“As soon as you began to pray…”

A veritable landslide of events have occured in the last several weeks, causing me to almost collapse in grief. It has been an almost reflexive response. A lifelong friend’s husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness, sent home on hospice and died in a matter of days. A beautiful 35 year old friend from my church failed to wake up last week, leaving behind a grieving husband and seven precious children. Yesterday I spent the day at medical appointments with a dear friend fighting for her life, battling cancer for the second time. Another friend, the picture of health and fitness, suffered a minor stroke only to discover she also had an invasive, incurable form of cancer. She too, returned home on hospice. A week ago today, a small group of friends gathered on her front lawn to visit, pray and worship together with her. This afternoon she passed from this life to the next. The sorrow of it all threatens to pull me under sometimes.

The world is still in the throes of a global pandemic. There is political unrest in our country, an election in the balance, looting and destruction in our cities and vengeful anger all around us. Fear and isolation have paralyzed many of us. Death by suicide is on the rise as are mental health incidents. Many businesses have closed their doors forever. Alcohol consumption and drug use continue to increase while jobs are lost and incomes wiped out. The vitriol on social media is mind bending while marriages are in crisis as our schools are closed and our churches are deemed non-essential. The globe is consumed with anxiety and confusion.

I, like many of you, have poured out my heart to the Lord over these things only to conclude that surrender is the only viable option available to me–surrender to the reality that God is good even when I don’t understand “the whys.” There are some “whys” I can’t begin to comprehend and I don’t think I ever will this side of Heaven. Others may come clear with the passage of time. But for today, I will pray. I will surrender to His goodness and I will walk in faith. I will believe that God does as He promises in Romans 8:28, when He says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose.” Even in the confusion of it all, I choose to believe He’s still in control and He’s going to work it for my good.

Still the sorrows of this life may feel overwhelming. Consider Daniel 9:23, which reads:

“As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given…”

Read that again. Take it in. We aren’t told that the answer is delivered in that moment, that we get it right now, or that we’ll get an audible response. We may not see it with our eyes, but what comfort to know He hears and responds the moment we come to Him. He is at work, even when we may not be able to discern it. So take heart, my friends. Stand firm in the power of your faith. Know that your prayers are heard and answers are given when you pray. Hold on to the reality that He is at work, even when we don’t see or understand. Wait and watch. He is faithful.

Social Justice and The Gospel

I can’t possibly say this any better than Dr. Tim Keller and those he quotes. Hence, please welcome him to A Bloom in Winter. In my book, Keller is gold.

“Some say: ‘To do the work of the gospel is to work for justice and peace in the world.’ But Jesus’ primary mission on earth was not to change the social order but to save us from sin. That creates a people who, in any place they reside, will have a transforming influence on the goodness and justness of the political and social order. (See Tom Holland’s Dominion.)

J.I.Packer says, ‘The gospel does bring us solutions to these problems, but it does so by first solving…the deepest of all human problems, the problem of man’s relationship with his Maker, and unless we make it plain that the solution for these former problems depends on the settling of this latter one, we are misrepresenting the message and becoming false witnesses of God.’

In The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis has a senior devil writing to a junior devil about how to tempt human beings to move away from “the Enemy”, Jesus. He writes: “The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which [God] demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice.

For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience…. You see the little rift? ‘Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.’ That’s the game.” (Letter 23)Note: If those to my “Right” (for the lack of a better term) find these tweets surprising (or insincere), they haven’t read me carefully. If those to my “Left” (for the lack of a better term) think this subverts motivation for doing justice, they are also mistaken.”

-Tim Keller

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.

Work: What They Did for Love

 

Who hasn’t heard the quote,

“Do what you love and

the money will follow”

OR

“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Everyone from Confucious to Warren Buffet have weighed in on the idea of working for love, not for money.  A lovely thought, right? As a retiree, I actually have the privilege of doing exactly that.  But, it wasn’t the always the case.  I worked for decades  at jobs I sometimes loved and sometimes didn’t,  in order to attain the right to enjoy the luxury of  working only for love in this new season of life.

In our world today, we have an abundance of humans who grew up hearing and believing that they should live their passion, follow their hearts and do what they love in order to make their careers meaningful.   The result is that many of these individuals are failing to launch at a somewhat alarming rate and the world now has an  abundance of marine biology grad’s and  would be life-style mavens, many  still living with their parents well into their 30’s and beyond.  ‘Anyone want to take a poll on how many college educated Uber drivers we have out there waiting for their dream job to materialize?

Here’s the deal:

Hardly anyone is passionate about plumbing or  janitorial work, being an electrician, an auto mechanic, a roofer, a heat and AC installer, a pest exterminator   a trash collector or a house painter.  But, we as a society need all of those people and each of those are noble professions when done with dignity.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

My own parents moved their  young family to California when it became clear that my Dad’s  job on the railroad was going to be eliminated.  He and my mom sold the brand new home they’d  only recently built in Montana.  With what I’m sure were a trunk full of mixed emotions, they packed up and moved their family to Southern California.  There was no job waiting, just a deeply felt sense of responsibility  to provide for the family they had built.

When they arrived in California my father took a job at a lumber mill until incessant rains shut it down indefinitely.  They struggled to make ends meet. There were dark days.   Next, he found work with a janitorial service who admired his good work but wanted him to cut corners so he would be done faster.  Finally he was hired as a custodian for the school down the street from our home.  I was too young to know that the position of janitor was not a highly esteemed one, but, I was proud to have my dear Dad known and loved by all the children in that school. Through the years he advanced and ultimately was promoted to the position of  Director of Maintenance for the entire  district.  In   the meantime, he also started his own Janitorial Service which he worked at every weeknight from 6-10 after a full day at his day job.  And, every weekend another 12 hours total as well.  Seven. Days. A week.  Until he retired.

My in-laws travelled an remarkably similar path. Selling their home in Pennsylvania to move to California for a better life,  my father-in-law came expecting to join his brother in his small business.  Sadly  after investing nearly all their life savings, the business failed. He was truly struck down but refused to be defeated.  He couldn’t afford to.   Instead he did whatever he could to provide for his family. He delivered dry cleaning, did interior house painting, cleaned the local Knights of Columbus Hall, performed handyman work and became a salesman at Sears. When he retired from that position, he continued to do handyman work on the side in order to supplement his retirement income.

Two wise and determined men–both fathered four children.  Between them, well over a century of marriage.   Though their job histories may not have been coveted by many,  both men left inheritances by their examples of faithfulness, tenacity and  hard work while also providing financial gifts to their heirs.

 

Neither of these two good men had jobs that they were particularly excited about.  But , make no mistake,  both men lived their passion. They both understood that their purpose wasn’t self-fulfillment but instead to provide well for their families.   Although they may not have put it in these exact words, they both lived as if their divine calling was to provide for the needs of their wives and children.   Therein lies the difference.  We  as a culture may well have confused the value of work and responsibility with  that of pursuing our passions.

“…I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him–for this is his lot.  Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God.  He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”   –Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

There is nothing  wrong with seeking a career in a field you love.  And if you’re very fortunate, it may happen.  But, every career dream needs a “sell by date.”  If you love acting but can’t make a living doing it,  you’d be wise to find work that pays your bills and  maybe join a community theater group.  If you want to do something that reflects your values, keep working hard, doing your best  at your day job and then,  volunteer for an organization that promotes your passions.

Whatever you do, work hard and the money will come.  As for “never working a day in your life,” while that sounds nice,  they call it “work” for a reason.  Even the greatest job in the world becomes work over time. What will make it worthwhile isn’t the money, the status, the title or the acclaim from others, but the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done it well and  provided for the future of your flock. Whatever you’re called to do, do it well.

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.  When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field, you will have plenty of goats milk to feed you and your family and to nourish your servant girls.  He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.”   Proverbs 27:23-27

(Both oil paintings were created by my amazing and gifted brother-in-law Dan Mandish   Visit his collection at:  https://saltandlighteditions.wordpress.com)

 

 

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.  

fullsizeoutput_cfeb

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

PeRsPeCtIvE

It was Christmas morning and I was savoring the quiet of my home, having celebrated with family the night before. The husband was downstairs reading his news and I, nestled under the covers, a cup of coffee in hand and a sleeping dog at my feet, was remembering the long expected news that I awakened to on Christmas Eve. The message read:

A lifelong friend released her beloved mother to her final destination, after five weeks of hospice care at home. She was a neighbor when I was growing up, one of my own mother’s dearest friends and a woman who touched my life significantly. She spent her first Christmas on streets of gold in a new home specifically prepared for her.

John 14:1-2

PERSPECTIVE

Putting the finishing touches on Christmas eve prep’, I discovered an army of ants taking possession of two pies and a package of dinner rolls. When I say an army, I mean hundreds of tiny black ants that have been terrorizing our home for the last several months. They were currently having a picnic at the expense of my sanity. I frantically summoned my husband and sent him on a replacement mission as I contended with eliminating the swarming soldiers that had overrun my laundry room. I was sharply scolding said ants in very stern tones, feeling very sorry for myself, when I was reminded that my friend lost her mother just hours ago.

How it shoulda been

PERSPECTIVE

Three dozen cookies, baked, frosted and artfully drizzled with chocolate, prepared to be gifted to my neighbors and ready to be transferred to the refrigerator, slide out of my hands landing face down on my kitchen floor after hours of labor invested. Peppermint icing and chocolate syrup splashed onto cupboards and floors mocking any thought of delivery to anyone. Woe is me. Then I am reminded that my cupboards are full and my troubles are few.

How it Was

PERSPECTIVE

An hour later we’re walking into Christmas Eve services when I catch site of my dear friend Nancy, she with a scarf wrapped around her head and a mask over her face as she recovers from a recent stem cell transplant. In the interest of limiting the possiblity of infection of any sort, she has been largely unable to leave her home, let alone worship in our large congregation for many, many weeks. The sight of her fills my eyes with grateful tears and heart to overflowing. Great joy.

Day Made

PERSPECTIVE

A friend shares that in the midst of a trying conflict with one of her children, she gets in her car, upset and discouraged at the failure to find peace. She proceeds to back out of her garage when she catches sight of a neighbor whose own child was killed in an act of violence recently. In an instant she was reminded that despite the momentary disharmony in her own home, she still had her child.

PERSPECTIVE

There is great unrest in our world. We hear news that more Christians in Nigeria have been beheaded by representatives of the Islamic State. Daily we are bombarded by reports of our own leaders slinging horrifying accusations at one another and our culture becomes more devisive by the moment. Those who accuse others of hate, speak their own hate. Facebook reports another missing person every day and what was once shamed is celebrated. Even so, the entire world paused to celebrate the birth of a king who came to save us from our sin. There is still hope in this chaos.

PERSPECTIVE

I give little time and attention to politics or our changing culture, except to pray, for our leaders, all of them, that they would be wise, that they would do good, and that they would be used for God’s purposes here on earth. I don’t trouble myself with the details of who said what. Some may say I’m willfully ignorant of what is happening around me. The truth is, I don’t believe our problems are political or even cultural. I believe our problem is spiritual and hence I take the spiritual road to address them. If I look at the condition of our world, the sorrow of death, the frustrations of daily life and allow them to discourage me, I will be without hope. Instead, my hope is firm.

PERSPECTIVE

They say hindsight is 2020. Well, here we are. It’s 2020. Nostalgia is fine in small doses but to immerse oneself in it too deeply or too frequently generally results in rewriting history, smoothing out the rough edges and idealizing what was while missing what is. Right now. Looking back is useful only if we learn from it and repent from behaviors less than stellar. To repent is to make a u-turn. To learn from the past is useful. To live in the present, with perspective is priceless.