My other reaction to the thought of the reunion’s approach is – YIKES! I’ve gained about fifteen pounds in the last year (on top of all the extra weight I already had) and I really need to lose some weight. Oh, not because I don’t want anyone to see me with some extra pounds on. Goodness knows, they’ve all seen me this way before. *Sigh.* It’s just that I have plenty of nice clothes to wear and I don’t want to go out and buy any more. They still fit me, thank goodness, but if I could just lose ten or fifteen pounds they would look better on me. Let’s face it – no one wants to see my midriff bulge – er, bulging, or my middle-aged spread spreading. A little more room in my clothes might cover a multitude of sins (so to speak.)
Cheree gave me an excellent tip last week that really motivated me to get to work and gave me some hope that I might actually be able to lose some weight and keep it off – and not only that, but to do it almost painlessly! What is this wonder tip? you might ask. Actually it’s so simple I don’t know why I never did it before. Cheree has started setting herself just five pound goals with reasonable amounts of time between goals. She’s lost almost twenty pounds that way and looks great! When she told me what she was doing, something struck a chord within me.
I can do that! I immediately thought. No long-term goal that seems impossible in scope and in duration. None of the drudgery and deprivation of dieting that almost guarantees that when I give up and go back to eating “normally” any pounds I have lost will come galloping back – and then some. Keeping only that small five pound goal ahead of me and taking it slow and easy gives me a feeling of hope that I can do this! Then when I reach that little goal, I’ll set another one and gradually work toward it without all the angst that has always come with dieting.
A verse came to me as I thought about it this week. Proverbs 6:6, 9 says, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise…How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?” An ant is a tiny little creature. It can’t take huge steps or do great things. It does get up and get going, though, and in the end it accomplishes much. It is time to get to work, and even if I’m taking little tiny ant-size steps, at least I’m moving in the right direction.
There are so many areas of our lives in which we could apply this principle. The Bible also says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) We need to be wise as the ant. Get up, get going, do what we know is right. No more being sluggards!
And by the way, I’ve already lost four pounds!
Pumpkin, the Pampered Pet – I wrote last week about Julie and David’s new little dog, Pumpkin, the Perfect Pooch. Well, Pumpkin isn’t quite so perfect these days. She fell off her pedestal shortly after David left for San Antonio and has done a few naughty things now and then. She likes to dig holes and bury her treasures. She chewed one of Hannah’s play shoes. She nipped at Hannah when they were playing. And she did the ultimate crime – she peed on the new carpet once or twice. She is still almost perfect, though, in their eyes, so when they were faced with a decision about her last week it turned out to be an emotional dilemma.
Of course Julie and the kids wanted to go – but what about the dog? Suddenly, after only a couple weeks with the newest member of their family they were going to have to leave her. She couldn’t stay with them on the Air Force base, and they had no friends in Alabama who could take her. The thought of putting her in a kennel after having just rescued her from an animal shelter was upsetting to all of them, and who knew how upsetting it would be to Pumpkin? Julie had to choose between David and the dog, and of course we all know who won that one! Whew! She started looking for a kennel.
There was one called Noah’s Ark nearby. It was run by Christians, so Julie called and made a reservation. The next day she and the kids went over to check it out. It was awful. Wire cages on cold cement floors. The dogs were only taken out twice a day for fifteen minutes. The people were cold. Julie left in tears, and the kids were upset saying, “Mommy, we just can’t leave her there!” They all feared Pumpkin would think she had been abandoned again.
Julie started looking for someplace else. There was another kennel in a neighboring town that sounded hopeful. It was a pet “resort” and the difference between the two places was night and day. It was clean and bright and each dog got its own little room with windows looking inside and out, some down at doggie level. Each room had a different mural painted on the walls – one of Paris, and others of Venice, London, or Rome and so on. (Of course the murals were for the owners’ benefit, not the dogs’, but still it was a fun idea.) Each room had a TV (so the dogs would feel that human connection) and a little cot. They were taken out to the play yard four times a day, and often played with by the large staff in between times, as well. They were bathed and pampered throughout their stay. The place was very nice, to say the least, and everyone was friendly. They could see with their own eyes that these were not just empty promises as they watched the staff interact with the dogs that were there, and saw that the animals seemed to be happy and well-adjusted. Of, course, this all came at a price. The first place was $17 a day, and the “resort” was $37.50 a day! Ouch! It was a lot, but Julie just couldn’t leave Pumpkin at Noah’s Ark. She made a new reservation at the doggy spa.
The morning came for their trip to San Antonio. They planned to drop the dog off at the kennel with some of her favorite toys and blanket. On the way over Joshua said, “I sure hope Pumpkin’s room looks out on the play yard instead of the parking lot!” Julie laughed and asked, “Oh, so now she needs a room with a view?” Sure enough – Pumpkin got the “Isle of Capri” room, with a window that overlooked the play yard. Pumpkin went off happily to her luxury suite and Julie and the kids drove off happily toward Texas.
Later Julie was telling me that the TLF (Temporary Living Facility) they got on base in San Antonio was a cracker box, without even a table where they could sit down as a family to eat or play games. “In other words,” I laughed, “you all are staying at Motel 6 while the dog stays at the Marriott?” The good thing was that the TLF ended up only costing them $2.50 a night, which made up for the exorbitant rate they are paying for the dog’s spa.
Is there something wrong with this picture? We have laughed over it all week, and honestly, I would have done the same thing. Hopefully Pumpkin will suffer no harm to her psyche and will come home to them a happy, secure little pup.
The difference in their accommodations made me think of the difference between our earthly home and the one we will have in Heaven someday. We invest a lot of time and money on our earthly homes, but no matter how comfortable or pretty or even grand we make our homes down here, they cannot begin to compare to the home Christ is preparing for us in Heaven. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2, 3)
The word “mansion” is better translated “apartment.” I remember the first time I heard that, back when I was a teenager, I thought, “Ew, I’m disappointed! I‘d rather have a mansion than an apartment.” Since then, though, I have realized how much better that “apartment” in the Father’s house will be than a mere mansion! We will be with the Lord, in His own home, rather than living here and there in this corner or that of Heaven. After our separation from Him, He wants us right there with Him, never to be separated again for all eternity. And after reading the descriptions of Heaven we find in Revelation, I can guarantee you that even an apartment in the Father’s home will be far grander than any mansion or castle we could have enjoyed here on earth!
I don’t know that we will be pampered in Heaven. It appears in Scripture that we will spend our time worshipping Him, ruling with Him and doing some sort of work for Him. Whatever He has in store for us, though, will be wonderful! Who needs pampering in Heaven anyway? Everything is perfect there, so we won’t need stress or pain relievers! Ahhh – I’ll be a happy pup!
Preaching on Prophecy – Speaking of heaven and eternity — I have been enjoying an extra-special blessing this week. I happened to catch a program called Turning Point on WMBI (Moody Bible Institute’s radio station) on my way home from church last Sunday night. It is with Dr. David Jeremiah, a well-know pastor. I enjoy hearing his preaching whenever I get a chance. On this particular night he was preaching the second of a three-part message called “A Glimpse into Heaven,” taken from Revelation 4. This message was a part of a larger series called “Escape the Coming Night”, a study on the entire book of Revelation. The twenty-five minutes or so I heard that night on the radio whetted my appetite to hear the entire message, so Monday morning I decided to check on the internet to see if I could find the other two parts.
Sure enough – I found it in a couple different places. The radio program is archived at www.oneplace.com/ministries/Turning_Point just as it is heard on the radio, with the announcer and everything, and divided into the half-hour segments. I found the entire message, though, without interruption at Dr. David Jeremiah’s own website, www.davidjeremiah.org/radio. And to my delight, the entire series of forty-three messages was there as well!
All week long I have spent every morning listening to three or four messages at a time, trying to catch up to where they are now in the series (it started on March 4th, I think.) What a blessing it has been! The messages have been so good that as I finish each one, I can’t bear to stop listening. I’ll think, “I need to stop here and get to work,” but then I say to myself, “Oh just one more!”
It is interesting and exciting to hear what God has planned for this earth and our future in Heaven, but even beyond that, it is awe-inspiring! Revelation is a hard book to understand sometimes, but if you study it carefully, you will see that oftentimes the Bible itself tells you how to interpret the symbols used, either right there in the passage itself, or elsewhere in Scripture. For instance, the first chapter of Revelation is giving us a description of Jesus as He is now in Heaven. Verses 12, 13, 16 say, “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” Then a few verses down it tells us exactly what the candlesticks and stars are: “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20)
The biggest blessing to me so far in this study has not been the intrigue of seeing the future, but of seeing Jesus as He really is right now in Heaven, and how He will be when He returns to this earth again someday soon. We have a picture in our minds of how we imagine Jesus was when he walked in Palestine 2000 years ago. What we see is Revelation, though is far different than our usual perception of Him.
It has been a great study so far, and I am eagerly looking forward to hearing the rest of the messages. I just wanted to pass this information on to you, in case you would be interested in receiving this blessing, too. If you are, go to the Turning Point website at www.davidjeremiah.org/radio and click on the interactive map to Revelation. All forty-three messages are there. Enjoy!
And speaking of personality – my husband’s personality came through loud and clear, as well! I got so tickled with his antics during the shoot, and in the end we bought extra pictures because I just couldn’t resist the photos that so exhibited the fun side of him that I cherish. At one point, the photographer wanted him to put his fist under his chin. No way! That was too girly, he proclaimed. Instead he crossed his arms across his chest and stood sideways (kind of like Mr. Clean) in a “manly” pose. I laughed – but he was right. It’s my favorite photo of him – ever. Then while the photographer was getting us set up to take a picture of us as a couple, he spontaneously turned his head to kiss me on the cheek and she just happened to catch it. He was acting silly and so like himself!
Of course, I hate the way I look in the photos, but what else is new? I always hate the way I look. Most women do, I suppose – but the camera doesn’t lie. *Sigh.* It could be worse, I guess…
Precious blessings from the Lord – a husband who still makes me laugh after almost forty years of marriage, a beloved son who will always be one of God’s greatest gifts to us, and now perfect pictures to remember these precious times. God has been so gracious and loving to us, and blessed us so completely. Psalm 111:4 says, “He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.” I don’t really need pictures to help me remember that. My heart is filled with thanksgiving and praise to Him.
Pumpkin, the Perfect Pooch – A few days before David was to leave for Iraq Julie had an inspiration. She was praying that the Lord would show them some way to make it easier for the kids to handle Daddy’s upcoming departure. Already their eyes would fill with tears when they thought of it, and she hated to think of them coming home to a house without him when they finally took him to the airport, and in the days and weeks to follow.
Suddenly, as if a voice whispered in her ear, the answer came. Get a dog. Julie was shocked. For years the kids had been begging for a dog. David, she knew, would love to have one, too, but since their last dog had died almost ten years before, they had agreed that they couldn’t go through again all the trouble, expense and eventual heartbreak when their pet died. She had resisted the very idea of it for so long, that she couldn’t believe it when she heard that little whisper in her ear.
Neither could David. He was surprised, to say the least, when Julie suggested it to him. A few months before, when they were still in their house in the country, a little beagle had shown up at their door and hung around for several days. The family had fallen in love with the stray, fed her and petted her, but still Julie had held out saying No Dog. She was about to cave that Sunday morning, though, and had said if the dog was still there when they got home from church, they would take her in. The kids were devastated when they got home and discovered the little dog was gone. They even went as far as checking the pounds for her, but she had disappeared, never to be seen again. Once again they went into their No Dog mode and that was that.
Now, here she was, suggesting that maybe this would help the kids during the difficult days ahead. A new dog would certainly be a diversion, and although it could never be a substitute for Daddy, it would a little being upon which to shower love, and which would give love back. Instead of walking into a house that suddenly seemed empty and lonely, there would be a faithful little companion welcoming them home.
They decided not to say anything to the kids, but checked online at the closest animal shelter. After their experience with the little stray beagle almost six months before, they really wanted a female beagle – not a puppy, but still young. What were the chances that the small country pound would have exactly what they wanted, but there she was – a pretty little one year old female beagle. They dropped the kids off at a friend’s house and went to investigate.
She was quiet. The rest of the dogs were jumping and barking, but the little beagle looked up at them silently with those big puppy-dog eyes and their hearts melted. They knew right away she was meant for them. They didn’t want a hyper, yappy dog and she seemed to be the perfect fit. They quickly adopted her and took her home to surprise the kids.
That little whisper in Julie’s ear had been right. The days leading up to David’s departure were filled with getting adjusted to the new member of the family and meeting her needs, rather on dwelling on their upcoming separation. The morning they took him to the airport was tearful, and the ride home was hard, but when they walked in the door and Pumpkin (her new name) was there to greet them with overwhelming joy they all rallied and got on with the day in peace.
Julie has told me every day since they got her what a perfect dog, she is, and what a perfect decision it was to get her. She didn’t bark for days, until finally one day the neighbor’s dogs came out and Pumpkin gave a quick, deep woof-woof, just to let them know this was her yard and not to think of coming over that fence! She treed a cat and then chased it out of the yard, caught a squirrel (but let it go when the kids yelled) and seems to regard the yard as her territory. Added benefit – security alarm if someone comes nosing around while David is gone.
Julie has told me day after day, what a good little dog she is and how happy they are they decided to get her. She says Pumpkin is a mama’s girl, and barrels through the kids to get to Mama when they come home, adoring her in the way only dogs can do. Truth be told, I think Julie’s pretty smitten with the pup herself. I’m sure she is companionship in the evenings after the kids go to bed and the house is lonely without David there.
Isn’t it nice when the Lord sends little blessings our way – unlooked for, even undreamed of, but just what we need? I know that this sounds fanciful, and maybe even a little crazy, but the thought occurred to me the other day that maybe the little stray beagle back in Hope Hull last fall was an “angel unaware.” Without her visit they would never have looked for a young female beagle or maybe even thought of getting a dog at all. Julie says Pumpkin is a godsend, and the perfect pet for them. Did the Lord send an angel to them to point the way for what He knew would be a blessing to them just when they needed it? Okay, so call me crazy – but the Bible says “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) I’m just sayin’ – unlooked for, undreamed of, angels unawares…
The Perfect Place – Laurie and Fernando and family are moving into their new house this weekend. I am so happy for them! They will have room to spread out a bit. They will get a good night’s sleep in a quiet neighborhood. They will have a little more security when the kids are outside or at home alone when Laurie and Fernando have to leave them. They’ll have so much more room for Bible studies, fellowship gatherings or overnight guests.
They spent eight months looking for a place. Many times the search was discouraging, although they tried not to let it get to them. With their needs, their tight budget and the lack of available places it seemed almost impossible at times. When the right house was finally available, though, the Lord led them to it.
Our timetable is not always God’s timetable. It is hard sometimes to be patient and simply wait without becoming anxious or discouraged. It is difficult not to take the situation into our own hands and force the issue or run ahead of God. How easy it is to step out of His will when we become impatient! It was a trial going through the long house-hunt but His Word tells us, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.” (Romans 5:3, 4) and also, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:3, 4)
We could all use more patience! That is where faith comes in – trusting that God will do things for our best in His way and His time. Our faith is deepened and strengthened when we wait patiently on Him – and then see what great things He hath wrought!
(Not-So-Perfect) Pipsqueak on the Phone – I called Laurie the other day and the phone rang and rang. I was just about to hang up, thinking no one was at home, when suddenly someone picked it up. There was silence, though, and after a few seconds I finally said, “Hello? Hello?” A few more seconds of silence. “Matthew, is that you?” I ventured to guess.
“Yes!” a little voice piped up.
“Well, hi, Matthew! This is Grandma!”
“Hi, Grandma!” And off he went on a long spiel telling me all about the video he was watching and who knows what else. I could only figure out half of what he was saying, but he sounded so excited and happy to be talking to Grandma that I didn’t care. Just the sound of his little voice was enough for me!
At last I heard Laurie coming up behind him and a moment later she took the phone away from him. She had been in the bathroom and no one else had picked up the telephone, she explained She had thought of calling to Matthew to pick up the phone, but had decided she didn’t want him to get any big ideas and start something. Well, Matthew didn’t need her to give him any big ideas – he had them on his own, obviously.
What a little pistol he is! We have said since the day they heard they were having a boy after all those girls that he would either be spoiled rotten or henpecked. Truth be told, I don’t think he is either. He’s sure not henpecked. The girls may try to boss him around, but he is his own little character and stands up to them. If anything, he tries to boss them around! On the other hand, I don’t think he’s spoiled rotten, either. Well, okay, maybe a little tiny bit spoiled, but as the youngest of five kids and the only boy, it’s almost unavoidable. But he is a charmer, with adorable dimples and a smile that would knock you out, and as cute as cute could possibly be, so although Laurie and Fernando do a good job of disciplining, it is hard to resist his charms.
Although they all adore him, Matthew has been the typical pesty little brother since the moment he could walk, to all four of the girls. He is frequently into mischief and should wear a t-shirt that says “Here Comes Trouble!” Actually, Katie has a t-shirt that has a monkey on it and says “It’s All My Brother’s Fault!” – and usually it is. Put a toy sword in his hand and he is after his sisters – and if a toy sword isn’t handy, he’s been know to chase them with a real knife! Yikes!
Matthew’s birthday was two days ago. He turned three (although he keeps telling everyone he is four.) He is the last of our grandbabies for now and it is hard to believe he is already three. We called him to sing “Happy Birthday” to him, and he was the perfect little gentleman thanking us for each of the gifts we sent him. Hearing that little voice on the phone made me want to cry. I wish we could have been there for his birthday.
Proverbs 17:6 tells us that “Children’s children are the crown of old men” [and old women.] The previous chapter also says, “Gray hair is a crown of glory…” (Proverbs 16:31) Do you think there might be some correlation, there? I guess I can’t blame any of my gray hairs on Matthew since I am not around him enough, but Laurie tells me she is finding more and more gray hairs!
Grandchildren – a gift from God and His reward for getting old! They may not be perfect, but they are a perfect blessing!
As I drove I had the radio tuned to WMBI, the radio station of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I enjoy much of the Christian programming that comes out of WMBI, whether it is music, teaching, preaching or just talk. Saturday afternoons are devoted to music, and not surprisingly, yesterday the program was all Easter music. It was a nice blend of old hymns, favorite popular Christian songs that I have enjoyed for decades, and some of the newer beautiful songs that are currently being played on the radio.
As I listened to the lyrics about the cross, the empty tomb, a risen Savior, love, grace and victory, a deep feeling of contentment and joy came over me. This is what Easter is all about, I thought – the Gospel, pure and simple. That Christ died for our sin, was buried and rose again. I thought of I Corinthians 15: 1-4. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved… For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
The Gospel – pure. The plan of Father, Son and Holy Spirit since before the foundations of the world that the sinless and beloved Son of God would take upon Himself the sin of the world and pay the penalty of our sin – the redemption of blood. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Ephesians 1:7-11) The plan that included victory over death and sin and Satan for all eternity. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:55, 57)
The Gospel – simple. So simple that there is nothing left for the sinner to do to receive that redemption but to believe. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9) So simple that even a little child can believe. So simple that we have only to become as little children and open up our hearts – and simply believe. “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” (Luke 18:17)
The beauty of Easter is not in a pretty spring day. It is not in a church filled with lilies or tulips or daffodils. It is not in lovely spring dresses or new shoes. It is not in a basket full of colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. It is not in a table filled with ham and fruit salad and cheesecake, and not even in the family and friends gathered ‘round that table. The beauty of Easter is in an old rugged, blood-stained cross, and a rough-hewn stone rolled away from an empty tomb. The beauty of Easter is in the love of a Father who gave His beloved Son, and the love of a Savior who gave His everything.
It is as pure and simple as that.
Please pray for David as he goes through this new experience in his life. Pray for strength and comfort in this time of separation from his beloved family. Pray for safety as he travels and throughout his time in Iraq. Pray for wisdom as he leads the men below him, and serves the officers above him. Pray for good health in a new environment. Pray that he will find plenty to do and some good Christian fellowship to help pass the time and keep loneliness from setting in. Most of all, pray that he will be used by the Lord in the lives around him, and be a good testimony to all. Pray, too, that this will bring him even closer to the Lord and that God will use this time to refine him into an even more godly man than he already is.
Please pray for Julie as she tries to take up the empty role that David leaves behind him. Most of all, that she will have wisdom in helping the kids through this time, but also that she will have the strength and knowledge to handle all the responsibilities that David always did. Pray for her to have peace and comfort while her husband is away and possibly in harm’s way. Pray for safety for her and the kids while they are alone and that hopefully they will not have any big health issues or car problems (two things that always seem to be popping up in their family.) Pray that she will lean on the Lord and feel His arms around her in the hard times.
Please pray for Benjamin, Joshua and Hannah while Daddy is gone. They are extremely close to their daddy and have never been separated from him more than a few days at a time, and then they could always at least talk to him on the phone. There may be days or even weeks, now, that they will have no communication. Pray that this will be a character-building experience for them, and that they will learn to trust and love the Lord even more. I know they will help their mother all they can and be good kids, but there may be things going on inside their hearts and minds, and I would ask you to pray that if there are fears or anger or whatever, that the Lord will help them overcome them.
And finally, please pray for us as we seek to support and encourage them all. We will do all we can to communicate with David whenever we are allowed to, and we have planned at least three times while he is gone to get together with Julie and the kids either in Alabama or here. I know hundreds of thousands of families have gone through this before, and most for longer than six months, or even multiple times. This is our first time to go through this, though. We praise the Lord it is not for long, and hopefully David will return safe and sound. In the meantime, will you pray?