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A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

We had a great week in Alabama! Being with Julie and her family is always a blessing. She and David, and their children, too, are kind and thoughtful and a lot of fun to be with. Their family life is centered around the Lord and how He would have them live, and it really shows in how their children are growing up. I am sure He must be pleased.

It is so interesting to see how their personalities are developing. Benjamin is twelve and just hitting puberty. You know—the deep ((and sometimes cracking) voice, whiskers on the upper lip, suddenly shooting up in height, and all that. What a fine young man he has become! He so reminds us of David. He’s always had his father’s genes in appearance – darker skin and hair and those heavy eyebrows – but now we see his dad’s personality all over again in him. He’s quiet and laid back, always thoughtful and willing to help, very smart and yet humble, with a love for the Lord and a godly wisdom about him that is remarkable in a child that young.

Hannah is a cute mixture of prissy princess and tomboy following in her brothers’ footsteps. She wants to keep up with them, but at the same time flaunts her girly ways in their faces – mostly because she knows anything frilly and frou-frou annoys Joshua to no end! What a tease! She’s only six, but is as tall as an eight-year-old so sometimes you forget that she is still a little girl. The challenge this week was that she desperately wanted to jump off the diving board at swimming lessons but just couldn’t quite screw up her courage enough to do it. She went in there every day absolutely determined she was going to take the plunge, and then went away disappointed in herself that she couldn’t do it. In the end though, she learned to swim and on that last day swam the entire length of the pool! And learning to swim was what it was all about, so she came away proud of herself after all! We were proud of her, too! She reminds me of Julie when she was a little girl. She could be so stubborn, but in the end that stubbornness turned into strength and determination and has been a gift in becoming the woman she is today.

It is Joshua’s personality, though, that makes me laugh! He is such a chip off the old block – Boppa’s (Grandpa’s) block, that is! There is no volume switch on either one of them. Joshua and Boppa are both loud, loud, LOUD! They have the same sense of humor. They both love to roughhouse. They both would love to be out hunting or fishing. Boppa taught Joshua to make coffee when he was just a little guy so now Joshua can’t wait until he can be a coffee drinker like Boppa! (He got to have little bit for his birthday and declared up and down that he loved it–that is, after he shook the coffee creamer bottle and spilled it all over the kitchen!) He is a hard worker like Boppa and has a kind and generous heart – with a little bit of male ego thrown in to boot. He has a strong sense of what is right and wrong and is always ready to stand up for righteousness. We call him Mini-Boppa and it just makes me laugh!

It is wonderful to watch our children and grandchildren grow and to see that “little bit of me and that little bit of you” in them. We see them carrying on the heritage they’ve been handed and it makes us proud to see that little extension of ourselves and to know that someday when we are gone, a little of us will live on in them. I made a card to send to David in Iraq a few weeks ago that had a picture of the kids on the front. I had found a photo of each of them that really showed their personalities and cropped them out and then formed a new photo with the three of them together. I put “Personality Plus!” on the front of the card with the picture and then on the inside wrote this little poem:

God took the best of Julie,
He took the best of you,
A little bit of Boppa,
Grandma and Grandpa Sanchez, too,
Threw in a part of me —
The very BEST of all of us —
And made the very cutest kids
With personality PLUS, PLUS,
and PLUS!
As I watched the kids this week and thought about how Benjamin is so like his dad, or Joshua is another Boppa, or Hannah takes after her mommy when she was a little girl, I couldn’t help but think how we are to be so like Jesus.

We are made in His image, after all. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26a) Sin has distorted that image, but when we are redeemed we are made new creatures. We have His Spirit and our lives are transformed—transformed to be like Him. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29)
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To be like Jesus—what would that be? His life exemplified love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—all the fruit of the Spirit. He wants us to produce that fruit and be like Him. (Galatians 5:22, 23) He became a humble servant and sacrificed Himself for us. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) He is holy and He wants us to be holy. “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16)
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When others look at me, do they see Jesus in me? Does my life reflect Him? Do they know I am a Christian – a “little Christ”—by how I live my life? I always loved the chorus “Let the Beauty of Jesus Be seen in Me.” It goes like this:
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Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me–
All His wonderful passion and purity.
O my Savior divine, all my being refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
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It makes us happy when we see ourselves in our little ones. How much it must please God when He sees our lives reflecting Him!
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JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN

We live in a changing neighborhood. Our block is now approximately one-third white, one-third black and one-third Hispanic. There are times on the weekends when the boomboxes next door are blasting out rap music and the car stereos down the block are trying to drown them out with mariachi music. American flags fly proudly from two or three homes, while just as proudly a few Mexican flags fly down the block. Folks sit out on their front steps or oversee their yard sales, while their little ones play around them in their tiny yards. Others lean on cars that have stopped in the middle of the street to have a leisurely chat. Most of the time it’s a peaceful neighborhood, but there have been a few occasions when the police have shown up to break up a domestic disturbance. The homes here are older (ours is eighty years old) but most of them are in fairly good shape and quite a few of them have been fixed up with new siding and windows, etc. Bob gets frustrated sometimes because some of our neighbors leave trash around, but for the most part, it’s a decent neighborhood.

We considered moving a couple years ago. We were afraid home values were going down, but more than that, I began to feel unsafe when I was home alone. We had been having trouble with our new next-door neighbors and they had actually shot out our satellite dish just to be ornery. There were several incidents that made me nervous, including finding an eyeball in a plastic baggie in our mail slot. We had never had trouble with any of our neighbors in the forty-four years (at that time) our family had lived in this house, and now suddenly I was afraid and eager to leave. Just about the time we were going to put our house up for sale, though, a half-dozen other For Sale signs went up in yards on the block and the bottom dropped out of the housing market. We decided to wait.

Here we are, still, two years later. Many of the big old trees that used to grace the neighborhood were taken out by a tornado years ago, or had fallen to disease or old age. The city put in new trees a few years ago. I noticed just the other day how those young trees, and ours in particular, are maturing and casting a lot more shade on the lawns than they did just last year. Time passes; trees grow; neighborhoods change.

The problem we were having with our combative new neighbors disappeared when we returned good for evil. They needed a favor from us right after treating us so badly, and when we graciously (and prayerfully) helped them, they changed their tune, and it wasn’t long until they fully apologized and began to turn to us for advice or help. Many of the neighbors know that Bob is always there to loan tools or give a helping hand, show them how to fix something or give them a ride somewhere. They know our testimony, too. In a time of trouble, we pray they will come to us and we will be able to point them to the Lord.

Some of those little ones are growing up now and we are seeing a little group of kids playing outside together every day. They range in age from four or five to maybe nine or ten and among them are blonde-headed white children, Mexican kids and black-as-can-be children. They seem to be a tight little group and enjoy each other without noticing the differences in the color of their skin. Bob’s a friendly guy and when he comes and goes, if the kids are around, he greets them and stops to talk for a minute.

Last week he had to take Robbie to the lab at the hospital for some tests. As he lowered Robbie on the wheelchair lift and started to load him into the car, here came the kids. Robbie doesn’t get out much, so although these children may have seen him from a distance, they didn’t really know anything about him and they were curious. Oh, they were full of questions! Bob stood out there for twenty minutes answering their questions about Robbie and telling them some of the wonderful things about our special guy. Robbie was thrilled with their attention and grinned from ear to ear.

When they got home from the hospital the kids came a-runnin’ again. Robbie was pretty doped up by then, so couldn’t quite respond the way he had before, but again Bob talked with them for another twenty minutes before bringing Robbie in. Now he can’t step outside or work in the yard without the kids gathering around. The other day he handed them a couple buckets and put them all to work picking up trash in the neighborhood! They loved it—and so did he!

Friday night the door bell rang. You guessed it. It was our mini-neighbors. They wanted to see Robbie—and they had a present for him. Robbie was asleep, but Bob told them they could come in and take a peek. One of the little girls ran home to ask permission, and when she came back they all trooped in. Robbie woke up as they came in and struggled to sit up with a big grin. They had an old Etch-A-Sketch for him. They had taped a scrap of paper to it on which they had written “For Robby” and each scrawled their names. We took some pictures of the kids with Robbie and plan to print them and put them in little frames for the kids.

When I was growing up I always wanted to go to the foreign mission field. God’s plan for my life was on a different path, though. Nevertheless, I have always had a love for missions and believe that God calls all of us to be missionaries in our own Jerusalem and Judea if He does not send us out into the uttermost parts of the earth. Acts 1:8b says, “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” We have our own mission field right here at home, in our neighborhoods, on the job and at school.

I don’t get out of the house much, even in my own neighborhood, but I am asking myself now what I can do to reach these little kids for the Lord if they are going to continue coming around to my door. The relationships we’ve been building with our neighbors are for a purpose. I may not be able to reach Spanish-speaking people in Ecuador like Laurie and Fernando do, but I have plenty of Spanish-speaking people here on my own block to whom I can be friendly, and in my limited Spanish let them know that Jesus loves them, as the Lord gives me opportunity. I will most likely never go to Africa’s shores to reach children there, but the little black kids here on my street are just as precious to Him and just as lost. The white kids on my street need Jesus just as much as any child on a foreign mission field. I have always prayed for our missionaries and had a heart for their ministries, but am I just as concerned for the mission field right outside my own front door?

I don’t know if we’ll ever move. The Lord may keep us here on Madison Avenue for the rest of our lives, or maybe someday He will lead us elsewhere. I pray that the Lord will help me to be content wherever He wants us, and that He will open my eyes and especially my heart to the mission field all around me. I’ve been pretty complacent sitting in my house, insulated from my changing neighborhood, wrapped up in my family and small circle of friends, and all but ignoring the white fields of the harvest in my neighborhood. We all ought to be convicted about that. The Bible tells us in Matthew 9:36-38 that “when He [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith He unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest.”

I am praying now that the Lord will show me how I can reach out to these children for Him. May He give me a love for them and a burden for their souls, and perhaps through them someday I might even be able to reach out to their parents, as well. I am ashamed that it has taken me so long to open my eyes to the harvest fields all around me. Jesus loves them, and so must I.


Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red, brown, yellow, black and white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.