Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Coffee Lubricant

Whenever folks rub against each other some sort of lubricant seems to help things along, an' nothin' lubricates like a good cup of coffee.  Coffee takes the chill out of old bones, it warms the heart, an' it even loosens the tongue a mite - not too much like some other drinks I could mention.

I can't say I ever tasted coffee  that was really bad, but goodness knows there's all kinds, from the thick black quinine stuff they serve in places like New Orleans to the muddy brew that comes from the grimy pot of my bachelor friend Ivar Olson who used the same coffee grounds for a whole week.  Restaurant coffee is a good deal better now than it uster be on account of they got scientific coffee machines.

But I reckon the best coffee a man can drink is what his wife pours him at breakfast, or in the middle of the afternoon when you feel like you need a little extry something to see you thru the day.  There's a lot of talk about different brands of coffee, but my favorite is Wifebrand.  It seems to carry a little extry something to warm an' sustain you.

Paul C. Johnson (1947-1970)
"John Turnipseed's Almanac"
Prairie Farmer Magazine

Monday, February 20, 2012

How Could You?

Recently my friend Sherry watched her father succumb to a horrendous battle with cancer. "How can the God I trust allow such cruel pain?" she sobbed.  "Everybody suffers, but to allow it to this degree is just mean when He could have stopped it!"

Joya toddled cheerfully from the chair to the sofa. Reaching triumphantly to grasp for balance, she fell backwards on her bottom. Disappointment shrieked. Her accusing eyes met mine. "How could you let this happen?" she seemed to say. "I thought you loved me."

I have walked a lot of miles with Joya by now. She is confident of my love and secure when I am with her.  But she can fall down even if I'm walking right beside her. It doesn't mean I allowed it to happen.  She knows that with unconditional love, I'll pick her up and carry her. I'll mend her cuts and bruises. I'll cry when she cries. I'll be happy when she gets well. She knows I am always available to encourage her as she learns and grows. 

In all the moments of my life, God has walked beside me. The wonder of God's love is not that He keeps us from suffering, but that He promises to be with us when it happens.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Better Gift

My husband knows that I sometimes clean chocolate out of the clothes dryer and scrub really nasty toilets. He knows I have fished dead worms and baby mice out of pants pockets. Having had five foster sons, he knows I have figured out by now how to duck snowballs, pitch a curve ball and shoot a basket. The presence of a mouse requires his immediate assistance, though I can dissect a deer heart or deliver a baby lamb without a problem. He knows more about me than anyone on the planet, self included.

Most women expect flowers, candy, restaurants or at least a token card on a holiday.  My husband's parting words this morning were to remind me he is at the low end of the scale in gift giving. I drove away laughing and headed to the market.  In the flower, card and candy aisle, two men grumbled to one another about the craziness of this holiday. One actually said his wife didn't deserve anything but "the boot".  And he didn't mean cute boots either!

No, my husband is not a great spender on cheap momentary gifts easily picked up on the way to work of a morning. His gifts are much more costly, permanent and difficult to find. He provides for me, teaches me, honors me and cherishes me every day. He says my weaknesses and faults make me human so it's okay when I fail. No, we don't do very well with holidays, but we are learning excellence in daily marriage.

Walking by faith not sight is an adventure that changes people. God has walked alongside molding us into His image one day at a time. The closer we each get to God, the closer we get to one another. A better gift would be hard to find.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

As a young mom I stood at a garage sale deciding between buying the Fisher Price dial phone or the discarded real phone for a prop to teach prayer to preschoolers. Now I help parents decide whether their preschooler should have a cell phone for safety when away from a parent.

Discernment has taken a giant leap in difficulty. Minds are tired, bodies are hurried and decisions are complicated by too many choices. People want to make right decisions, but fear and worry can easily overwhelm. Instead, we can rest easy. God has given us everything we need for life and godliness.

"I shall run the way of Your commandments for You will enlarge my heart." -Psalm 119:32

Decision making is meant to bring joy and strength, not to cripple. Your understanding will broaden with right choices. Your heart will increase its capacity for joy and praise. Discern your next step, be it ever so small or humble. Maybe the next step in your big decision making is to eat lunch, to pause for a glass of water, to make a phone call, to change a diaper or study for a test.

Spiritual maturity brings easier discernment. Seek wisdom from others when you need it. And give God a phone call.

"Call to Me and I will answer you and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Happy Penny

While playing in my bedroom Eli scooped up a penny from the floor. Without much thought he stuck it in his pocket and continued his play. Putting on his pajamas that night caused the penny to fall out onto the floor of his bedroom. 

"Where did this come from?" his mother asked curiously.  As Eli explained where he had gotten it, she talked about the importance of not taking things that belong to someone else.  She taught him that it doesn't matter if it's a small or large thing.  It matters that God is happy when we are honest and careful about everything.

Eli greeted me with an uncomfortable smile when he sat beside me at church the next day. He put beside me a piece of paper and a penny. "Read it," he told me softly.

I picked up the penny and glanced curiously at Eli's mother, my spiritual daughter, Kerri.  She smiled and nodded at the piece of paper. The note, infinitely more precious to me than the penny, was carefully written by a small hand that is only beginning to learn penmanship and spelling. Eli was sorry he had taken the penny.

I smiled, turned over the piece of paper and wrote a note back to him.  Would he put the penny in the offering plate for me?  Giving God the penny would make it a happy penny.

I watched as the lesson soaked into his soul and melted away his discomfort. I watched the arrival of joy that comes when we give everything over to God. When he looked up at me, a confident smile had erased the nervous frown and his eyes once again twinkled with love and delight.

Do you know, oh, Christian, you're a sermon in shoes?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Flying with Liam

"I'm Superman, okay?" Liam notified me one afternoon.  He is at least a sophmore by now in the diligent study of super powers. "Here I come!" he shouted.

I caught the flying four year old as he landed with me on the couch. "You fly pretty well, Zip. That was impressive! Superman is my favorite."

He hugged me tight and then with a slight lisp whispered, "I'm not really Superman, you know.  I just have the power."

Recently our church family was blessed to see one of our young men, Jerad, home from marine training. All of our loving hugs probably left permanent wrinkles in his pressed formal uniform. Liam didn't know Jerad very well, but had joined the family in drawing pictures and writing letters to encourage Jerad while he was away.

And then Jerad shook Liam's hand.

With  eyes alert and focused, Liam stepped closer to me and took my hand. He watched silently, awestruck with wonder as Jerad walked away to greet others. A real hero has more power than you can imagine or pretend.

Oh, my beloved Liam. On exraordinary ordinary days, be a super hero. Fly high with wings like eagles.  Run and do not grow weary. Live a life for Jesus that shouts wherever adventure takes you. You have The Power: Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I'm Running to Win!

My spiritual daughter, Lindsey, tells me that to run a race you focus on one mile, one quarter mile or one more step rather than the whole marathon. She coaches teenage girls by running alongside of them until their bodies are trained and their pace is strong. She tells them over and over again that they are winners until they believe her. I love to hear her tell of their progress. Starting at the back of the pack, they soon discover that training builds them into leaders.

The spiritual race you are running is not an impossible obstacle course. It is a race that you can win. You have a Coach who will train you and make you strong. He knows you can be a winner and is willing to help you make that dream come true.

Focus on your next step. There is always enough time, enough light, enough knowledge for the step you are on.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith. Run in such a way as to win the prize. Use the spiritual disciplines to train yourself daily.  God promises an easy yoke and a burden that is light. He promises everything we need for life and godliness. He coaches and trains us with our qualifications and limitations in mind.

God expects progress, not perfection. Spiritual maturity brings a peaceful rhythm of graceful steps much like a well trained runner's stride. You will be a winner if you do not give up. Are you running to win?