Archive | April 2013

Keep Running

It has been an exhausting week.  The nation came to halt on Monday afternoon at the news of another terrorist attack on our country—this time on American soil.  We watched in horror as the scenes played out on television of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Our hearts grieved at the loss of three young people—one just a child—and the one hundred and eighty who lost limbs or had other grave injuries.  We were touched by those who ran toward the danger to help others, but not surprised.  That is the way Americans react in times of crisis.

The Boston Marathon had come to a screeching halt, but as the week progressed we watched the manhunt for the terrorists who had committed this terrible act unfold before our eyes.  We viewed with bated breath as the suspects were gradually identified and pursued.  We collectively breathed a sigh of relief when one was dead and the other captured.  And we have prayed for the victims and their families throughout this whole ordeal.

While the runners in the marathon had been stopped in their tracks, an entire community on the other side of the country ran for their lives.  A horrific explosion in West, Texas wiped out much of that small town, killing fourteen and injuring more than two hundred people.  Once again, first responders ran toward the danger—and some paid with their lives.  It is important that we continue to uphold the people of West in prayer, as well.

Just watching these events on television has been emotionally exhausting.  I cannot begin to comprehend the level of weariness the people of Boston and West have experienced this week, especially those most severely affected by these tragedies and the emergency responders who tended to them or worked tirelessly to resolve the issues.  The reports have said that those just finishing the 26 mile marathon leaped into action to help, or ran on to give blood, despite their exhaustion from the race.

The apostle Paul likened our life’s journey to a race—a marathon.  It is exhausting.  There are burdens we carry that weigh us down.  There are sins that would trip us up.  There are many challenges and obstacles, even life-changing events that stop us in our tracks.  But what does God’s Word say?  Run on.  Do not be deterred or distracted, daunted or discouraged.  Run on and keep running.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:1-2)  Running a marathon requires patience, endurance, sacrifice and dedication.  Mile after mile, the runner pushes on to the finish line.  Jesus crossed that finish line before us.  He endured the shame.  He bore the sins of the world on His shoulders.  He gave His life on the cross and at the finish line, he cried, “It is finished!”  Finally, He sat down at the right hand of the Father, crowned with glory and honor, having won the victory over sin and death.  Jesus, the creator, the perfecter (the one who brought it to a conclusion) and sustainer of our faith has set the example for us in running the race of life’s journey to the glory of God.

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  (I Corinthians 9:24)  Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.  (Philippians 2:16)  When we run our life’s race to His glory, overcoming the obstacles and challenges and all that Satan would throw in our path, there will be a winner’s crown waiting for us at the end, as well.

You may be knocked down—pick yourself up and keep going.  You may be hindered in going forward by the obstacles along the way—persevere.  Satan may throw everything he has at you—look to Jesus for His help.  There is cloud of witnesses cheering you on, spectators who are influenced by your life—run on to victory!

Don’t stop—just keep running the race.

Finding the Words to Say

Our party boy comes alive after midnight.  Robbie sleeps a great deal because of the seizure medications he takes, but for some reason, even after taking the largest “cocktail” of medicines that he takes at one time, it is in the wee hours of the morning that he wants to play.  With Mama.  Just as Mama is ready to go to bed.  And Mama isn’t happy about it.

Oh, that’s not really true.  Mama is tired and really does want to go to sleep just as he is revving up, but it makes my heart happy to see him having a good time.  Robbie is normally quiet throughout the day, but just at the stroke of midnight it is as if someone flipped a switch and suddenly he is excited and LOUD!  Party-time!  Whoo-hoo!!!

Noisy ToysHe grabs the basket of his favorite little toys that sits next to his recliner and dumps the whole thing into his lap.  He starts digging through the pile, tossing toys over the edge of the chair until he finds the noisiest things in the collection.  Oh, yeah!  The obnoxiously squawking chicken!  Maracas!  Greg Wiggles who talks and sings in high volume!  Jingle bells!  A pie pan—good for banging over and over and over and over…and over!  A pair of Chinese drums in two different tones of annoyance!  Anything that shakes, rattles, squeaks, squawks, bangs, clangs, sings, rings or blasts the eardrums is fair game!  Fun, fun, fun!  Let’s make a joyful noise!

Mama dozes off on the couch despite the racket.  It is 2:00 in the morning when next she opens her eyes and Robbie is looking at her reproachfully as if to say, “You party-pooper!”  She drags herself off the couch and says, “Sorry!  Time for bed, Robbie!”  She picks up all the toys, gathers up all his pillows, and finally pulls him to his feet.  “Stand up big and tall,” she coaxes as she tries to pivot him toward the bed next to his chair.  At last!  The long day is over.

One of us must sleep with Robbie in case he has seizures during the night.  It is important that we do not let his seizures get out of control, so that means stopping them as quickly as we can.  It has been that way for the last twelve years.  I am the night owl and I sleep more lightly than Bob, so I take the night shift.  Bob will do the early morning stuff for Robbie, then, and let me sleep a little longer.  It works out fine for us and Robbie gets the care he needs.

It is the moments after I put Robbie to bed that are so sweet and precious to me.  When the lights are out and the TV is off, we talk.  I tell him how much mommy and daddy love him and how thankful we are that God gave him to us.  I tell him about Jesus and heaven and how he will see Jesus and Grandpa in heaven someday.  And I tell him how wonderful heaven will be when he will be able to walk and run and jump and dance.  And I tell him how wonderful it will be when he will be able to talk and sing and tell me all the things he wanted to say on earth.  In the dim light I can see him beaming, and in the innocence of a one or two year old, he pulls my head over to him and hugs and “kisses” me with his chin again and again.  When he finally is done, he crosses his hands over his chest in the symbol for love and “tells” me, Love you, Mama! 

When I say ‘we talk,” I mean that I do the talking and Robbie listens, responding through his facial expressions and loving gestures.  Robbie has never spoken except to say ma and da and do a few signs like please and more.  It was only four years ago, when he was thirty-three, that he began to sign Love you!  [See Love You—Criss-Cross My Heart!  March 8, 2009]  In the last week or two, however, he has decided not to wait for heaven to use his voice to “tell me all about it.”  It has been in those quiet moments in the middle of the night, when he has Mama’s undivided attention, that Robbie has suddenly begun to “talk.”  Oh, I cannot understand the words he is trying so fervently to say, but I can understand that the short little sounds coming out of his mouth are words to him and he has something he wants to tell me.  It is enough for him that I recognize his efforts.  I say incredulously, “Are you trying to talk, Robbie?  Are you talking?”  Yes, yes, yes! he beams, so excited that mama understands.

He talks for a while, and then he starts to sing—long, drawn out sounds in different tones.  He has been “singing” for several months now, sometimes with Mommy and Daddy, or sometimes just to entertain us.  It was the same scenario when we realized for the first time that he was trying to sing—the joy on his face that we understood.  The joy in our hearts that Robbie was finding his own way to communicate and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.  You cannot imagine the joy that such a small thing brings!

Words to Say—Robbie’s wordless “words” are a blessing and a gift to us.  I know when we get to heaven that his words to us then will be one of my greatest joys in a place of unceasing joy.  They are precious now because they are few and take great effort on his part to express, and they come from a heart overflowing with love.

I wonder if we realize how valuable the words we say to others are to them.  A word of encouragement or support; words of instruction or godly counsel; words of love, compassion or comfort.  We sometimes feel at a loss for words when someone near and dear to us needs us to reach out to them.  I tell myself that just listening is sufficient, that I don’t need to say anything.  I rationalize that a hug, an arm around the shoulder, a squeeze of the hand or a pat on the back will convey my heartfelt feelings.  Those things are very true many times, but there are times, as well, when we need to speak out with words that will linger, nourish and uphold.  Pleasant words, the Bible says, are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)  Sometimes just a word of testimony of how the Lord has been faithful to you will be an encouragement to someone who needs to be reminded of His faithfulness.  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (II Corinthians 1:4)

At other times we do not feel that we have the wisdom to offer counsel, or that we cannot know what the other is feeling because we have never experienced what they are going through.  When we are at a loss for words of our own, God’s words are the best.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)  It is good to have God’s Word hidden in our hearts, ready at a moment’s notice to be pulled out and used to strengthen, comfort or encourage someone.  Even if it is only a few verses of Scripture, the Lord will use them and they will not return void.  Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another… ( I Thessalonians 5;11)

Words to Pray—There are times when we are at a loss of words to say even to the Lord.  Whether it is on our own behalf, or for the sake of others, we do not know how to pray.  It is at those times that we simply begin with worship of Who He is—the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, holy Creator of the universe and our Savior.  We offer our praise and gratitude also for what He does—the salvation He has freely and sacrificially given us and for all His provision, protection, guidance and healing.  It is all about Him, after all.  He tells us, though, that we may boldly bring our requests before Him.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)  When we do not have the words to pray, though, because the need is so desperate, or our hearts are breaking, or we simply do not know the will of God, the Holy Spirit steps in and gives words to our prayers, making intercession for us.  Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.   And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Robbie does not have the words to say aloud, but his heart is full of what he would like to tell us.  He is thrilled when Mommy and Daddy understand his heart, whether they can comprehend his “words” or not.  In the same way, we can rest assured that God recognizes our hearts’ prayers even when we cannot put them into words.  And even as we rejoice in Robbie’s effort to speak, God delights in our prayers, as well.

Petey Pickle’s Pirate Party

PeteysPiratePartyThe anticipation has been mounting for weeks!  Matthew is turning six and he can hardly wait for his birthday!  He loves to call Grandma on the telephone, and each time he’s called these last few weeks his little voice just exuded excitement for the upcoming event.  Birthdays are a HUGE deal at that age!

Finally one day, “Grandma!  Guess what?  I decided what kind of birthday party I want!”

“You did!  What kind of party do you want?”

“I’m going to have a pirate party!  Just like Petey Pickle!  Mommy read me the Petey Pickle’s Pirate Party book and I decided to have a party like Petey’s!”

The “grandma” heart in me was getting a kick out of Matthew’s excitement, but the “author” heart was just tickled pink!  I had written Petey Pickle’s Pirate Party for Matthew’s fourth birthday.  Seeing the inspiration for his own pirate party coming from my book was a little boost to my ego.

“Well, that sounds exciting!  I want to hear all about it!”

Matthew’s birthday isn’t until Tuesday but they had his party on Friday night with the Naranjo grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all in attendance.  They quickly Skyped with me before the guests arrived.  Matthew was dressed in his pirate costume.  He looked so cute!  He had a red bandana tied around his head and a pirate hat on top of that.  Of course he wore an eye patch and a hook over his hand.  A hoop earring hung from one ear.  Katie and Mandy had pirate hats, as well.  Pirate decorations decorated 149493_10151503752273190_1394200047_nthe table, complete with little treasure chests filled with chocolate gold coins and other candy.  Laurie had found a pirate face and Jolly Roger flag to decorate the two pans of tiramisu Matthew had requested for his birthday cake. It sure looked like fun to me!

What is the fascination little boys have with pirates, anyway? Or people of any age, for that matter?  Look at the popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean.  Matthew insisted he wanted to be called Captain Jack Sparrow at his party.  Before Pirates of the Caribbean was Errol Flynn playing the swashbuckling Captain Blood, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Long John Silver in Treasure Island.  And most famous of them all, perhaps, at least to a little kid—Peter Pan’s Captain Hook!  Real pirates, such as Blackbeard and Captain Kidd have captured the imagination and become legends.  There is even an annual international “Talk Like a Pirate Day!”  (In case you’d like to join in this year, it is on September 19th.  Aargh!) 

Yo ho!  Yo ho!  A pirate’s life for me!  So, was it all that it’s cracked up to be?  Piracy has been glamorized and glorified by Hollywood and books.  In reality, a pirate’s life was terribly hard, often boring as they waited for something “exciting” to happen, and most pirates died young and virtually penniless.  Whether it was from a storm at sea, hanging from the end of a rope, abandonment on a deserted island, torture, or at the point of a cutlass, death often came violently.

Pirates were not the romantic swashbucklers they were once portrayed to be.  They were evil criminals, thieves, and plunderers who murdered, tortured and raped.  Even those who were commissioned by their governments to commit acts of piracy (called privateers) against their enemies’ ships and ports were not above pillaging their own country’s ships or keeping back the ill-gotten loot they were supposed to turn over to the government.  A little boy dressed up like a pirate is cute—the real bandits of the sea were anything but.

The Bible tells us that evil often disguises itself as something attractive and to be desired.  Satan and his servants try to appear as “light.”  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.  (II Corinthians 11:13-15)

Jesus Himself gave us a warning in His sermon on the mount.  Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.  Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.   Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.  (Matthew 7:15-23)

Pirate ships usually flew the Jolly Roger in one form or another as a means of frightening their prey into surrender.  Often though, they did not show their true colors at first.  They would fly the flag of one nation or another until they had their unsuspecting victims within firing range, and then down would come the false colors and the Jolly Roger was hoisted to the top of the mast.

We must be on guard.  Do not be deceived.  The angel of light tries to turn good to evil and evil to good.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.  (Luke 6:45)  Throughout the ages, from the Garden of Eden until now, Satan has tried to deceive men into foolishness and rebellion against God by making false teachings sound virtuous and right.  The apostle Paul warned in Romans 16:17-18, Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.  Today we have not only false teachers of doctrine taking Scripture out of context and twisting it to suit their own purposes, but even society itself is turning on its head Biblical principles and the truths of God’s Word, calling those opposed to sin and an abomination to God bigots and haters, and proponents of unrighteousness living “politically correct.”  The Bible says, Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21).

We must not be deceived but discerning good from evil.  When false teachings are disguised as good, and evil values are put forth as normal and right, if we know God’s Word and seek His wisdom, we will not be easily fooled.  For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, To deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; From those who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness;  (Proverbs 2:6-13)  We are constantly battered today with evil ideology, philosophies and morality disguised as reasonable, just and good.  We must be on guard with the wisdom and discernment of God’s Word.

Six-year-old Matthew’s imagination may be fascinated with Captain Hook, Jack Sparrow and Petey Pickle’s pirate party.  Let us as mature believers, however, face the reality of evil and its never-ending assault by any means on good.