Blessed by children …

“That precious memory triggers another: your honest faith—and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice, and now to you!” 2 Timothy 1:5 (The Message Bible)

Across the river, I heard a little voice call, “Grandma… Grandma!” and I thought it is one of the sweetest sounds I could hear. Being a grandma is special and brought back memories of the past two fun summers when I played “granny nanny” for my two grandsons (now 7 and 8) in New Jersey.

Every day we’d play “school” and work on their packets of homework, play games or do a craft project. I’d drive them to swim lessons and play dates. We’d swim in their backyard pool, make cookies, and take a walk to get a slice of pizza.

My biggest privilege was taking them to vacation church school and then listening to their stories on the way home. One afternoon after school we baked Kringla, a Norwegian cookie, which are rolled out like a short snake and then formed into a shape—usually like a pretzel or a figure eight. Nate (7) made shapes of letters of the alphabet. Mason (6) made a cross, held it up to me, and said, “Jesus died on the cross.” I gave him a high five and said, “For you.” He made a dozen more crosses which he took to his class the next day. Jesus died for them, too.

Lord, we are privileged when we can share our time and faith with children—especially grandchildren. Amen.

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Work and Play?

“Oh! Teach us to live well!
Teach us to live wisely and well!
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!
Psalm 90:12,17 (The Message Bible)

During the summer between sixth and seventh grade, my mother hired me to do the housework. Cleaning: one dollar; laundry (which meant using the old Maytag with the ringer and tubs of water, hanging them out, folding clothes, and ironing): two dollars.

My mother was wise to hire me to do her housework, as it kept me busy during the week, while other kids wasted time sleeping or goofing off—sometimes getting into trouble.

When I set up my own household, I uses my mother’s pattern of doing homemaking chores, except for sewing, which she didn’t do. I disciplined myself by not sewing until the ironing was done. Therefore, I rarely sewed.

What if I’d sewn anyway? The ironing would have been done by the “need factor,” like when my husband might ask, “Where’s my shirts for work?”

I spent my life disciplined to work first and play second. Play didn’t always happen either. Today, I’ve learned that what is important takes precedence over things that can wait—like choosing to write my daily blog instead of washing the kitchen floor. When I write first thing in the morning, God affirms my work by giving me clarity and joy.

Help us, Lord, prioritize our lives to enjoy work and play. Amen.

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Discerning life decisions…

“Listen with respect to the father who raised you, and when your mother grows old, don’t neglect her.” Proverbs 23:22

My mother is 96-years old, and I’ve never had to take care of her. She’s amazingly healthy, happy, and spirit filled. I like to say she’s the woman with her purse on her shoulder waiting for someone to pick her up to go somewhere. “I’m not going to stay home and look at these walls,” she quips.

Several years ago she polled her four children and asked, “What would you think if I sold my home and moved into Cedar Place?” (A center that progresses from independent living to nursing care.) My brothers and I were happy she could make this decision by herself. She declares moving to Cedar Place was the best decision she’d ever made, as she lives independently with social opportunities and around people who care about her well being.

I consider myself a long way from having to make decisions about my living conditions, and I’m certainly not being neglected by my children. I enjoy having a home where my children and grandchildren can come to stay with me. I do wonder if I’m being a good steward by living in a home with more space than I need, plus wasting natural resources for heating and cooling.

I pray when the time comes, I will be given the same wisdom my mother received to know when it is time move on.

Lord, help me discern when to make changes before my children need to intervene. Amen.

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Get up and walk…

 “The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.” John 5:15 (The Message Bible)

In John 5, a sick man who had been disabled for 38 years, would lie by a pool of healing water, hoping to be lucky enough to enter into it and be healed. One day Jesus stopped and asked him if he wanted to be healed. The man said, “I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” Jesus told him, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking,” and the man was healed because he did what he was told out of blind faith.

There is a lesson for everyone in this story. You and I are like the crippled man. We may be held bondage to a stressful job or unfulfilling marriage—like me during the 38th year of my marriage. My spirit was restless; I knew I needed to remove myself from a job that was consuming me and then there was my sagging marriage. Out of blind faith (or insanity), I quit my job and took a leave of absence from my marriage. The following year brought about healing through marriage therapy and a more suitable job. I often say, “This was the worst year and the best year of my marriage,” My husband and I had many good years until his death–instead of “lying by the healing pool” hoping someone would throw us in.

God, help us to help ourselves. Amen.

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Sunshine or Son shine …

 

 

 

 

 

“Still, if you set your heart on God and reach out to him, If you scrub your hands of sin and refuse to entertain evil in your home, You’ll be able to face the world unashamed and keep a firm grip on life, guiltless and fearless. You’ll forget your troubles; they’ll be like old, faded photographs. Your world will be washed in sunshine, every shadow dispersed by dayspring.” Job 11:13-17a

As a student in high school, I didn’t appreciate science classes. I found them boring, and wondered why I needed to learn all that stuff—especially when studying biology and dissecting crayfish and frogs.

As a “maturing” adult, I see science experiments all around me—like the corn field across the lane. Near the edge of the field is a grove of trees. The corn nearest the trees is half the height as the corn fully exposed to sunlight. Thus, I understand a plant needs full sun part of the day. There’s a row of bushes by the fence. All stand tall and proud except the one on the end which faces the south, proving to me a plants know how to seek the sun. This is science 101, but it shows me that God is in control of everything.

The best sunshine is that in which the Son, Jesus, shines on our days, beginning when we rise and continues until the sun sets and we close our eyes.

Thank you, Lord, for giving your Son to us to provide a clear path to salvation. Amen.

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Family dynamics …

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” Matthew 5:9 (MSG Bible)

One of my family blunders came during a time when one might say I had “widow brain.” Apparently, widow brain is a natural phase one goes through after losing a spouse. The ability to concentrate on every issue is difficult with everything else going through your brain. Nobody can understand those first few months (or years) after loss, unless you’ve experienced it.

I’m writing a book about life after widowhood, tentatively titled “Onward—After Loss of a Spouse.” The author wrote how the entire family is affected by the choices a parent makes following the death of his or her spouse.

My adult children are all in different stages of grief, which requires me to be sensitive to each of them. Minor issues in my head are major in theirs. One time I texted my children about going to a dance with a man I had just met. Their responses left me unsettled. One didn’t care one way or another; another needed time to think about it before responding; and the third felt I should have called instead of texted so we could talk about it.

I’ve learned that these reactions are typical after a parent passes, because everyone processes loss differently in their own time frame.

Lord, help me be more sensitive to my children as I move onward in my life. Amen.

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Family first … after God!

 God said, “It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.” Genesis 2:18

After Karen, my second child began kindergarten, I accepted a part-time job in the accounting department at Sears. Before putting Karen into daycare, she needed a TB test. While at the clinic, I told the nurse I wasn’t feeling well… sort of symptoms of pregnancy. I had considered myself “done” with babies, but submitted to a pregnancy test. The next morning she called, “Congratulations, Mrs. Gillis, you’re pregnant.” I nearly dropped the phone receiver.

At a pre-natal examination, the doctor discovered a lump on my throat. After tests, the doctor said the suspicious tumor had to go. The next two months, while waiting for surgery, I agonized over the child I carried and cried to God, “Will this baby have a mother? Will this baby be healthy?” I found myself so in love with this unborn child that I couldn’t believe my earlier doubt of wanting another child. The tumor proved to be benign and the baby came into the world healthy. Susan has been a blessing to our family.

Family has always been important to me. Whatever family structure you have, God wants us to give them our attention. It’s God first and family second. Author Travis Hearn (“Your BUTS Too Big”) says, “Family always comes before career, money, and even ministry-and let me tell you something, you’ll have to fight for it. Life is demanding.”

Help us, God, to keep our priorities in order: You and then family. Amen.

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Fools everywhere …

Saul confessed, “I’ve sinned! Oh, come back, my dear son David! I won’t hurt you anymore. You’ve honored me this day, treating my life as most precious. And I’ve acted the fool—a moral dunce, a real clown.” 1 Samuel 26:21

How many times would Saul call David “my son” and yet try to kill him. David once again had a chance to get even with Saul by taking his life. Saul slept with his sword and water jug by his head. David had the opportunity to use it to finally rid himself of his enemy. Instead, he gave God the glory for anointing Saul the king. When Saul learned of the near hit, he said he’d been a fool—“a moral dunce, a real clown.”

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” (Randall Terry). David had been a fool to believe Saul had changed his heart and truly accepted him as a son. But like it says in Proverbs 17:7 “We don’t expect eloquence from fools, nor do we expect lies from our leaders.” David wanted to trust Saul, but Saul was an evil King.

I’ve done many foolish things in my life–far too many to mention—leaving me feeling like a “moral dunce, a real clown.” But the good news is that God loves the fool, dunce, and the clown. He gives us the opportunity to change our ways. However, we don’t want to shame ourselves by testing God’s grace.

Thank you, God, for loving us when we don’t deserve it. Amen.

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Let God be the judge …

“You’ve heaped good on me; I’ve dumped evil on you.” 1 Samuel 24:18

As King Saul hunted down David, he stopped for a break by a cave in which David and his men were hiding. While Saul relieved himself, David found Saul’s royal robe and cut a piece off the hem. Immediately, he felt guilty. Saul left the cave, and after giving it some thought, David yelled, “My master! My king!” Saul looked back. David fell to his knees and bowed in reverence (vs. 8). Saul realized David could have killed him, but chose not to seek well deserved retribution.

While serving as a campground host, I met a family who had a three-wheel bicycle for a special needs child. One morning it was missing, and Bill, the child’s dad, had a suspicion where it might have been taken. He thought about how to gracefully get the bike back, went to the office, and purchased a bundle of firewood. He went to the campsite of the young man he suspected had taken the bike and offered him the firewood in exchange for the bike. I’m assuming the kid was shocked that Bill was not angry, nor wanted him arrested. He returned the bike, and Bill said, “All is forgiven.”

We have opportunities in our lives to be like David and Bill. When we want to get even, it is better to find a way to show the love of God through our actions, and let God be the judge.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us the option to glorify you. Amen.

 

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Act or React?

“In playful frolic the women sang,
‘Saul kills by the thousand,
David by the ten thousand!’
This made Saul angry—very angry.” 1 Samuel 18:7

Yesterday at the fitness center, I chatted with the young woman at the check-in desk. She had that “bored to death” look, as Sundays are quiet days. I asked her how she spent her time while not busy. “I watch Netflix a lot. I gave up Facebook. Everything is political and negative. I couldn’t take it anymore.”

I understand her. Someone invents something helpful and fun, and negativity tries to destroy it. I use the “unfollow” option on Facebook often. I refuse to tolerate ugly language, slander, gossip, and any other kind of cyber abuse. Occasionally, I’ll read comments on a political post and wonder why people react to comments as if they were personally being assaulted.

In 1 Samuel 18, I was impressed with how David reacted to the assaults of King Saul. Saul’s son, Jonathon, and David had become best friends. Saul embraced him and even put him in charge of military operations. When he became successful, Saul felt threatened and hated David. On two occasions he hurled his spear at him, but David escaped and didn’t let Saul’s bad behavior affect him: “David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him. (vs. 14, NKJV)

We can learn from David that we need to act as if the Lord is behind all our actions and not just react.

Lord, thank you for following us into all our battles. Amen.

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