Archive | May 2010

FEAR NOT, ONLY BELIEVE

One of a parent’s greatest fears is that their child will become seriously ill or injured, or that they might even die. I’ve been through that trial many times. Whenever I hear of a parent facing a situation like that I can truly empathize. No matter how great one’s faith, or how spiritually mature a Christian parent may be, it is traumatic to see your child suffering and know that you are helpless to take the pain away. Grief and fear are natural. I’ve struggled with it, even though I knew in my mind and believed with all my heart that God is in control, and that He loves us and wants only the best for us. Guilt then mingles with the other emotions running rampant through you, for you wonder, If I am truly trusting God, why am I so afraid?
*
My cousin and her husband were suddenly faced with that kind of situation this week when their not-quite-six year old ended up in surgery for a ruptured appendix. Gangrene had already set in, and if they had not gotten him in when they did, he could have easily died. I have not talked to Wendy yet, but I am sure she and Rick went through all the emotions I have described. Disbelief at first that this is actually happening, fear, worry, grief, helplessness, guilt — the emotions lead to tremendous stress, and the stress leads to exhaustion. Praise God, little Dima is going to be just fine, but I am sure it will take Wendy and Rick just as long to recover from this ordeal as it will Dima!
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We got a phone call yesterday from Ecuador that our nine year old granddaughter Melissa had been injured and was in surgery. I’ve been dreading a phone call like that, hearing that one of our children or grandchildren had been hurt or was seriously ill and we were so far away that we could not go to them. Praise the Lord, though, it turned out to be only a badly broken wrist, and although the recovery may be long and painful, she will recover very nicely in the end.
*
Both of these heart-wrenching events this week will be short-lived and in a few months they will simply be distant memories. For the parent of a severely handicapped or chronically ill child, though, the battle goes on – and on and on. For the parent of a terminally ill child, or even the bereaved parent, it can be a nightmare that seems to have no end.
*
The Bible tells of a man named Jairus who came to Jesus when his twelve year old daughter was lying at death’s door. “And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him…While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.” (Mark 5:22-24; 35-42)
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Jairus was terrified. His daughter was his only child. He was a ruler in the synagogue, and you may recall, those men down at the synagogue weren’t too happy with Jesus – in fact, they were seeking a way to get rid of Him. Jairus, though, believed in Jesus. He may have kept that belief a secret from the other rulers, but still, when it came to his child’s life, he did not hesitate to confess his belief. What were Jesus words to Jairus? “Be not afraid, only believe.”
*
Jairus had already realized who Jesus was, and trusted Him enough to come to Him in his moment of great need, but still he was afraid. Jesus recognized that Jairus would naturally be afraid. He did not reprimand him for that fear, but instead was telling him to set aside that fear and cling to his belief in Christ.
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In this account of Jairus’ daughter, and again in the story of the nobleman’s son (John 4:46-53), we see parents who are torn apart with grief and fear at the illness of a child, and whose children did, in fact, die. Again, in the story of Lazarus of Bethany we see a beloved brother who is sick and dies. (John 11:1-45) In each of these cases that daughter, son and brother is raised from the dead because of the belief of those who loved them, and also as Jesus said in John 11:4 “for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” These were miracles that would shine a light on Who Jesus really was for the people of that day and show them that truly, He was the Son of God.
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We still see miracles of God these days even though Jesus no longer walks this earth. Children, and adults, too, recover from their deathbeds, or are even miraculously resuscitated. Why does not God answer our prayers every time, when a believer calls unto Him for the miraculous healing of a loved one? The simple answer is, I don’t know. I do know, though, that He is working in the lives of that one and all those around him or her in His own way and for His own purpose. I do know that He loves us with an everlasting love and hears those prayers and always answers – although sometimes the answer is no. I do know that He knows what is best for us and that He is in control.
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It is not wrong to be afraid. It is wrong to cling to that fear. There comes a time when we must set it aside and cling instead to our belief in Christ and His love for us, regardless of the outcome. Trust Him. Fear not, only believe.
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THE STUPIDS STEP OUT

Many, many years ago someone in our family brought home a ridiculous little children’s book called The Stupids Step Out. It was the first in a series about the Stupid Family and their confusion in accomplishing the simplest of tasks and understanding the simplest of concepts. We laughed at the Stupids’ idiosyncrasies and well, stupidity, but unfortunately, we also recognized there is an awful lot of the Stupids in us from time to time! Now whenever we have one of those foolish moments when we are caught in public doing something ridiculous, we laugh and say, “Well, the Stupids step out!”

My sister Cheree and I somehow tend to feed off each other and promote public stupidity when we are together. We also call them our “Lucy and Ethel moments.” It’s hard to say which one of us is Lucy and which is Ethel, but one of us will usually lead the other into trouble and the other sister will blindly follow. Then we laugh our heads off at ourselves – and continue to giggle at the memories of those moments for years to come.

For instance, there was the time we were in a department store and Cheree asked, “Which way do we go?” We were standing next to the escalator and I answered, “Up there.” No sooner had she put her foot on the first step, though, when I said, “No wait! It’s that way!” Too late – one of Cheree’s feet continued to go up the escalator while the rest of her was planted firmly at the bottom, struggling to pull back and go the other way. Somehow she was stuck, and I was laughing so hard I was no help to her whatsoever.

I give Cheree a lot of credit for doing most of the driving when we travel, but we have had several “Stupids Step Out” moments on the road – like the time we got confused about which way to go and she ended up driving ‘round and around the little island upon which a traffic light stood, to the amusement, or perhaps the disgust, of all the other drivers around us. Then there was the time we were trying to go through a toll booth when the man ahead of us apparently lost part of the change he was throwing into the basket. He pulled up to the gate but the gate refused to go up. We were stuck then, too, so I suggested, “Just throw our money in and maybe the gate will lift.” Cheree did as I said, and sure enough, the gate went up. The other driver went through, but as we tried to scooch through, too, right behind him, the gate came crashing down on the roof of Cheree’s car, leaving a yellow paint streak down the roof as we went on through! Oops!

As the older sister, there have been several times when I have had to point out her “Stupid” moments. Fast food places tend to confuse her, I think. For instance, I have very sweetly (and loudly) announced to her several times, “Cheree! You threw the basket (or the whole tray) away! You’re not supposed to throw the basket (or tray) away!” Everyone in the place turns to stare. We wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on your “Stupid” moment, would we, Cheree? The best time, though, was when she paused to talk to a man as we were leaving a fast food place. “Get in, boys!” she said several times to her sons during the course of the conversation with the man. “Get in!” It suddenly dawned on me what she was doing. “Uh, Cheree,” I interrupted and gently pointed out, “look what you’re doing.” In her mind, I suppose, she was holding open the car door. In reality she was holding open the flap of the trash can and ordering Brian and Steven to get in!

I have plenty of “Stupid” moments, too, as she would be happy to share with you. There was the time we went down to Spring Mill State Park and Inn to finalize the plans for our upcoming family reunion with the director of sales. I hadn’t had much success in getting her to return my calls. “Why are you getting dressed up for this meeting?” Cheree asked. It was also supposed to be a relaxing little getaway. “I want to look professional! I want her to take me seriously this time!” I stated strongly.

Unfortunately, we didn’t look very professional when a little while later we had another one of those Lucy and Ethel moments. We were trying to take a huge luggage cart out to the car to bring in our suitcases and cooler when we went through a wrong door. What we had taken for an exit turned out to be a stairwell, and somehow we got the cart stuck, unable to move forwards or backwards. “Do you ladies need some help?” a voice behind us asked. “Oh, no! We’ll get it,” we answered with only a harried, hot and sweaty glance at the speaker. We were sure people were wondering why anyone would try to take a cart up the stairs, rather than the elevator. We struggled for a bit longer, laughing at ourselves in this ridiculous situation, until finally a man came along and we gave into his offer of help.

A little later, as we waited in the lobby for our appointment, a lady walked by and Cheree said, “I think that’s the woman who caught us stuck in the stairwell! I’ll bet anything she’s the woman we’re supposed to be meeting!” My heart sank, but I said, “No way! That can’t be her! Oh, my goodness – if it is her, I hope she doesn’t recognize us!” A couple minutes later she came back and asked, “Are you Cynthia and Cheryl? I’m Tanya! We have an appointment, don’t we? And aren’t you the two ladies who were stuck in the stairwell?” She started to laugh. So much for professionalism and being taken seriously! What could we do, but laugh with her – and then Cheree tattled on me and my earlier remarks!

To make matters worse, a couple days later I had to call Tanya and ask her if she could see if I’d left my phone charger there. “Just a minute,” she laughed. “I have your sister on the other line asking if I can look for her glasses she left behind!” Lucy and Ethel!

I could go on and on with our “Stupids Step Out” stories – some of which are just too gross to share! We come by it naturally, I suppose. My mother has those moments from time with her friends or daughters, and I have them with my girls, too. We’re certainly not the only Stupids stepping out, though! Julie just told me the other day of a story she heard at the post office, which is what started me thinking about this whole thing to begin with…

She was standing in line behind a woman who was chatting with the clerk, and Julie and the other customers couldn’t help hearing their conversation. “I was just at WalMart,” the woman confessed, “and I was standing in a food aisle. The only other person in the aisle was a man. Suddenly he asked, ‘What’s for supper?’ I turned around to see who he was talking to, and since there was no one else there, I timidly replied, ‘Macaroni and cheese.’ He asked, ‘What?’ I spoke up a little louder, ‘Macaroni and cheese!’ He looked at me strangely, and again said, ‘What?’ Thinking perhaps he was deaf or maybe mentally challenged, I moved right into his personal space and repeated very loudly, ‘I said – Macaroni and cheese!!’ The man said, ‘Uh, just a minute, Mike! I’ll have to get back to you. There’s a handicapped woman here who seems desperate for some macaroni and cheese!’ It was then that I noticed he had a Bluetooth in his ear and he wasn’t speaking to me at all! I was mortified, but he disappeared around the corner of the aisle and a moment later was back, shoving a box of macaroni and cheese into my hands! Feeling too foolish to even try to explain, I quickly took the box of macaroni and cheese to the checkout and paid for it, even though I really didn’t need it at all!”

By this time, all the customers and clerks in the post office were practically rolling on the floor laughing. It was after she left that the clerk told them all, “This is the same lady who last week told me she had accidentally barged into a funeral procession and was so embarrassed that she turned on her lights and followed the other cars all the way to the cemetery!” Julie said she couldn’t help giggling about it every time she thought about it, and that night as she relayed the story to me we were both laughing till we cried.

Ahh, the Stupids! Perhaps you know one or two – or perhaps you are one, yourself! We all have those moments, and we can’t always blame them on getting old, either! It certainly helps if you can laugh at yourself! And why not? If everyone around us is laughing, we might as well join them! I’ve always considered myself a fairly intelligent person – until the Lord has His ways of keeping me humble!

God has a sense of humor, I just know it! Look at the humor in His creation – all His funny-looking creatures on land and sea, and their funny behavior, both instinctual and practical. And then there are humans. The Bible tells us that God created us in His image. If He did not have a sense of humor, neither would we! The Bible tells us that happiness, joy and merriment are good things! “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance…” (Psalm 15:13) “…he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” (Proverbs 15:15) “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…” (Proverbs 17:22)

We can laugh at the Stupids, both fictional and those who walk among us, but let us not confuse these occasional moments of silliness with what God calls foolishness. There are Stupids, and then there are Fools. God calls one a Fool who:

Does not believe He exists. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. (Psalm
14:1)
Blasphemes His name. …the foolish people have blasphemed thy name. (Psalm 74:18)
Despises wisdom. …fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
Is shameful. …shame shall be the promotion of fools. (Proverbs 3:35)
Lies and slanders. He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander,
is a fool.
(Proverbs 10:18)
Thinks he is above God’s standards. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes…
(Proverbs 12:15)
Makes a mockery of sin. Fools make a mock at sin… (Proverbs 14:9)
Is quick to anger. He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly… (Proverbs 14:17)
Speaks foolishly. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
(Proverbs 18:7)
Causes trouble. It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be
meddling.
(Proverbs 20:3)
Loves his sin. As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
(Proverbs 26:11)
Turns away from God. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as
God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish
heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
(Romans
1:21, 22)

These are just some of the traits of a Fool in God’s eyes. The Bible goes on to tell us that the carnal man, in all his worldly “wisdom,” human strength and might thinks that the things of God, His word and His people are foolishness and weakness. I Corinthians 1:18-31 says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

God, though, tells us that it is the worldly man who is foolish. “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men.” (I Corinthians 3:18-21)

The apostle Paul called himself a fool for Christ’s sake. (I Corinthians 4:10). I may be a Stupid sometimes, but if I must be a Fool, may it always be a fool for Christ’s sake!

OUR HUMBLE HOME

This has been a week of little unexpected blessings for me. I haven’t done anything special, or gone anywhere, but it makes me happy and grateful when the Lord just drops little joy-fillers into our lives to uplift and bless us.

The series of messages I told you about a few weeks ago by Dr. David Jeremiah on the book of Revelations continues to encourage and exhort as I’ve delved into the study each day. You wouldn’t think that a book on prophecy would have so much practical and personal application for our lives here and now, but I have gleaned so much already that has drawn me closer to the Lord and made me love and praise Him all the more, and made me want to serve Him better.

I have been excited, too, as Bob put in some new flowers and plants in front of our house, and have enjoyed the color and variety as they began to flourish – a sure sign that despite the chilly weather we’ve been experiencing, spring is here! We put out a new American flag (we usually swap out the old one every year or two when they start to look a little grubby) and it was then that I noticed the colors of our new flowers were the red, white and blue of the flag. The colors really popped against one another! Just looking at them gives me a happy heart!

Then there are the DVDs I borrowed from my mother last week. The sound of old-time Southern Gospel music has filled our home this week as Robbie and I, and Bob when he is around, have listened over and over to five or six Gaither Homecoming DVDs. The music is sometimes energetic and catchy, sometimes quiet and peaceful, but always uplifting and glorifying to the Lord and a blessing to me.

The true highlight of our week turned out to be something very different, however. We don’t have company very often, and when we do, it is usually family or people who know us, and the way we live, very well. Where for many years our home was a busy hub of activity and we had large groups of people in weekly, since Robbie’s illness we have grown accustomed to living quietly and to ourselves. This week, though, Bob’s boss and his wife were coming to visit – and I have to admit, the thought made me a little nervous.

I had met Ray and April briefly several years ago in Canada, but to tell the truth, I was rather nervous then, too – probably more because I was out of my element then. I knew they were very nice people and had done a great deal already for Bob as he has worked for them, but as I prepared for their visit I kept wondering what they would think of our home and Robbie – and me. Bob told me several times, “Cindy, quit worrying about it! Ray and April are very kind, down-to-earth people. It will be fine!”

I hoped most of all they would like and appreciate Robbie, looking beyond the disabilities and drool and seeing him for the very special, sweet person he is. We see him through eyes of love and know all the funny, loving, gentle qualities of his personality, but others just meeting him might not recognize the special gift that Robbie is. Anyone who knows us knows how much we cherish that boy, and they had certainly heard enough about Robbie from Bob. Now I hoped as they met him in person for the first time, they would understand why we love him so much and why we thank God for blessing our lives with him.

I worried most of all, though, about what they would think of our house and the way we live. I knew they have a summer home in Canada and a winter home in Florida, and a motor home, as well. Our house is old and in a transitioning neighborhood. It is clean and neat, but there’s nothing fancy or updated about it. Our list of to-do’s (paint the living and dining rooms and hall, put in new flooring and cabinets in the kitchen, refinish some of the interior doors, redo the bathroom downstairs, etc) is long, but somehow we never seem to have the time or money at the same time to get these jobs done. Robbie’s bed is in the middle of our living room. Despite all the HGTV I watch, our favorite décor is comfort over fashion, and family photos over current trends.

Bob was absolutely right! I wasted a lot of worry over what Ray and April would think. They were lovely, kind people and I enjoyed having them here immensely. “Down-to-earth” was the right term to describe them. They seemed to really like Robbie, and of course, he was smitten with them! They actually seemed to love our house, and even our neighborhood, as well! It turns out, they are renovating an old farmhouse in Canada that was built in the 1800’s, and then added to in 1932. (Our house was built in 1928.) They could appreciate the age and character of our house, and the fact that it wasn’t updated.

The thing I had worried about all week turned out to be a wonderful blessing. I think we all enjoyed a good time of fellowship, and a strengthening of our relationship and friendship. What’s more, the Lord used these two sweet people to remind me once again of lessons I thought I had learned long ago:

When will I ever learn to focus on the more important, spiritual things, rather than on the earthly, temporal concerns of this life? Rather than worrying about how people might judge our house, I ought to be more concerned with how they see our home. I get caught up with cleaning, rearranging, putting out the best dishes and candles on the table, serving a delicious meal – all to make a good impression. It is nice when guests appreciate our house and the meal, but am I as concerned that their spirits are nurtured and fed, as well, when they enter our home? The focus ought not to be on the impression I make of myself or my home, but on them and how we can minister to them.

Does love live here? When people enter our home will they feel the love of Christ and the love we have for one another? Will they know that we love them, too? There is no fireplace in this house, but will they feel the warmth of our love? I Corinthians 13 tells us that love is self-sacrificing, patient, kind, truthful, pure, unfailing…”Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth:…And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8, 13) The Bible also says, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (I John 4:7, 8) Our love is a testimony to others that He lives within us.
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Can they feel the joy of the Lord? The walls may be drab and need a coat or two of paint, but may the joy of the Lord color our home! Do others see joy in our faces and hear rejoicing in our words when they come into our home? Do they receive a warm welcome and feel that we are truly glad to have them here? The Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10), our light (Psalm 89:15), our prosperity (Psalm 35:27) and a crown (I Thessalonians 2:19.) “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:11) What a testimony when we can rejoice in adversity; when we can glorify God for victories and praise Him in all things!

Can they feel the peace of God? Is our home tension-filled – a place of strife and anger, or do others feel comfort and peace when they enter? When we live at peace with one another, when we are patient, when we live harmoniously and in unity, it shows. The décor of my house may not always be harmonious (Bob’s mounted trophy deer hangs just above my palm trees and sea shells) but I hope our lives are, and that they are a testimony to the peace that passes all understanding when others come into our home. Ephesians 4:2-3, 31-32 says, “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Do they sense that Christ is the center of our home? Do they feel His presence here? Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) If our home is filled with His love, joy, and peace they will know that He is present in our home. There is a plaque by our front door that reads, “…Choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15) We have chosen to follow the Lord and make Him the head of our home. There is an old saying that goes, “Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” I pray that our conduct and our conversation, our lifestyle and our lives will be a steadfast testimony always that Christ dwells here in our hearts and in our home.

I’ve been praising God for the little unexpected blessings He’s sent me this week, including the blessing of having guests here this week. I hope their visit here was a blessing to them, too!

NOTHIN’ SAYS LOVIN’

I was talking to my six year old granddaughter Katie on the telephone one day last week. We were talking about what we want to do when they come back from Ecuador next year for a few months. I mentioned that they would probably stay with us and we could have one long sleepover every night! “Yes, I can’t wait!” Katie agreed, “but the first thing I’m going to do is rush right over to Grammy’s apartment and have a sleepover with her! You can come, too,” she graciously invited. Grammy is my mother – Katie’s great-grandmother.

“Well, since you’ll be having a sleepover with me most of the time, then I’ll probably stay home and you can have one with Grammy, just the two of you.”

“Well, then we’ll have a tea party at Grammy’s house and you can come to that!” she suggested. “Grammy will bake lots of good things. Grammy likes to bake things for people. She has lots of time to bake. My mommy doesn’t have that much time to bake, but Grammy has lots and lots of time to bake and read books, and things like that!” She chattered on and on about how she just couldn’t wait to “rush right over to Grammy’s!”

It was a delightful conversation and I wasted no time in sharing it with my mother. There is a special relationship somehow between Katie and her Grammy. I don’t know if it is because Katie has my mother’s name – Connie – for her middle name, or if it is because she came shortly after my father went home to be with the Lord and Mom took special joy in that new baby, but for some reason they share some sort of special connection. Katie just adores her Grammy and misses her the most, and I, her grandma, try to be understanding and not get my nose bent out of shape over it! Unfortunately, although Mom tries hard not to have “favorites” among her grandchildren, Katie recognizes the uniqueness of their relationship, too, and likes to flaunt it in front of her sisters!

Katie hit the nail on the head when she extolled the virtues of Grammy’s baking. My mother has always liked to bake, and she has earned quite the reputation with her pies and cookies. Nobody, but nobody, bakes pies better than my mom’s! Sadly, that talent skipped a generation because neither I, nor any of my siblings that I am aware of, inherited her pie-baking skills. My two daughters, however, went to Grandma for lessons years ago on how to make an apple pie, and now they (and their husbands!) can make a pie almost as good as hers. And cookies! You never saw such a mouth-watering array of yummy cookies like my mom makes for Christmas every year. For years she would make double and triple batches of twelve or thirteen different kinds and give them away by the platterful – still keeping plenty for us, of course! One of my favorite childhood memories is of literally running home from school on a cold winter’s day and coming into a house that smelled deliciously of mom’s homemade cookies!

Mom and I were remembering recently a Mother-Daughter banquet we helped with over thirty years ago at Hessville Baptist Church. The theme was “Nothin’ Says Lovin’ Like Somethin’ from the Oven – and Mother Says It Best!” Mom was never crafty. She baked and cooked and kept the cleanest house and kids you ever saw, so she never had time or (she would tell you) the talent to do crafts. The one craft she ever did was the centerpieces for that banquet – and it was right up her alley! She made dozens of beautiful homemade rolls in all sorts of varieties and shapes and then we shellacked them until they were glistening. (*sigh* It was the first time we couldn’t eat her yummy baked goods!) We glued them together and put them in baskets lined with red-checked material. They looked fantastic on the tables and so realistic (well, because they were!) that it was difficult not to want to bite right into one of those yummy rolls! People talked about those centerpieces for years and when we sold some at a yard sale years later they were snatched right up.

There are two things about my mother that have influenced me more than anything else. The first is that my mom is a woman of faith. Katie is too little to understand what that means right now, but someday she will look back on her spiritual heritage and realize that her precious Grammy had a lot to do with the fact that she accepted Jesus as her Savior, too. My mother was a godly example to her children of faith and faithfulness, praise and prayer. Each of her children accepted Christ as their Savior at young ages. I, in turn, taught my children the things my mother had taught me, and they, too, became believers, and now are teaching their own children.

I heard something just this week that I had never thought of before. Do you know why we believers are not judged immediately upon entering Heaven for our faithfulness and service for Christ, but will wait until the Judgment Seat of Christ after the Rapture has taken place to be judged? It is because even after we leave this earth, our influence and work for Him lives on. The seeds I have planted in my children’s lives, or the lives of others around me, will continue to grow and reproduce into fruit for Him over and over again, even into the generations to follow. I pray that my life will be a spiritual heritage for my children and grandchildren, just as my mother’s has been for me.

The Bible tells us of several women, among others, whose faith influenced their children, and through them went on to influence countless millions through the ages. Moses’ mother Jochebed only had the early years of his life in which to influence him, for after only four or five years she could no longer play the nursemaid for Pharoah’s daughter. What he learned in those early years in his mother’s lap and at her knee had a tremendous influence on his life for not only did he turn to the God of Israel, though he was later brought up in the palaces of Egypt, but he went on to be the Hebrews’ great leader. Hebrews 11:24-27 tells us, “By faith, Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked unto the recompense of reward.” What his mother had taught him in those early years was never forgotten.

In the New Testament we see Timothy the great Christian evangelist and pastor. With a pagan father, and growing up in a pagan city, the chances of Timothy following the Lord Jesus Christ were slim, indeed. A godly Christian grandmother and mother, however, had their influence, and it was from their teaching and example that Timothy grew up to accept and know and follow the Lord, as well. Paul wrote to him from prison, “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience, how unceasing is my remembrance of thee in my supplications, night and day, longing to see thee, remembering thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; having been reminded of the unfeigned faith that is in thee; which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice… From a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 1:3-5; 3:15) As a leader in the early church, Timothy went on to influence millions of others down through the centuries for Christ.

We see the powerful influence of a godly mother-in-law, as well, in Scripture. The book of Ruth tells us the story of Naomi and Ruth, her young Moabitish daughter-in-law. The love and godly faithfulness of Naomi had caused Ruth to forsake her pagan gods and follow after the one, true God of Israel. Now when Naomi planned to return to her own land and people, Ruth begged her, “Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God, where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. Jehovah do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17). We continue on to see in Scripture that in due time Ruth married Boaz, father of Obed, father of Jesse, father of David the king, and ultimately became an ancestress of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks to the faithful witness, love and influence of Naomi.

God placed these women in strategic places and times in the history of the world to be an influence on their children and through them on millions who would follow in their footsteps. That is still the role of Christian mothers today. It is still our privilege and sacred duty.

The second thing that Katie did recognize is that Grammy cares for others and does all she can to be a helper and encourager. “Grammy likes to bake for other people,” she said, but she has seen first hand many of the other things Grammy likes to do for others, as well. My mother’s kindness and care; her generosity in giving of herself, her time and her finances; and her words of encouragement are a blessing and inspiration in the lives of family, friends and even many strangers around the world. I am sure she herself does not realize the influence her spiritual gifts of encouragement, ministry and giving have had. They have certainly had an influence on me as I have strived to be a woman like my mother. Scripture tells us to add “to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” (II Peter 1:7) The Bible says “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another…Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” (Romans 12:10, 13) Paul said of believers who encouraged and helped one another, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you” (II Thessalonians 1:3,4)

Someday when my mother stands before the Judgment Seat of Christ I am sure she will hear the words, Well done, thou good and faithful servant. The influence of her faith has led, and will continue to lead, many to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. The influence of her service for Him has blessed and encouraged countless people both near and dear to her, and around the world. The influence of her life will never make the headlines, or cause her to win great awards or fame here on earth, but someday Jesus Himself will recognize her influence before all Heaven and reward her with a crown.

Thank you, Mom. Your influence is clear, even among the smallest of your great-grandchildren. We love you. Happy Mother’s Day!

CONQUERING THE MOUSE

We took my mother out for lunch today at a very pretty Mexican restaurant called Abuelo’s. It was our early Mother’s Day celebration. Last year, we girls (sisters and sister-in-law) had done the same thing and enjoyed it so much we decided to make it an annual event. This year my brother (“She’s my mom, too, so I should be allowed to come!”) and some of the other guys wanted in on it, so we were a larger bunch. We went a week early to avoid the Mother’s Day crush that you always see in restaurants. I was excited about it and eagerly looked forward to the day, even planning our trip to Alabama around it so I could be here for it. We were giving my mother a special Mother’s Day gift this year and I didn’t want to miss out on that!

This year we brought Mom into the twenty-first century and got her a laptop computer! She’s been using WebTV for the last twelve or thirteen years for her e-mail and the little bit of internet browsing that she could do on it. They don’t even sell WebTV anymore, and it is so limited that we felt it was about time she moved on. She was starting to feel a little left out, too, when her sisters and kids and grandkids could get on Facebook, and see photos that she couldn’t see and go to other websites she couldn’t access. She had resisted getting a computer for a long time, but now that her twin sister had one and was doing fine with it, I think she felt more confident that she could handle it, too.

I broached the subject to her a couple months ago and she seemed excited about it. I relayed the information to my siblings and kids and we decided to go together and get her a laptop, and get her all set up. When Mom opened the laptop at the restaurant, though, I think suddenly she felt a little intimidated. Uh-oh.

My brother-in-law Brian had set everything up for her, except for getting it hooked up to the internet, which we will do this week. When we left Abuelo’s I went home with Mom for a little while to see where she would like to use her laptop and to take another look at it. I suggested we have lesson #1 – turning on the computer and using the mouse.

Mom got out her paper and pen to take notes. Turning the computer on, she got down pat. Using the mouse was a little more difficult. Every time she clicked it would jerk out of place. Sometimes she couldn’t see where the cursor was. The icons were a little small so we enlarged them. (Good thing we didn’t get the smaller netbook we first considered!) I could see she was a little nervous about the whole thing. “Mom,” I tried to encourage her, “little, little children learn to do this, and if they can, so can you! Everyone has the same problem at first until they practice a little and get the feel for it. I promise – in no time you’ll be doing just fine!” And I know she will. I am sure she will conquer that mouse, and by the end of this week she will have moved on and conquered even bigger and better things! Bye-bye WebTV!

Sometimes it is the little things that really get to us, isn’t it? The baby steps we have to take in learning something new – like learning to use a mouse before we can learn to use a computer. Or the small details that seem to slow us down as we work on a bigger task. Or the background noises that grate on our nerves; the ingredient we find we are missing; spilling juice on the freshly-scrubbed floor. And then there is Murphy’s Law – everything that could go wrong, goes wrong whenever we try to accomplish things. I find myself constantly shaking my head and sighing, “Nothing is ever easy!”

There’s a saying that’s been around for a number of years now – Don’t sweat the small stuff. In other words, don’t let little things get to you – just focus on what is important. Mom’s payoff in learning how to use the mouse will be in being able to e-mail and web-browse so much more quickly and easily, and that is the important thing for her. Once she loses her inhibitions with the mouse, she can focus on that important goal.

We all face those little things that sometimes stand in the way of us being able to accomplish the big things. Song of Solomon 2:15 says that it is the little foxes that spoil the grapes. “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines.” (Song of Solomon 2:15) It is the little things that hinder our spiritual growth and our walk with the Lord. For instance:

A little laziness stands in the way of success. “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:10, 11)

A little folly can ruin a reputation. “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” (Ecclesiastes 10:1)

Little faith brings about worry and displeases God. “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30)

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Little love for our Lord, or our brothers and sisters in Him show where our heart is. I John 3:11, 14, 16-18 says, “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
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A little leaven or sin ruins our work and our testimony for Him. “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (I Corinthians 5:6)

The little tongue can do a huge amount of damage. “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” (James 3:5, 6)

Little gratitude hurts the Lord when we are given so much and yet we still grumble and complain and are not thankful. I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” In everything – even the little things, even the difficult things, even the so-called bad things.

Let us not focus our attention on the little things that cause us to stumble, but rather thank Him for the little things. When they are obstacles, remember that ”I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) When they are irritations remember Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” When they are little sins that hinder our spiritual growth remember that is the little foxes that spoil the vines and determine that we will face them with His help.

Mom will conquer that mouse yet, and we all can conquer those little foxes!