Sister to Sister: Still Using a Little Dixie Cup?


Looking at all of this water as I sit here watching the waves roll in on this beautiful Alabama Gulf shoreline brings to mind my two-year-old grandson, Ezra. It was a painstaking task for such a little one who  loves splashing in a puddle even more than I love putting my toes in this deep and expansive one.  But he was determined to make his own puddle for splashing in my bathroom floor with a dixie cup and a tiny stream of water running in my bathroom sink. I saw him pour the meager ounce of water on the hardwood and I asked him “Ezra, why on earth are you pouring water in Mammy’s floor?” 

“I make a puddle. I can spwash.”

“Well, you may NOT make a puddle in the floor, but you are welcome to make one in the bathtub, if you like.”

He smiled broadly. That was even better! He would get to carry the water in his little Dixie cup, that with each fill held a little less of its shape and got a little more crumpled. Tirelessly, he went back and forth from the sink to the tub, pouring his little purple and yellow cup half-full of water into the big garden tub, barely even making a wet spot for jumping. In truth, he was spilling more on the floor en route than he was collecting in the tub. 

It occurred to me that we, finite little creatures in the workings of an awesome God, are a lot like Ezra. We keep doing the same futile things over and over again, trying to make our own “puddles”. We painstakingly try to collect the things that will make for happiness in the end. We often spill and make messes in the process and what we ultimately accomplish is  small and temporal. We fail to realize that we have a Helper, who could give us unbelievably effective and permanent results if only we would come to know His ways for our lives.

See, Ezra didn’t think about the fact that there was a big and powerful source of water in the spout of that tub. What would come out of that waterspout, if I but turned a lever for him, would fill up his tiny Dixie cup hundreds of times without the trip he was making back and forth. In fact, he would not even need the crumpling cup. There would never be a mess on the floor and the danger of him slipping in that mess would never threaten. Not only that, but there’s a stopper in the bottom of that tub. With the turn of a big knob, I could plug that reservoir up, so that none of the water would be wasted. None of that big stream of water would go down the drain where his little trickle of a puddle of water had been slowly disappearing. All of the resources were there for Ezra to not only jump in a “puddle” and have a splashing good time, but there was enough ingenuity there for his little Scuffy tugboat to sail or even for him to have a heated sauna swim, had he preferred, as I would have if I were his two-year-old size. 

Sometimes the blessings and opportunities are all around us, but we keep carrying the Dixie cup, spilling the contents along the way and processing through the same futile routines over and over again. We think we can work our way to desired goals only to find out in the end that our dreams are disappearing down the huge drain that only our God can plug. He has every resource we need to achieve what really will make us happy and fulfilled, but we fail to investigate His Will. We fail to ask for His wisdom. We fail to understand fully His resourcefulness. He controls all the levers and knobs and he freely offers His limitless capability for our ultimate progress and benefit. But often, like Ezra, we just go on about our vain tasks with impotent precision, expending life’s time and energy in fruitless pursuits. (In this case, it was profitable for me to allow Ezra to be “entertained” for a while before I showed him the “puddle” I could so easily make for him. See, I needed to dry my hair and put on my make-up. But God is never too busy to turn on the living water for those who are seeking it [John4:10].)

I know many people who have thrown away the Dixie cup and turned on the waterspout. Can I help you know His will for your life? You can stop living small and messy and start basking in His spiritual abundance!

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. (Ecc. 2:11)

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc. 12:13)

For Scripture Sleuths Only! (By Request from Digging Deep)

The Digging Deep study in the previous month included a comparison of the baptism in the Red Sea (Exodus 10) and the baptism of a sinner today. This comparison is made by the Spirit in I Corinthians 10. Here’s a partial list of components of that comparison. The scenarios surrounding the journey through the Red Sea are in the opening chapters of Exodus. Scriptures about the New Testament counterpart are included below.

  1. Both candidates of “baptism” had a former master (Romans 6:16-18). Pharaoh was a cruel, murderous liar. The devil, our former master, is a cruel (I Peter 5:8), murderous (Romans 6:23), liar (Rev. 12:9).
  2. The Israelites  were committed to the new leadership of Moses to travel toward the promised land. We yield to the new leadership of Jesus Christ. These two leaders have many likenesses. Among them are these:
    1. They were both Hebrews (Exodus 2; Luke 2:4).
    2. They were both born under rule of cruel Kings (Pharaoh and Herod, Exodus 1,2; Matt. 2:1-13)
    3. Both were hidden in Egypt (Exodus 2; Matt. 2:1-15).
    4. Both were hiding from cruel kings who wanted to kill them (Exodus 2; Matt. 2:1-15).
    5. Both turned water to another substance (Exodus 4; John 2:1-12).
    6. Both fasted forty days (Ex. 34:28; Matt. 4:2).
    7. Both were mediators (Ex. 32:11-14; I Timothy 2:5).
    8. Both were lawgivers (Exodus 24:12; Romans 8:1,2).
    9. Both chose twelve men to send out (Numbers 13; Matt. 10:1-5).
    10. Both were/are leading to a promised land (Dt. 8:7,8; John 14:1-4; I Peter 1:3-9).
    11. Both were victims of attempted stoning by their own people (Exodus. 17:1-4; John 8:59).
    12. Both offered people water from a Rock (Exodus. 17:6; John 4:1-14; I Cor. 10:4).
    13. Both of their faces shone (Exodus 34:35, Matt 17:2).
    14. Both were shepherds (Exodus 3;John 10:10,11).
    15. Both have victory songs (Exodus 15; Rev. 15:2,3).
    16. Both had missions of redemption (Deut. 7:8; I Peter 1:18,19)
  3. The escape through the Red Sea elicited a great rejoicing among the subjects as is evidenced in Exodus 15. Our baptism should and does elicit great joy (Acts 8: 39).
  4. Both baptisms preceded the giving of a new law. The first was given from Mount Sinai in Exodus 20. Our new law was given from the mountain of Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).
  5. Food was given after the passage through the Red Sea. It was manna and quail in the wilderness. Our new food is the bread of life (John 6:35).
  6. People died at the Red Sea baptism (the Egyptians, rebelling against God). The man of sin (the rebellious man) dies in baptism today (Romans 6:5,6)
  7. The Red Sea was the beginning of a trip to an inheritance in a promised land (Deut. 8:7,8). Our baptism is the beginning of our trek to our inherited promised land  (I Peter 1:1-5, Rev. 21:7).

If you love God and His Word, you have to love this list. If you are not involved in the Digging Deep study. you should still take time before you die to study this list. It will stop you in your spiritual tracks and make you more in awe of Him.

 

To Honor Annie

10011689_10152669580002586_1383661133_oThis weekend, friends in Salem, Virginia laid to rest the body of one of the dearest friends I’ll know in this lifetime, Annie Shrader. It was just about this time of year, twenty-nine Octobers ago, when I came to know her. I was moving to a state in which I’d never lived, to a house I’d never seen, to work with a church of people I did not know.  When I arrived at that empty house, on that crisp October morning, there were wreaths on the doors, donuts on the mantel, coffee in the kitchen and leaves and pumpkins in festive corners. The empty house was not so empty, after all. There was already warmth and there were telling signs of the deep fellowship we would enjoy with God’s people in Salem.  And it was Annie’s doing.

 

I loved those sweet anonymous (at the time) greetings and so did my very young children. It just made for a happy end to a difficult trip and an inviting threshold to a whole new life for our family. It was later that I found out it was Annie who made my home warm that day. And it was later that I learned she was very sick, having had cancer first as a child, and that she would battle it over and over for the rest of her days. My first visit to her home was when our family trick-or-treated at her house that same October. She was confined to her bed that Halloween, but she laughed and laughed at our silly costumes and she made our pictures and kept them on her refrigerator. One year, for Halloween, our family dressed up to impersonate the Shraders.   Halloween became a traditional time of fun with this sweet family and, even after we’d moved to Alabama from Salem, we exchanged silly trick-or-treat cards every year. I’m sad that I will not get those funny cards anymore at the end of October. I will miss them.

So, as I remember Annie, I remember the person in my life who was the most likely candidate for being absorbed with self pity, but the one who was the most caring for those who could use a hand up…the one who brought the most smiles to innocent faces of children…the one who wrote long letters to those who were far from home…the one who took time for the fatherless…the one who made lives that were shattered by sin a little more hopeful. She made those who were left out or eccentric feel included and normal.

Several years ago I wrote the following in which I reminisced about Annie. I’m thinking about her again tonight. It occurs to me that the words I used above, about my new home in Salem can also be used about her new home: “…a happy ending to a difficult trip and an inviting threshold to a whole new life.” She’s pain-free. Her neck and face are not misshapen any more. Her speech is not slurred. I want to see her like I’ve never seen her. I want to see her whole and strong.

 

In honor of the person who never pity partied…In honor of the person who sent me all these Halloween cards that make me smile anew every October when I pull them out and peruse…in honor of Annie:

 

Have you any friends who are party animals? I mean pity party animals?  I do, and I love them, but they are not very much fun.  They always get the raw end of every deal, the short end of every stick, and nobody, but nobody understands their plights. If it’s raining, they’re depressed. If it’s sunny, they’re  sweaty. Either no one pays attention to them or people just won’t leave them alone. They just have perpetual gloom, despair and misery regardless of the circumstances in which they find themselves.
Why do we have pity parties?  Why do we allow the circumstances of this life to impede our progress toward the next?  Let me offer a few reasons. Perhaps these can help us to be prepared for pity party invitations and just RSVP in the negative every time. There is always something better on the agenda!
1. Sometimes we forget that we are not alone. 
Our God is described as the ever present source of strength (Psa. 46:1) and He has promised that he will never leave or forsake us (Heb.13:5). The never of this passage is actually a double negative word adding emphasis to the assurance of His presence.
2. Sometimes we forget that Christians see in 3-D.
Having worked extensively with a group of ladies who are newly converted to Christianity, I have observed that it’s very difficult for them to correct the one-dimensional vision that characterizes worldliness. The focus of their existence has always been on themselves. Every decision has been based on “What’s in it for me?”  This inward obsession is simply and sadly characteristic of our society. To begin to have an upward focus and really care about what God thinks is a challenge for ladies coming out of the world.  Then to develop an outward focus, noticing and responding to the needs of others is just a whole new dimension of vision that the new Christian must really work to maintain. Symptoms of the problem are evident. A new Christians may think the fellowship meals are for her, never stopping to think to prepare food and bring it to an activity. A new Christian may have a different problem she wants you to help resolve each time she sees you at a worship service while she may rarely express interest in the problems of others or take the time to pray for them. She may tell you how busy she is and how little time she has for activities of the church, listing all of her job demands, sports activities and hobbies, never even thinking that those who are faithful and involved have tough schedules every week as well.  She may expect to be visited or called, without once thinking of visiting someone herself.
But these ladies are babies in the faith. We must remember that babies are all about themselves.  All of us who are moms understand that babies are not thoughtful of the needs of others. The focus is definitely inward. But for those of us who have been Christians for years the focus should no longer be one-dimensional. Stopping the self- absorption and becoming absorbed in the Word and in fervent, practical prayer has the ironic effect of self-fulfillment.  Likewise, when we see and minister to the desperate needs of the people around us, we ourselves are lifted up. We begin to be great when we begin to serve (Mt. 23:11).
3. Sometimes we stop walking and have a seat.
Idleness is the devil’s workshop.  Sometimes I see widows who go home from the funeral, close the door and just resolve to never be happy again. Other times I see widows who, for a very long time, have been unable to do much else besides care for an invalid husband. But once the long hours of caretaking are over, these godly women immerse themselves in programs of the church, ministry to the needy and the development of godly friendships.  These widows are some of the happiest Christians I know.
I remember when I was in my thirties (you know a couple of years ago), I had a dear friend named Annie. I was amazed at what Annie could accomplish for the Lord. She visited several nursing homes weekly, carrying little goody baskets to several patients. She had a tiny gift for every single child of the congregation at each holiday. (She was the Dollar Tree Queen!) Her four and five’s classroom was amazing as her husband lugged a big box of visuals and activities every Sunday and Wednesday night. She remembered birthdays and anniversaries and took the time to keep children when their parents were sick or just needed a little time away. She brought computer-made banners to the building for us all to sign so they could be posted in a lonely hospital or dorm room. She prepared welcome signs and goody baskets for the hotel rooms of our visiting preachers and teachers. In short, she was “ready to every good work (Tit. 3:1). I think some people thought Annie was just a great person with lots of spare time to do great stuff for other people. Annie was, in truth, a cancer patient, having already had several surgeries with several more to come. She was raising a child with a disability, caring for a mother-in-law who was in poor health, and struggling with severe back problems. I actually remember her attending our Wednesday night ladies class and lying in the back of the classroom on a table because sitting in a chair was both painful and harmful to her back. Annie simply chose not to stop and sit down when life hurt. She chose to keep walking toward heaven.  It was her choice not to have a pity party!

4. Sometimes we forget who fills our tank.  Sometimes when I am driving a long distance, I am frustrated because I have to stop and pump gas. I hate to pump gas. I especially hate to pump gas at night. I abhor pumping gas at night when the price of gas is three times what I paid only two years ago. I can get in a bad slump over pumping gas. When I do start feeling frustration at the pump, it only takes me a minute to think about the primary reason this frustration builds. It’s because pumping gas is a pretty rare occurrence for me. See, I have a husband who will go out of his way to pump my gas for me under normal circumstances. It’s only when I travel alone that I am forced to deal with the bite of the chilling air, the smell of gas on my fingers and the pinch of the price gouge.  Naomi in the book of Ruth said, “God hath sent me out full and brought me home again empty.”  It is true that Naomi had experienced devastating losses while she was away from home. But she, like so many of us today, was quick to blame God for the losses while failing to credit Him with the sustenance, strength, and even the lessons that come with trials. She could have used a quick lesson from the book of Job .

And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

5. Sometimes we like to broadcast the problems and keep the blessings a big secret.
Listen to Naomi’s homecoming statement in full:

But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 
I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20,21)

She said, “Don’t call me by my old name. I would like to be called ‘Bitter’.”
She said, “God treated me very bitterly.”
She said, “God emptied me.”
She said, “God testified against me.”
She said, “God afflicted me.”
I believe Naomi had thought ahead about this little speech. I believe she was ready to get a few things off her chest when she got back to her family and friends. Perhaps it was not the first time she had delivered it. But the indictment of the Almighty God, who is the giver of every good and perfect gift (Jas. 1:17), was a pity party theme that borders on blasphemy. (Thankfully, the party was brief and she soon had an outward focus once again.) Broadcasting our problems in a spirit of bitterness serves to feed that spirit. It is a call for reinforcements for all that is negative in our lives.  Sometimes Mom’s words, “If you can’t say something positive, then don’t say anything at all,” make a lot of sense.

*(Much of this material taken from Women of Troubled Times, by Cindy Colley, Publishing Designs, Huntsville, AL.)

Colleyanna Mae Giselbach!!…9 lbs, 5 oz…9-1-16…6:21a.m.

14202669_10154648225322446_6950069074743094361_nDear Colleyanna, 

First of all, let me just say that that’s a very big name for such a small soul. Maybe your middle name, Mae, is  the more appropriate size for someone who tallies up more toes than pounds. Maybe Colleyanna Mae, especially when paired with Giselbach will fill up two whole lines when you get to kindergarten…that’s IF you can remember all the letters in the right order. It’s a mouthful for your brother Ezra, but he can say “my baby” just fine and he loves to hold you in his “wap.” it’s sweetness when you think about the Colley part. That part of the name is the part I really wanted to wear when I married your Papa, who is protective of his family, brave and faithful to our God. He preaches the gospel, as does his father and as his grandfather did. He gave that sterling name, Colley, to your mother. I’m glad she wanted to give it to you, because sharing a name is a special kind of bond. You and I are both Colleys!

Anna. Anna was a proclaimer of that wonderful gospel, too. In fact, the Good Book says that she stayed in the temple and spoke of God to all who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem. That’s in Luke 2. I hope you will be an “Anna” who will devote all of her days to speaking to people who are looking for the Redeemer. You are so tiny, but remember, Moses was just a baby in that little basket in the river when God fished him out for the purpose of saving Israel. You, too, can take the message of redemption.

Mae. Mae was your father’s grandmother. It was actually Jenet Garner’s middle name. Now it is your middle name.  A faithful preacher’s wife, the original middle-named-Mae influenced many people to be, simply and only New Testament Christians. She did it through hospitality, service, home Bible studies, mission travels, genuine friendship evangelism and through her children.  This woman of God died just a few weeks before you were born, but she already loved you and smiled sweetly just a few hours before her death when she learned you would wear her name.  She asked her family to gather around her bedside and sing her favorite hymns as she traveled with the angels from this life to the next. God granted her this moment just as she had wished. Then he granted her someone to carry a part of her sweet name through another life cycle.We are glad that’s you. 

Giselbach. That’s the name your Daddy gives you now. It’s the name that ties your little family together. It’s the one you will one day call your maiden name. It’s the one you will exchange when your daddy walks you down that aisle one day. Treasure the wearing while you can.  Your Giselbach father and  grandfather are faithful proclaimers of the Word, too. 

As I write, you are not yet 24 hours old, but, let me tell you, you stay up at night like a champ. Room 279 wins for the rowdiest night spot in the obstetrics ward. It’s now 4:20 and I think it would be a pretty big stretch to say we’ve had an hour’s sleep so far tonight—your first night outside the dark haven where God formed you.  I guess it’s been a pretty scary day for you…learning to breathe, to wear diapers, to cry, and to experience the sharp little pains of needles and the coldness of thermometers and scales. But there was one point of this day that was scary for even me. Your Papa led us all in prayer in that little hospital room just a few moments after you were born…just the six of us: both sets of your grandparents and your parents. He implored God on behalf of your soul, which is arguably the biggest part of you right now. He asked us to hep bring you to heaven with us. In this old world you entered today, that proposition is challenging and scary.

But here is what I know. In your daddy’s family there are/were at least  a half dozen gospel preachers. In your mother’s there are/were upwards of twenty. There surely should  be nothing that could stop you from knowing the gospel…the good news of redemption that Anna shared at Jerusalem. Yes….You were born into a scary place; a place where sins that I wish you would never have to hear about are celebrated. But, even in the scariest of American times, you will have the gospel which is the anchor of the soul. It’s the power of God to save (Romans 1:16). It’s the separating influence (Romans 1:1). It’s the big blessing (Romans 15:29). It’s glorious (II Cor. 4:4). It’s grace (Gal. 1:6). It’s salvation (Eph. 1:13), peace (Eph. 6:15) and promise (Eph. 3:6). It’s truth (Col. 1:5). It is your hope, Colleyanna (Colossians 1:23).                                                            

There was a lot of good news yesterday, my sweet Colleyanna. You were the best news of yesterday, to us. But what makes you such a joy to our family is that you are forever. That soul can defy the devil and give God the glory for His Good News…the gospel. The gospel is good news because it’s the answer to every scary prayer. It is all we need to have our fondest dreams come true. 

We love you Colleyanna…your pink cheeks, little blondish fuzz, your super long feet, your sweet fingers wrapped around ours and, especially the de-ja-vu of the way you look just like Ezra! You are rich already and you have brought great wealth to your Papa and me. We hope we have lots more time to make memories with you. But lots more time is nothing compared to eternity. Let’s do eternity together with all the people who prayed that scary prayer with us today. Let’s do eternity with God! 

7 Pounds of His Grace

13912431_928723135739_3489667227565621351_nDear Father, 

I already knew that You are God, Yahweh, the Great I AM. I am the one who speaks and writes and cries about life in the womb because of the holocaust against it in America today. I should say that I am ONE of the ones, for there are still many and we are unwilling to give up the battle for life to those who routinely burn with saline, rip apart, vacuum out and discard those viable body parts, suffocating those screams before  tiny mouths can open to the air that allows them to cry out for themselves. I am not about quietness when I can be a voice for those whose beating hearts are stopped in brutal and painful ways. 

But, today, Lord, I knew more than ever that Your throne of grace and majesty extends into the darkness of the womb. Help me never to forget what I saw today. I know that You have pushed the pause button on the miraculous, but this morning in that doctor’s office in Montgomery was just about as close to a miracle as I will get before Your mighty trumpet blows. 

My little girl’s little girl was there, as big as life, on that screen. In fact, it was the tiny epitome of life. They told us that she weighs seven pounds and four ounces already and her chubby cheeks evidenced that she’s big and healthy.  Lord, I cannot believe that I saw so clearly that right cheek turn to the side. I’m remembering now that you told us to have cheeks that turn. I pray that she will. It will be painful for me if I ever have to witness her cheek being smitten; yet I know she will experience hurt and people will mistreat her. Help her to turn the other cheek—to show mercy in exchange for cruelty. Help her never to be self-centered or to seek for glory. Help her to defer to the preferences of others. Help me to show her the beauty that comes from a meek spirit.

I saw her little hands in her mouth. It’s tight in there now and she’s just all balled up with her hands against her cheeks and against those tiny lips. Lord, they are Your hands. Those fingers will play instruments or hold a baseball bat or a needle and thread. They will turn pages in all kinds of books. They will turn pages in Your book, Lord. One day some handsome boy will put a ring on that chubby finger that I saw today and her daddy will give that hand in marriage to him. Those sweet hands will roll out dough and pat curly tresses and pick up cheerios and mend socks and fold clothes.  I pray that those little fingers will minister for You, Lord; that they will feel burning foreheads and administer Tylenol…that they will hold other hands beside hospital beds and nursing home rockers…that they will change diapers…that they will change lives by opening up Your Word in Bible studies. May those hands hold Yours. May they be daily folded in prayer and reaching to fill needs. 

I saw that tiny heel that Hannah has been feeling—-that even I can feel— as she kicks against the taut skin on Hannah’s right side. I could count the toes and see that little foot so very clearly. Lord, You made that little extremity so perfectly! May her spiritual feet be just as beautiful. May her feet carry the gospel of peace to the souls around her for all of her days. Help us, as her family, to train her to walk—to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. May we never take it for granted that she will, but help us Lord to be purposeful for the footsteps of her and her brother, Ezra. The devil is purposeful. He is seeking to devour. On some days it seems like he is making it next to impossible for parents to direct the footsteps of little ones in Your ways. But we can do all things through Your Son. May even we, as grandparents, profoundly impact her footsteps to stay in Your narrow way that leads to life. 

She heard me, Father! That little girl responded to my voice. I knew because when I spoke she turned her head toward me and she opened her eyes wide in response! This is the part I could not believe. I said, “She’s hearing me!” The technician responded “Of course, she is!”  So I told her right there that I loved her. I called her “Sweetness” since I do not know her name, and I told her about You, Lord. I just could not help myself. I made her promises. I made them out loud and  I will keep them. I told her I will teach her about Jesus, Your Son, and that I will teach her Your Word. I told her that we love her so much and that we cannot wait to tell her about You! I sang a bit of “Baby Mine” to her and I was overwhelmed at that moment with Your goodness to me. I am just dust, Lord! How can I thank You for a moment like that?! When I was driving those four hours to arrive in time for that ultra-sound after getting those three hours of sleep last night, I have to admit it. My faith was weak. I thought I would see an unrecognizable bit of blur. I saw YOU there, Father, and I will never forget Your grace in letting me see, in her, Your amazing creative power and unrivaled attention to detail. I stand amazed in Your holy presence!

And then, as she turned to look toward us, searching for the sounds, she opened that huge eye as wide as she could, as if to say, “Where ARE you?” And, in that moment, I fell helplessly in love with that little girl…just hopelessly and forever devoted to her well-being. Father, help me, to show her the goodness in this world; the hope that’s still left in this place. Help those beautiful eyes to sparkle and shine and to shed few tears of sorrow.  But most of all, help us to show her the hope and peace that comes from living for You. Help those gentle eyes to witness, with wonder and awe, the pictures and characters in little Bible story books. Help them to record the righteous examples of service around her. Guard her tender eyes from those things that can trap her at an early age. Give her maturity and resolve before the toughest tactics of Satan catch her eyes. As she grows, give her eyes to search for those who may be willing to listen to the gospel, the message of Your salvation. Open her eyes that  they may see those whose needs may really be doors to evangelism. Lord keep her eyes focused heavenward. 

Reflecting back on this day, I can hardly believe You let me do this. Your Words are true: She IS fearfully and wonderfully made! My only sadness is that her grandfather is preaching Your gospel in Kentucky this week and there is no way I can adequately describe this heart-swell to someone who was not in that room!  Help us Lord, her parents and grandparents. If all is as it seems, You are giving her to us in perfect condition. May we work as a team, Father, to give her back to You, through the gift of Your Son, in that same perfect condition. Father, thank-You for today. I cannot wait  to hold her, fresh from Your hands. I cannot wait for her to see my face and to start learning just how much I love her. But, most of all, I can’t wait to show her You and just how much YOU love her. I want her to see Your face!

Sister to Sister: Caught Praying on the Monitor

13344646_911796716419_9022849487098569765_nCaught on the video monitor the other night, Ezra, who was twenty months old, at the time, was praying. In his own crib, in his nursery, door closed, and darkness gathered round him, he listed his little litany of people , ending with Baxter (his cat) and ended with a simple, but very audible “Amen”.  I know God heard little Ezra, because he’s the God who takes time for the little ones (Mark 10:14). 

What makes a twenty month old talk to God when He’s all alone? You know what does. It’s pretty simple. It’s night after night of “practice”. It’s doing it when he’s not alone each night. It’s story time with parents who know it’s important, for the development of faith in God, to talk to Him every night. It’s intrinsically knowing that, in his daddy’s arms, hands folded talking to God, all is right in his simple little world. That’s why Ezra knows how to pray. That’s why, however simply and trusting, he talks to God when he thinks he’s all alone. 

One day you will think you are alone. There will come a time when you are facing your own alone-ness and darkness. You might not know yet exactly what that darkness will be. It may be the loss of someone you love. It may be that someone you love disappoints you deeply. It may be the loss of your health or wealth. It may be the fall of your freedom or encroaching national enemies. It might be loneliness or divorce or addiction. It might be sin.

When your darkness comes, will you be able to talk to the Father, even from the darkness—when you need Him most? The answer is yes…if, like Ezra, you’ve been talking to Him every day in the light; if you’ve spoken with Him daily from your safe and happy place when surrounded by those you love. 

The simple faith that gives us the solace and strength of prayer in the dark times of our lives is not instantly gained when we need it. It’s developed during the good times. It’s having a relationship with the Almighty that’s constant and secure through the ups and downs of regular and normal days. That’s what gives us the peace and assurance of knowing He hears us when life gets irregular and abnormal…and sometimes even, very nearly, unbearable. I have friends  who use prayer as a panic button. I have other friends who never need a panic button because they’ve got the security that comes with a life time of communication through prayer and Bible study. They deeply understand and cling to the promise of Romans 8:28…that He’s making every day, and even the darkest night, turn into ultimate blessings for them, as His children.   They are secure when they are alone and life is dark, because, like Ezra, they’ve  “practiced” when times were easier and gentler. 

“Amen” is a very comforting word. It means “let it be so”. I’m glad “amen” is in little Ezra’s limited vocabulary. I’m glad he says it already to the One Who transcends everything Ezra will ever learn or know in both majesty and power. But that One is also the One who knows how many little red hairs are on His head (Luke 12:7). He knows his down-sitting and his uprising (Psalm 139:2). He knows Ezra’s litany of loved ones and He even knows His cat, Baxter. Are you talking to the One who loves you that much? You should be living in that kind of sweet security right now. Someday, when night falls, you will very much need the sweet security of prayer.