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The Gift of “Emptiness”

February 25, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Hand in Hand

When those three  pennies fell from her hand into his, Pastor Jonathan clearly remembered hearing a still, small Voice within him saying, “Come to me… and let Me teach you.”   (John 11:28a, 30b )

 

written by Debbie Allen

Pastor Jonathan juggled his brief case and a steaming cup of coffee on his way up the crumbling, cement steps of a quaint little Presbyterian church on Maine Street in Olde Towne Littleton, Colorado.  His church.  His second home for the last twenty years.  With some difficulty, he turned his key in the rustic lock embedded in the hundred-year-old oak, forming its beautiful, arched entryway door.  Placing a weary shoulder up against its cross-sawn planks, he gave it a hefty push until it opened.  Once inside the foyer, he secured the door again; knowing it would be a couple of hours before anyone else would enter the building.

Heading for his office, a set of double doors opening up into the small sanctuary behind him drew his gaze.

“Hmmmm…someone must have left the lights on last night,” he reasoned, heading for  the switch inside the doors.

Poking his head inside the double doors, his jaw dropped.  Hundreds of tiny strands of morning’s first-light streaming in through an eastern exposure of stained glass windows splattered an array of color across the entire sanctuary in kaleidoscopic beauty.  In the midst of this rare display of quiet splendor, Pastor Jonathan’s eyes remained fixed on his pulpit.  It had been beautifully transformed into more of a pedestal of hope.  Stretched out across the top of it, lay a perfect, smiling reflection of the little Baby Jesus.

“Good Morning, Lord.” Pastor Jonathan uttered, smiling back.  “And thank you.  Thank you for giving me such a beautiful picture to dwell upon this morning.”

Sipping on his coffee, he lingered a moment longer in the sanctuary and then added softly, “I know You surely must mean this as the replacement thought for that dreadful image of the empty green chair that haunts me every morning.  But…my heart, Lord,it’s still so tender.”

Pastor Jonathan continued in silent prayer, walking down a narrow corridor leading him into his study.  He looked upon this early morning refuge as more a place of solace than of duty.  Lately, these early morning hours provided him a much needed hiding place to escape those unwanted thoughts of the empty green chair back at home.  It was his wife, Lorna’s, chair.  The one sitting so silently in a corner of his living room.

“Only six short months ago…” he thought aloud, shaking his head.

That’s when the cancer stole her away from him so suddenly.  Every morning since then, he tried to turn his eyes away from the chair as he passed by it, but, the image seared his thoughts as if it had been branded there.  Plagued by the thought of it, Pastor Jonathan made his way over to his desk and sat down to try and focus on Sunday’s sermon. Opening his Bible, he read quietly for the next hour and a half.  Then his eyes fell upon these words in Ecclesiastes.

“Everything is appropriate in its own time.  But though God has planted eternity in the hearts of men, even so, many cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” he read aloud.  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

His Bible still in hand, he rose to walk a few steps beyond his desk to bask in a shaft of warm sunlight, streaming in through a cathedral window.

“Everything is appropriate in its own time.” he repeated again.

“How true this is, Lord.  Even as a man of God, I can barely see my way past one green chair in my life. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  No doubt this word includes my emptiness, too,” he commented in a more reflective tone.

Glancing up from his book, Pastor Jonathan caught sight of a group of small children waving at him from the courtyard below.  He couldn’t help but smile; watching them giggle and run away the very minute he acknowledged them.  In a remote corner of that same courtyard, he spotted a young couple almost hidden by a maple tree reaching over them like an enormous umbrella.  Studying them for a bit, he shook his head sadly while he watched the young man storm off in another direction, leaving the girl sobbing in the corner by herself.

“Emptiness again, Lord.  It is in every corner of our world these days.”

Returning to his desk, he picked up his pen.  Eyeing a blank page in his journal before him, Pastor began to write.

Monday…Oct. 4, 1998       Concerning emptiness:

A blank piece of paper.  The silence of a song whose melody remains unwritten.  A green chair where no  one comes to sit any more.  The strained beating of a heart steeped in the pain of a broken relationship…  

All of these are but reflections of the shadowy side of life.  They each speak of a hidden void which eventually seeps into every human soul, as we encounter our battles in life.  Each in its own way reeks of the cruelty of emptiness.  But, Lord…is it ever possible for emptiness to present itself as a ‘gift’ to this world?”

By now, his two deep-brown eyes sought refuge under the precipice of his great brow.  Spidery creases ran throughout his forehead like little tributaries that had been cut there by a swelling river of concern for the needs of those all around him.  In the midst of wrestling with life, Pastor Jonathan glanced up to find three-year-old, Jenny, standing silently in the doorway just looking at him.

“Well hello , Jenny,”  Pastor said, still  surprised to see anyone standing there.

Jenny was among the children who had waved to him from the courtyard a few moments earlier.

“Just what is it that brings you in here today, little one?” he asked, approaching her and kneeling down to her eye level.

Jenny immediately flashed a million-dollar-smile back at him before giving him her answer.

“Mmm…nuffing, Pastor Jonafin,” she managed to say before shrugging and looking down at her feet in her own shy way.  “Mommy is parking the car.  She said for me to wait here…an…ummm…I jus have sumfing for you.”

With these precious words, Jenny opened her tightly crumpled fingers revealing three shiny, new pennies.

“For you,” she repeated, her eyes sparkling like diamonds as she spilled them out into his giant hand.

Carefully, she folded his fingers up around the pennies, pushing his hand gently away from her.  Even though her hand was empty, Pastor Jonathan could see that her heart remained as full as any three-year-old’s heart could ever be.

You see, as Jenny stood in the doorway of his office earlier, she studied the look he wore on his face.  Every line…every grimace…every fold troubled her.  Though she could not begin to understand the reason for them , somehow, in the wisdom of a little child, she knew she needed to do something to bring back his missing smile.  The smile she so loved seeing on his face.

“Thank you, Jenny…thank you.”

His heart still melting inside his chest, Pastor reached up and pulled her face into his gaze.  Finding himself at a loss for words, Jenny seemed perfectly content with the ear-to-ear grin he could not hold back.

Upon seeing his smile, Jenny shrieked, “It wooked!”

Then she reached up to bestow one of her own special bear-hugs on Pastor Jonathan. Right away, she remembered the joy she’d felt when her Mommy placed those three pennies into her own hand that morning.  Immediately, visions of pink bubblegum began to dance in her head!  And…in the mind of this three-year-old visionary, the same miracle just worked for Pastor Jonathan too.

Watching her skip away from him, Pastor Jonathan sighed, feeling as though he’d just been given a Bear-Hug by God Himself!

“Who ever thinks to look for the answers t o some of the world’s biggest problems, in some of the world’s smallest places…in the hands of a little child?”  he marveled silently.

With pen-in-hand, he again sat down to write.  Seeing the three shiny, pennies stacked before him on the desk continued to warm his thoughts; filling up his heart like the warm waters of a sweet tea descending into an empty cup.  Closing his eyes, he pictured Jenny’s little hand laying in his own giant palm.  When those three pennies fell from her hand into his, he clearly remembered hearing a still small Voice within him saying, Come to Me…and let Me teach you.”

Inspired by Jenny’s generosity, Pastor Jonathan’s thoughts flowed faster than his ink could form the words on paper.  “Truely”, he wrote, “…even emptiness is appropriate in its own time.”   Within the next thirty minutes,  he completed Sunday’s sermon.  He entitled if,’Unselfish Giving’.

The following Sunday, Pastor Jonathan delivered this message to his congregation.  Not one dry eye remained in the sanctuary by the time he finished speaking, including his own.  As he stepped from  behind the podium, a man intercepted him before he could reach the foyer.

“Here you go, Pastor. These are for you!” the man said, through a toothy grin, as he dropped three quarters into Pastor’s hand. “There’s one for each of Jenny’s pennies.” he went on to explain.

“Thank you.” Pastor responded, still somewhat taken back by such a gesture. On his way to the foyer, another member of the congregation stepped forward and placed three one dollar bills in his hand.

“Powerful message!”  the lady said, still daubing her eyes.

To his astonishment, one of the choir members intercepted him in the parking lot, handing him three one hundred dollar bills!  Watching the man walk away, Pastor Jonathan sat humbled and speechless in his car.  He was overwhelmed by the generosity and response of so many in his congregation.

“How could I have ever doubted what You are able to accomplish through the hand of a little child, Lord?” he pondered on the drive home.

And so it went throughout the next week.  Every morning when Pastor Jonathan entered his study, he continued to find new stacks of donations in a pile on his desk.  After giving it much thought, he decided he needed to do something special with the money.

“Janice?”  he cried, peeking his head out the office door in search of the church secretary.  “You know that drinking fountain we’ve been wanting in this foyer for so long?”

“Yes, Pastor,”  she replied in a hopeful tone.

“Go ahead and have it installed.” “Oh…and one more thing.  I need you to have a bronze plaque made with these words inscribed on it,”  he added, walking towards her.

Her brow scrunched, Janice picked her way through the scribbles written down on the little piece of paper he handed her.

“JENNY’S THREE-PENNY FOUNTAIN,”  she read aloud, a giant grin of approval overtaking her frown.

“That’s right, Janice. I want to dedicate the fountain to little Jenny. I want it to be a constant reminder to those of us who pass through this foyer of how God takes such small beginnings and turns them into a much greater end.

“I’ll give her parents a call, too.”  Janice  added, picking up the phone.

That following Sunday, Pastor dedicated that new drinking fountain to little Jenny.  Slipping her small hand into his own, they both approached the fountain together.

“Do you know what the sign says, Miss Jenny?” Pastor inquired, pointing up at the bronze plague hanging above it.

Tilting her head to one side like she’d been reading since birth, Jenny  recited, “Jenny’s Thwee-Penny Fowtain.”

“That’s exactly right…and now you get to take the first drink from your fountain.”  he said, picking her up so she could reach the spigot.

“Mmmmm, the water’s just prefit!”  she said in a very grown-up way , wiping the over spray from her cheek.

Pastor smiled, knowing she’d meant to say ‘perfect’.

“Indeed it is, Jenny. Prefit in every way!” he added , letting a mouthful of the cool waters tumble into his open lips.

Waving good-bye to Jenny, he watched her walk away with her parents, still wiping water from her face.

Bending down to sip again from the fountain, something else occurred to him.  The Greatest Blessing that this world has ever known also entered into this world through the emptiness of a little Child’s Hand.  God’s Child…the Baby Jesus.  From the emptiness of a manger, His little Hand reached out into the darkness of this world.  Those tiny Fingers contained the price of One life, which He willingly spilled out into the hands of this world to purchase a Fountain for His Church.

Pastor’s eyes fell upon the bronze plaque once more.  Running his fingers across each individual letter, he whispered softly,

“Lord…Your plaque would have read, “Jesus’ Fountain of Living Water.”

Touched by this thought, Pastor Jonathan continued to marvel at how many ways that God had chosen to weave the story of Jenny’s Three-Penny Fountain into his own emptiness.  Heading into his office for the last time today, he sat down at his desk to make one final entry into his journal for the week.  Eagerly, he wrote the answer to his question from the Oct. 4th entry:

Sunday…Oct. 16, 1998

Concerning the gift of emptiness:

So…I ask the question again,  “Is it ever possible for ’emptiness’ to present itself as a gift to this world?”  From the perspective of both a Pastor and a child of God, all of the wisdom that is needed to answer this question still lays in the Hand of a Child.

If you find yourself staring into an empty page…let His Words fill in the blanks.

When facing the unbearable emptiness of a big green chair…know that His Shoulder is waiting there for you to cry on.

If it is a song in life you lack…the melody has already been written for you.  It is His Love Song, written especially  for you.  The Melody of this Song can always be heard; above even the loudest pounding of your broken heart.

Whatever you  find to be the emptiness in your cup…allow the Hand of God to spill its Love into your own hand.  Let Him sweeten your life and fill your cup with the Waters which flow from His Fountain.  It is a Fountain that will always flow with the unspoken and unforeseen blessings found so unexpectedly hidden in the emptiness of a little Child’s Hand.  Though sometimes we can’t see it, nonetheless it is there.  God put it  there…perhaps as a reminder to each of us of the “Blessedness of Emptiness!”

“Come to Me… and let Me teach you.”

(John 11:28a, 30b)

The Vertical Inch

December 15, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Vertical Inch

“Divine Possibility…the Visible Sign pointing us to an Invisible Reality!”



 

written by Debbie Allen

Nothing perks the ears of a human heart like the cries of a new born child.  They are the very echoes of human frailty…reminders perhaps of our own neediness.  They resonate with the deepest longings of humanity’s heart cries; ever hungering for the warmth of another’s touch in this life.  Such cries intrude upon our senses in a way like no other. These sounds of innocence awaken our spirits to the utter vulnerability of this newly unfolded mound of squalling flesh who is capable of doing nothing for himself.  In light of these thoughts…why then would the God of the Universe, Creator of all things, purposely choose to enter into our world as a tiny Babe clothed in the flesh on that first Christmas morning?  Though this question will never be fully understood by our own finite minds, I suggest it may require a rather unique standard of measurement, commonly overlooked.  This measurement can’t be found in the math books of childhood or in the lengthy,  complicated equations we master at the hands of college professors.  It is a measurement that doesn’t add up in the minds of even the greatest mathematicians.  Its components can’t be found in the bottom of a test tube in a Science lab; nor can it be deciphered by the world’s deepest thinkers.  More simply put, there is a measurement for measuring the immeasurable.  It is what I have come to call the vertical-inch.  Let me explain.

Many years ago, as a ten-year-old little girl, I lay sprawled on the kitchen floor of my Aunt and Uncles’ house trying to decipher my math homework.  Though math wasn’t one of my favorite subjects, drawing was.  This particular night, my homework involved drawing and labeling a variety of geometric shapes.  With my ruler in one hand and my tongue pasted above my upper lip, I set out to draw the most perfect triangles this world has ever seen!  Soon afterwards, however, the noise level of the grownups visiting around me became too much for this art-matician to work in.  I retired to a nearby bedroom and closed the door.  My ruler in place and my pencil in motion once more; I was again interrupted. This time, by strange staccato-like squeaks and groans emanating from a bassinette standing in a far corner of the room.

“Hmmmm…the new baby,” I thought to myself.  “As if there isn’t enough noise in this family already.”

Pretending I didn’t hear anything, I continued working. After all, I doubted she even knew of my presence in the room.  Unable to shut out the noises, I rose to my feet begrudgingly and took a few steps toward the awkward sounds.  On the way over , I remember thinking a few thoughts of my own on the matter.

“My Dad holds you like you’re made of glass or something.” I recited under my breath with a deepening frown.

“And my Mom…she speaks some foreign baby-talk-babel-language of her own when you’re in the room.”

Growing more disgruntled by the minute; sheer curiosity drove me to the side of that bassinette for a peek at this little disturbance for myself.  Exercising great caution, I peered into the bassinette expecting to see an expressionless, pasty, white-faced china doll type figure.  One who couldn’t speak a word of proper English, yet still somehow managed to rule the worlds of all those around her.  I determined right then she was not going to have that same effect on me.  One hand planted on my hip and the other one still gripping my ruler, I took a deep breath and peered down into that bassinette.  To my surprise, two little eyes still struggling to focus in life, intercepted my gaze.  Much like what happens when two stranger’s eyes lock on an elevator; mine shifted immediately to the floor.  After all, I had nothing to say to her.  That’s when I realized that those awkward squeaks and groans were the sounds of her voice.

“Did she have something to say to me?” I puzzled, still frowning?”

Raising my eyes again,   I saw one of her tiny hands free itself from under the blanket.  Reaching for it as if she’d put it there for me, I dropped to one knee; wrapping her miniature fingers around my thumb.  Fascinated by the size of them, I did what made perfect sense to me at the time.  I lifted my ruler up next to her index finger and measured it.

“One inch?” I whispered aloud to her.  “You are barely even big enough to be real.” I added, shaking my head in the midst of this rare ten-year-old ah-ha moment.

As I stroked her little pink cheek, I remember feeling an unforeseen tear trickle from my eye.  Even at ten, this sudden brush with innocence made me realize that something too precious for words lay in front of me.  Backing away from the bassinette, I picked up my math homework again.  Still captivated by my encounter with this little bundle of new life, I penciled in a one-inch vertical line right next to the string of geometric figures I’d already drawn and labeled.  I didn’t just label this figure though…I named it. The vertical-inch.  The next morning I turned my homework in without having erased my vertical-inch before doing so.  Within the next two days, my teacher returned it to me with her candid remarks written in bold red above my small addition to her mathematical world.  She wrote,  “What’s this???  Doesn’t exist…Not real!”

Though the perfectionist in me abhorred the sight of those red marks written across my discovery, the optimist in me rejected her every word. Our worlds collided in that instant over the vertical-inch.  My teacher based everything on absolutes.  She left absolutely no room for its consideration between questioning its reality and pronouncing its nonexistence.  She supported her conclusions solely on what she could see and thought she knew.  The eyes of her heart were so clouded by the facts and figures that regulated her calculated, mathematical world that logic stepped in and ruled where new possibilities were never invited.

Staring down at my vertical-inch that day, I could only offer my teacher a smile.  I couldn’t sway her to think differently about it, but my own thinking remained transformed by it.  You see…I saw that vertical-inch with my own eyes!  I touched it…and felt an unexplainable measure of its warmth and the indescribable pull it had on my heart that day I knelt beside my cousin’s bassinette.  From that moment on, a simple one-inch vertical line became for me life’s picture of Love’s profound dimensions.  Dimensions that entail much more than length.  Height and depth enter into the picture as well.  For this we need to turn our eyes toward Heaven’s own Vertical Inch.

Pull yourself out of the hustle and bustle of your own world for a moment and step back into time; into the little Judean village of Bethlehem, more than two thousand years ago.  It’s Christmas Eve, but as you walk the streets, no one seems to know it.  The cries of beggars on street corners replace the familiar sounds of bells ringing in your ears.  Angry shop keepers slam their doors in your face proclaiming, “Are you mad!” for asking if they will be open until midnight like you are accustomed to during the holiday season in your world.  Hungry and tired, you turn around and give up on the idea of ever feeling welcomed here in this dark, dirty city.  In doing so, you encounter your first smile since your arrival.  It comes from a rugged, slender young man leading a donkey bearing the weight of a fourteen-year-old, pregnant, single-mom.  Not wishing to pry, you return a hurried smile and then dash off towards the Inn which this young man pointed out to you.  It’s the only inn you see with a vacancy sign still showing above it.  Reaching into your pockets, you haul out a handful of cash and pay the Innkeeper a little extra for what you soon find out to be the last room in town.  Feeling somewhat smug about such good fortune, you walk away to the tune of the Innkeeper’s gruff voice telling the next knock on his door, “No room!  We have no room for you here!”

Giving a quick glance back at the inn door, you are startled to see the tired face of the young man who smiled at you earlier.  His brow is now creased; trying his best to console the pregnant girl’s tears as the Innkeeper points them to a stable out behind the inn.  For one fleeting moment you ponder offering the young couple your room.  After all…the girl is pregnant, and the young man did point this place out to you. But, your guilt passes soon enough.  There is your back to consider…and what about your allergies to animal dander?  Bethlehem has no 24/7 Corner Drug Store.  Besides, it would mean giving up some of the comforts you deserve and paid good money for, to complete strangers.  After finding out this Inn has no room service, you begrudgingly wash a couple of dried figs down with a gourd full of murky-looking well water; and hit the hay!

Only two hours into slumber, you are awakened by a dog barking outside your window.  At home you would’ve just closed the window, but here you discover the windows to be a twelve-inch thick stone opening with nothing covering it.

“Shut up!” you holler down at the barking menace.  He ignores you, but you finally see what his barking is all about.  In a field not far away, the quiet bleating of sheep on a hillside is replaced with what sounds like loud voices singing.  Shielding your eyes from some strange, bright light shining down from nowhere on that same hillside; you walk away grumbling about the wild party those crude shepherds must be throwing in the middle of the night.  Nestling under the covers again, you doze for what seems like seconds before hearing someone yelling in the back alleyway under your window.

“A new thing is torn!  A new thing is torn!”, your sleepy ears hear a man shouting.

“Probably one of those ignorant shepherds…” you mumble aloud.  By the time you get to the window, he’s too far gone to hear your own angry cries at him for interrupting your rest.

Just buy something new!” you holler back, still shaking both your head and your  fist out the window in his direction.

Then, the staccato-like bleating of a little Lamb suddenly pierces the night.  A cow moos simultaneously…and a donkey’s bray adds the finishing touches on what you  deem an ordinary symphony of distractions filling the night air.  All this commotion seems to be coming from the stable behind the inn.

“That poor young couple…how could anybody sleep through all that?” you ask yourself, seeking the warmth of your own covers once more.

Lord…please help me get my rest. After all…I wouldn’t want to sleep through Christmas.” you whisper before slipping into a deep, deep slumber.

If I were to entitle this scenario, I would call it, “Clueless in Bethlehem.”  We don’t have to look too far to see ourselves in this story.  Most of us are so deeply involved in whatever world we find ourselves walking around in; we fail to see the miracles staring us right in the face.  Each of us is guilty of asking, “How could anybody sleep through all that?” and yet, it is we who snore the loudest!

My prayer for each of us throughout this Christmas Season is this.

That you won’t just “Shush!” the barking dog that wakes you in the middle of the night.  Perhaps he is God’s way of alerting you to the sounds of Heaven’s own Angelic Voices singing out the Good News of the  Baby Jesus to quaking shepherds on a hillside not far away.

Tune your sleepy ears to the cries of the one who runs in the streets below the window of your world.  These are the sounds of the shepherd’s own joyous shouts proclaiming, “A New King is born…A New King is born!”

Finally, step beyond the comforts and conveniences of your neatly packaged world.  Experience for yourself the very Reason for all of the bleating…mooing…and braying in the stable that night.  Kneel down with lowly shepherds and worship beside the Kings from the Orient.  Don’t be afraid to look over their shoulders; for they have set aside their own worlds for a peek into the manger.  As your own fearful gaze is captured by the Eyes of this little Stranger; know that your very heart is being held in the gaze of the One who watched you being formed in your mother’s womb.  As His tiny Hand looses itself from the binding of the swaddling cloths; reach for it.  Take it for your own and discover the miracle of God’s own Vertical-Inch.

One inch!” you exclaim, wrapping His Fingers around your own.

“You’re barely big enough to be called real…and yet, somehow too real to be denied.” you whisper.

Basking in the midst of this unforeseen, ah-ha moment, an untended tear slips from your eye.  You are kneeling in the Presence of God’s only Son; Someone too Precious and too Innocent for even words.  His tiny Finger draws your eye beyond the mangers edge; pointing the way to Heaven from Earth.  Oh…the Unspeakable Gift that lay within this Vertical-Inch!  A Divine Measure of the Immeasurable.  The Ultimate Gift of Love.

Much like the teacher from my childhood, there are always going to be those living in the world who will not hesitate to write across what we know to be true  in bold red letters,

“What’s this??  Doesn’t exist…Not real!!”

Such absolutes are merely the sum totals of puny human logic ruling out Divine Possibility.  The world has always been on a collision course with the idea of the Vertical Inch.  It remains a Measurement that will never add up in the minds of men as long as they continue to seek answers within the limited realms of their own earthly-foot.

“Don’t let others spoil your faith and joy with their philosophies, their wrong and shallow answers built on men’s thoughts and ideas, instead of on what Christ has said.”  (Colossians 2:8  LAB)

Don’t sleep through Christmas this year.  Peek into the manger and lock eyes with the Lover of your Soul.  Slip your hand into His.  Experience the unexplainable measure of its warmth and the indescribable pull that He has on your heart.  Truly, an Unspeakable Gift lay within the Realm of this Vertical-Inch.

“For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything when you have Christ…” (Colossians 2:9 LAB)

Life’s picture of Love’s Deepest Dimensions…

 

 

Cat-astrophe!

August 4, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Cat-astrophe

                                                                      M-E-OWCH!

“My whole life hangs in the balance but, I will not give up…”  (Psalms 119:109a  LAB)

 

Many summers ago, I remember stepping out the kitchen door of our house into our backyard, holding my fifteen month old son, Mike; his legs wrapped tightly about my waist.  The moment I reached the grassy edges of the sidewalk, he always wriggled down anxiously from my grip to the ground.  Hesitant, at first, he’d pause for a moment for his two bare feet to ease into the feeling of green grass blades sawing away at his little toes; before he’d take off running in pursuit of the sandbox.  Situated under the shade of the umbrella-like branches of a giant cottonwood tree, the sandbox was the perfect place for us to begin our day.  While I emptied the caffeine from the cup of coffee I’d carried out with me, Mike filled up his plastic bucket with sand, one shovelful at a time.  My eyes closed and my heart content, I often thanked God for the tenderness of moments like these.  If life offered perfect moments, this was one of them.  I remember feeling the warmth of summer’s morning sunshine kissing my cheeks ever-so-gently.  I felt like one of Disney’s characters, caught up in a moment-come-true. You know…one of those moments in time where everything in life just seems right.  The moment when animated bluebirds sing on the shoulders of real people or a handsome Prince bestows a kiss that miraculously brings his Princess back to life!   These are the moments when the real collides with the surreal.

 

In my Disney-mindedness, I imagined opening up my eyes and seeing my perfect little boy all aglow in morning’s soft light.  The sunshine would be outlining his small frame and highlighting his amazingly skilled hands; both busy building the most magnificent backyard sandcastle ever.  And in the final scene of my imagination, I’d hear my blue-eyed wonder uttering these sweet words, “It’s for you, Mommy,” as he presents his labor of love to me with a kiss; as a gift from his heart to mine!  This, however, is not quite how my Disney moment played out in real life.  It became more like a Disney-meets-Jerry Springer sort of moment.  Very suddenly, my perfect moment transformed into a stark reality show.  My brain brakes (parts I didn’t know I had), brought my soaring imagination to a screeching halt!

 

By the time I opened up my eyes, I did see my perfect little boy, all aglow in morning’s soft light.  I also caught a glimpse of the sunshine outlining his small frame and highlighting his busy hands.  His little hands were even presenting me with an unexpected gift from his heart to mine…but, not the one I had imagined!  There, perfectly balanced on the end of his plastic shovel, I watched in horror while loose particles of sand fell away to reveal the un-imaginable.  Cat poo!

“Momma…” he said, pushing it in my direction with a scrunched up nose and a brimming smile.

In his mind, Mike discovered a hidden treasure.  In my mind, I could only hear the accusations of nature’s own Jerry Springer in the angry chattering of a squirrel perched high in the tree above us.  Though I don’t speak squirrel, my own guilt allowed me to translate his chatterings into this.

“Unfit Mom, unfit Mom, unfit Mom!”

After all, what kind of a mom sits her child down to play in the middle of a litter box?  Guilt-ridden for not having checked the sandbox more thoroughly, and aggravated at the furry, four-legged culprit who delivered his buried treasure to our sandbox, I confiscated Mike’s shovel.  In one swift motion, I placed this poo-packed weapon in an upright position, pulled back on its scoop, and hurled the poo straight back into the neighbor’s yard!  Though I realized shooting poo wasn’t a neighborly thing to do, I both justified and excused my action as a side effect of being immersed in the reality of my Jerry Springer moment.  Besides…I had done nothing more than send the poo straight back to its manufacturer along with my dissatisfaction with the product.  Isn’t this the American way?

 

Returning to the sandbox and handing a newly washed plastic shovel back to Mike, I caught sight of the infamous cat.  A sixteen-year-old, tiger-striped gray, cat named Mr. Jangles.  In my eyes, he was more of a living door mat.  He was the lethargic, fur ball who lived to stretch himself out across his owner’s back porch and wait for life to cater to him every day.  Rarely did anybody see him moving any faster than a snail’s pace anymore.  If I were to guess, Mr. Jangles had to be in the latter stages of his ninth life.  That’s why I was so startled to see him shoot out of the neighbor’s garden where I had launched the poo, like greased lightning.  His back paws only grazed the top of our four foot chain link fence while his front claws strained to connect with our Cottonwood tree.  The moment they did, I watched that old cat climb nearly thirty feet or more up into the tree to gain access to the same branch the Springer-squirrel was anchored to; still chattering intermittently.  Realizing he was about to become Mr. Jangles’ mid morning snack, the squirrel jumped for the telephone lines running through the back of the tree and escaped.  His prey now gone, and his new-found momentum still pushing him along, Mr. Jangles attempted to stop but, his back paws slipped from the branch.  Miraculously, Mr. Jangles caught himself; and there he dangled by his front paws for a couple of minutes.  He struggled to regain control, but seemed to lack the physical strength of kitten-hood to pull him back up onto the branch.  I watched in anguish as two paws became one paw…and then I heard the “MEOW” that preceeded his fall to the ground.  A thirty foot fall!

 

Picking up my son from the sandbox, I ran for the back fence to investigate what seemed to be a hopeless situation.  With every step I took away from the sandbox, Mike asked me again, “Momma…kitty?” Not wanting to believe kitty was anything but alright, I assured Mike that everything was going to be o.k.  Whether a myth, a miracle, or a unique gift from God, the idea of a cat always landing on his feet was firmly embedded in my mind.  I’d heard that not all cats survived falls, particularly the older and less agile ones.  My fear ws that Mr. Jangles fellinto this last catagory.  Out of breath, I leaned over the fence searching the neighbor’s garden for any sign of Mr. Jangles.  Then I spotted him…but, so did Mike.

“Kitty, Momma!” he cried out with excitement.

“Yes, kitty is taking a little nap.” I responded, seeing Mr. Jangles lying motionless in the garden.

Then I headed for my house to make a phone call to the neighbor I didn’t want to make.

 

Before I reached the door of my house, Mike wriggled down to the ground and took off running for the back fence again.  I assumed by now, all of the morning drama had overwhelmed his sensitive toddler mind.  I saw him pointing and heard him yelling back at me with desperation.

“Kitty…kitty…Momma, KITTY!”

Heading back for the fence, I was preparing my second, ‘kitty is taking a nap’ speech, in an effort to console Mike’s tender and concerned heart.  I expected tears but, he instead greeted me with a smile and pointed towards Mr. Jangles.  Confused now, I focused on the cat for a minute but, still could see no visible signs of life.  I did catch sight of the cat poo I’d hurled over the fence earlier.  Somehow, it didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore in light of this new life-or-death circumstance.  As I dropped to one knee so I could look Mike in the eye while I told him, “Mr. Jangles went to kitty heaven,”  Mr. Jangles suddenly rolled over, wriggled around  on the ground as if scratching his back, and then righted himself on all four paws!  He acted as though nothing ever happened!  But, I knew something happened to him.  I labeled him brain damaged as I watched him roll numerous more times in the tall garden grasses, batting at previously ignored butterflies with his front paws while doing the two-step  on his two back paws.  Mike stood at the fence giggling at the comical sight of Mr. Jangles and his new, very peculiar behavior.  I sat back down on the edge of the sandbox with my cup of coffee, pondering whether or not I was untangling a mere mystery or playing the part of an eyewitness to a modern day miracle.

 

Over the next few days, I kept a close eye on the creature I’d deemed, poor brain damaged, Mr. Jangles.  Sometimes on our morning treks to the sandbox, Mike and I would see Mr. Jangles stretched out on the neighbor’s back step like a royal rug.  Other times I’d see him furiously clawing at the base of a wrought-iron shepherd’s hook protruding from the center of the garden area; trying his best to knock down two birds from their houses, hanging high above his head.  For days, his behavior wavered somewhere between door-mat cat and clawing-fury. Then, one afternoon my neighbor solved part of this mystery for me.  While watching her water her garden, I commented on the eye-catching, purplish white flowers growing throughout her garden.  She responded with laughter telling me,

“They are pretty, but…I originally planted them as a remedy for laziness.”

Seeing my confusion, she pointed me back towards Mr. Jangles, napping across her back step.  Then she went on to say,  “You might know them better as catnip.”

Now things were starting to make a little more sense to me!  My neighbor and I laughed at my diagnosis of brain damage as an explanation for her cat’s altered behavior after his accident.  On a more serious note, she also discussed the possibility of the catnip perhaps having played a role in saving Mr. Jangles’ life after his fall.  She suggested that when Mr. Jangles landed in the midst of the catnip; the force of his fall might have released a greater than usual amount of catnip’s volatile oils.  The aromas of these oils would’ve wreaked havoc with Mr. Jangles nasal tissues, stimulating sensory neurons, and prompting both an emotional and a physical response.  This theory supported the sudden behavioral responses Mike and I witnessed when Mr. Jangles sprang back to life again, righting himself on all four paws!

 

Many years later now, as I look back on Mr. Jangles and this entire scenario, I don’t  just see a Disney-moment-come-true anymore.  I see more of a God-Moment-Come-True.  You see, that day when I walked back to the fence to try and calm the desperation I heard in Mike’s voice, concerning Mr. Jangles, he stood motionless against the fence.  As I drew closer, I saw his little button nose hard-pressed into the fence and his small fingers were turning white from being wrapped so tightly around the chain links.  What I failed to see that morning was that Love had already stepped down into that moment ahead of the unspoken prayers flowing from Mike’s tender heart for one of God’s own little creatures.  I believe Mike was clinging to much more than just the chain link fence that morning.  He was holding tight to Hope…and the Hand that is the Hope that we adults so often fail to see in times of desperation.  While I was too busy composing my toddler explanation and dismissing Mr. Jangles into ‘kitty heaven’, the Loving Hand of a passionate and selfless God was already busy answering the cries of my little boy’s heart and reviving Mr. Jangles in a patch of catnip.  Who knows…perhaps this Amazing God of ours who cares so deeply  about every detail of every life, may even have created the catnip plant with Mr. Jangles and this moment in mind!

 

Truly, this was a God-Moment-Come-True for both Mike and I.  Though God-Moments sometimes lack the feel good qualities that tend to enhance and define Disney moments, there is nothing like being fully present in a moment when the real collides with the surreal.  I believe every day holds such moments but, we must first be looking for them through the eyes of a little child in order to see them.  My fifteen month old son taught me that in the sandbox long ago.  While I was busy seeing only cat poo and disgust; Mike saw treasure and a gift.  When I saw Mr. Jangles falling to the ground, I put him in kitty heaven right away.  Mike witnessed the beauty of kitty’s new beginning, and I missed the depth of it because while he held fast to Hope, I shook my head in disbelief and labeled it ‘the end.’

 

When I think of the transformational effects that catnip had on Mr. Jangles whenever he strolled through my neighbor’s garden and brushed up against its purplish flowers; I can’t help but think of God’s Word and how we relate to it.  The Word, too, has the power to change our behaviors in this life.  This Garden of Truth holds the secrets to producing great change in us but, we must first choose to walk there.  Living, moving, and breathing within its boundaries allows us the privilege of rubbing up against the Flowers of God’s Promises, which stirs up the Fragrance of His Truths; reviving our hearts toward the beauty that is ours if only we will choose to live infused with God’s renewed passion and purpose.

Spiritually speaking, there’s a little of Mr. Jangles in each of us.  As a Child of God, the range of our daily behaviors falls somewhere between door-mat-cat, clawing-fury, and greased-lightning. Door-mat cat simply trades away the wisdom growing right in front of him; opting for a porch-life which allows him the small space he needs to become a self-indulgent, comfort-seeking creature, shrouded in ignorance.  His eyes remain closed to the beauty and possibility staring him right in the face. Clawing-fury has left the porch and is out  roaming in the Garden of Truth but, he’s still using his renewed strengths for digging in the dirt of his own agendas.  Greased-lightning is considered most desirable on the Mr. Jangles Behavior Scale.  This fat-cat is finally awakened to the pull of a higher calling on his life; trusting in a new-found strength and renewed vision that propels him to new heights in pursuit of another!

 

For a Child of God, greased-lightning tells the tale of what its like to live an other-centered life.  A life that strains to reach out and connect with the heart of another.  A Life that isn’t afraid of tackling the arduous climb required of us or enduring, with courage,  the great fall that  may result in going out on a limb for someone else .  This is God’s greatest call on our life; to first know Him…and then every  day afterwards to spend getting to know Him better by choosing to walk with Him in the Garden of Truth.  It is here, strolling through the pages of His Living Word (The Bible),  bumping into His Promises and rubbing up against Truth that we are infused with His power, renewed purpose and untapped wisdom…simply from our contact with God.

 

Mr. Jangles had nine lives to roam free in and out of the catnip my neighbor planted for him.  I’m not sure he ever really grew past loving much more than his door-mat cat days.  You and I are given only one life and a daily opportunity to walk in the Garden of Truth that our Heavenly Father planted for us here on earth; and we need to make it count.  Even today, when I step outside my back door and look across the backyard; my mind’s eye allows me another fleeting glimpse of Mr. Jangles dangling from our Cottonwood tree, though both the branch and the cat are gone.  I still see a sandbox that isn’t there anymore and a wooden shed now standing in the place where a bed of catnip once grew.  Though the  garden is gone, the memories connected to it still linger in my thoughts.  They point me to life lessons I couldn’t have learned any better than in my own backyard.  They continue to be vivid reminders of these things.  The day my fifteen-month-old son taught his Mother the value of ‘hanging-on’ to Hope and seeing life through a little child’s eyes of blue.  Truth isn’t always hidden inside perfect moments; often it comes at the expense of being able to see past the ‘poo’ the world buries in life’s sandbox. Finally, choose to stroll often in the Garden of Truth and discover for yourself the life changing reality of what can happen when Heaven meets earth, and time  transforms the ordinary into an unforgettable God-Moment-Come-True!

“Your (Words) give me strength in all my troubles; how they refresh and revive me!”

(Psalm 119:50)

“Your (Words) are my joyous treasure forever.”

(Psalm 119:111)

“I will never forget Your (Words), for You have given me life through them.  I am Yours.”

(Psalm 119:93-94a  HCSB)

 

 

“Forget-Me-Nots…”

June 25, 2014 at 4:50 pm

forget_me_not_heart

“Forget-Me-Not, for I Am with you there…in the beating of your heart and on the wings of every prayer.”

 

Forget-Me-Nots  have long been recognized as the little flower that bears a giant message of remembrance.  The arrival of Forget-me-nots on a doorstep even today, brings with it a heartfelt message from the sender.  It’s an expression of a true and faithful love; tender memories, and hope.  This Victorian-blue flower, coupled with it’s beautiful and timely message never fails to stir the hearts and minds of those who’ve ever clasped this bouquet in their hands…sometimes enough to linger over the thoughts of it for the span of a lifetime.  If such a simple gesture tied to the loving thoughts of a mere man is able to affect one’s heart so deeply;consider what happens when the Creator of all a flowers becomes the Sender!  What if God bundled His own loving thoughts of you into a Bouquet of Heaven’s own Forget-Me-Nots and laid it on the doorstep of your heart?  What would you do with it?  How would your world change?

 

Ok, lets be honest.  If any of us ever stumbled across a bouquet tied with a string attached to a love note addressed to us and signed affectionately, “All My Love…God”, our first reaction would be to dismiss it as a heavenly hoax!  The truth is, I’m not talking about something in the physical world that is tangible and touchable; but rather something in the spiritual realm that can be touched by the Messages left there.  Your heart!  It is in this hidden and secret place God chooses to leave His Bouquets of Forget-Me-Nots.  Too unbelievable?  If you can’t see it, it isn’t there?  Think for a moment about your own heart.  You can’t see it and yet you know it’s real.  You can place your hand on your chest and feel it beating inside of you.  Now, ponder the arrival of a Bouquet of His Forget-Me-Nots.  Though you can’t see them, you can know they are real.  Place your hand on your chest and feel your heart beating.  In the moments you feel your heart skip a beat…these are the intervals He lays His Bouquets on your heart’s doorstep.  Moments such as, feeling your eyes fill with tears in response to seeing  a new born’s very first smile.  Hearing the precious words of a little child’s prayer as he talks to God for the first time.  Being overwhelmed by the simple and quiet beauty of a sunrise or the soft afterglow of a sunset.  Finding the courage to say a last goodbye as you stand over the sick-bed of a loved one.  Being suddenly overwhelmed by the timely words of a song playing on the radio playing in the very moment when you needed it most.  You see…life’s list of such instances is endless because no two hearts are the same.  Rest assured, however, the next time you feel your heart skip a beat; it is Him stepping into those sacred few seconds between breaths.  Setting His Foot down on your heart’s doorstep, making His Special Delivery to you, and vowing for a moment of your undivided attention so He may teach you something of the depths of His Love.

 

Realistically, our senses are so dulled by the noise, frenzied schedules, and superficial agendas of our own lives we’re unaware of God’s Presence in the world; let alone that He is standing on the front step of our hearts.  That’s why I shouldn’t have been taken by surprise a few years ago when one of His timely Bouquets landed on my own heart’s doorstep  My Husband lay dozing on the couch behind me with the T.V. blaring in the background.  As I stood listening to the wind blowing outside, I found myself stirring not only the pot of spaghetti sauce in front of me but, my own thoughts as well.  My mind was  preoccupied with an earlier visit to my Mom’s and the unwanted news of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis still hung over me.    I didn’t like thinking about the stages of such a disease  Though I know without a doubt that each of our lives counts for something different in this world, I’d have picked a very different story for my Mom to have to tell.

 

Gravitating my full attention back to the wire whip in my hand, I switched gears; whisking red sauce in a frantic backward motion.  Staring down into the bubbling sauce, my mind followed suit; wandering back many  years to one of the visits I went on to see my Grandmother in a nursing home.  Entering the facility doors that day, I remembered smiling as I thought of  the many firsts in my life I’d shared with her over time.  I chewed my first mouthful of Chick-lets gum with her.  I sewed my first  prize-winning apron on her antique sewing machine, and I crocheted my first bookmark under her watchful eye.  It was her hand I clasped on my first day of Sunday School, and she taught me everything I know about the lost art of canning and jelly making.  Then, in what seemed the blink of an eye, these precious times were replaced with all new firsts.  My first time of finding her missing false teeth down inside a chair pocket where the channel changer used to live.  My first time of staring into a blank T.V. screen, pretending to see what she thought she saw; and my first time of being humbled beyond words as I picked up her fork to cut her meat and helped to feed my Grandma like a small child.  But, even worse than all of these was what I experienced later that same day.  As I bent  down to kiss her good-bye, it became the first time I ever had her look up into my face with a blank stare and ask me a question I shall never forget.

“What did you say your name was again, Honey?”

My heart nearly stopped that day.  Somehow I managed a forced smile, re-introduced myself  and assured her I’d be back soon.

 

Everything in me still wants to run from that haunting question; even though more than thirty years have passed since that time.  Having entered into my Grandma’s room that day as her treasured Granddaughter and left as a total stranger left its marks on my heart.  There’s a cup of emptiness linked to that memory I never wish to sip from again, yet I know one day I may have to face that possibility once more with my Mom.

 

That memory was not only tough on me but, hard on my spaghetti sauce.  Staring down into the pan I’d been stirring to the rapid tempo of my own heartbeat for the duration of the nursing home memory; I discovered all the meatballs in my sauce were now missing!  Sadly, they succumbed to the frantic motion of my wire whisk and were now a sacrificial part of the beautiful,  red puree I’d created in front of me.  Smiling, I pulled the pan off the burner, laying my whisk aside.

“I guess…being forgotten has its  affects on everything!”  I joked to myself.

 

Maybe God had a plan for even this strange little cooking episode in my life!  You see, as I set the whisk down on the counter, my mind was drawn to the muffled mutterings of a monotone voice on the T.V. in my background.  I caught bits and pieces of a commercial segment advertising a trip.

“Not just any trip” it began with enthusiasm, “… a trip to blablabla promising, blabla memorable bla blaba!”

That sentence made no sense to me, at the time.  In fact, the only word I heard audibly and clear was the word, memorable.  Still preoccupied withe the earlier news of my Mom’s Alzheimer’s, I was strangely drawn to that word, memorable.

“Seriously, Lord…does everything have to be about memory tonight?”

My earlier distressing thought about my Mom’s Alzheimer’s…the trauma of a past nursing home visit…and one audible word from a rambling travel commercial!  Two-thirds of these thoughts pointed to diseases whose outcome promised everything would be forgotten, and the third, a trip; promised  nothing less than becoming the most memorable.  Only God could string together such random thoughts and make any sense out of them.  And so He did!  At the sudden collision of these three unrelated thoughts, something miraculous happened!

 

Everything started coming into focus.  I thought of how most of us throughout the course of our lives; labor and strive for bigger…better…and the most memorable when it comes to dates, spouses, jobs, vacations, foods, boats, houses, house-boats, etc.  You name it, we crave the most memorable anything when it concerns us. If this is true, and our most memorable life’s experiences are so very precious to us…then why do we end up becoming so forgetful over time?

 

Nothing points this idea of forgetfulness out any better than the story of the Israelites of Old as they journeyed towards the Promised Land.  Moses led 2,500,000 Israelites out of Egypt.  I call that the largest flight plan ever!  As they fled from Pharaoh,  God, Himself was their personal Guide.  God revealed Himself to them by day as a Pillar of Cloud…and by night as a Pillar of Fire.  Imagine that…their own Hand Delivered and very visible Forget-Me-Nots; planted right there before their eyes!  They witnessed the miracle of the Red Sea.  Moses raised his rod out over the water and watched God open up a dry path between two churning, roaring walls of sea water.  By the time the Israelites reached the safety of the banks on the other side, their jaws dropped again.  They turned around to see those same swirling waters swallow-up and drowned all  of the horsemen and 1200 war chariot riders of Pharaoh’s Egyptian army; in hot pursuit of them since their mass exodus!  Freed from the grasp of the Egyptian soldiers, Moses led the Israelites to the foot of Mount Sinai, where they camped for two years at the very feet of God.  It was a time of resting, studying, building and listening to what God had to say to them.  Moses delivered the Ten Commandments, teaching the people, now a brand new Nation; how to live their lives in relation to God and to each other.  Every morning, these Israelites threw back their tent flaps and witnessed another miracle of God!  He continued providing for their every need.  Their shoes and clothing never wore out for the duration of forty years in the wilderness!  Yet…they eventually forgot .

 

Over and over again, God continued to show His unconditional Love for His Chosen people.  Over and over again, the Israelites murmured, complained, and even yearned for the very things they’s left behind in Egypt.  Numerous heart-rending and heart-stopping moments defined their lives for generation after generation.  Bundle after bundle of His Forget-Me-Nots were delivered day after day, on the doorsteps of each of their hearts.  Standing on the threshold of entering the Promised Land, a second generation of Israelites were again called to remember who God is and what He has done for them as both a People and a Nation.  Moses cried out to them saying,

“Oh that you would choose life; that you and your children might live!  Choose to love the Lord your God and to obey Him and to cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.  You  will then be able to live safely in the land the Lord promised your ancestors…”  (Deuteronomy 30:19,20  LAB)

A mere two chapters later, Moses delivered a heart-stopping prophecy about Israel’s behavior in the future.

“Yeshurun (Israel) became fat and kicked (rebelled)…and it deserted it’s Maker…”  (Deuteronomy 32:15  LAB)

 

Truth is always hard to swallow…especially in God-sized doses.  When That Truth is dealing with the unfaithfulness of a Nation and God in the same sentence; it becomes a life and death matter.  Ancient Israel was founded by God and established for His Purposes.  To bring Glory to His Name before the entire World.   But, as His Word tells us, they grew “fat”, too comfortable, in their lives and “rebelled” or departed from His ways.  When Israel turned away from God, they rejected His Covenant…Love; turning to other gods to meet their needs. They worshipped materialism; stooping to every form of sexual depravity.  They even offered their own children up as sacrifices to false gods.  Though God continued to call on them, sending His ancient Forget-Me-Nots through the Prophets of Old; they chose to remain defiant, further hardening their hearts.  They threatened and even killed some of the Prophets who confronted them concerning their social and moral behaviors.  They preferred the comforts and allurments of this world to the Promises of a Loving and Faithful God.  Hear the cries of God’s own broken Heart, bleeding through Jeremiah’s words.

“And my people have given up their Glorious God for silly idols!  The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay.”  (Jer. 2:11, 12)

“Long ago you shook off my yoke and broke away from my ties.”  (Jer. 2:20)

“How can you disown your God like that?  …yet, for years on end my people have forgotten Me…the most Precious of their Treasures.”  (Jer. 2:32a,b)

 

MY People have forgotten Me…have forgotten Me…forgotten Me.” Even today, these words resonate much deeper in my soul because of that day I walked out of my Grandma’s room at the nursing home; having experienced firsthand, the pain of being forgotten.  My life erased, my place of specialness  disappeared with it.  Though I didn’t recognize it at the time, I’ve since come to look upon that heart-stopping moment as one of the greatest Bouquets of His Forget-Me-Nots I ever received.  An ever-present reminder on the doorstep of my own heart of God’s Love; a Love I must never forget.  His greatest desire for me has always been for me to choose to let Him Love me; to teach me the wisdom and eternal value of Trusting Him daily, and show me through my circumstances what it means to truly follow His lead my whole life.  The lingering fragrance of those Forget-Me-Nots is what drives me to write these very words.  It’s almost ironic that one of my most memorable  experiences in my life is defined by forgetfulness!  God must feel everyday, infinitely more of what I felt only an inkling of in the nursing home with my Grandma.  The sorrow that must fill His Heart when He looks down upon our own Nation today.  How fast we are departing from His Ways and forgetting His Name.  His Specialness  in the hearts of so many Americans is disappearing with it.  America, too, like Israel, was founded for God’s purposes; established to Glorify His Name in all the world.  With such s blessed heritage, America’s forgetfulness is only priming the pump for the consequences guaranteed to follow.  Right now, it appears we are choosing to walk in the historical footsteps of Ancient Israel.  Judgment followed those who walked that path then…and it will again; unless we turn away from it.  The Reverend Billy Graham put it this way in one of his prayers for our Nation,

“Woe to those who call evil good, but that is exactly what we’ve done.  We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.  We have exploited the poor and called it lottery.  We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.  We have killed our unborn and called it choice.  We’ve shot abortionists and called it justifiable…We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem.  We have abused power and called it ambition.  We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.  We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment…”

Billy Graham hits the nail on the head with his words to our Nation; as did Moses when he declared to Ancient Israel that, “God is our only Refuge…” our only true security.  Yet, their forgetfulness reigned.  We, as a People and a Nation continue to entrust our lives to the shaky things of this life; our own strength, technology, money, career, fame, entertainment, and even our own noble causes.  God is holding out His Arms to catch us when those things collapse and we fall; and they will.  But, this can only happen if we trust Him once more as our Refuge.  Since laying the foundations of the world, God’s plans have never changed.  His Word tells us, “His intentions remain the same forever.”  It is His story we are telling to the world with our lives; and His Glory will prevail.  Because we prefer comfort and self indulgence as a way of life, as opposed to living out the Promises of God; I believe His Story here in America is being reflected in the most prominent diseases of our time.  Alzheimer’s Disease, Heart Disease, and Cancer.  Think about it!  Alzheimer’s Disease…As a Nation we have forgotten God.  The consequences?  We are experiencing firsthand, the pain of being forgotten; only this time it is our own children we cannot remember!  Heart Disease…We cater to the physical and moral appetites of our hearts; an organ proclaimed by God to be untrustworthy and “deceitful above all things.  Yet, we ignore His warnings to, ” Above all else, guard your heart for it affects everything you do.” ( Proverbs 4:23) The consequences?  Our hearts are telling a story of what happens when we step outside of the boundaries God has set for us physically, morally, and spiritually.  We are a nation reflecting to the world that our hearts are far from right with God.  Cancer…Much like sin, Cancer can’t always be seen; but, it’s eating us up from the inside out and if we let it go unchecked for too long…it will  consume our life.

 

His matchless Bouquets of Forget-Me-Nots continue to amaze me though they sometimes bring a sobering message such as this.  Truly, they are the little flower that bears a giant message; but , consider Whose Hand is delivering them!  When I feel them piling up on the front step of my heart, I know each bouquet promises to be a Fragrant reminder of His Incredible Love.  On those days When I begin to doubt that one woman’s heart can really make a difference in this chaotic world…or that He is able to tell His Story with the small potatoes of just a housewife’s daily life; He seems to linger a little longer on my heart’s doorstep.  Then, He takes the memory of a pot of meatless spaghetti sauce out and mixes it with a cup of emptiness from a teenage girl’s  traumatic nursing home experience.  Stirring it well, He blends one audible word from a muffled T.V. travel commercial , and adds a disturbing thought about my Mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and…voila!  My small potatoes suddenly rise to become the Perfect Recipe put together by the Perfect Hand, served up as the Perfect Warning on a National level!  Living proof that there is no room for doubt in His world.  Trust God with all the pieces of your life.  If anybody can make something of them, He will.  The next time something in this takes your breath away…place your hand on your heart and feel the evidence of God standing on the doorstep of your heart.  Treasure what He is leaving there; a Bouquet of His Forget-Me-Nots bearing a Message from His Heart to your’s.

“Beloved,  REMEMBER ME…Forget-Me-Not for I am with you there, in the beating of your heart and on the wings of every prayer!”

 

 

 

 

 

The “Royal” Raft

June 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Royal Raft  

“Gripping the paddle as tightly as the fear which now gripped me, all I could think of was the logo written on a sweatshirt I’d seen back in the gift shop.  It pictured a skull and cross-bones labeled with these haunting words…”PADDLE OR DIE!!!”

 

My husband, oldest son, and I practically toppled over backwards trying to tilt our heads back far enough to catch a glimpse of the awe inspiring Royal Gorge Bridge.  Stretching out so magnificently across the morning sunlight above us, it almost appeared plugged-in to the two steep rock wall outlets mounted on opposite sides of the canyon.  These sheer walls dropped powerfully downward for more than a thousand feet, to channel the Arkansas River into the swift flowing, white-water rapids we were about ready to mount and ride in a raft.

This being a first-time experience for all of us, I couldn’t help but wonder as I spotted our guide, if I could trust the hand that was about to lead us into uncharted waters?  Even so…each of us climbed aboard the Royal Raft; fashionably clad in rented wet suits, splash jackets, and protective head gear.  To the outside world, we looked ready-and-waiting for this new adventure.  Sitting secure in the raft between our two guides and one other couple, an uncomfortable feeling welled up inside of me.  A feeling suggesting those swirling waters meant something entirely different to each one of us that day.

For my Husband, Jim…this was just ‘The River.’ Something he had always wanted to do.

For me…this was ‘The River??’  I didn’t even know how to swim, so what was I thinking?

For my son, Mike…this was ‘The River!!!’  A teenage adrenaline high which offered him the thrill of a lifetime!

Each of our reasons for being there were different.  In spite of these differences, we sat like little kids on the first day of school; hanging onto every word of instruction being given to us by our guides, Chachi and LJ.

“Each of YOU will play an intricate part in this white-water adventure,” LJ emphasized, pushing the Royal Raft out into calmer waters.  As he did so, Chachi handed out paddles to each of us. Immediately, all eyes bulged beyond socket capacity.

Me, paddle?”  Bu…but I thought I was coming along for the ride.”  our facial expressions cried out in mortified silence.

Clearly, we were the Royal Rookies in this matter!  Gripping the paddle as tightly as the fear which now gripped me, all I could think of  was the logo I’d just seen on the front of a sweatshirt back in the gift shop.  It pictured a skull-and-crossbones labeled with these haunting words, “PADDLE OR DIE!!”  Somehow, that all made more sense to me now.  Not wishing to die that day, I opted for my only other choice.  Paddle!  Struggling to refocus in the moment, I could hear Chachi and LJ explaining  how to maneuver the raft using different methods of paddling.

“Right Turn!…Left Turn!…Back Paddle!  LJ shouted , demonstrating each method with his own paddle in the water.

“High Side!… Wrap Side! … ROCK! … and Stop!”  Chachi chimed in.

With every requirement, our guides integrated into this crash course in Paddling 101, it became more evident they knew the river well.  These men understood the treachery of the waters we were about to face because they’d been there before.  With respect and a keen sense of safety, they reinforced each paddle command hurled at us as being a sort of lifeline.  A lifeline thrown at us for the express purpose of pulling us through the churning waters to safety.

Approaching our first stretch of white water, we braced ourselves for impact; each of us taking a deep breath, struggling to hear Chachi shouting above the roaring river.

“Remember…listen carefully, paddle in sync…and most of all…TRUST ME!”  he hollered.

With those words, we plunged head-first into the angry waters.  I could feel the sting of the river’s icy fingers slapping me square in the face.  The early spring flood waters still carried a merciless winter chill.  Every muscle in my body tensed!  Though everything in me wanted to scream out, “NO!” to this experience, somehow I managed to hold onto my paddle using my own newly discovered version of a death-grip.  The river’s relentless fingers again wrapped themselves around my head like a blindfold.  I couldn’t see anything!  Through the confusion, I could still hear the paddle commands being given by both of our guides.

“ROCK!”  cried out Chachi

Knowing this to be a cry of immediate danger, almost without thinking, we reached out with our paddles, pushing ourselves away from its jagged edges and forcing the raft back in the center of the rolling waters.

At the bottom of this run, my heart sang a whole new song.  A song whose words were written in the permanent ink derived from a strange and wonderful mixture of adrenaline and apprehension.  It didn’t take any of us long to realize our raft was the only one of three rafts that hadn’t flipped over and fallen prey to the river’s insatiable appetite.  Our own Royal Raft, for a short time, functioned as a Lifeboat!  Our paddles-in-flight; we maneuvered through the currents to rescue a few VERY grateful friends still struggling in the water to try and keep from becoming the river’s first meal of the day!

In LJ’s own words, “You guys paddled like little Boy Scouts on a search-and-rescue mission!  You never missed a beat.  WOW!”

Each of us paddled for our lives that morning.  Whatever Chachi and LJ told us to do…we did it without question.  We found strength we didn’t even know we possessed.  Our first run through these white waters fostered a whole new respect for the river.  But, even more than this, we quickly learned we could trust the hand guiding us through these treacherous waters.

Before the day ended, I experienced a broad spectrum of emotions.  Excitement laced with apprehension; as I stepped into uncharted waters with my family.  Fear of the consequences of having done just that!  Doubt I had the strength to paddle my way through the difficult waters surrounding me…without drowning.

Just leave it to God to take my excitement, fear, and doubt; and show me how to turn them into trust!  As the sun dropped low in the evening sky, Jim, Mike, and I climbed out of the  Royal Raft; planting our feet firmly on dry ground.  Life never felt so-o-o good!  We waved good-bye to Chachi and LJ.  Turning to go, I heard what I considered to be the last paddle command of the day.

“Stop!”  a Voice said softly in my ear.

“Yes,”  I thought to myself, smiling as I stopped.

This Voice was not audible to the world, but I heard the Message loud and clear.  You see…even the tiniest Whispers of God can be heard over the raging river waters of this world.  God spoke one word to me…but, He whispered it three different ways.

“Life.”  “Life??”  …  or “Life!!!

The waters of “Life” are precious in any form but, why just climb into the raft, sit, and hold the paddle?  Learn not to just paddle, but to paddle well!  At times, we all feel pulled under and blinded by the churning waters of “Life??” trying to drown us.  Remember…just listen for the command, grip the paddle a little tighter, and find the strength you didn’t know you had.  Wholly trust in the Hand that’s guiding you.  For it is He who can be found on the other end of it.  Waiting…wanting to help you discover the truest meaning of “Life!!!”  at its fullest.

 

“When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be  with you.  When you go through rivers of great difficulty, you will not drown!  For I am the Lord your God, your Savior…”

(Isaiah 43:2a,3a  LAB)

 

 

The Fragrance of Friendship

May 10, 2014 at 1:42 pm

TheFragraceOfFriendship1

“We faithfully tilled the soils of friendship, transforming a story of ‘Bramble and Thorns’ into the beauty of a ‘Bouquet of Roses.”

 

The recess bell rang, and hundreds of school children swarmed the playground, freedom bound. Kids bolted in every direction in an every-man-for-himself pursuit of their favorite playground equipment. Hand in hand, toddled towards the elusive jungle gym. Third graders pushed and shoved their way towards the swings. Fourth graders stormed the slides, and my fifth grade classmates and I sprinted for the baseball field. Recess lasted only thirty minutes. So our game always ended up at the top of the ‘shortest game in history’ list. But, it never failed to be the best thirty minutes of our day. For even in that short time frame, each of us found a strange contentment just being in the presence of our friends. That is…with the exception of one.

Darcy Fincklwitz forced her way into our line-up that day. She called no one friend. To my knowledge, Darcy never participated in anything ever. If a room had a corner, Darcy could be found sitting in it. She stayed in the shadows of every school event. Her dark eyes hid behind a black curtain of bangs hanging loosely over the precipice of a permanently scowling brow. She walked by herself to and from school and avoided talking to any of us. Given the choice, most of us assumed Darcy would have turned down walking with her own shadow.

“Of all days for me to be chosen captain of one of the baseball teams!” I cried out silently. “Why Darcy…and why today?”

The other team captain, Nicholas, and I flipped a rusty bottle cap for first pick. Nicholas won.

“Frank…I choose you first!” Nicholas yelled out with a smile.

Feeling the pressure to choose quickly, I yelled out a name at random.

“Evan! …come on over!”

I found myself so preoccupied with trying to avoid looking in Darcy’s direction that I couldn’t even concentrate. Nicholas and I batted a couple more picks back and forth until it came down to choosing from the last two people. And you guessed it! Darcy was one of the two.

“It’s your turn Hutty (My childhood nickname)…chop chop! Time’s wastin!”Nicholas reminded me, clapping his hands together.

Had I known in fifth grade the term, “heart palpitation” I would have known what to call what I experienced at this point. I could feel my palms drenched with the waters of my dilemma. Though Darcy stood speechless, I could almost hear her screaming out, “Pick me…please…just choose ME!”
The next thing I remember hearing is Nicholas shouting, “Let’s play ball!” and seeing Darcy heading straight for me.

“What did I just do?” I thought to myself, forcing a smile in Darcy’s direction. My voice seemed to have a mind of its own today; it answered me back saying, “I just chose Darcy Fincklwitz …the class giant…to be on my team.”

Time stood still on the elementary ball field that afternoon when Darcy bent down to pick up a bat. All of us took a deep breath as we watched her take a few wild practice swings. For one brief moment, we panicked. Evan leaned over whispering his warning in my ear.

“Way to go, Hutty,”” He said. You may have just found a way to arm the ‘enemy!’”

Darcy glanced back at us for a brief moment, and then stepped up to the plate to bat. But before she had a chance to swing the bat again, the bell ending recess rang and we all scrambled back to class.

I know that Darcy heard us talking in the background that day. She never said a word to any of us about anything. But after school I found her sitting on the steps outside…alone. I wanted to say something…anything…but I didn’t. As I started past her to catch up with my friends, she hollered out my name. I didn’t even know that she knew my name. Before I could even turn around she stood beside me. Her figure towered over me. I swallowed hard.

“Uh…thanks for being on…uh…the team today, Darcy,” I managed to spit out before her two giant arms reached over and put me in a headlock. Her reaction stunned me. If this wasn’t bad enough, she then took off walking with my head still under her arm. Convinced that she might be delivering me as a parcel of ‘rearranged flesh’ on my own front porch, I started praying! The thought of death at such a young age didn’t appeal to me. Especially death-by-Darcy! Her grip held my ear so firmly up against her rib cage that I could hear her heart pounding like a metronome keeping fast and furious time to a very angry song. A song with just two words… “Kill Hutty! … Kill Hutty!” She dragged me along, stumbling to keep up with her, for five l-o-n-g blocks. Then she just stopped. Still in a headlock, Darcy spoke for the first time since we left the school grounds.

“So, Hutty! Wanna be friends?” she said in a gruff tone.

“I…I guess so,” I answered from my head locked position.

Darcy seemed satisfied enough with my answer to let me stand upright again. Still dazed and confused, but grateful for having my death sentence lifted; I found myself standing at the bottom of my own street. In light of everything else that happened today, I supposed this might be Darcy’s own bizarre way of walking me home from school. She ended this grand entrance into my life with one final scene. Reaching up, she parted the black curtain of bangs across her forehead just long enough to introduce me to two of the saddest brown eyes I’ve ever seen. Then the curtain dropped and the scene ended as quickly as it had begun. Darcy turned and headed for home and I stood there wondering what just happened.

Comedy of Errors? I think not. Years later now, I prefer to gaze on this scene in my life story as more of a Divine Interruption. A truly unique way of God ushering friendship into an orphan’s life. You see, Darcy learned the art of ‘invisibility’ early in her life. Her mom, a school teacher, taught other people’s kids. Her dad, an efficiency expert, organized other people’s lives. At home…both mom and dad alternated shifts around the clock with Darcy’s older brother, Jerry. He suffered from a serious heart condition at birth. And Darcy? She faded into the background and disappeared. At school the story repeated itself. Teased and taunted by class mates, Darcy roamed alone; staying in the shadows life cast on her convinced of her unworthiness to merit anyone’s time and attention.

You see, every one of us as human beings has felt the unbearable ache of being swept aside and held prisoner by life and its unwanted circumstances. It is the heart-sting of orphanism. The gut wrenching loneliness of being abandoned in the streets of our own surroundings…left alone to provide somehow for our needs by scratching around in the dirt and alley ways of an unsympathetic world for love. We find ourselves desperately hungry for more than just the crumbs that others toss our way. It is emptiness beyond comprehension, and a deep longing in the caverns of our soul for someone to look deep into our eyes and listen to our story.

God used a headlock to draw me into Darcy Fincklwitz’s life story. When others might have viewed this scene as bullying; I believe God used her rib cage as a sounding board for my ears …as a way of revealing to me that Darcy had a heart after all. I learned from a unique perspective, about grace and mercy as she dragged me down that pathway headed for what I perceived as ‘sure death,’ only to be given a reprieve at the end of it all. I felt an orphan’s grasp, desperate for someone to walk along-side of her and listen to the cries of her heart. To share the pain hiding behind the loneliness that veiled those two sad eyes.

Each one of us has felt the desperation that drives us to act out of a deep longing in our soul to ‘belong’ in our world. To experience the thrill of being chosen; adopted into the shelter of someone’s circle of love and acceptance. If we are ignored long enough, we begin believing in the lies of a world that gladly steps in and tries to tell us who we are. We lose sight of who we are created to be…a child, forever precious in the eyes of our greatest Friend, our Loving Heavenly Father. We are souls created to love and to be loved. God gives each one of us a special role to play in life. A role which propels us head first into a moving dramatization of a search for companionship. An arduous journey that ever pushes us towards a continuous and growing love for others in life.

God used a thirty minute segment from a childhood baseball game and Darcy Fincklwitz, to set the stage for a lifelong lesson in my life. We are not alone on the stage of our life. Sometimes we are not even the main characters. Blinded by the spotlight shining down on us, too often we fail to notice the orphans hiding in silent misery behind the curtains on the side wings. Waiting…longing for a part in our story; and needing us to play a part in their story. Only when our stories intersect with those of others will we ever discover what King David of Old realized as he entered into the heights of his own story; “… it was for a special reason—to give joy to God’s people.” (1 Chronicles 14:2 LAB)

Darcy and I spent the next eight years of school together as friends. We plodded side by side, through the bramble and thorns of her life story. Darcy’s world really never changed on the outside. Her brother remained sickly; her parents, too busy for her. Even in high school, kids continued to taunt Darcy; and now me, for choosing to walk alongside her. But at the end of it all do you know what we each discovered? Joy. Though we stuck out in this world like sore-thumbs; Darcy Fincklwitz and I ended up as green-thumbs. The undeniable evidence of growth in our journey towards friendship. From head-locked, to hand-held, to heart-felt— we faithfully tilled the soils of friendship and in doing so, transformed the loneliness of a story of “Bramble and Thorns” into the beauty of a “Bouquet of Roses.” It is the Fragrance of Friendship…a fragrance that lingers for the span of a lifetime!

Sweetly Broken

May 5, 2014 at 8:59 pm

SweetlyBroken

“STELLA…NO!”“Stop that! No…you CAN’T play ball in the house!” “DOWN, Stella!” “Off the bed, Stella!” “Get away from that screen door!” “STOP!…DROP!…SIT!…COME!” “WHEW! Where does it all stop?” Not until Stella learns to do what I say, when I say it. Until then, I just have to keep teaching her. Stella is my son’s girlfriend’s dog. We only have her for the weekend. She’s a two year old golden Labrador Retriever. Blonde and beautiful, she is also sassy and spontaneous in every way. Is there such a thing as the Terrible-Twos when it comes to dogs? In human-years, I realized she’s already a teenager. Perhaps that’s an even a worse scenario! In either case, obedience is a problem. My words go unheeded and she just plain forgets who’s boss.

Frustrated, I plopped down in my easy chair with a big sigh. That’s when I experienced my first Divine-canine moment. Though not audible, I could hear God’s Voice whispering in my spirit, “Come…Sit…Listen.”
Then He threw me a Heavenly Scrap to chew on. How often have I turned a deaf ear to God’s commands for my life? Ignored His Word and rushed headlong into something despite His warnings? I’m not so different from Stella after all. (That’s a sobering thought.) In both cases, obedience is still a problem. Sadly, sometimes I too, just plain forget who the Master is.

This excerpt is from one of my Journal entries way back on August 24, 2007. Since that time, my Son married his girlfriend, his girlfriend is now my Daughter-in-Law, and Stella became my Grand-dog! Even with all of these changes in effect today, one thing remains the same. Stella. Obedience is often still a problem. She is now 63 years old in human years! She’s the only one of my Grandkids who is older than I am! So much for the old adage, “With age comes wisdom.” What scares me about this thought is that I still see a lot of myself in Stella’s behavior concerning her natural bent toward disobedience. Whether you are a dog or a human being, all of life hinges on making good or bad choices. Even now, in my eagerness to please my Master, and Stella to please her master; we sometimes still prove to be only a disappointment when it comes to our actions or responses toward the circumstances pressing in on us. Both for a dog and for a human, obedience is always far more than just instilling a one-time change in behavior. True obedience is the result of a change that comes from deep within the heart. It doesn’t just affect outward behavior; the things we do. It is the result of sculpting our very character from the inside out; changing who we are. Though Stella’s disobedience may only change the climate of her master’s household for a few moments in any given day; my own disobedience in my Master’s House has the far reaching potential to affect the lives around me for Eternity! This is the point where Stella and I part ways. This is also the interval where I am reminded of the second time in my life when my Master unexpectedly threw me another Heavenly Scrap. A Scrap that I will be chewing on from now until Eternity!

This past year, I’ve been attending a BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) group every Monday night. We are studying the Gospel of Matthew. We meet as one large group for fellowship; then break down into smaller groups for discussion. Following this, there is time to share individual prayer requests. One of my main requests since September of 2013 has been to seek God’s wisdom and guidance in the matter of setting up a blog site for my writing. I am so media- challenged in this high-tech world; I knew I couldn’t begin to do it on my own. Yet…I still felt God nudging me to pursue the idea. After several months of praying, nothing seemed to change. Both my group and I continued to pray; asking…seeking…knocking, faithfully anticipating God’s provision in His time. By the time month number seven rolled around, I have to admit I struggled with thoughts defined by both doubt and fear in me. Every day, I tried not to listen to the little voices rising inside of me, silently pursuing me at intervals from daybreak to night fall. The enemy’s voice telling me things like, “Who are you on the social media scene anyway?” “Just a nobody…an unknown in the writing world.” “No one will read your writings.” “You will fail at this.”

Failure isn’t something any of us likes to experience in life, but I hadn’t even tasted success yet with a blog that hadn’t happened yet and here I was already fighting off fears of failure! Sensing a hole or two in my great wall of faith surrounding this blog idea, I stuffed both fear and doubt a little deeper down inside of me. After all, out of sight out of mind…right? Truthfully…this way of thinking is anything but a Biblical thought. It’s just choosing on my own to fly with my lights off. It is flying blind.

One Monday night recently, I headed off to Bible Study as usual. Everything seemed as it should be. Though still ‘flying blind’, my homework was done and my old prayer request was now written down in a brand new way. What I forgot was this. Faith and fear cannot occupy the same space in a Child of God’s heart for long without some serious consequences. Jesus calls His own to full commitment…not half-hearted devotion stained with doubt and fear. Little did I know it but, my heart was ripe and ready for receiving another of God’s Heavenly Scraps to chew on!
After our group discussion ended, a couple of ladies shared individual prayer requests. Then, taking a deep breath I added mine,

“Please continue praying for God’s will where my blog site is concerned. It’s funny…but, I almost feel as though God has gone completely silent on me.”

As our group leader closed our time together, she prayed for God’s will concerning my blog, ending her prayer with these words.

“…and God, Debbie’s blog is in Your Hands. We pray that You will make Your answer plain and clear to her beyond a shadow of a doubt. In Jesus name, Amen.”

At this point, I could hear the shuffling of over 200 women’s feet scurrying out of their small groups to re-assemble for a Bible lecture. It was into this less-than- five -minute snippet of time, between my Group Leader’s final “amen” and finding my seat for the lecture that God slipped me another of His Heavenly Scraps to chew on!
Bending over to retrieve my purse off the floor, I watched a pair of feet pull up and park directly in front of me. By the time I stood up straight there was a smile named Donna waiting at the opposite end of those feet to greet me. Before I could even smile back, she began to speak what she called, “the words God laid on her heart for me while our small group was praying moments earlier.”

With an attitude of genuine concern laced with a measure of kindness I can’t explain, Donna, shared these amazing words with me.

“While our group was praying for you,’ Donna elaborated, “God gave me a revelation concerning your writing. I believe it’s a problem of obedience. Maybe fear…or possibly even doubt… which keeps you from moving forward in the direction He’s been urging you to move.”

There were three words instantly highlighted by the rush of adrenaline inside of me triggered by Donnas’ heart-awakening conversation. Revelation, fear, and doubt. Another word for revelation is simply, eye-opener. This was certainly that for me! As for fear and doubt, I was well acquainted with both. Until this moment, I’d lost sight of the fact of them being equated with disobedience. The darkness that comes from flying with your lights off provides the perfect backdrop for the lingering shadows of doubt and fear to thrive in undetected. I stuffed them so-o-o deep down inside of me, Donna, a total stranger to me; couldn’t have known they existed there. No one in this world could’ve known they were hidden inside of me …except God. God, clothed in Donnas’ flesh. It was His Voice I was hearing when Donna spoke. Her words embedded deeply in my heart. I recognized them to be His instant message for me in response to my group’s earlier prayer to “… make His answer plain and clear to me beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Living beyond the shadow of doubt and fear wasn’t going to be easy for me. I’d ignored this dynamic duo for so long they’d become a part of who I was and how I filtered my thinking. Now that the Light of Donnas’ words was shining brightly on them both…I needed to decide what I was going to do. My heart wasn’t made to share space with my Master and these unwelcome strangers, too. The thought of my disobedience wasn’t easy to swallow, but I also understood the unmeasured value that comes with heeding my Master’s Voice.

Climbing into my car after BSF, oh how I longed for this next step to be as easy as Donnas’ smile pulling up next to me again and handing me part II of “Heavenly Scraps for Dummies!” but, Donna was nowhere in sight. In a less-than-two-minute-time frame I spent with her tonight, she’d managed to become for me a lifetime snapshot of what complete trust, amazing courage, and willing obedience must look like in the Master’s eyes. Now it was my turn. I made it as far as the edge of the church parking lot before the rain drops began to fall; on the front seat of my car, not outside.
“Forgive me, Father…forgive me for my lack of obedience. Forgive me for my fear to write the words that I once had no doubt You layed on my heart for others to read. For doubting that You have equipped me well to speak of Your Glory revealed in the trappings of my heart! ” I whispered. With every tear of regret I cried, I prayed a double portion of fear and doubt left with them. In this instant my heart grew keenly aware of an ocean of His Grace pooling in their place. I couldn’t help but feel a little like the blind beggars we’d just studied.

Two blind beggars were sitting beside the road outside the city of Jericho; shouting for mercy when they heard Jesus was near. Though the crowds tried to silence their cries, they continued to yell out; somehow knowing without seeing (faith), that Jesus could help them. Matthew 20:32-33 goes on to say. “When Jesus came to the place where they were, He stopped in the road and called, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus met these blind beggars right where they were…sitting in the midst of their own darkness. He already knew what they desired most in this world and yet…He posed an obvious question to them.

“What do you want Me to do for you?” I believe their desperate cries of, “We want to see!” rang in His ears as the beautiful melody of true faith. This is what ‘faith like a little child’ sounds like. It is belief beyond doubt! It is absolute trust beyond fear! This is the point in my tearful drive home that night that I heard Jesus whispering into my spirit the same question He asked those two blind beggars.

“What do you want Me to do for you?”

Jesus came to me ‘right where I was ‘…crying out in desperation consumed by my own ‘very real’ spiritual blindness. The road I was sitting on was the pathway paved with seven months-worth of prayers prayed for the birth of my blog site. Fear and Doubt were my crowds; attempting to silence me as I cried out to Him in desperation for relief from the darkness that comes from flying blind for so long.

“I want to see!” I cried out loud, like the blind men.

I wanted to see God bring the idea of my blog site into reality! I wanted to see His Glory shining through the words He’d given me to write.

My greatest desire in this moment was to trade my disobedience in for the blind trust I witnessed in the two beggars, and the unmistakable courage that defined Donna earlier. Thank you, Donna, for being Jesus to me in my blindness and for your willingness to serve as His Heavenly Scrap to me in a moment that will forever define my life. Though I can’t deny the level of pain that came when you spoke His words to me, my heart wouldn’t trade being so sweetly broken by the Master’s gentle touch. One week later, my son, Mike, built the blog site you are now reading! God’s Love truly is big enough to Light any darkness I have within me.

Concerning my Grand-pup, Stella…you weren’t barking up the wrong tree on that day you so blindly introduced me to my first taste of Heavenly Scraps and how difficult they can sometimes be to swallow! Even at 63 years old, Stella still loves just being in the presence of her master. At the sound of her master’s voice, her tail still wags in sync with her foot-long tongue. Her excitement is extreme and her love genuine, but her behavior still hinges on the bacon flavored “Beggin Strip dangling from her master’s finger tips. When it’s gone so is her desire for obedience.

This is not how our Master works in each of our lives. When He tosses a Heavenly Scrap in our direction, He aims it squarely at our heart. That is where true obedience takes place; changing not just what we do for the moment but, who we are for a lifetime. He doesn’t see us as anxious pups who, given enough time, will straighten up and fly right. He knows we’re more like little lambs. Utterly helpless on our own and prone to wander at any given moment only to end up lost in a darkness of our own choosing. It’s the very reason The Master calls Himself, The Good Shepherd. If the Good Shepherd were to toss you a Heavenly Scrap; one that you could chew on for the span of your lifetime, this would be it:

“With His gentle voice the Shepherd calls to His loved and straying lambs. “Come back, little ones, for you are not safe unless… you are where I Am.”

“My sheep respond as they hear My Voice. I know them intimately and they follow Me.” (John 10:27 The Voice)