Archive | May 2011

These Old Leaky Pipes

Have you seen the commercial with the little people made out of copper tubing or galvanized pipes?  They’re walking around or going about their business in a little world made out of pipes and tubing.  The art work in this computer-generated commercial has always fascinated me for some reason.  It’s a commercial for some drug that is supposed to help people with, er, “leaky pipes.”  You know—the kind that leak with a sneeze, a laugh or a sudden urge?  Not that I would know anything about that, of course!  ;-}  Well, that’s not the kind of leaky pipes I’m talking about today—thank goodness! 

Our house is eighty-three years old.  When we suddenly discovered a leak in the water pipes above the linen closet downstairs last week we weren’t too surprised—but we were fearful!  Those particular pipes weren’t that old, but they were connected to pipes that were, and knowing how one thing leads to another, we wondered if we were opening a can of worms.  It couldn’t be helped, though—the leak had to be fixed and if that led to more problems, well, it just came with the territory of owning an old house.

I am so blessed to be married to a man who is quite handy and can tackle most household repairs as they come up.  Sure enough, as Bob examined the dripping culprit he found more and more pipes and joints that needed to be changed.  The wrong kinds of materials had been used, soldering jobs were poorly done, pipes were bent and crimped—the whole thing was a mess and we understood suddenly why our water pressure had been so poor all these years.  What started out as a simple task of fixing a solitary little leak became a job that lasted until 3:30 in the morning.

At last he could turn the water back on and breathe a sigh of relief that there were no more leaks.  The initial problem was fixed—but there was more bad news.  We had known for years that our hot water heater was going to have to be replaced, but we kept holding off, hoping we could make it last “just a little longer” until we had some extra cash just lying around (ha!)  Last week as Bob worked on the pipes, though, he got a good look at the condition of the hot water heater and he knew we couldn’t put it off any longer.  The thing was going to rust out any day and then we would have a flooded basement and even more of a mess to clean up.  

I had just seen hot water heaters on sale in a flyer from Menard’s, so he immediately rented a truck and went to pick one up. Naturally, he discovered when he got home that the job of installing it was not going to be easy.  The water pipes and gas line weren’t going to match up with the new tank and he was going to have to move them.  By that time it was too much of a task to tackle just then.  He had to go out of town for several days for his job, so he told me how to turn off the water if the old tank suddenly busted through, and with a prayer that nothing would happen while he was gone, I waved goodbye and kept a close eye on the basement!

Bob finally was able to get back to it yesterday.  It always amazes me that he just naturally seems to know how to do all these complicated fix-it jobs.  He tells me they aren’t that complicated, just time-consuming, but it sure seems to me that he has some special skills to do the jobs, and do them correctly.  But of course, nothing is ever easy.  Reworking the pipes and gas line wasn’t as extensive as he thought it might be, and he had the hot water heater installed a lot quicker than I expected, anyway, but oh no—that wasn’t the end of the problems.  Of course not.  One thing just leads to another…

Through the whole process Bob had delighted in showing me old pipes and joints that grossed me out.  They were full of sludge left from decades of iron and mineral deposits to the point that we wondered how the water ever got through at all.  They looked disgusting, although Bob said it really wasn’t harmful to drink the water that went through those pipes.  I’m still thinking yuck!  Anyway, some of that sludge had broken free as Bob worked and was now clogging our kitchen faucet.  “If I can’t get this unclogged, we’re going to have to buy a new faucet,” he told me.  The question became moot a short while later when he broke the faucet.  Totally not his fault, but he is stopping on the way home from church today to buy a new faucet.  One thing leads to another.  I wonder what will need to be fixed when he he’s done with that?  

Those old pipes were filled with disgusting sludge, but I couldn’t help but think what a mess we often find ourselves in when we let things in our lives slide for too long.  Five or ten pounds become fifty.  Months of dust and dirt become grime.  Drawers and closets become inaccessible because they’re over-stuffed.  A nice green lawn becomes overgrown with weeds and crabgrass.  A little bit of neglected sin or worldliness snowballs and clogs our pipeline of prayer and our relationship with our Father.

Sometimes it is just a gradual thing.  We become more and more immune to the sights and sounds and temptations of ungodly worldliness as television and music, movies and political correctness bombard us daily.  Before you know it, we are allowing things in our homes and lives and minds that we would never have entertained a few short years ago.  We are told in Scripture to “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.  (II Corinthians 6:14, 17, 18)  When we rub shoulders with the unclean things of this world, we are going to get dirty.  When we flirt with temptation we are going to fall.  When we fill our minds with trash, the sludge builds up until we become desensitized to ungodliness.

Sometimes it is a matter of procrastination.  We may not want to admit it, even to ourselves, but we know we are harboring some little sin in our lives; something we just can’t—or just don’t want to—give up.  We know we ought to repent, we need to, but for some reason we just keep putting it off.  Maybe it is a sin of omission—for instance, neglecting to spend time in prayer or reading God’s Word.  James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

Sometimes we willfully and rebelliously do what we know is wrong and yet naively think that because we are His children and He loves us so much, He’s just going to brush it under the carpet and look the other way.  That is when a loving Heavenly Father has to take us out to the woodshed and discipline us a bit!  “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”  (Hebrews 12:5-7,11)

Sin is sin, whether it is sin of commission or sin of omission, and sin has consequences.  We may be saved when we have trusted in Christ’s shed blood on the cross from the eternal consequences of sin, but there are still consequences.  The Lord tells us in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.”  We think of that as eternal death, and even the death of our physical bodies, and rightly so, but have you ever considered that the consequences of sin could be the death of a relationship, or the death of integrity and trust? 

The sludge of sin builds up.  Like the sludge in our pipes, it may be hidden from view.  We may be able to ignore it, others may not even know it is there, but God knows.  Just as that sludge has inhibited the water flow in our house, sin inhibits the flow of our prayers and clogs our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”  Isaiah 59:1-2 goes on to say, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”  The good news is that He does hear and He does save when we repent.

We can no longer ignore the sludge.  Bob will be changing out more pipes in the coming days.  When it comes to the sludge in our lives, we must take action, as well.  We all need daily cleansing.  It’s time to root out the sin, to repent and ask forgiveness.  Proverbs 28:13 says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” We read in I John 1:9,  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

Now to take care of those other “leaky pipes…!”

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Dear God, How Come…?

My week started off with a laugh.  Laurie was telling me about four-year-old Matthew on Sunday night.  She said they were in church as the offering plate went by that morning and Matthew turned to her and asked, “How come God gets all the money, and we don’t?”  Apparently he didn’t think it was quite fair that he couldn’t just help himself to a little of the loot as it passed right under his nose!

I am old enough to remember Art Linkletter and his long-running shows House Party and People Are Funny which ran from the fifties until the seventies.  He loved to interview children and was best known for getting kids to blurt out the family secrets—or whatever was the first thing that came to their minds.   After one boy revealed that his father was a policeman who arrested lots of burglars, Mr. Linkletter asked if his mother ever worried about the risks. “Nah, she thinks it’s great,” he answered. “He brings home rings and bracelets and jewelry almost every week.”

Linkletter especially seemed to enjoy leading children on to share their thoughts about God, the Bible and Sunday School:

Linkletter: “What did we learn from that story [of Jesus turning water into wine]?”
Girl: “The more wine we get, the better the wedding…”

Linkletter: “Oh I bet God was mad [about Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit].”
Boy: “Yeah, then God sent them to hell, and they transferred onto, um, Los Angeles!”

Linkletter: “What did He [God] do with Eve [to punish her]? Made her what?”
Boy: “A housewife!”

Art Linkletter went on to publish many of his conversations with kids in two books, Kids Say the Darndest Things and Kids Still Say the Darndest Things.  Others went on to follow in Linkletter’s footsteps.  Bill Cosby had a television program in the late nineties named the same thing and based on the premise of Linkletter’s earlier shows.  “Kids say the darndest things,” in fact, has become an American catchphrase.  I am sure we’ve all said about our own little ones at one time or another!

It was those conversations about God that particularly interested and often delighted me.  What children don’t know about God doesn’t faze them in the least.  They’ll try to figure it out using their childish logic and wild imaginations.  A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child’s work. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.

The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”

The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.”

Without missing a beat or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, “They will in a minute.”

And if they can’t figure it out or imagine it, well, they’ll just ask God Himself!  A collection of “kid-isms” went around a while back called “Letters to God.”  Here’s what the kids had to say to the Lord:

  • Dear God, In Sunday School they told us what You do. Who does it when You are on vacation? — Jane
  • Dear God, I think about You sometimes even when I’m not praying. — Elliot
  • Dear God, Did You really mean “do unto others as they do unto you?” Because if you did, then I’m going to fix my brother. — Darla
  • Dear God, I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset You made on Tuesday. — Margret
  • Dear God, I read the Bible. What does “begat” mean? Nobody will tell me. — Love, Allison
  • Dear God, Are you really invisible or is that a trick? — Lucy
  • Dear God, Is it true my father won’t get in Heaven if he uses his bowling words in the house? — Anita
  • Dear God, Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident? — Norma
  • Dear God, Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why don’t You just keep the ones You have now? — Jane
  • Dear God, Who draws the lines around countries? — Nan
  • Dear God, The bad people laughed at Noah — “You made an ark on dry land you fool”. But he was smart, he stuck with You. That’s what I would do. — Eddie
  • Dear God, I went to this wedding and they kissed right in church. Is that okay? — Neil
  • Dear God, What does it mean You are a Jealous God? I thought You had everything. — Jane
  • Dear God, Thank You for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy. — Joyce
  • Dear God, Why is Sunday School on Sunday? I thought it was supposed to be our day of rest. — Tom L.
  • Dear God, Please send me a pony. I never asked for anything before, You can look it up. — Bruce
  • Dear God, My brother is a rat. You should give him a tail. Ha ha. — Danny
  • Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. — Larry
  • Dear God, I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. — Sam
  • Dear God, You don’t have to worry about me. I always look both ways. — Dean
  • Dear God, I bet it is very hard for You to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it. — Nan
  • Dear God, Of all the people who work for You, I like Noah and David the best. — Rob
  • Dear God, My brother told me about being born but it doesn’t sound right. They’re just kidding, aren’t they? — Marsha
  • Dear God, If You watch me in Church Sunday. I’ll show You my new shoes. — Mickey
  • Dear God, I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible. — Love, Chris
  • Dear God, We read Thomas Edison made light. But in school they said You did it. So, I bet he stoled Your idea. — Sincerely, Donna
  • Dear God, I do not think anybody could be a better God. Well, I just want You to know but I am not just saying that because You are God already. — Charles

We laugh at the innocence of children and their perceptions of God, but I wonder sometimes if He is laughing at our child-like perceptions of Him?  Some people see Him as a benevolent, white-bearded “old man upstairs” who is so loving He could never send someone to hell.  Others see Him as vengeful, threatening and judgmental, ready to stomp on us like little ants.  Some see him as a personal God, others as a distant God who is only concerned with the world as a whole, while still others just think of Him as a “force” in the universe.  Some believe it does not matter what you call Him—Jehovah, Allah, the Great Spirit—they’re all the same.  Some think He is simply an exalted, perfect man; others think we can all be “gods;” still others think God is in everything, living or not.  Some see Him as one race or another, or even as a female!  Nothing makes my skin crawl quicker than a women’s-libber who refers to our Lord as “she.”  There is nothing child-like about that.  It is simply ignorant and blasphemous. 

A child of God, of course, ought to know the Father better than most.  His Word gives us a great deal of insight into His nature and personality; His attributes, spirituality, triunity; His work here on earth, in the universe and in Heaven—and so much more.  In fact, the Bible tells us so much about God that I could not begin to dig into it in this simple blog.  The study of God is called theology proper and it is wonderful!  Some of what we see about God in the Scriptures we can understand, at least a little, for we are made in His image.  Other things about Him are far beyond our comprehension. 

The more we delve into His Word, however, the more we begin to see and understand about God—but even then, there is always more to learn.  It was eye-opening to me last year to suddenly be enlightened by a new view of Christ as He is in Heaven right now and in the future.  It was there all the time.  I had read Revelations many times over the fifty-three years I have been a child of God, heard countless sermons on the subject, but somehow my comprehension was just opened in a new way and it profoundly impacted the way I think of Jesus, worship Him and pray.

Since we are trying to see God today through a child’s eyes, let’s just take a quick look at some of His traits that even a child can understand:

GOD CREATESFor ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:20 NIV)

GOD IS TRUSTWORTHYFor the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything He does. (Psalm 33:4 NIV)

GOD IS WISE – …Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power.  (Daniel 2:20 NIV)

GOD IS GOODEveryone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness.  (Psalm 145:7 NIV)

GOD PROVIDESHe gives food to those who fear him; he always remembers his covenant. (Psalm 111:5 NIV)  And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:19 NIV)

GOD IS GENEROUSSince he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?  (Romans 8:32 NIV)

GOD IS MERCIFUL But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.   (Daniel 9:9 NIV)

GOD IS COMPASSIONATESo the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. (Isaiah 30:18 NIV)

GOD UNDERSTANDSThis High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)

GOD LOVESHe loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.  (Psalm 33:5 NIV)

GOD FORGIVESI am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus. (I John 2:12 NIV)

GOD HEALSHe forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.  (Psalm 103:3 NIV)

GOD SAVESHe fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. (Psalm 145:19 NIV)  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”  (Acts 16:31 NIV)

GOD IS FAITHFUL AND JUSTHe is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!  (Deuteronomy 32:4 NIV)

GOD IS UNCHANGINGGod also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind.  (Hebrews 6:17 NIV)

GOD IS EVER PRESENTGod is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1 NIV)

GOD IS ETERNALBut the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath. (Jeremiah 10:10 NIV)

GOD IS HOLYExalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.  (Psalm 99:9 NIV)

Laurie’s answer to Matthew’s question on why God gets all the money was simply that God gives us “all the money” and we give some of it back to Him.  I don’t think Matthew feels that he is getting his fair share, but ah well…  Someday he will understand in part, at least, just how great God is and be thankful for Who and What God is and all that He does for us.  We will never fully comprehend it, but I believe we will spend eternity learning more and more about Him—and still be continually amazed at His awesomeness!

A Beautiful Birthstone Blessing

We are taking my mother out for Mother’s Day today.  The last couple years we have enjoyed going to a nice Mexican restaurant called Abuelo’s either the week before or the week after in order to avoid the crowds on the actual Mother’s Day Sunday.  Abuelo’s has lots of ambience and good food as well, and this new “tradition” is one we all look forward to.

I had an extra week, therefore, to work on one of Mom’s Mother’s Day gifts.  I started making jewelry last summer and since then I have especially enjoyed making bracelets.  Recently I saw some very pretty birthstone bracelets for mothers and grandmothers and realized that I could make something similar for Mom.  Now, my mother is not only a mom and grandma, but also a great-grandma.  How wonderful it would be to be able to represent each of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with a birthstone crystal on a silver beaded bracelet!  Knowing how she loves each one of her “kids,” I was pretty sure she would treasure something like that!

Mom gave birth to seven children, including the twins she lost fifty-one years ago.  She has thirteen grandchildren, and her fourteenth great-grandchild is due in July.  That is a lot of birthstones!  My original plan was to make a three-strand bracelet, linking the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother strands together with pretty crystal spacers.  I wasn’t satisfied with the finished product, however.  It was just too much and looked a little “jumbled.”  I took it apart and made three separate bracelets instead that she can either wear alone or together.  I was delighted with the result!  I had special-ordered silver beads in several different shapes, sizes and textures and they set off the birthstone crystals beautifully.  I hope my mother loves them as much as I do!

They say birthstones had their origins in the breastplate God ordered on the garments of the Israelites’ high priest.  Exodus 39:10-13 says, “And they set in it four rows of stones: the first row was a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this was the first row. And the second row, an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row, a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper they were enclosed in pouches of gold in their inclosings.”  There are a number of other references to gemstones throughout the Bible, but one of my favorites is the description in Revelation 21:18-20: “And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.” 

Other cultures have had birthstones, as well.  If you were interested enough to do the research, you would find that there are not only “traditional” and “modern” birthstone charts, and birthstones based on the zodiac, but also “mystical” birthstones which are of Tibetan origin and date back over a thousand years, and the “Ayurvedic” birthstones which stem from Indian medicine and beliefs dating back to ancient India (1500 B.C.).  According to folklore and stories throughout history, many gemstones are thought to offer mystic healing to its wearer and to bring “good luck.”  For instance, amethyst is supposed to aid in the reduction of insomnia, arthritis, pain relief, and circulatory issues, and sapphire alleviates pain.  Garnet is supposed to aid the blood, heart, and lungs while the aquamarine aids the liver, throat, stomach, jaw, teeth, eyes, and ears!  Early sailors believed also that an aquamarine talisman would protect them against dangers at sea.  Other superstitions said that a ruby was a protection against evil, amethyst guarded against intoxication and Peridot set in gold would protect its wearer from nightmares.

I just think birthstones are pretty!  Julie calls me her “magpie mother” since I took up making jewelry and eagerly sort through my shiny little “bits and baubles!”  I inherited my love for crystal from my mother—so sparkly and bright as it catches the light!  Since I wanted to use all crystals in my birthstone bracelets, rather than the actual gemstones, I referred to the “modern” birthstone chart, rather than the “traditional” one, the main differences being the use of pearls, opals and turquoise in the traditional listing for June, October and December rather than the alexandrite, rose crystal and blue zircon from the modern chart. 

The birthstone charts also tell us the character qualities each stone is supposed to represent and bring to its wearer.  As beautiful as these gems are, though, they are only a created material.  They have no powers or benevolent effects.  Their Creator is the Giver of all good gifts, the Great Physician, our Protector and Provider.  I thought it would be interesting to go through the birthstone chart I used and compare it to what God’s Word says:

January – Garnet – Strength, perseverance, prosperity, health.  The Bible says, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3

February – Amethyst – Wisdom, spirituality, sobriety, security.  The Bible says, “For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.  He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.  He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.”  Proverbs 2:6-8

March – Aquamarine – Beauty, honesty, loyalty, happiness.  The Bible says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

April – Diamond – Invincibility, clarity, purity, eternal love.  The Bible says, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”  Jeremiah 31:3

May – Emerald – Patience, understanding, foresight.  The Bible says, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,”  Ephesians 1:18, 19

June – Alexandrite – Balance, confidence, joy.  The Bible says, “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.”  Psalm 5:11

July – Ruby – Love, success, integrity, passion and promise.  The Bible says, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature…And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” II Peter 1:4-7

August – Peridot – Fame, dignity, protection, success.  The Bible says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

September – Sapphire – Truth, sincerity, commitment, loyalty.  The Bible says, “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”  I Thessalonians 5:24

October – Rose Crystal – Emotional balance, forgiveness.  The Bible says, “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

November – Topaz – Strength, wisdom, courage.  The Bible says, “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. 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 1:7-9

December – Blue Zircon – Wisdom, honor, wealth.  The Bible says, “Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.”  II Chronicles 1:12

I love the pretty, sparkly things God has created—gemstones and jewels, gold and silver.  I love His flowers and sea shells and trees and birds and butterflies, as well.  I love the variety of His creation—beautiful landscapes and seascapes; amazing and vastly different animals; an awesome and mysterious universe.  I love the uniqueness of each human being.  Each of those birthstones on the bracelets I made my mother represent a beautiful, unique, special person—people I love.  I am so thankful for them and for this beautiful world the Lord has allowed us to enjoy for a time.  All good gifts come from Him—the gifts of His creation, the gifts of personality, provision, protection, and His love.  Let us worship the Creator today, and not the creation.  He is worthy of our praise!

M.O.M.

Mother’s Day, 2011.  I am so thankful for my mother, and that we still have her here with us.  I am thankful she is a Christian mother, and brought us up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  It was at her side that I learned about Jesus and faith and prayer.  It was following in her footsteps that I became a mother just like her.

On this Mother’s Day I am thankful to be a mom—and a grandmother.  There were times in my life when I dreamed of other paths for my life; even times when I regretted that I did not have some sort of great career, but God knew what was best for me and in His great wisdom He set me on the path He had designed for me and made me a mother.  I could not ask for a greater joy—unless it is to be a grandma, as well!

Every year someone comes up with a different estimation as to the dollar value of a mother’s job.  When they add in all the roles a mother must play—housekeeper, cook, laundress, nurse, chauffeur, psychologist, teacher and so on—the figure recently has ranged anywhere from $61,436 to $117,000.  Somehow my paycheck has never appeared in my mailbox!  Ah, well…  I’ll console myself with the fact that my rewards for a job well done as a mother will be in Heaven with me someday!

A Christian mother has so many more roles to play than just the obvious, of course.  My own mother was a fine example to me of what a mom should be.  She taught me that a MOM is a:

Master Of Management – This is the obvious.  Some of us are better at it than others, of course, but what mom hasn’t been the one who finds whatever it is that is lost?  Mom, have you seen my ______?  (Fill in the blank.)  We are, if not the actual doers (and we usually are), then the designators—the ones ultimately responsible for keeping home and hearth running smoothly.  We are the ones who remember the appointments and schedules, make sure the homework gets done, sees that everyone’s needs are met for the next day…and so on.  Proverbs 31 gives us a perfect example of a M.O.M.—Master Of Management.  The Virtuous Woman had it all together.  My mom did a great job, too.  She kept a clean house, clean kids, and somehow, even when money was tight and she did not have all the technology that we have today, made it all work so that we felt secure and well-cared for.

Mender Of Mayhem – Of course, things don’t always go right but when they don’t, Mom is the band-aid dispenser, the fixer-upper, the problem-solver.  Nothing makes it feel better than a Mommy’s kiss and a hug, or her words of sympathy.  I have discovered the truth to the old axiom, “Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.”  A mom will always be a mom, no matter how old her children get.  She will try to be the one to fix the problem, or if she cannot, she will wish with all her heart she could.  She will wish she could reach through the telephone lines to give her crying daughter a hug.  She will sacrifice to “make it right.”  I am fifty-nine years old and my mother is eighty.  The band-aid days are long past, but she still tries to be the fixer-upper and problem solver.  A mom will always be a MOM—a Mender Of Mayhem and the example of Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Molder Of Morals – A mom is our first teacher.  The one at whose knee we begin to learn the difference between right and wrong.  The one who teaches us to share, to obey, to be a helper.  The one who firmly, but in love, disciplines because she knows it is the best interest of the child.  She is the one who begins to shape our character and wants more than anything to see her children grow up to be fine adults and, if she is a Christian herself, godly followers of Jesus Christ.  The Christian mother loves God’s Word and will take seriously the admonition in Deuteronomy 6:6, 7, And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  My mother raised five children to love the Lord, His Word and His people, and to be responsible members of society, even though it might have been a whole lot easier just to let us do whatever we wanted.  I am grateful that she was a MOM—a Molder of Morals—to us.  What she taught us, will be carried through for generations.

Minister Of Motivation – There are no more treasured words of encouragement and support than those that come from our mothers (and dads!)  From the time that we are little ones, we delight in Mommy cheering us on as we roll over for the first time, or take our first steps, or go potty in the potty!  She is there to encourage and guide as we learn to tie our shoes “all by myself!”  Her words of praise as we learn to read and write are music to our ears.  We go on to conquer math problems, enter the science fair, make the team, get our first job with her words of encouragement to spur us on.  Proverbs 25:11 says, A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.  I always knew my mother stood behind me, supporting and encouraging me in whatever I attempted.  She had faith in me, even when I didn’t have faith in myself.  And it was not only her words that encouraged me, but the example of her life.  I was motivated to be a woman and mother like my mom—my Minister Of Motivation.

Maker Of Memories – My husband grew up in a family that had very few traditions or family celebrations, or even simple family times together.  I think that is why he has always appreciated the traditions that we have established in our own family and the family times—special or simple day-to-day—that we celebrate.  I learned the importance of those things from my mother.  We still treasure and replay the memories we share over and over.  We giggle over the silly things and get misty-eyed over sentimental things.  And though the traditions and family celebrations are important to me, my memories of the simple times with my mom are just as precious.  Memories of drying dishes while she washed and we shared the events of the day.  Memories of her setting my hair on Saturday night in preparation for church the next day while we talked.  Memories of running home from school and finding her there and good smells coming from the oven.  The memories I have of my past and my mother tell me that nothing was more important to her than family.  MOM was the Maker of Memories back then, and I will treasure my memories of her always, Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ… (I Thessalonians 1:3)—and go on making precious memories with my own family.

Mistress Of Merriment – There’s an old saying that goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”  Mom sets the tone in the home.  Mark Lowry, the Christian comedian, does a hilarious bit called “Mama was a Screamer.”  I am sure there are times when most mothers can relate to feeling pushed to the limit and wanting to pull their hair out in frustration, but hopefully they’re not screamers on a regular basis!  No one wants to walk around on egg shells, afraid to set Mom off on a rant, or feeling like they are constantly under the black cloud of Mom’s depression.  A peaceful, joyful home is founded on trust in the Lord.  Mom knows God will see them through, even in the hard times.  She is secure in the knowledge that He will provide, protect and guide and lives by the words of Psalm 5:11, “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.” The Lord puts a song in our hearts and in our mouths when we trust in Him.   My mother was a whistler and a singer as she went about the house.  I learned the old, old hymns from her and learned to whistle, too!  And now I follow in her footsteps, happily singing, whistling, humming as I go about my work.  Proverbs 15: 13, 15 says, “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken…All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.”  Proverbs 17:22 goes on to say, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”  Proverbs even tells us what it is like to live with a woman who is not joyful: “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” (Proverbs 21:19) and “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.” (Proverbs 27:15)  I would far rather be a MOM—Mistress of Merriment and make Home be a happy, joyful, fun place, with laughter and music echoing off the walls!

Mover Of Mountains – What a blessing it is to have a mother who is a MOM—Mover of Mountains!  My mother is a woman of faith and a prayer warrior.  I grew up knowing what it meant to simply trust God even when I didn’t understand.  I knew what it meant to have a mother who was praying for me and many, many others.  Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”  Mom’s faith was simple and is summed up in a verse we lived by in our home—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.”  My mother believed God’s Word and trusted Him to keep it and taught her children to believe, as well.  She could not have given us a greater gift, or taught a more valuable truth.  It is her example, I think, that instilled in me the desire to be a woman of faith and prayer like my mother, a MOM—Mover of Mountains.

Model Of Motherhood – My mother was an example to me in all the areas of my life and in all the functions of a mother that I wanted to instill into my own daughters.  I looked at her as a young teenager, and I can actually remember thinking, “I want to be a mother like my mom.”  I don’t think there can be a higher compliment.  Oh, of course she wasn’t perfect, but she was a great mother (still is!) and a beautiful MOM—Model of Motherhood.  We, as mothers, know all too well our own shortcomings and failures, our strengths and weaknesses, and we often feel guilty that we are not “perfect.”  I have news for you—God does not expect you to be perfect, and neither do your children!  We do need to strive, however, to the best of our ability, to be the best role model we can be for our daughters of a godly mother and to our sons of the kind of girl he ought to look for in a wife someday—“a girl like the girl who married dear, old dad!”  We are role models, as well, to others who may not have a good mother, and to the coming generations.  Titus 2:3-5 tells older women to be role models to the younger women.  “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” 

Mother’s Day is nice.  It is good to feel appreciated and to receive little tokens of our family’s love and thanks.  Four year old Matthew told me he got earrings for his mommy—“white stars with pokey things that stick in her ears.”  He picked them out himself, so pleased and proud to buy Mommy a gift.  Unfortunately the good feelings didn’t quite last.  I’m told he marched into the house Saturday night with his gift, tired and cranky after all that shopping, and before anyone could stop him, threw them at his mother!  Oh well, it’s the thought that counts, I guess!

Whether a mother’s worth in dollar and cents is $61,436 or $117,000 by the world’s standards, the value of a Christian MOM—priceless!

A Breath of Air, A Mighty Wind

What a week it has been—for us and for the rest of the nation, it seems, as well.  Robbie had his oral surgery on Good Friday, and it could not have gone better, but then on Easter Sunday he developed apirational pneumonia and has been in the hospital ever since.  Robbie has stayed fairly well over the last three years, so it had been quite a while since we had last admitted him.  After the dozens of hospital stays he had experienced in the seven years before that, it was a welcome relief, but we knew it wouldn’t last forever.

So here we are back in the hospital, doing the round-the-clock shifts of caregiving that we always do in order to see that Robbie gets the special, loving care he needs.  Bob’s doing the night shifts while I take the daytime, and I have to admit, we’re getting tired.  But you do what you have to do, and truth be told, it is a labor of love that we are glad to do.

It is ironic that while we were in the hospital concerned with Robbie’s breathing and the fact that he could not get enough air, a large part of the country was getting too much air in the form of high winds and tornadoes.  My heart goes out to those poor people in the south who have lost so much this week.  Most of us can not even imagine what it would be like to wake up in the morning and before the next dawn find that we had lost everything.  Many were fortunate to barely escape with their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  Others were not so fortunate. 

We cannot imagine what it would be like, and yet we can put ourselves in their places, for we know it is only by the grace of God that we have not been in such a situation.  I have a daughter and her family in Alabama and other family in Tennessee, southern Illinois and other stricken areas.  I was very concerned for them.  The next morning after that terrible outbreak of tornadoes that killed over 300 people and leveled whole communities I decided to call Julie and check on them.  The first time I tried to dial her number I got nothing—just dead air.  I must admit, my heart was in my throat a bit as I tried to think what might be the problem.  I decided to try again, and this time the call went through.

“Is your house still on Sunset Drive?” I asked with a feeble little laugh as she picked up the phone.

“It’s still here.  Maybe missing a few shingles, but we’re okay.”  She went on to tell me how the tornado sirens had gone off all day long, and how the five of them, plus the dog, had crowded into their tiny pantry over and over as tornadoes in the area went through.  They all slept together in the living room in case anything happened during the night.

As I sat in the stillness of Robbie’s hospital room this week I had time to reflect on the storms we experience in our lives.  Sometimes they are literal and disastrous like tornadoes or hurricanes, floods or earthquakes.  Other times they are just as catastrophic but on a personal rather than community level—serious illness, loss of a loved one in one way or another, loss of a job or a home…  The storms of our lives often come suddenly and seem to pull the rug right out from under us.  We are shaken; sometimes we are fearful; sometimes we question why?  We wonder what to do; we often feel helpless; if we are people of faith we turn to the Lord.  Even those who do not normally pray, will often turn to God in their time of need.

I am reminded of the story of Jesus when he calmed the sea during a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee.  Mark 4:39 tells us that his fishermen-disciples woke him as he slept in their boat “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”  Our same Lord Who has the power to calm the wind and the sea has power and authority over the storms of our lives, as well.   

There is a song that puts it like this:

Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered “peace be still.”
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will.
Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild;
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child.

Those words speak to my heart.  Though the storms may rage, He is in control and whether He chooses to calm the storm or not, He can bring peace and calm to my soul.  In my worst “storms,” those words have brought me comfort. 

The tornadoes this week reminded me of the story of Elijah.  He was exhausted, distraught, alone and afraid.  He had fled from Jezebel into the wilderness and hid under a juniper tree, telling God that he might as well kill him now.  Instead, God sent an angel to minister to him and meet his immediate needs—rest, food and comfort.  He sustained him for forty more days in the wilderness and then led him to a cave in the mountains.  I Kings 19:11-12 gives an account of what happened next: And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:  And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

A great wind (a tornado, perhaps?), strong enough to break the rocks passed before the Lord; an earthquake occurred and then a fire—fearful, catastrophic events.  Afterwards, however, came a still, small voice bringing a message of peace and hope.  It was the voice of God Himself telling him that he was not alone.  Seven thousand others in Israel stood with Elijah.  The Lord sent him a helper, then, as well as hope.  Elisha was to be his new helper and to minister to him.

When the storms of life come, He brings peace and calm when we turn to Him, whether He stills the storm, or simply calms our heart.  He ministers to us and meets our needs; He gives us a message of hope; He brings helpers into our lives.  I pray the people who have lost so much this last week will find the peace and hope that only Christ can give.  The song ends with:

A heart of trust will always
Be a quiet, peaceful place.

 Whatever your storm is this week, I pray your heart is at peace in Him.