Never Too Late

Carol shut the door to her art studio. “Lord, I’m getting nowhere, and I’m sick of trying. I quit!”

It wasn’t as if she hadn’t tried. For years, for Pete’s sake! Okay, so she had procrastinated some. Vegging out in front of the TV and chatting with friends rather than wrestling to master that illusive painting technique.

She sighed and leaned against the wooden door. Truthfully, she hadn’t worked on her paintings anywhere near as much as she promised herself. Sometimes she just had to get that nagging housework done, had to run those errands, had to answer her email first.  Okay, so she used those distractions at times to avoid walking into that studio and facing the fear that her work would never really measure up.

Until now, she had never given up. For years, she tweaked each of her cherished paintings, dreaming that someday when she would perfect them. While her friends devoted themselves to finishing their works, had pieces commissioned by local restaurants and businesses, and saw their work qualify for art shows and museum exhibits. While some achieved “Best of the Show” awards.

They didn’t let doubts about lack of perfection hold them back. They forged ahead with single-minded determination, serving God with whatever they had to offer at the time. How Carol admired them! How she wished she could be like them. Could she?

“Lord, is it too late?”

What I see in God’s Word is that the answer for both Carol and us is no. It’s never too late to develop the skills and talents God has given to us to make this world a kinder, more loving place. Whether it’s teaching, encouraging, leadership, serving, building, inspirational writing or artwork, or something altogether different, we can determine right now to …

Focus: “Be diligent in these matters (not neglect our God-given gifts); give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress” ~ 1 Timothy 4:15, New International Version.

How About you? How do you fight doubt and use your gifts as you attempt to make this world a kinder, better place?

(This blog post is adapted from a May 2006 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)

Memorial Day and Dad

Memorial Day was always a special event for my family. Early in the morning  I would watch my dad, a World War II veteran, leave the house in his American Legion blues with his bugle tucked under his arm. While the rest of the city prepared for the parade and other festivities, Dad and a few others made their faithful rounds. At each of our town’s cemeteries, they honored our U.S. servicemen by marking each grave with a small flag. At some point during the solemn ceremony that followed, my father raised his bugle to blow Taps.

By ten o’clock, the town turned out to watch the parade. The moment it had stretched out over the Lawe Street Bridge with my father and the honor guard at its center, it paused. The honor guard fired their guns to salute our war dead. Someone sent the memorial wreath sailing over the railing. As it hit the waters of the Fox River and began floating down stream, my father lifted his bugle, and the clear, mournful notes of Taps drifted out over the hushed crowd.

Someone rightly said that we learn more by what is caught than  by what is taught. By watching my father, not only on Memorial Day but each day of the year, I learned patriotism. I learned to love our Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. I learned to appreciate the sacrifices of those who risked their lives to keep it so. I learned to honor our flag that represents the high ideals of our United States of America. Yes, children learn a great deal by watching their fathers.

During his lifetime on earth, Jesus–the Son of God–watched his Father to know what to do and what not to do. Referring to himself, he once said, “The Son … does only what he sees the Father doing, and in the same way” (John 5:19, The Living Bible.

He also said that if his disciples knew him, they knew his Father. So we, too, can learn from God our Father. By reading his Word and observing how Jesus handled situations and relationships, we can discover how to do the same. With this valuable information, we can make wise decisions that not only honor God but give us the high quality lives and relationships we long for.

Christ’s remarkable life is our sure example of how to grow in wisdom, love, and right relationships. No wonder the writer of the book of Hebrews urges us to …

Focus: “Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor” ~ Hebrews 12:2, The Living Bible.

How about you? Do you appreciate someone whose example inspires you?

(This blog post is adapted from a May 2000 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes on.)

Mother’s Day Tears

“I love you, Mom.”

Her thirty-five-year-old daughter’s words entered Sara’s heart in the midst of a pleasant phone conversation. Then the two returned to the subject they had been discussing. Later, before they hung up, her daughter again uttered those words, and Sara knew her child had turned a life-changing corner. A soft joy spread its light through her heart.

In years past, their relationship had gone through hard times. Her daughter entered those teen years, determined to run her own life though obviously not ready. Like many mothers, Sara shed oceans of tears and knew endless nights of anguished prayer as she repeatedly failed in her attempts at mothering her daughter.

Blaming herself, Sara dreaded Mother’s Day and the church service with its inevitable reading of Proverbs 31. The wonderful passage that paints a portrait of the perfect woman in God’s eyes seemed to mock her, especially verse 28: “Her children arise and call her blessed” (NIV). Mother’s Day became a time of deep sorrow.

Nevertheless, she continued to love her daughter and pray for her. In Sara’s heart, she felt the Lord urging her not to abandon her child even as He did not abandon His children. So, she put her faith in God to accomplish what only He could do in her daughter’s life.

Sadly, it’s true. Mother’s Day is not a joy to all. Some endure this day with broken hearts for children–even grown children–who have not yet come to love God and enjoy the wonder of His healing in their lives. Many grieve over broken relationships with their children who make destructive life choices. But for those mothers who choose to stand steadfastly with the Lord on behalf of their children, God has a promise …

Focus: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” ~ Psalm 126:5 (New International Version).

How about you? As a parent, can you relate to Sara’s story and her mother’s heart?

(This blog post adapted from a may 2002 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)