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As usual, we were having a delightful time with our Florida family on the beach. The kids were soaking up the sun while keeping an eye on their four young charges. Those young charges – my grandkids – were heading in all directions. Hubby and I were observing and loving each and every one of them.
One of my young grandsons came running over to show me all the pretty shells he had collected. I thought I’d turn it into a teachable moment.
“Isn’t it amazing how God made all these different colors and shapes?” I commented as I pointed to the different ones.
“There are one hundred Gods.” He proclaimed as a matter of fact.
“Uh,” I muttered. “What did you say?”
He repeated, “There are one hundred Gods.”
Now knowing this kid has been brought up with sound teaching in his home and church, I probed farther.
“Explain that. How can that be?”
He patiently explained that, because God is everywhere, there must be one hundred Gods. It made sense to him. It was how he managed to accept the fact that God is everywhere, believing what he was taught, yet condensing it in his mind to something he could understand. Brilliant.
I realized my teachable moment was past and I’d share this conversation with the parents, because in a flash, he was headed back to the water. I’m kind of relieved, to be honest, because I wasn’t sure how to handle that, to explain to his sweet little heart about faith and acceptance. He indeed had shown faith and acceptance in what he had been taught. I know he will understand the ‘big picture’ eventually. His faith will grow as he does. I’ve no doubt.
And my love for him grew deeper that day.
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good.”
O God, as I awake
I feel the need to pray;
Before I take a step
I need Your strength today.
Help me see some good
In this dismal, dreary morn;
Help me touch a life
And show I’ve been reborn.
O God, You clear the path
You’ve given me to take
And shelter me from strife
As this new day I make.
Take my hand and lead;
This day waits for me.
I know Your love I need.
in honor of today being the National Day of Prayer
It’s probably silly and most likely misplaced, but when I see a church steeple, I feel distinct comfort and peace and, if I might be bold enough to add: joy!
As a child, we frequently would travel from Philadelphia to Owls Head, Maine where my pastor had a summer home. I, to this day, can visualize all the small towns and streams and rolling hills and church steeples along the way.
Obviously, this was way before I Phones, interstates and in-car-movies. And it was delightful!
Hubby and I now travel all over and I’m always drawn to the church steeples in every town. Every town! Heck, I love the steeples around my own home. It saddens me when I see a new church constructed and there is no steeple. I suppose it’s a modern trend, but I don’t like it!
To me, that church steeple signifies God, or at the very least, pointing me to look up to God! I don’t know if folks in the church beneath it share my faith. In fact I can say for sure that some in those buildings do NOT share my faith. But I am merely focusing on the steeple as, I suppose, one would focus on the cross and see Christ.
If you google “church steeple”, (and those who know me, know I have done just that) you’ll find differences. Some give accounts that the design came from European influence with the early American settlers. Others indicate steeples can be traced back to pagan worship. Whatever!
There’s always different points of view, but I know, in my heart, I know what looking at a steeple does for me. It makes me thankful for so many things. It’s a reminder, around nearly every corner and in every community that God loves me and I just have to “look up” to see.
Steeples are so different. I wonder if there are actually two alike? It reminds me that we all are so different – no two alike – and yet God loves us all!
I love a good steeple “chase”. Don’t you? 🙂
“To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens!” Psalm 123:1
He touched me!
I cried out to Him!
I begged for answers –
to all the silent,
of my future,
He touched me!
Though I prayed without faith,
He did not fail –
as I deserved
for all my spitefulness,
my unjust judgment.
He touched me!
I don’t recall a warm embrace,
He merely touched my hand
and whispered, “patience, my child”
and I believed!
(written by me circa 1970. And I still believe!) 🙂
Beginning life in the church where her dad was the organist/choir director made for solid footing for little Grace. But life can change quickly as everyone knows.
Grace’s dad passed away when she was 12 years old, leaving behind not only Grace, but her two sisters, ages 5 and 14 at the time, in addition to their mother. In the next few years, additional deaths followed including the passing of her beloved grandfather, grandmother, and other close relatives.
How does a little girl grieve with all these losses? Grace’s mom was the stronghold of the family, until her untimely death only 5 years later. When Grace was 17, she and her siblings became orphans.
Grace and her sisters lost way too many family members and dearly loved ones in too short a span at too young an age.
By this time, Grace’s older sister was married and out on her own. An aunt and uncle moved in to the family’s home to help with the other two. This arrangement was short-lived as elder sister and her husband moved in. They persevered, leaning on each other for strength and security. Feelings came in waves: the sorrow, the anger, and the memories. But they did not allow themselves much time to dwell on their losses and their loneliness. It was not an easy life and things were not always rosy – three young sisters living together under those circumstances. They struggled. But Grace and her sisters were survivors. They had no choice. Grace remembered her mom’s last words, “Take care of your little sister.” And she did as best as she was able. Grace’s part-time job paychecks went towards clothes and other essentials for her younger sister. Little girls grew up before their time.
Two weeks after high school graduation, Grace married her high school sweetheart. Several years and three children later, they divorced. And after three years as a young single mom, she met and married Chuck. That was 32 years ago.
Grace continued to struggle inwardly, to replace somehow what she had lost at too young an age. Grace’s older sister was a born evangelist! She took it upon herself to convert Grace from her godless life to a life filled with Christ. She would “preach” Christ to Grace for hours on end during various and frequent phone calls. Grace, being respectful of her sister, would patiently listen. At some point, she was encouraged to listen to Christian radio, which she did.
For 15 years, Grace’s sister spoke into her life. The radio confirmed and reinforced what Grace had been hearing. Pretty soon, certain radio preachers began to speak into her life. Some of her favorites were Chuck Swindoll, James McArthur, and Charles Stanley. There was a common thread through the various preachers: The Gospel: “If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9
One day, the day Jesus picked to intervene in her life, Grace knew. She knew it was time and she knelt down by her bed. As she wept, she confessed every sin she could think of going back through her entire life, into her childhood. When she was finished, Grace asked Jesus into her heart.
She was Born Again.
Grace called her sister and shared the Good News. Being obviously elated, Grace’s sister and her husband came over to visit with Grace and Chuck. They suggested the couple might consider attending Bible Study Fellowship for some in-depth Bible Study, which they did. For years! They eventually settled in to a solid church and proceeded to bring their grandchildren with them for the next 15 years!
Life for anyone is never smooth sailing from beginning to end, and in Grace’s case it’s all too true. There have been life’s ups and downs, sicknesses and losses. Just barely four years ago, her son – in his mid-forties, died of a heart attack without any previous warning. Understandably, Grace was devastated! There is not one day, NOT ONE DAY that Grace does not think of and mourn her son’s loss. But Grace is grounded. She is steadfast in her belief in Christ and her anchor is in Him.
In her grief, Grace went to the Lord. She was comforted by His presence and His words in scripture:
“A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” Job 14:5
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16
One thing Charles Stanley preached so many years ago that Grace never forgot was that “God doesn’t have grandchildren, only children.” Having a grandfather who was a pastor and a dad involved in church did not secure her salvation. Although Grace was fatherless and motherless at too young an age, she knows Her Father is not only in Heaven but walks beside her every moment of every day.
She is blessed!
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His Holy Dwelling.” Psalm 68:5
It was a semi-normal family as far as I was concerned, because it was my family. I was the youngest of three, with two older brothers. My middle brother, Dick, was the apple of my father’s eye. He was bright, smart, well-behaved and strived toward a major in Engineering in college. In other words, he was my father’s clone.
My oldest brother and I were quite the opposite, social rather than studious. Dick was two years ahead of me in school and when it came to pass that I’d have his same teachers in math and science classes, the teachers would express the hope that I’d show the same aptitude. I dispelled that myth quickly. Dick was the one who won all the science fairs, high school, local, county, and state. Every.single.year! I hated science. My dad was a scientist. I was doomed.
My oldest brother paved the way for me and I followed his lead. I knew I’d never measure up to Dick so barely tried. I found what I excelled in and went for it: flirting and typing! 🙂
Dick was never in trouble. NEVER! Ugh. My oldest brother and I? Well, you get the point.
All was smooth sailing, with Dick that is, until the summer he turned 21. It was a Sunday morning.
It was as if a light switch was turned on or off. It was that abrupt. He came down to breakfast, declared to my dad that he had quit his summer job and was taking off for who-knows-where and would be back who-knows-when. He told my dad he could do whatever he wanted with Dick’s car. Silence. Dick left. We went to church.
He was gone six weeks. It was not discussed in our house the entire time he was gone. Apparently he had hitchhiked to California from Pennsylvania and back. He hadn’t gotten a haircut the whole time. He then went back to college. We rarely saw him the next few years as he completed college. He stopped coming home, even in summers. Eventually he changed his major from Engineering to Psychology and graduated. My dad footed the bill. I went with my parents to his graduation. It was a nice enough event, though it was apparent egg shells were on the floor as certain topics and conversations were delicately being sidestepped.
And then he left again. For two years no one had any idea where he was. He had written a damning letter to my folks on his departure, shattering all my dad’s hopes and dreams for his life.
Two years later Dick again showed up, with pregnant wife in hand. He and my dad got into it within the first hour and off he went. At that point, it became a story of Dick being in and out of mental hospitals over the next I don’t know how many years. First, he admitted himself. I guess he was still smart enough to realize he wasn’t acting/thinking right. My mother wondered if he were demon possessed. My dad took it as a personal vendetta though he didn’t understand why or what he, as a parent, had done wrong.
I was invited to visit him in the mental hospital. Only me. Weird since we never got along. But I went. I was 22 and I can tell you I had never been to a mental hospital before. It was the kind where they search you, then lock you in. Patients are not allowed in bedrooms so were lying all over the floor in hallways. I was scared.
Dick and I talked. He described my father to me. I was beginning to wonder if we grew up in the same house! Dick had decided at age 6 (is that even possible?) that he knew what Dad expected of us and, therefore, determined to give him what he wanted. And he did. Until he turned 21.
Dick was divorced from his wife only months after she delivered his son, my nephew. Eventually he was diagnosed as schizophrenic. My dad, being a scientist, had no belief in mental diseases. He believed in “mind over matter”. I heard that “sermon” all my life. I had moved out of town eventually so wasn’t in the middle any more. Over the years my folks did make peace with him (when he was on his meds) and my dad did finally grasp and accept the idea of mental illness. But it wasn’t easy. For a while Dick was in and out of their home until he became so destructive and dangerous that he was not allowed back.
He settled into a boarding house and was content as a janitor for ten years or so. He’d see my folks on a regular basis. But one day something happened. Ironically my dad was the first to observe Dick was probably not taking his meds. Dad tried to have a logical conversation with him on the benefits of taking ones meds but one cannot have a “logical” conversation with one who is mentally ill! My dad just could not relate and it broke his heart. I believe the disconnect with Dick came over communication with his former wife, telling in no uncertain terms, that Dick would never be allowed to have an ongoing relationship with his son. It depressed him to the point of giving up and going off his meds and he, again, went missing. Six months later an astute social worker called my parents. He was in a hospital near death. He had gone downtown Philadelphia, becoming basically a bum on the street. He had developed a staph infection in his back and not being mentally healthy enough to realize it, went from bad to worse to critical. The cops literally had to pick him up off the street. Dick was in the hospital for three months before that social worker was able to piece together erroneous information my brother would give her and track down my parents.
Dick was in that hospital over a year. My dad died during that year. Because of the staph infection, Dick ended up a paraplegic and a ward of the state. Eventually a nursing home was located, which wasn’t easy to find because of his being a paraplegic, a schizophrenic, and 47 years old. We were actually relieved because now he’d always be on meds and we’d know where he was.
He lived in the nursing home for 14 years. On a couple of occasions his mind scattered again. But for the most part, he was himself, content with where he was and his life and his Lord! My mother visited him faithfully until she was no longer able to make the two-hour each way drive.
Eventually he developed COPD. He was a smoker – his only vice all those years so we did not discourage it. I was the one who got the call. “Come now!” Dick was in the hospital, near death. I flew in, picked up my mother and we stayed in a motel for six days nearby the hospital. He rallied when we were there. He was so kind to everyone, so pleasant and thankful to all the nursing staff. And we laughed together. They called him Richard. I asked why. It was his choice. It was his given name, the identity he gave himself.
Finally the doctor said I needed to make that life or death decision. I had to do the same for my dad 14 years earlier. My mother just couldn’t do it and I don’t ever want to do that again! Richard was 61 years old. – 40 years of upheaval and sadness and heartache put to rest.
I don’t know why he was schizophrenic. He was the classic textbook case, the typical age (if it was to happen) for this to occur. As I mentioned, it was the 60’s and folks were not inclined to speak of or accept mental illness and the stigma that goes along with it. But there was also, I think, a bit of drug experimenting in college at exactly the same time as his breakdown. I’ve also read that upbringing can trigger something. I’m more inclined to consider that possibility. But I’ll never know. What I do know, however, is that, as a Believer, he’s in Heaven. I’m thankful he’s whole now. He’s walking upright and thinking clearly and living a beautiful life. I’m thankful we ended up being friends.
I recently finished a book that I would not normally have been attracted to. It was in the Psychology section! However, a friend lent it to me and I immediately became fascinated. It was titled Transitions by William Bridges. The title is self-explanatory but the author delves into the subject by dividing transitions into three categories: Endings, the Neutral Zone, and The New Beginning.
Mr. Bridges explains that all beginnings come after an ending. It was a self-pondering moment for me. Although it is not a “Christian” book, my mind drifted immediately (as we have just finished celebrating Easter) to Good Friday when Jesus had to die. He had to die! There had to be an ending. That ending! Painful as it was for the Father and the Son, it had to happen. Why? So there could be a New Beginning! Even though God and Jesus knew what would come next, it was still painful. The separation was unbearable. “My God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?” Matthew 27:46
The New Beginning, of course, was the Easter Resurrection. It was that New Beginning that saved us!
In my own life, as in everyone’s, there have been many endings. One that immediately comes to mind was my father dying. He was sick. It was a blessing. And it was painful. It was a big loss to me. But years later, I see that if he had not died, I would not have given my entire focus to my Lord and Savior. My relationship with my dad stood in the way of my relationship with my God. As I eventually realized this, years later, it was my New Beginning.
One of the most intriguing parts of Mr. Bridges book for me is his discussion on The Neutral Zone. He defines this as “the second hurdle of transition: a seemingly unproductive time-out when we feel disconnected from people and things in the past and emotionally unconnected to the present. Yet the neutral zone is really a time of reorientation. . .”
Wow! I think a large part of my life has been in The Neutral Zone!
Endings are not necessarily bad. We all experience endings followed by new beginnings such as graduations, marriages, births, jobs, etc. And then there are the not-so-good ones: flunking a grade, losing a job, miscarrying, divorcing, dying, etc.
To give an example: a pregnancy ends in a new birth OR a miscarriage. It’s a transition of being a couple to being a family OR being a couple, hopeful for a family but experiencing a death. And there is always that sneaky Neutral Zone in the middle.
What do we do with that?
My deal has always been to sweep “it” under the rug and move on to something else. That was probably motivated by my dad’s influence of not caving to emotions. But sooner or later my emotions would always win. Then I’d become really neutral in the Neutral Zone. I don’t think I ever realized that it was ok to be neutral for a while. I was always very hard on myself for getting into a funk! I would never allow myself to grieve or mourn or just reflect over what was lost or changed.
Mr. Bridges says, “Every transition begins with an ending. We have to let go of the old thing before we can pick up the new one – not just outwardly, but inwardly, where we keep our connections to people and places that act as definitions of who we are.”
As I again focus on the Bible, I’m reminded that Jonah had time to reflect while in that “whale”. Jesus needed to go off alone in the garden to pray. Moses used a tent; David experienced green pastures and quiet waters; Elijah found a cave. It was their Neutral Zone!
I’ve been known to advise friends who are going through “stuff” that it’s a “season”. That always gives hope that if it’s a rough season, maybe it’ll be short and there will be something beyond to look forward to.
But I see now how important it is to “stop, look and listen” or “stop and smell the roses” as they say! We need that time to regroup and refocus and prepare for the change, to be thankful for the past and to look to the future with hope, and most importantly, to listen for God’s leading.
I don’t think I could do that without having trust in God that He loves me and would NEVER plan anything to hurt me!
As I get older, change seem more difficult. I guess I am set in my ways, in my comfort zone. Kids seem to be resilient, thank goodness. But older age seems to butt heads with change, even though I’m more resigned to the fact that more change is headed my way. So, on the other side, I need to remember to only visit The Neutral Zone, not to live there. There is no timeframe as all endings are different but I need not get stuck! God still has plans for me and I’m excited to see how it all turns out and what all the New Beginnings will be about.“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
It’s the way I start each bedtime prayer. Sometimes it’s the way I end it. Other times it’s my prayer in its entirety.
Have you ever had times in your life when you want to pray; you know you should, but you just can’t? No words are there. You’re just numb. You’re empty. Life becomes too big and we become too small.
It has happened all too frequently for me. There was a long stretch when nothing came. Nothing! It’s a lonely time. I always believed God was there. I even believed He was listening. I hated myself when I thought I was keeping Him waiting. But I couldn’t manufacture something from nothing.
When I’d enter a slightly better frame of mind, I’d remember the verse in the Book of Romans:
”In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;” Romans 8:26
I had the “groanings” part down. I could only hope the Spirit was translating. But actually, truthfully, I knew God knew my heart. He knew my thoughts. And I knew He knew best. That has always been such a comfort. He knows better than I do what is good and what is best for me, my loved ones, and you! I know His plans are not to harm us. Ever!
I’m thankful He doesn’t wait on me to do what He does. But I’m so very thankful He’s ready to listen when I’m ready to talk. And I’m really thankful that once in a while I learn to listen to Him when I’m in my silent mode. Then He might plant a Bible verse in my mind or a song at church to prompt me.
It’s the lack of understanding the reasoning, lack of seeing the big picture and lack of patience on my part. But it’s not lack of faith. I know God loves me! When this reality hit me, I clung to it and began to thank God every day for that fact.
So when I pray, I always remember to say, “Thank You for loving me.” And sometimes it’s enough.
Silly me. I used to think I was the only one who had drought times of prayer. Until this morning at church. We sang a song which I’ve sung before but for some reason it resonated in my heart today. It’s right on! And obviously I’m not alone.
Book reviews and tidbits on life.
Life Lived -- Lessons Learned -- Looking Forward
Literary Analysis derived from an Analytical Chemist
life through my lens, and in my words
Jesus is not a religion but a relationship with God
Everyday Technology for Everyday Folks
Savor the journey.
A collection of nonsensical words thrown together
and random targets
We exist to promote and protect the work of St. Louis bloggers
Sharing hope one story at a time
random thoughts and stories from the author of 'Papa, Where Are You?'
A Home for the Stray Thoughts of an Ordinary Christian Woman