Archive | October 2010

ANTICIPATION!

Laurie and I got to go shopping together this week! Well, sort of… I wish we could have actually been together, walking in and out of stores, stopping to get a bite to eat, spending some real girl-time together. Instead we were each in our pajamas, on the telephone and on our computers late at night surfing the internet together. It’s not quite the same as shopping in person with one another, but hey—it’s the best we could do and we had fun anyway!
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It’s not the first time I’ve done that with my girls. I’ve even gone house-hunting with both of them via the internet! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I sure love modern tecnology! It has made it possible for me to stay so much closer with my daughters and grandchildren who live hundreds and thousands of miles away than I ever could have twenty years ago.
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This time we were shopping for a going-home-from-the-hospital outfit for the new baby and a nursing gown and robe for Laurie. I had been out shopping earlier in the week in the stores here in town and could find not find a single newborn baby dress or nursing gown. (Yes, we are looking for a dress, for the baby finally decided to let them get a peek at her during the last ultrasound and it is confirmed—it’s a girl! Their fifth girl! Three-year-old Matthew will retain his position in the family as crown prince!) Laurie had not been able to find anything in Cuenca, either, that she could afford (prices down there are two, three, even four times higher there than they are in the States) so we resorted to the internet.
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Laurie, especially, had fun doing that! She told me she felt like she was actually shopping in the US again, and the prices looked good to her after seeing how much they charged down there. We found what we were looking for and they are being sent to my house. Our pastor is going to Ecuador in about nine days to visit them and he said he would take a suitcase for me with the kids’ Christmas gifts, some things they needed and a lot of new baby things in it!
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We are so looking forward to this new baby! Once they found out the sex of the baby, and could start thinking of baby names in earnest, it just seemed to make it so much more “real.” They are thinking of naming her Amanda Laura (Fernando was dead-set determined to name this fifth daughter after his wife! It is a cultural thing, and he had wanted to do it from the first daughter all the way to number five.)
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We had all kind of hoped at first that it would be a boy so Matthew could have a little brother, but of course, we all said we would be thrilled with either a boy or a girl. All except for Matthew. He was pretty determined that it would be a boy and kept saying “Hi, Baby Michael!” to his mommy’s tummy. He was there when they did the ultrasound, and when he heard it was a girl, he said, “But I wanted a brother!” They told him God had decided he should have another sister and he actually accepted it with grace. Now even he is excited to have a baby sister!
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Laurie has gone through her baby things to see what she still needs. She did not have a lot left of the baby girl clothes or her baby equipment. They had given a great deal away, not expecting to have six children. What she has and what I am sending down to her will probably suffice until she comes home next August for a few months. We will get whatever larger size clothes she needs then so she won’t have to bring a lot in their suitcases, and hopefully be able to borrow whatever equipment they need. I started looking through crochet patterns so that I can crochet a baby layette (sweater, bonnet, bootie and blanket) for Baby Amanda, just as I have for all my other grandchildren.
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Anticipation! We still have another four months to go before little Amanda’s arrival! It is hard to wait, but on the other hand we don’t want her to come any sooner than she should. Remember the old ketchup commercial with the ketchup slowly, slowly coming out of the bottle and Carly Simon’s song, “Anticipation” playing in the background? Like the old saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait!” Or the quote I’ve seen in a lot of baby cards – “Nine months? It takes time to create perfection!” We have to wait—no getting around it—but in the meantime, the excitement and anticipation is building!
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There is someone else whose arrival I am eagerly anticipating! It seems the older I get, and the more I see this old world turning away from God, the more I long for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ! Jesus has promised that He is coming again and he tells us to comfort one another with these words. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (I Thessalonians 4:16-18)
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I don’t know about you, but I get excited when I read those words! I can’t wait! We wonder sometimes why Jesus tarries, why He has not come already. We wonder how this world can get any worse. Oh, but it will, and when it does, He will come and take us out of it. He said in John 14:3, “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.”
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It is so exciting to look forward to the birth of a new baby and to make preparations for her arrival. How much more exciting, though, is it to look forward to the coming of our Savior! No preparations needed to go with Him, other than trusting in His shed blood for my sins and your sins. He’s done all the work for us! All we have to do is accept it, but oh, the joy, when we share that good news and bring others along with us!
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These are my words of comfort and joy to you today—He is coming again! Look forward to it!
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SWEET REUNION

Our son-in-law David is in the air, on his way home from Iraq, right now! He left Baghdad Wednesday and went to Qatar. Yesterday he flew to Ireland and from there he will fly to Baltimore, MD today. Tomorrow Julie and the kids will pick him up at the airport in Montgomery, AL! What a day of rejoicing that will be! I wish I could be a fly on the wall to watch that sweet reunion!
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So much has happened since he left. Many things have changed. I think David will be surprised at how much Julie and the kids have grown since he’s been gone—and I mean that more than physically. Benjamin and Joshua have both stepped right up to the plate and tried to fill their dad’s shoes as much as possible in order to help their mother. They’ve taken on chores they’d never done before, used their creativity to help to solve problems and been willing, encouraging supporters for their mom. Hannah, too, has been quite the little worker-bee, but she seems to have struggled the most emotionally without her daddy there. Believe me, though—tomorrow all will be right with her world again! Julie laughs when she says she has become an independent woman—learning how to mend fences, fix doorknobs, deal with car breakdowns, and drive across country on her own. She also says she can’t wait to hand it all back over to her husband again! It has left her with an even greater appreciation for those military wives whose husbands are gone for even longer and in more dangerous deployments.
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David himself has changed. He was promoted to Lt. Colonel over there, but more than that, his training and time in Iraq brought difficult challenges and opened his eyes to real suffering and a different world. He spent the last six months in a spiritual wasteland, receiving very little in the way of spiritual refreshment or fellowship where he was, other than whatever family and friends sent from back home. David has always been one of the most godly men I know, but I am sure the Lord will use these things to make him even more grateful, even more burdened for the suffering and lost, and even more willing to be used by God.
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There is so much for which to be thankful, as well. That David made it there and back again safely. That it was six months, not a year; Iraq, not Afghanistan; air-conditioned office and room, not a tent in the desert or hard duty in perilous areas. That they had Skype and cell phones with which to communicate twice a day. That although there were many challenges for all of them, none of them were life-threatening or so difficult that they could not make it through with the Lord’s help. Even little Pumpkin the pound puppy whom they adopted just days before David left to be a distraction for the kids presented them with one dramatic escapade after another and raised the stress level considerably, but she brought a lot of joy and they are so thankful for her.
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There will be such joy tomorrow! There will be sheer bliss on David’s part as he enjoys being back in the center of his loving family and the comforts of home again. There will be relief on Julie’s part as she turns some of the responsibilities of home back over to David. There will be adjustments to be made in the coming weeks as they get back to normal again. There will be new challenges, but at least they will be able to face them together.
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Julie and I have greatly admired my cousin Betty over the years. Her husband Brad is a Navy pilot and Commander. They have had many separations of months and even years, as Brad has been deployed, and through it all their family has prospered. Betty is a strong, compassionate woman who truly reaches out to others to help and encourage. Their children, whom she home-schooled, have grown into wonderful adults. Betty and Brad seem to have a close, sweet, loving (and fun!) marriage. I know Betty would be the first to say it is the Lord who made it possible.
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I Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” God takes us through the hard times to change us. To make us better, stronger, more mature. To make us come forth shining as gold. To prove to us and to others that our faith is real. To bring praise and honor and glory to God.
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The Lord has done all these things in David and Julie and their three children through this difficult time in their lives. And now comes the time of great rejoicing! Now comes the time of sweet reunion! Praise and honor and glory to God! Thank you, Jesus!

MY HERO!

There’s a new hero in my life! He wears blue spandex, red shorts and a cape. A big yellow star is emblazoned across his chest and he stands with his hands on his hips in a heroic pose, joining forces with God to take action!

Who is this masked man, you might ask? Not a bird, not a plane—it’s Blastman! AKA my mild-mannered hubby, Bob! Yes, he’s finally given in to his alter ego after forty years and donned his Superhero persona to fight for truth, justice and the American way!
Oh, wait a minute! Actually, Bob has come out of the phone booth to promote the Ministry Fair our church is having on October 24th. The theme is “Be a Hero! Take Action! Join Forces with God!” They asked Bob to be Blastman since 1.) He’s one of the few who could fit in the costume and 2.) He’s willing to really ham it up and make a fool of himself in front of several hundred people for the sake of the ministry. Bless his heart…
I have to admit, he was a bit reluctant at first. “I need to lose two or three pounds before I put that thing on!” he declared. “The last time I wore tights [as part of a costume, I hasten to add] was thirty years ago! I’ve gained five pounds since then!” I wanted to smack him!
We’ve had a lot of fun with Blastman all week. Last Sunday Bob stayed after church and put the costume on so they could do a photo shoot of him posing as a superhero. Then a few days later I cropped the backgrounds out, put in the backgrounds I wanted, and put together a Powerpoint presentation of Blastman encouraging everyone to attend the Ministry Fair, and even more than that, to be a part of the ministries in and through our church.
The Powerpoint turned out really cool, if I do say so myself! The pictures and backgrounds were great, the animations were fun, and the music I set it to really added excitement and that Superhero flavor to it! I used the theme from Star Wars—you know, the one that starts out Daaa-Daaa-Da-Da-Da-Daaa-Daa-Da-Da-Da-Daaa-Daa-Da-Da-Da-Daaa… (You know that one, right?)
Blastman himself will be at the Ministry Fair, encouraging everyone to be a hero and take action for God! Knowing Bob, he’ll be a hit with the crowd, and he’ll have a lot of fun himself. Of course, I’ve always known my husband is a superhero—now everyone else will know it, too!
From the time we were kids, we’ve all enjoyed superheroes and fantasizing about the supernatural powers they might have—the ability to fly, x-ray vision, being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and so on. As we grow up we’ve realized that although superheroes are imaginary, there really are heroes among us. They may not have supernatural powers, but they use what they do have in extraordinary ways to accomplish extraordinary feats. We saw it on September 11, 2001 when hundreds of firemen and rescue workers rushed into the Twin Towers while thousands of others fled, knowing full-well that they might not come out again. We see it every time a soldier braves the bullets to go back for a fallen comrade. We saw it this week when a few construction workers rushed a man who was shooting at a schoolyard full of little children, and took him down.
We see quiet heroes every day—people who will never do great things in the eyes of the world, but who steadfastly, courageously do what has to be done against all odds, with determination and all the strength that they have. People who give of themselves sacrificially for others. People who are willing to stand for what is right, even if they stand alone.
What does it take to be a hero? What does it take to be a hero of the faith? Courage probably comes to mind first. Courage is not the absence of fear. As human beings, we all experience fear. It is part of our survival instinct. Courage, rather, is the ability to overcome our fear—to function and do what is right and necessary despite our fear. If we had no fear, why would we need courage? I Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Fear is part of our human nature, but God does not want us to be controlled by it, or held bondage by a spirit of fear.
Courage means having boldness and the confidence to say or do what is true and right and just in the sight of God. Over and over again the people of God are exhorted to be of good courage, to be strong, to not be afraid for God goes with us and will not leave us or forsake us. “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9) “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14)
Courage for the believer comes through faith. We cannot see the future. We cannot see what is coming at us next, and even when we do see the obstacle or trial coming our way, we cannot see how the Lord is going to handle it for us. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” God is at work, whether we see it or not.
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Scripture gives us one example after another of heroes of the faith. There is Noah who believed God and stood alone with his family for God when the rest of the world called them fools. That is faith, resulting in courage. There is Daniel who prayed at his window for all the world to see when he knew doing so could result in him being torn apart by lions. That, too, is faith, resulting in courage. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego obeyed God rather than man with a courage that was a result of their faith in God, and the Lord saved them from the fiery furnace. David faced a giant alone when the rest of the army hid. His courage came from his faith that God was with him when nobody else would stand with him.
Faith brings the courage to take the first step, but we need determination and strength to keep going. Faith gives us the courage to stand fast when necessary, but again, we need determination and strength to hang on. Determination is purposing to accomplish whatever it is God has called us to, regardless of the opposition. The book of Nehemiah gives an account of the courage and determination and strength of Nehemiah and a group of captives who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls. “Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work…So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.” (Nehemiah 2:18, 4:6) They strengthened their hands for they had a mind to work.
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The good news is that we do not need the strength of a superhero. God takes whatever little strength we have and multiplies it for the task that is at hand. He promises “…and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.” (Deuteronomy 33:25) Psalm 18:22 says, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”
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Courage, faith, determination, strength—all these are traits of a hero. There is something else that is a mark of a hero, however, and that is sacrificial love. Our greatest example of this, of course, is Jesus Christ. “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.” (I John 3:16) John 15:13 says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Sacrificial love is selfless, putting others before self. That is why those firemen could climb the Twin Towers. That is why a father works so hard to put food on the table for his children, why a mother stays up into the wee hours caring for her family, why a missionary leaves family and home to take the Gospel across the world. It is sacrificial love.
We’ve had a (dare I say it?) blast with Blastman this week! I teased Bob, asking him, “So where has Blastman been for the last forty years of our marriage?” The truth, though, is that I don’t want a superhero. My husband is a real-life hero to me. Bob’s life and faith have always been characterized by courage and boldness, determination, faith and strength. He has given of himself sacrificially for his family and for anyone else he sees in need. He goes through life, not looking for recognition or reward, but just quietly being a hero.
We can all be heroes for our families, heroes for the Lord, heroes of the faith.

MY GOD SINGS!

I started the day with singing this morning! Before my feet even hit the floor we were on the phone singing Happy Birthday to our little Katie. She’s turning seven today! She’s always been such a tiny little thing; it’s hard to imagine her getting taller and older. She was soooo excited about her birthday this year! She called me every couple days the last few weeks to tell me what the countdown was to her birthday. Oh, how I miss those kids! I wish so much I could give Katie a big birthday hug and kiss.
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I was just thinking the other day about how greatly our lives are touched by singing. We begin life with lullabies, and then our childhood years are filled with hundreds of little choruses and ditties by which we learn and play. Most of us continue our love affair with music—even if we cannot sing ourselves—into our teen years and beyond. And then we mark so many of the events of our lives with music, don’t we? There’s the birthday song, of course, year after year—after year. Many of our holidays have music attached to them—“The Old Rugged Cross” at Easter, “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the Fourth of July, and literally hundreds of Christmas carols and songs! We get married to Wagner’s Bridal Chorus (also known as “Here Comes the Bride”) and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, and are buried to “Amazing Grace.” And throughout our lives, the great hymns of the faith and other Christian songs uplift us, comfort and encourage us and help us to worship our Lord.
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I love to sing. I don’t have a great voice, but it’s good enough for me! I can carry a tune, at least. I sing all the time. I credit that to my mother. She wasn’t a great singer but she sang (or whistled or hummed) around the house as she did her housework or washed dishes as I was growing up—the old-time hymns mostly. I can’t hear “We’re Marching to Zion” or “Beulah Land” without thinking of my mother. Now I do the same thing.
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My grandchildren tell me, “Grandma, you have a song for everything! We say something, and you break into song about it!” The girls have even challenged me from time to time while we’re driving in the car. “We’ll think of a word, and you have to sing a song with that word in it, Grandma.” They almost never stump me.
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The brain is an amazing thing. I often start singing a song, word-perfect, that I haven’t heard in thirty or forty years and I wonder, where did that come from? I can’t remember where I put my glasses, keys or the telephone two minutes ago! Ah—the power of music!
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I don’t know too many people who don’t like music. Even if we can’t sing, most of us like to listen to it at least. Even Robbie sings! He’s always had a love for music, and actually has a very discerning ear for harmony and good music. Every now and then he tries to sing himself. It’s so sweet. Here is this person who can’t talk, but he gets a happy look on his face and sings out “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I call him Mr. Johnny One-Note because it is only that one word, sung in one note, and held out for as long as he can until he needs to take a breath, and then he starts again—usually upping the volume as he goes! I say, “Are you singing Robbie?” and he beams and nods his head and keeps going. Sometimes it is alone; sometimes he accompanies me when I’m playing the harmonica for him; sometimes I join him and we sing a duet. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
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Music and singing are gifts from God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17) What a blessing in our lives! They are also important to God. Singing is integral in our worship of Him and we are told over and over throughout Scripture to come before Him with singing. “Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.” (Psalm 100:2) “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” (Psalm 98:4) “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” (Ephesians 5:19) Even the earth itself sings praises unto God! Isaiah 49:13; 55:12 say, “Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted…For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
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Singing is so important in our lives—in my life—and to God! That is why it was a jaw-dropping shock when Bob came to me last night with a question that I had never heard before: Can you think of a place in the Bible where it says that God sings? In my fifty-eight years I had never wondered once if God Himself sings! We know we are made in the image of God. We know many of the attributes of God—He is holy, omnipotent, omniscient, just, gracious, merciful, loving and so on. We know He must love music for He made it and desires it. But I had never wondered before if God Himself ever breaks out in song, and I could not recall a verse that said He does. Bob handed me a card with a Scripture verse on it:
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“The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
(Zephaniah 3:17 NKJV)
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What a beautiful verse! I instantly fell in love with it. Yes, I know in its context it is speaking of Jerusalem, but I believe it must be true for all whom He loves. God, the Almighty God, is right here in the midst of us and will save us. He rejoices over me! (What a blessed thought when I am feeling down on myself.) When I am in distress He quiets me with His love. (The peace that passes all understanding.) And He sings for joy over me! Isn’t that amazing! God sings! He sings for joy over those He loves! The picture I get in my mind is of a loving Father tucking his child into bed—protectively guarding His child; rejoicing in that child; covering him with His love and singing a lullaby of love and joy and peace. How can we not rest in that verse, and find comfort in His faithfulness and love and just that fact that He is singing for joy because we belong to Him?
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I hope I will always be able to sing—or at least be able to make a joyful noise unto Him! It brings joy and blessing and comfort to my soul when I sing. “My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.” (Psalm 71:23) It is a witness to the unsaved. Psalm 126:2 tells us, “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.” It is a testimony to those who follow after us. “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 89:1) It brings worship to God. Psalm 21:13 says, “Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power.” As long as the Lord gives me life, I pray He will give me breath to sing unto Him! “I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.” (Psalm 104:33)
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Today I am praising God for music and the ability to sing! And I am praising Him for helping me to realize for the first time that He Himself sings as well—and He’s singing over me!