Saturday, April 12, 2014

From the Palms to the Cross

They  took palm branches out to meet him, shouting
    "Hosanna!
     Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
-John 12:13


I had picked up a Bible that was my father's. 
As I flipped through the pages, something fell into my lap.  It was a palm cross.  A very old palm cross.  It had a straight pin through the middle.  I remember the time when everyone had a palm cross pinned to their clothing as they entered the church on Palm Sunday.


As I held it in my hand, it was a reminder of my father's faith...and his faithfulness to his church.  I'm sure my mother removed the cross from his coat when they got home that day.  She stuck it in his Bible and there it was for me, all these years later.


What a scene it must have been when the road to Jerusalem was lined with happy people waving palms to welcome Jesus.  I remember the pictures of the happy faces and the bright green palm branches from the walls of the Sunday School rooms.  Jesus knew the joy would be short-lived.  He did not come to earth to bask in the shadow of palms.  As he told disciples Andrew and Philip:


      "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?  'Father, save me from this hour?  No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!"  (John 12:27-28)


And so I see the symbol of salvation in an old, brittle, faded palm frond twisted into a cross.  The promise of the life of Christ and the joy of my salvation because he loved me to death.


Father, we glorify your name this Palm Sunday.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wait

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.
                -Psalm 27: 13 & 14



Voices from the basement suddenly raised to fever pitch.  Four grandchildren, ranging in age from four to seventeen, stretch the boundaries of hospitality to their maximum limit.  The little ones, age four and eight, were visitors in the home of the older guys, eleven and seventeen.  And naturally, the age range made choosing play activities hard.  Factor in that only one of the grands is a girl and the mix becomes even more challenging. 


I sat quietly in my spot on the couch and listened while my two daughters thundered down the stairs to sort out the melee.  It was only the first day of a seven day visit.  Holding my forehead in my hand, I thought, "Lord, this is going to be a long week.  Please help us all to co-exist in this house and avoid hurt feelings."


An hour later, we were all loaded into the car and headed to the mall.  The children were peaceful...mostly.  Sometimes, we just have to wait.  Wait for time to pass and tempers to cool and events to move on to better things.


I've thought about this waiting thing a lot lately.  I've always read the Scriptures about waiting in the light of waiting for the big things of life.  Getting past this or that hurdle or hoping that such and such major change will come to pass.  I've realized that waiting cuts across all areas of life...especially life in families and relationships.  If I can just avoid entering the fray or popping off my mouth at the wrong time and making matters worse, most of the time life goes on around me and what started as a small upset doesn't turn into the battle of the century. 


Right now, as we wait for a major event to transpire in our family, I'm trying to take a lesson from the small moments of waiting.  Life is just one wait after another...small things and big things.  Concern about the outcome - just as I felt as I prayed on that couch and listened to my grandchildren battle in the basement - is a part of life.  We can't help being concerned, as long as it doesn't turn into worry.  It's natural to want the best result possible.  We always want peace and tranquility and everybody happy.  So I'm trying to look at our history - in big things and small things.  The grandkids had a good week together and learned a lot about getting along and sharing.   Throughout our lives, God has cared for us and worked more miracles than we could ever deserve.  Whatever the outcome of our current waiting, God is already there.


I know this one thing for sure:  I will wait and I will see the goodness of the Lord.


Are you waiting for something today?  Have you noticed that we're called to wait in the small circumstances as well as the major matters?  Is there an instance in your life you can share with us? 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

It's Time To Talk About Time!



Somewhere awhile back, somebody decided it was beneficial to all of us to change Time. 
So now, because of this Time Nazi, twice a year we move the hands of our clocks...or the numbers on the digital dials...or whatever.
Which means that for about two weeks every year, I wander in a
Time Daze until I get adjusted to the new time. 
Mostly that means I'm just confused.
And I'm easily confused as it is.
Is it time to get up?
Should I go on to bed?
And why does it change on Sunday morning?
Is it ten o'clock or eleven o'clock?
I just got up but I'm late for church.
Will I have more daylight in the morning
or will it be in the afternoon?
Why is it so dark already?
Hey, Time Nazi...
Pick one or the other and
LEAVE. IT. ALONE!
Please.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fear the Lord?

12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? 
-Deuteronomy 10: 12 - 13




I wrote at the beginning of the year that my verse for this year is Proverbs 31:30:  Charm is deceitful, beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.  Natural that this verse would speak to me mightily at this time in my life, considering that 2013 was my cancer/ chemo year. 


But as I pondered it, the last phrase rolled through my mind more and more...a woman who fears the Lord.  Fears...the Lord.  The possible implications of that statement are...in a word...huge.  Now I'm not a Bible scholar or a Hebrew language specialist so I haven't researched the meaning of the actual word used in the original text.  But I know in my heart this doesn't mean cowering-in-the-corner-defending-myself-with-an-upraised-arm kind of fear. 


I was recently blessed with the opportunity to have a private chat and word of prayer with Liz Curtis Higgs The Encourager.  Liz came to speak at our women's event and as we talked before the first session, this subject came up.  Fear the Lord.  We agreed that we stumble over this verse sometimes because we get hung up on the word fear.  It doesn't mean scared out of our socks. 


We came up with two words:  respect and awe.  Awe like we've never known for anything else. 


Right here in chapter 10 of Deuteronomy, we're told what it means to fear the Lord.  We just don't very often read Deuteronomy, do we?  Admit it...you're not alone.  I have seldom dug into the richness of this text, to my detriment.  As I was reading, it hit me square on the head - just like that commercial that slaps the forehead and says "You could have had a V8." 


Let's set the scene.  Deuteronomy is Moses' last words to the nation of Israel.  The Jews are all assembled, waiting on the bank of the Jordan River to cross over into Canaan.  Moses can't go with them, so he reminds them of all the ways God has cared for them and all the laws he has given them for living the way he wants them to.  In the midst of this farewell, we find the meaning of "fear the Lord."  He uses this phrase and then follows it with examples of how to do it.


- Walk in all his ways.
- Love him.
- Serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
- Observe the Lord's commands and decrees. 


The way for us to do all these things is to study his word and do what it says.  And love him. 


What does it mean to you to fear the Lord? 







Monday, January 27, 2014

Just Laugh!




He will yet fill your mouth with laughing,
And your lips with rejoicing.            -Job 8:21


I know there are people who can recall every day, every minute of their lives.  Frankly, for me, that's just too much information.  I recall things of my life in memorable moments.  These are sound bites that, for some reason, made such an impression on me they're stuck in my memory bank forever.  Some are funny, some are so sad I can't even speak of them. 


The best ones are the ones that make me laugh when they come to mind years later.  I had one of those moments with my mother last week.  Laughing with her is very rare these days.  The Alzheimer's steals more of her mind every day.  We've hit the point where I wonder sometimes if she realizes who I am.  Often, we just sit in silence...after I've answered the same question four or five times.  But then there's a moment when the veil blows back and we connect.  Just a moment.


We had one of those Thursday and I will put it in my bank of gratitude.  We were sitting in the common area of the nursing home.  I was showing her pictures of the grandkids and carrying on conversation as best I could.  She was smiling and nodding at the pictures.  The whole time, a man in a wheelchair was motivating around the area, pushing himself around with his feet like Mama does, looking for somebody to talk to.  He is also swirling in his own reality.   As he babbled on to himself, I thought "O no...don't let him come over here."  Of course he did.  We were the only available targets.  Everybody else was in the dining room playing Bingo. 


He motored himself right on over to us and began to tell us very seriously that we were not to worry, he knew the whole situation and everybody involved and he would take care of it.  We sat staring at him, not wanting to encourage him yet not knowing how to make him go away.  He carried on for a minute or two, never stopping for a breath, and then turned to roll on his way.  As he did, he told us very seriously just to call him and he would take care of everything.  My usually reticent, soft-spoken mother called out in a tone of jocular sarcasm, "Yeah, we'll call you!" 


And then she looked at me and we burst into the most wonderful belly laughs.  For at least thirty seconds, we were together in a common understanding and a joint joke.  We haven't laughed like that in a long time.  May not ever again. 


But I have that moment.  As long as we can keep the laughter going, we have a better chance of dealing with whatever this cruel disease throws our way.  When I left Mama that day, I looked back and the same man was buzzing her way again...probably to assure her he had all the world's problems under control and she only needed to call him.  For both of them, it was probably a new conversation.  I hope she gave him the same answer.


As I got in my car, I was still laughing.



Monday, January 20, 2014

Join and Be Comforted




"For all such things were on earth before us, and will survive after us, and it is given to us to join ourselves with them and to be comforted."
- Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings


Tell me...when you were in school or college, did you read every word of every book assigned?  No...I didn't either.  The goal then was to get the gist of the piece,  (remember the Cliff notes?) pass the test and move on.  Oh...how much good stuff I missed!   So my goal at this point in my life is to pick up some of these classics and just plain enjoy good writing.  They are an education in themselves. 


Right now I'm taking a slow walk through that place in Florida called Cross Creek.  Every line Rawlings writes about her orange grove makes me - a fifth generation Floridian - feel a kinship with her.  Reading this book is like taking a leisurely stroll down an old Florida two-rut lane...breathing the dust that kicks up from the dirt road...inhaling the aroma of the sulfur flow wells...wiping the dirt from a fresh-picked orange on my shirt, tearing the skin off and savoring every sweet, sticky, juicy bite right there in the shade of the orange tree. 


I'm sorry I didn't read this book when it was assigned.  I kept my copy on my shelf for years, sort of an English class guilt trip.  Surely, I always thought, I would get around to reading it someday.  When the someday came, I couldn't find it.  Apparently, in one of my occasional purges, it got dropped in the give-away box.  Which meant only one thing - I had to buy another one.  Which is actually not a bad thing because this one has bigger print.  Everything has its time.


And speaking of things having their time...my college was just a few miles away from Cross Creek.   Many of my friends went there but I always missed those trips.  Likely  I would not have appreciated it like I will now.  My friend and I have vowed to do a day trip and go there soon...to join with these Florida things that others may not understand.  But for me, they will be comforting.


I've decided it's one of the luxuries of older years - to set a slower pace and catch up on the things we've missed as we've rushed along our way in our younger days.  Smelling the roses, some call it.  I think it's smelling those old orange trees and the dust of a dirt road.


   


Sunday, January 5, 2014

My Verse for 2014

 
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
- Proverbs 31:30
 
I've often heard people remark that at the beginning of a new year, they choose a particular verse to be their theme verse for the year.  I've never done that, but this year is different.  Nothing alters your perspective like having your body altered by serious illness.
 
I didn't go looking for a verse.  This one just dropped on me at the right time (guess it was a God thing?) as I was reading my devotion on the morning of December 31.  The book I'm currently using is Liz Curtis Higgs' Rise and Shine.  The above verse was the theme for her remarks on that day.  My response:  WOW. 
 
The message is simple: your physical self is going to change with time.  The important thing is to fear the Lord in the sense that you look to His Word for your guidance and honor Him with all that you do.  Your inner beauty is more important than what's on the outside.  Granted, we all want to look our best regardless of our circumstances.  But our best at 70 is going to be a bit different from our 20-year-old best.  And our best after illness and treatment is different still.  We have to be realistic and keep that inner light shining.
 
And so...in 2014, I will strive simply to be a woman who fears the Lord.  Everything else will fall into place from there.