Archives for October 2013

Teach Us to Listen {The Gift of a Grandpa} {Day 23 of 31}

We sit down at the small kitchen table with soup and a chicken salad sandwich.  He chooses chicken noodle; we take tomato.  He declines a drink.  The small meal is fine, he says.  I haven’t worked today so I don’t need much to eat.

We talk of slaughtering a cow and eating fresh beef.  Of bees and honey collecting.  Of raising and eating hogs.  Of his granddaughter’s childhood memories.  Of his mom and the meals she cooked for him. ..

What is your favorite meal, Grandpa?

I’d have to say beef with some potatoes and carrots.  Maybe some mashed potatoes. Other vegetables.

They continue talking of yummy meals.  He is smiling.  She is smiling.

I listen intently to granddaughter and grandfather reminiscing.  I have no desire to interrupt or interject.   It’s good for my heart to simply listen.

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He says…

You know, the last time I had my dad’s smoked ham was when I was stationed in New Jersey.  I had an uncle who lived up there and my dad had given him some ham.  I visited one evening, and he prepared it for me. 

There’s a pause in the conversation…I can hear the sigh of his wife’s oxygen machine and the whispered conversation of those in the living room.  Then he begins again…

In 1942 I was stationed under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  I worked on a switchboard there.  We’d see ships coming back from Hawaii with artillery holes in them.  They were painting the bridge at that time.  It’s miles long.  They were hand painting with a brush, a big job.  Course now they have better ways to do that.

I was also stationed in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and New Jersey.  I was sent from Kentucky to New Jersey with three other guys.  Just four of us.  We had to do all our work at the base.  It was secret work. We couldn’t take any work home. It was then that I saw my first television in New York City. It would only transmit from one room to the next.  Can you imagine?  Think about what we have now. 

He pauses, removes his glasses, and wipes his eyes with his handkerchief.  The moisture gathering around his eyes barely visible.

They dropped the bomb on Japan and that was it.  The army just let me go.

Were you drafted, grandpa? 

Yes, I would’ve have enlisted…

He wipes his eyes…again…

But I was drafted. 

I love history, so as he talks I am filling in blanks…World War II.  Pearl Harbor.  The Manhattan Project.  The Atomic Bomb. Hiroshima. And on and on.

One of the most pivotal times in America’s history. One of the most pivotal times in world history.  And, he played a part.  He knew things from working “in secret” in New Jersey that we’d never know.  He knew of the world when women began entering the work force in droves because men were away at war.

World War II changed the face of America – from her workforce to atomic bombs.  Things we’d never known became reality.

And, he lived through it.  Served.  Wow.

He continued…

Well, I was 25 by then, and I’d spent some important years in the army, missing some things.  I didn’t go college.  I didn’t know how back then to go to college.  I didn’t have the resources either.  So I just did the best I could as a young man.  I got into the construction business…I helped build bridges in Zanesville…

And on he goes about structures he built.  Bridges.  Power plants.  He describes working from heights and stuff dropping from above his head.  Scary, hard work.

He finished his soup and returns to his wife’s bedside.  She’s moving toward eternity.  He sits by her side, not knowing in just about seven hours she’d be gone, taking her last breath in her earthly body and her first in the heavenly realms.

This conversation…this day…was a gift.  I was like a “fly on the wall” as a grandfather, who was watching his wife of 66 years fade from this life, shared precious memories with his granddaughter – my friend.  I’d come to bring dinner, but I’d left with a memory that will forever live in my heart.

As I drove home, I was reminded of a few things…

One.  Listen to one another.  I often talk first and listen later.   God reminded me of James’ directive to believers in James 1:    19 My dear brothers and sisters,take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…

Quick to listen and slow to speak.  Just think of what I would have missed if I’d been quick to speak and slow to listen.

Two.  Those who have lived longer than us have much to share if we’ll simply take time to stop and ask…listen.  In this crazy, busy world we rarely stop to have conversation beyond will you pick up the kids?  And, what’s for dinner?  We seldom sit for a few hours and just listen to others’ stories.  Sad, huh?

As I study the story of Gideon from the book of Judges, I am reminded that we must always be looking for the ones who are older  – those who can shepherd and mentor us well.  And looking for the ones who are younger – those whom we can shepherd and mentor well.  Continually learning from and loving one another.

We ALL need a listening ear – young and old.   When someone listens to us, it says to our hearts:  You matter. Your story, your life, your experiences, your thoughts, your opinions, your everything matters to me.  So I listen.

Are you listening today?   What might you be missing by talking and not hearing?  Who needs your attention? Who’s heart do you need to hear?  I mean, really hear?

I pray you listen.   I don’t want you to miss the gift.

One Final Goodbye {My Best Friend and Her Granny} {Day 21 of 31}

We pause outside the door.  She takes a deep breath, and I follow her inside.

The hum and hiss of oxygen greets us.  We remove our shoes and step into the living room.

As a little girl growing up, you never expect to see your sweet Granny slowly slipping toward her eternal home.  The Granny in your heart and memory races to the tree and teaches you to make butterscotch pie.  She sips Ovaltine and offers you a glass – and a meal – every time you visit.

On our last visit, we looked at photo album after photo album, Granny narrating, detailing each picture – the who, the where, and the what.  Her short-term memory may have been slipping, but she her long-term recall was sharp.  The walk down memory lane was good for all our hearts as Granny and granddaughter continually lookeed into one another’s eyes and smiled.

They are deeply connected.

Now, Granny sleeps peacefully in her recliner.  Dressed in a purple floral shirt and hunter green pants, fuzzy socks keeping her feet warm.  Her appearance is slowly changing as her earthly body gives in to the disease inside.

She takes a seat by her Granny, covering her hands with her own.  She gently wakes her.  After a few moments, Granny face registers her visitor…

My little Jenny.

Jen smiles and jokes that she’s not so little anymore.  Granny smiles and pats her hands…then her face.

The conversation is minimal.  How are you feeling?  I am ok.  I am tired.  Are you cold?  No.  I am warm.  Are you thirsty?  Want some 7UP?  I guess that would be ok. That would be nice.

And so for the next hour they sit hand in hand.  Granny and her little Jenny.  Jen handing tissues and helping her as she coughs. I sit quietly in a nearby rocking chair.  Tears in my eyes.

It’s a gift to watch them love one another.

She gets her Granny’s well-worn Bible and begins reading Psalm 103 aloud…

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins

and heals all my diseases.

He redeems me from death

and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

He fills my life with good things.

My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

Granny drifts off to sleep.  Other visitors come and go.  It’s time for us to leave too.

She leans in close to say goodbye; Granny turns her head toward her granddaughter’s voice and listens intently.

She slowly lifts her hand, placing it on Jen’s face.  A visible change comes over Granny’s face.  Her posture even changes.  With purpose and adoration she says…

I have always loved you, Jenny.

Awe, I love you too, Granny.

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As her aunt takes Granny to the bathroom, we say goodbye.

I’ll be back to see you tomorrow, Granny. 

Ok, Jenny.  You be careful.

Something inside us both feels the weight of Granny’s goodbye.  It feels final.

We were right.

—————————————

Less than 48 hours later, Jen returned to Granny’s bedside. Except for a few hours, she never left.

Sweet Granny took one final breath this morning.  Daughters and granddaughter by her side.  Her earthly struggle no more.  No more suffering.

Now dancing with Jesus.

————————————–

I visited Granny four times, including yesterday.  She would pat my face and tell me that I was a pretty girl with the prettiest brown eyes.  I loved being in her presence.  I always thought…it’s like meeting an angel on earth.  I was honored to meet her – even for a little while.  And I am blessed to walk alongside her granddaughter, my best friend.

I ache for “little Jenny”  today as she says goodbye.  We hurt when those we love hurt.  Please join me in praying for this sweet family as they say goodbye and honor their Granny…

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the years Granny spent on this earth, your beloved servant.  We know you saw each day as she loved her family well…every meal she prepared, every tear she wiped, every heart she loved.  She exemplified the gentle and quiet spirit of one who loved you deeply. 

 As you met her face to face this morning, we know she heard:  Well-done, good and faithful servant.  Welcome, my beloved.  And while we rejoice with the angels at her homecoming, we are simply sad.  We will miss her loving words and pats on the cheek.  We will miss her steadfast care and heart of gold.  We will miss our wife, momma, granny, sister, great-granny, and friend.

 Lord be near her family and friends as they say goodbye today and over the next few days. We pray you hold them in your hand, giving them strength to do all that comes in honoring her life.  In life and now in death, we are confident in the power of YOUR great LOVE.  Hold us, Lord.  Today and always.  In Your precious Son’s name we pray, Amen.  

He is for YOU {Don’t Be a Bully} {Day 16 of 31}

I substitute teach often, and I recently watched a bullying video with a group of 6th graders.  We talked about how they’d been bullied and how much it hurt and why people bully.  And, I am more convinced than ever that this concept of bullies and groups and cliques applies to all of us – not just 6th graders.

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We still leave people out – often on purpose. We see people hurting or failing and revel in their failure because we are tired of watching them succeed.  We aren’t happy with who we are, so we make others feel less than.  Or, we simply give them the cold shoulder for being who they are.  We hold grudges and compete for friends.  We try to “position” ourselves in churches and organizations by having the right friends or saying the right things.

All of this…I have either witnessed or done.   What a waste.  A sinful waste.

More than ever I desire to know that He is for me and for you to know that He is for you  – so we won’t allow “bullying” to affect our hearts or walks with Him and so we always extend grace to others, truly desiring them to feel loved and cherished by their Creator and others.

He is for you.  I are for you.  Do not grow faint or weary, for He is your strength.

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31

The gospel is the good news that God is the all-satisfying end of all our longings.  John Piper

Breathe {Advice for the Overwhelmed} {Day 6 of 31}

Breathe.

just-breathe

When I get worked up about something, I begin to talk quickly and in circles.  The more I talk, the more worked up I get.  I begin remembering all my “to-do’s” and feeling overwhelmed.

When I was a student teacher, my mentor would catch me in these moments and say…Breathe.

Such simple advice, but I remember it often.  I remind myself to take a deep breath, thanking my Creator for the breath.

And when my heart turns to thankfulness, the overwhelming, panicky feeling begins to subside.

And when my heart turns to the gospel, the overwhelming, panicky feeling disappears.

I have no reason to feel overwhelmed, inadequate, panicky, or any of those things if I focus on Him and his work for me on the cross.  It’s a relief to know this life isn’t about me or my to-do list.  Or my works.  Or my opinion.  Or my failures.

It’s about Him – and only Him.

[Insert deep breath…and much relief here.]

“It’s not the gospel if it doesn’t cause you to breathe a sigh of relief.”  Scotty Smith

My Dad’s Birthday {A Reminder of the Gospel} {Day 4 of 31}

Today is my dad’s birthday.  I’ve written about him every October and January since I began blogging.  As I looked bak at some of those posts this morning, I read this:

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My dad.  He was there.  Always.  He loved us.  He provided for us. Period.

That’s my father in Heaven too.

He is there.  Always.   He provides for my every need.  Period.

As I struggle today, God knew just what I needed – a reminder that He is always there, never leaving me or forsaking me.  He is all I need.  Period.

While fighting a cold, He is all need.  In this difficult season of life, He is all need.

His grace is sufficient.  His love is more than enough. The gospel assures me of that.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  We love and miss you. I’ll be thinking of you this weekend, hoping to make you proud.  Thankful for every gospel sing and revival you took me to.  Thankful for every event you ever endured just to watch your little girl.  Thankful for everyday you spent with us and looking forward to each one we will spend together in eternity.

She’s Been With Jesus Today {Being NOT Doing} {Day 3 of 31}

I read this in Everyday Prayers this morning…

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Lord Jesus, doing noble things for you is not the same thing as spending life-giving time with you.  Thinking great thoughts about you is not the same thing as vital communion with you . Helping others understand the gospel is not the same thing as drinking presently and deeply from the wellspring of grace for myself.  In all honestly, I am not really concerned about others being able to say, “He’s been with Jesus.”  I want my own heart to know that I’ve been with  you.  

Today, this touched my heart as I sit preparing to speak at a conference this weekend.  My topic is “living rescued” – living so that others look at you and say, “She’s been with Jesus.”

Isn’t that what we all desire?  For our Creator and those around us to look upon us and say…my daughter, she’s been with me today. My friend, she’s been with Jesus today.

Spend time with him today, friend.  Drink deeply from His wellspring of grace, which is for all.  And, then, extend that grace to others.

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Give Grace {Are Facebook Rants Helpful?} {Day 2 of 31}

I open Facebook to pass the time, waiting on my daughter as she finishes dance class.  As I scroll, I smile at the accomplishments and pray for the requests.

And then…

I see it:  A rant about infidelity.

I realize Facebook is a place to post whatever you’d like.  It’s your profile.  Up to you what you say and how you say it. I mostly brag on my kids and share my Jesus.

But.

This rant about infidelity breaks my heart.  I wonder…how is this helpful?

If you’re about to have an affair, does reading a rant on adultery stop you from having the affair?  If you’ve been the victim of an affair, does reading that more Jesus would’ve fixed your marriage help you heal or heap on hurt?  If you’re a couple who has been through infidelity and you’re still married, trying to heal, does reading about a return to Genesis 2 and what someone thinks of “cheaters” remind you of a forgiving and loving God who is for you?

Life is not that simple.  We love to think in blacks and whites and not in grays.  But, there are grays.  Every marriage, every situation is different.

Is more Jesus the answer to most, if not all, issues in life?  I’d say so.

Do we need to speak and hold to truth from God’s Word regarding every situation, including marriage? Absolutely.

But, sometimes, sharing Jesus’ love is simply sitting beside your hurting friend with closed mouth and closed eyes, praying to the only one we know can redeem…

Father, we pray for the hearing of the gospel as much as the preaching of the gospel.  Without your grace, we remain dead.  Scotty Smith

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Praying our hearts “hear” the gospel. For without the gospel – without his grace – we remain dead.

Instead of “ranting” or trying to fix with “this is what worked for us” or speaking about a situation when you haven’t walked that person’s path or even asked her about her path, could we extend grace and prayer today?

Could we simply sit alongside those who are hurting and offer them love and prayer?

Can our gospel message for today be…he loves you so much, hurting friend, that he DIED for you.  I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t know what it’s like to be you or hurt in this way, but I know the One who holds you in His hands.

And maybe your friend isn’t even ready for those words.  If not, hug her tight and cry alongside her as you silently pray to the only One who can truly help.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

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The Gospel is for ALL {Is YOUR Gospel for All?} {Day 1 of 31}

Driving home after school drop off, asking God for wisdom, I land on Kari Jobe’s song You Are For Me.

I immediately transform into Kari Jobe, singing at the top of my lungs, remembering to keep at least one hand on the wheel.  (Don’t judge; we’ve all become rockstars in our cars at least once in our lives;)

As I exit the interstate, there’s a homeless man standing at the ramp’s end.  Actually, there’s almost always a homeless man or woman standing at this particular place.  As my van stopped at the red light, my heart paused too.

homeless-man

Are you for him, God? 

I know you’re for me.  I do. I certainly needed reminded today because lately I’ve not felt you’re for me.

But, are you for him?  The homeless guy at the freeway exit asking for food and/or money?  Are you for him, God?  Because I look out my window, headphones in my ears, money in my wallet, gas in the tank, food in my refrigerator, and computer in my backpack, and I see him…dirty, hungry, sad.  No window to look out.  No fridge full of food.

I know the answer to this question.  God and I have been around this way before – many times this bleeding heart has asked God about poverty.  I KNOW God’s presence and love isn’t only evidenced in the material.

Still…

It just feels like God is more for me.  And I tell Him so.  Not in an angry way, but in a “please, God, be for that man too” way.

And in my soul I hear…Sarah, the gospel is for all.

I am for all. 

This is true.  Jesus died for all.  He bore the weight of my sin and yours and the homeless man on the corner’s.

He is for the one who gossips about you.  He is for the Bible memory verse champion. He is for the one who bullies your child at school.  He is for the homeless and oppressed.   He is for the church lady.  He is for prodigal son and the faithful son. He is for the doting husband and the cheating husband.  He is for the ones who love you and the ones who despise you. He is for the ones who love Him and the ones who are far from Him.

He is for all. His gospel is for all.

And if the gospel I believe or the gospel you believe excludes ANY of the ALL?  It’s not the gospel.  If your gospel does not apply to the homeless man and the rich man, then it’s not the gospel. If your gospel defines blessed only as a state of outward appearance and not as a state of inward joy, it’s not the gospel.

The gospel we believe, live, and share must be for all.  When we add to it to suit our own culture and lives, viewing it through our own North American lens, then we are dangerous.

Is your gospel – the one you believe deep in your soul, the one you live out of – for all?  Do your beliefs about Jesus and his death and resurrection fit the homeless man and you?  Can you apply your gospel to yourself and those living without clean water in Africa?

If not, beware.  Beg God to open your heart and help you understand His good news in a new and fresh way.

34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. 36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all…They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him to life on the third day… Acts 10-34-40

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Romans 3: 23-26

He shows no favoritism. His gospel is for all – in every nation. We all fall short, but our just and fair God declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Amazing grace.  Thank you, Jesus.

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