew, a tax collector who became a disciple of Jesus; John Mark, who travelled with the Apostle Paul;   Luke, a Greek , gentile physician; and John, the apostle.  Each wrote from their own unique perspective and each touched our hearts and minds.  Did  we finish our assigned reading?   Not yet.  But, it’s okay.   We have read through the four Gospels as well as the book of  Acts;  essentially half of the New Testament.  We will continue to read  with a greater desire to put our increased knowledge to work in our daily lives.

As we came to the end of John, once again reading of the events leading to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, we  were deeply moved by His sacrifice, His willingness to drink the bitter cup before Him, to desire to be spared but ultimately choosing  to do the Father’s will in order to save us from the penalty of sin.  He was without sin, yet He paid the debt we owed but couldn’t afford, so that we could live victoriously and eternally.    This is the  glorious, good news.

This is news so good that there is no anxiety in our home or in our hearts, but instead excitement about how God is moving in our lives and in the world around us.   While there are most certainly tragic and often  unsettling events  to deal with in our  extended family, in the lives of our friends and throughout the world that we are deeply concerned about, we praise God in the midst of it.  He is using this time to turn our hearts toward Him, having  stripped away all the appointments , the projects,  the events,  the places to go and the people to see. He has virtually sat us down and called us to attention if we will but have ears to hear and eyes to see. We’ve been given this moment in time to sit at His feet, to take in His word and to prepare for the glorious resurrection day  celebration before us.

We all serve someone or something.  Money. Fame. Accomplishments. Education. Career. Vanity. We all get to choose.  But would you not consider the one who chose you, before you were formed in your mother’s womb?  The one who gave His very life so that you could be accepted by your very creator? The one who knows every bad thing you’ve ever done and still loves you? The one who was without sin, but died for yours, was buried and rose again.  That’s someone worth serving.

“Choose you today, whom you will serve.” Joshua 24:15

“Today is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2

He is Risen.

Risen for You.

Risen Indeed!

REJOICE and be glad!

P.S. Everything’s gonna be okay. I read the end of the book. You should, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the Light Gets In

Most of us have heard the story about not hiding the cracks in our armor, for it’s by the cracks that “the light gets in.”

As we live in the age of COVID-19, we are physically distant from one another by government mandate.  We are no longer allowed to gather with fellow believers as is our custom.  We must stand in lines to shop for the necessities of life.  Restaurants are closed except for take out orders.  Theaters are silent, their screens darkened.  Malls are shut down.  All but essential workers are home on lock-down.  Schools at every level are shuttered and children are home for the forseeable future.

This is our new normal.  Truth is, as Americans, most of us are not suffering in comparison to our brothers and sisters world wide.  Most of us live lives of great privilege in comfortable homes with running water, bathroom facilities, freezers and safety.  We are rich by world standards.

Even so, these are trying times.  Many of us are worried about the future, our health and that of our loved ones.  We are concerned about our economy with so many out of work.  Some wonder  how their mortgages will be paid when there is no paycheck coming in.  Others are suffering the loss of those who have loved ones hospitalized and pregnant women wonder if their babies will be born in hospitals overrun with this deadly virus.  These are somber times. But the light is still getting in because of the light in hearts around us who are choosing to spread it.

Here’s to the lightbearers who are making us smile!

Sidewalk Artists at Work

Dinner Guests Honoring 6 Foot Rule

Food Provided to our Community by Hope in Action

Hymns of Comfort Online by The Kisakas

Fresh Citrus Delivered By My Friend Tracy

Comfort Food Aplenty

Facebook Prayer With a Dear One

Bible Study Online!

Curbside Books

Bursts of Color in Our Neighborhood

Church Livestream

Communion at Home With My Beloved

Garden Blooms

There is much to be thankful for, even in these dark times.  Be grateful for the light that gets in and gets through.  Then, BE the light.

 

"..Not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."

Don't Worry About Tomorrow…

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet, I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “what shall we eat?” or “what shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

…Jesus (Matthew 6:28-33)

EMMANUEL In the Waiting

“He’s in the waiting…” This lyric from Bethel Music and Kristene DiMarco’s song, Take Courage keeps rolling around my head in this season of advent and reminds my heart to take comfort in His presence as I wait. His answers are coming even as we wait for the celebration of the birth of the Christchild.

What are you waiting for? Advent is about waiting for what is to come. In this case, the coming savior/child in a manger, who came as an infant to die on a cross some 33 years later. The entire world is waiting for Christmas right now, for all the gatherings, celebrations and tender moments we can muster.

For the last two hours helicopters have been circling my neighborhood. Sirens have been wailing. Schools are on lockdown. We’re in our home, doors locked and waiting to be told what the heck is going on. We’re all waiting for something aren’t we? And, sometimes the waiting is a little scary. Whether it’s for a healing, a relationship, a promotion, a broken heart to mend, a conflict to be resolved, a fear to subside or something else; waiting is an integral part of living. And, what we do in the waiting says everything about where our hope lies and how content we will be.

If our hope is in our own ability to create, manipulate, manage or control the events of our lives, we will surely grow weary. We will be heart sick.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

If our hope is in the Creator of the universe, the Saviour of the world, we can release our grasp and trust that not only will He deliver every good gift on time, but that He is, indeed, with us as we wait for events to unfold, trusting that He never withholds what is good for us and what will bring Him glory. He who came down from Heaven to walk this earth with us and who will return to gather us to our eternal home, is big enough, powerful enough and loves us more than enough to manage all the things that confound us, worry us and keep us up at night. Emmanuel. God with us.

I’m waiting for friends to be healed from cancer, people I care deeply for struggling with mental illness to have sound minds, loved ones in need of work to find jobs, grieving ones to be comforted, the faithless to find faith in Jesus and for the peace on earth that only He will bring. That’s a lot of waiting, friends. While I may not understand the delay or even the “final answer” in any given situation, my hope is in the God I believe is good. Believing so doesn’t mean we won’t experience sorrow, tears or disappointment, but it does mean that in the end, our hope is in Him and not in our own screenplay of what our life should be. Spoiler alert: His script is far better than anything we might imagine.

We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses… Hebrew 4:15

Whatever you are waiting for, He’s in the waiting. He knows your heart and He is able to carry you through it dear one, so don’t lose hope. We don’t wait alone. He’s right there with us.

Emmanuel. God with us.

GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST

“They Did the Best They Could”

The table was littered with crumpled napkins and dessert plates bearing the remains of a homemade strawberry dessert. Our bellies were full and we’d settled into some some real talk–the kind that happens when long after your done eating you sit around the table with those you hold dear and who trust you with the burdens weighing on their hearts.

One of my oldest and dearest friends sat across the table still grieving the loss of his father. As we reminisced I mentioned how much I loved a particular photograph of the two of them. In it, they were captured at a big box store in a town far away engaged in some very childish behavior. They were clearly having great fun evidenced by their beaming faces. Both were laughing. The reflected joy was palpable.

“I loved to make my Daddy laugh,” he said, wistfully, “but, now there’s so much anger.” I saw pure sadness in his lowered eyes. Some hard things had transpired leaving he and his family to suffer sorrow, betrayal, disappointment and an ongoing battle against bitterness that would have been understandable had they succumbed. They hadn’t, but these were hard times indeed.

“He did the best he could.” I responded, hoping to ease his pain.

His response was soft yet swift, “Oh, but, he didn’t.” There was no sign of satisfaction in his eyes over this proclamation. Only sorrow mixed with regret. This conversation took place well over a year ago and I confess it still rumbles around my mind and in my heart.

I don’t know that I will ever mindlessly use that phrase again. Even now if I overhear it somewhere, I hear his response in my head: “Oh, but he didn’t.” We are so quick to say “they did the best they could.” But, was my friend right or was I? Did they do their best? Or, in fact, is that just a trite response when we have no other explanation to soothe ourselves? Is it a myth we use for self-comfort when others have disappointed us with their actions or lack of them?

Do any of us consistently give our best, even to those people and things we love most? Likely not. For a myriad of reasons, we fall short. We fail to be the mothers, fathers, spouses, children, friends, etc that we’d like to think we are or want to be. Because, my friends, wanting doesn’t make it so. If we aren’t intentional about what we do, we too will fail.

I can’t become a master chef by watching the Food Network and wishing I could emulate their skills. Nor can I just post photos of beautiful dishes on Instagram under the moniker “InstaChef.” No. I need to go to the market, purchase the required ingredients, follow the recipe step by step and even then, I may not get the desired result. So, I’ll to try again until I’m satisfied. What may happen down the road is that I grow over confident and fail to read the recipe carefully. I may (because I can be careless) omit a crucial ingredient or use too much of another. I won’t have intended to fail, I just took my eyes off the recipe.

“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. ” Galations 6:9 Holman Christian Standard Bible.

“We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”
Hebrews 2:1

Growing up I spent many summer days at the beach, body surfing for hours with my cousins and siblings. Often, I would come out of the water to discover my carefully placed towel “missing.” Upon further examination, I was surprised to view exactly where I had left it. I had been oblivious to the fact that the current had subtly caused me to drift a significant distance from where I had entered the water. Unbeknownst to me I had veered off course without noticing that I had lost sight of my home base. We are strongly warned in the book of Hebrews that if we don’t pay attention, we are in great danger of just drifting away. When we do, we will inevitably fail to give our best.

I hadn’t intended to lose sight of that towel, but, neither had I kept my eye on it. I was distracted by the sun and the waves and my company. When that happened, I effortlessly drifted. When we get distracted by the cares of life, we can easily move away from doing our best for ourselves and those we love. My friend was right. His Daddy, though he most certainly loved his boy dearly, also failed him in some pretty significant ways. He could have done better. He didn’t always do his best. I think he drifted from the shore and lost his bearings for a time. The result for my friend has been some high hurdles to jump over. You and I all have, or will have, similar mountains to climb in our own lives. But our good God is gracious to heal our wounds, day by day, as we lay them before Him.

There will always be a mountain to climb
…and hurdles to conquer

So, what about that “unfinished business?” What about those for whom it’s too late? Too late to give their best, too late to give us their time, their affection, their encouragement, their unconditional love and faithfulness, their provision for our needs. What about that? How are we to come to terms with our disappointment, anger, sorrow and regret, knowing there will be no reconciliation here on earth?

Illustration by Margaret Armstrong from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s
Sonnets From the Portuguese

We can still love and forgive those who’ve failed us in their weakness. We can hate how they hurt us, overlooked us, put others ahead of us or responded from paranoia. Also, when they acted foolishly, selfishly, thoughtlessly or in anger. We don’t need to pretend things were other than they were. We can’t rewrite history. We can’t change what was or wasn’t done, but, for our own healing we can choose to release what we wanted and acknowledge what we actually had. In doing so, we can grow in grace and in mercy, with eyes wide open, to cross over the bridge of forgiveness to the solid ground of peace with God and with man. This is no way negates the wrongs done to us or the heartache we feel, but frees us to repent of our own sin of unforgiveness and to receive the peace that passes all understanding and the healing of our broken hearts.

How can I be so certain of this? Simply because, I’m a sinner, too. I’ve had to release others from the weight of my own unforgiveness, knowing that while I may not make the same mistakes they did, I will surely make my own and so will you. We may, in fact, sin by overcompensating where we were failed. If we were never told “I love you” we may well say it too casually. If we were punished harshly we may err on the side of permissiveness. If we were not adequately provided for we may be prideful in meeting the needs of those we love in a manner far beyond what is reasonable and healthy. Because, we, too, are still being transformed. For that, God allows us a lifetime. As we submit ourselves to His care and leading, He will lead us home where all our tears will be forever dried. In our own lives we can choose to be vigilant, to fix our eyes on Jesus in the earnest hope that others will recall that we did indeed do our best.

It’s a worthy goal.

Sidebar: Even healed wounds hurt from time to time, so, don’t lose hope when yours do. Press forward and through. In the meantime, may I suggest you look into God’s Word for comfort and guidance? Here are some verses to get you started on the road to forgiveness and healing. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. Col. 3:13-15a NLT

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and agner, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ forgave you. Eph. 4:31-32 NLT

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. Micah 7:18 NIV

And whenever you stand praying, you must forgive anything you are holding against anyone else, and your Father will forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25 Phillips

Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Amy Grant Doesn’t Know It, But- She Changed My Life

Yep, Mrs. Gill has influenced how my day starts. A simple prayer her former mother-in-law once shared with her has become one I now begin my day with. It goes like this:

“Lead me today to the ones I need, and to those who need me. And let something I do today have eternal significance. “

Contrary to what you may have imagined, retirement does not mean the end of work. Though one is no longer accountable to corporate dictates or quotas to attain, we are still responsible to our Creator and to those authorities He has put in place over us. So, there are still assignments to be completed for our good, the good of others and for His glory.

No, we no longer need to rise early to get to work on time and yes, we can take a nap in the afternoon if we choose to. We are free to choose how we spend our time, but we choose to be available to what God calls us to. And, it is good. As I have shared in the past, I no longer work for money, only for love. Not in order to gain love, but, in response to the love that’s been given to me.

As a believer in Jesus, I don’t need to earn His approval. He gave it freely the second I responded to His invitation to save me. Loving and serving others is how I respond to His gift- when it’s easy and when it’s hard, because He already did the hardest thing for me.

Our daily marching orders may not be as regimented as they once were, but I still want to live lives of purpose. So– I pray:

“Lead me today to those I need…”

Yep. I need these folks in my life!
And He continues to lead me to…
  • Biblical teaching from the pulpit focused on truth and insights that motivate me to put to use what I learn from our ongoing teaching of the Word of God, verse by verse. I need the knowledge shared and the challenge to live it out.
  • My weekly Bible study where Godly women share wisdom I aspire to. I need their discernment and wisdom. I need the example of these women to propel me to respond well in my own life. I need the women at my table who share from their hearts. Their vulnerability and steadfast faith encourages me tear down the walls I often construct to keep others out.
  • My weekly beach walk with friends. I need them so that I will stay committed to moving my body and enriching my spirit with the company of women who, by their example, cause me to not grow weary in doing right, but to persevere in faith through the ups and downs of life.
  • My friends who I need to pray for me when I ask and when I don’t.
  • A long phone conversation with a far-away kindred spirit because I need to be encouraged and uplifted, too.
  • A visit with a young couple and their sweet little one, who are planting a new church in a largely unchurched area of our state. I need to support them in prayer and with my wallet. And I need to see how God is blessing the investment of time and love I made many years ago. I need to be reminded that love invested yields love paid forward.

“…And to those who need me…”

Because, good golly Miss Molly, it’s not just about what I need. So, our Lord graciously answers this prayer and leads me to these who need me, in a wide variety of ways with a varied cast of characters:

Baby, Baby!
Can you tell them apart?
  • I get to take a dear friend to her chemo appointment and then spend the afternoon with her. I get to cheer her on as she bulks up on as many calories and liquids as her frame will contain and we catch up with each other, uninterrupted by other distractions.
  • I get to spend an afternoon cuddling, feeding and juggling precious twin baby girls while visiting with their mama.
  • I get to give my daughter the afternoon off and take my darling grand girls to the library, the park and for Slurpees, all the while listening to them, praying for them and laughing with them. I get to remind them that I am for them and God is for them.
  • I get to prepare dinner for our weekly time with our “adopted” daughter. We get to feed her a good meal and encourage her as she begins a new semester in her nursing education.
  • At our monthly “SWAP Day” I get to share with my Bible Study friends from my excess as I seek to minimize my possessions and share my bounty with them.
  • I get to accompany my husband to a physician appointment and to take notes for follow-up.
  • I get to support my dear cousin as she has recently acted on one of the hardest decisions of her life. I get to remind her that even when it’s hard, it is still right and good, and that “joy comes in the morning.” And, I get to continue to pray for her as she walks through this valley.
  • I get to welcome a houseful of family and give them a place to celebrate the Labor Day weekend. I get to shop for, prepare and clean up after numerous meals, wipe up lots of spills, dodge kids running through our normally quiet home and enjoy the beautiful picture of beloved faces around our massive table. I get to see every seat filled. I get to serve those who work hard in their own lives everyday. And– in my weariness when everyone left, I get to experience fullness of heart.
  • I get to meet with a young woman struggling in a difficult marriage. I get to encourage her to persevere, to seek God’s wisdom in His word and to be in community with those who will support and encourage her.

“And, let something I do today have eternal significance.”

What does that mean? Englishman C.T. Studd, a cricketer, evangelist and later missionary to China, India and Africa said it best in his poem, “Only One Life “

Only one life

‘Twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ

Will last”

This Studd was the real deal.

I am challenged by this. Convicted by it. Shaken to the core by it. I confess to spending too many hours on too many things that have zero eternal significance. I could fill volumes with the time I have spent on that which will burn. God forgive me. And so, I will pray daily:

“Let something I do today have eternal significance.”

(And might I be so bold as to change it up a bit?)

Let many more things I do today have eternal significance.

Amen.