Friday, May 17, 2013

It's a Jungle Out There

We hopped in his car, and he turned on the radio.  It was an exciting night filled with celebration.  Todd had just received his high school diploma, and we knew the first song we heard would be one that would always remind us of that moment.  Needless to say, Guns N' Roses "Welcome to the Jungle" wasn't quite what we were expecting! 

Finding your way in life can be a lot like finding your way through the jungle...there are a lot of pretty things to look at, but if you're not careful you can easily get distracted, stray from the path, and get lost.  Worse yet, you may even get devoured. Thankfully, there is One willing and able to guide us through the safari of life.   He even provides us with an instruction manual full of survival tactics!  Here are just a few: 

1. Arm yourself with The Word, be disciplined and stay on guard. The more you know the manual, the easier and more quickly you can put it into practice in defeating the enemy.  Your enemy, the devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion just waiting and hoping for the chance to devour someone (1 Peter 5:8).

2. Take the light with you.  Sometimes, even when you stay on the path, there may be some dark periods.  His word is a lamp for your feet, a light on your paths (Psalm 199:105).

3.  Utilize the strength He provides.  Don't try to be the hero. Life is hard. Remember, it's His strength, and His alone that will get you through.  You can do all things through the strength that He gives (Philippians 4:13). 
4. There is strength in numbers.  Find others walking the same path as you; encourage and walk alongside them (Hebrews 10:25).  And, when one of you falls down, you’ll have someone to help you back up (Ecclesiastes 4:10).
5. Even if you get lost, no matter what time of day, call out and He’ll be there.  You may at times, choose to stray from the path, but remember He is never far from you.  Morning, noon or night, call His name and He will be there to rescue you (Psalm 55:17). 

So...congratulations to all those graduating! Enjoy this special time in your lives, and...welcome to the jungle! If you commit your way to Him, you will surely succeed! (Proverbs 16:3)

 Heavenly Father, thank You for the special moments and joys in our lives.  I ask for Your blessing upon the lives of all those graduating at this time, Lord.  May they seek You in all they do, and trust in Your infinite wisdom and strength as they venture into the jungle. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Who's Your Momma?

I had to have been around three or four years old when she took me under her wing.  Her name was Mrs. Murphy, and she was one of the sweetest, kindest, little snow white haired ladies I knew.  She taught Sunday school to preschool aged children, and I adored her.  She not only taught me about Jesus, but she showed me what grace looked like; and she made me want to stay in my preschool years forever.   The world would be a better place if there were more women like her.  She wasn't my momma, but she sure loved on me like she was. 

It was my sixteenth birthday, and like most kids, there was only one thing I felt would make the perfect birthday gift.  It was of course, a car!  She had a different gift idea in mind though.  A gift that meant way more to me than a car.  Her name is Helen, and she played the organ at my church.  Helen knew music was the language of my heart, and so she gifted me with a piano book full of praise and worship songs.  Inside the front cover she wrote the most beautiful, encouraging note.  I still have that book.  It's one of my most cherished possessions.  Why?  Because it was a gift from her heart to mine.  She cared enough to encourage me, love me and know what was important to me.  She wasn't my momma, but she sure loved on me like she was.

She would put housework on hold to play Yahtzee and Trouble with me for hours; and she would listen to every vocal concert of “Jesus Loves Me” I gave from the big rock in her front yard.  Her smile could light up a room, and even though I'm certain she had days in which she was tired, sad, or worried, I never saw them.  Because when I was with her, she had a way of making me feel I was more important than anything else in, or going on in, her life.  A simple slice of bread with butter always tasted better at her house – probably because she took the extra effort to cut it into sticks for me, and serve it with a smile.   Her cookie jar was perpetually filled not only with molasses cookies, but with love.  And, each time I'd leave her house, she would make sure to tell me she loved me.  I never for a moment doubted she did.  My grandmother wasn't my momma, but she sure loved on me like she was.

Many children come and go at her house, none of which are from her womb.  She provides respite and security in her heart and home to little ones who need a temporary place to stay.  She brushes and styles curly locks and rocks newborns after late night feedings.  She makes sure each child is fitted with clothes, shoes and school supplies.  Her heart grieves when it's time to say goodbye.  For she knows she may never see them again – they are children of her heart.  She's not their momma, but she sure loves on them like she is. 

Each Sunday morning, little ones with hair uncombed and slippers on their feet stand at the window to watch for her arrival.  She picks them up for church and they proudly sit in the pew alongside her biological children.  She's stood by many hospital beds and caskets, and wept teardrops of sorrow for children not her own.   She's a diaper changer, tear wiper and Christmas gift buyer.  Her washing machine often spins clothes her family of five will never wear.  She loves those others call unlovely and opens her arms, home and heart to them.  She's not their momma, but she sure loves on them like she is. 

She carried me in the heat and humidity of a Missouri summer, and later walked me to the school bus during my kindergarten year. In the moments between working all day and cooking supper for our family, she always took time to listen to the details of my day at school.  She made numerous Halloween costumes; fried a lot of chicken; and could whip up an amazing chocolate sheet cake.  She used to dance in the kitchen to the sixties music on the oldies radio station - which prompted lots of giggles from me.  She once cut my hair so short I looked like a boy, and she also styled my hair for my junior prom.  She loves to go to garage sales, and always finds something special to buy just for me.  When she's so tired she could literally drop, she continues to selflessly give to others and is a beautiful example of humility and love. She kisses my babies and holds them in her arms, and she treats my husband like he's truly her son.  And, like Mrs. Murphy above, she is also a snow white haired lady teaching preschool Sunday school and loving on little ones.  She's not their momma, but she sure loves on them like she is.  And, I'm so honored and blessed to call her my amazing, wonderful, beautiful momma.  Oh, I love her so. 

These are just a few of the wonderful mommas in my life.  Though I genuinely call only one of them "mom", each has blessed my life tremendously with the love and care they've shown.  One doesn't have to be a biological momma to love like a momma does.  She need only open her heart and her arms.   Who's your momma?

"Her children arise and call her blessed…many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
 – Proverbs 31:28-29 (NIV)

Happy Mother's Day Mommas!

Lord, I thank You for creating each of these special women and placing them in my life. May they know they are dearly and deeply loved, and may they be richly blessed by their children.   I give You all the glory for their beautiful lives and for the rich blessings I receive from knowing them and knowing You.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Skating Lessons

When I was a child, my dad would take my brother, Kevin, and me skating on our frozen lake in the winter.   There was something freeing about gliding on the ice and breathing in the fresh, cold, winter air.   Something that put a little pep in my step.  Something that made me feel alive.  Something...that made all eighty five layers of thermal underwear, stocking caps and gloves totally worth wearing.   

Dad would always go first to carefully inspect the ice for firmness and safety; and would alert us to any danger zones, such as cracks or holes to avoid.  But, one winter, curiosity got the best of my eight year old mind, and I stuck my boot through a small hole in the ice.  This was certainly not one of my most intelligent moments.  Foundation is everything...and well,'s rather difficult to stand when you have one foot in a hole, and another on slippery terrain.  No sooner than the tip of my boot skimmed the frigid water's surface, my other foot slipped and down I fell – one leg completely immersed in the freezing water, and thankfully, one still on the surface of the ice.  Dad hurriedly scooped me up, carried me off the lake and back to the warmth and comfort of our home.  Had I fallen in completely and/or my dad not reacted as quickly, the scene might have played out quite differently....

As I recall that experience, I am reminded of the endearing scene from Bambi in which Thumper tries to teach a wobbly Bambi to ice skate.  Bambi struggles to stand on the ice, but his long, thin legs just don't offer the same support of Thumper's larger, padded feet.  Foundation is everything and Thumper's firmer foundation allowed him to glide confidently and gracefully across the frozen pond.  

I have found a lot of similarities between ice skating and walking with Christ. Both require proper safeguards and foundation for success:  

1). Proper safety gear – Wearing the right boots and blades is essential for skaters to flourish on the ice.  As Christians, we too need the right gear to thrive.  Scripture says we need to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-17).
2). Learn to walk before you skate – Skaters generally learn to walk on the ice prior to learning how to skate.  Walking helps establish one's center of gravity, which in turn makes ankles less wobbly.  When we walk with the Lord, He becomes our center of gravity and steadies our stride.  Psalm 27:23 (NIV) says, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him.”
3.) Keep your eyes forward and let go - Skaters are taught to look in the direction they are skating.  If they pay too much attention to their feet, they will fall.  They are also instructed not to hold onto anything that may become a crutch.   Hebrews 12:1-2 provides similar instruction in our walk with Christ – telling us to remove any weight that might slow us down and to press on toward our heavenly prize by keeping our eyes on Christ.
4). Have a spotter and use your edges – When learning to skate, one should have a confident skater alongside as a spotter.  He/she will be able to help you up when you slip.  Additionally, the edges of a skate blade provide power, control and speed, but one must keep them sharpened and know how to use them correctly in order to benefit from their potential.  We are told in scripture that two are better than one – for if one falls down, the other can help him/her back up (Ecclesiastes 4:10).  Additionally, Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) provides information on sharpening our faith, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
5). Bend Your Knees - When skaters bend their knees, their stability is greatly increased, and they do not fall backwards nearly as much.  James 5:16 (NIV) states, “…the earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power….”

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. 
A man is powerful on his knees.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom

Sometimes the roads in life get slickery, and as I’m learning to skate, I am so thankful for a Heavenly Father who scoops me up each time I fall.  

Most gracious Lord, thank You for the foundation You provide.  Foundation is everything Lord, and I am so grateful You steady our walk and lift us when we fall.  Father, I pray we learn to let go of the things that hold us back and continually keep our eyes focused on You – pressing onward and moving ahead to the heavenly prize You have promised.