Glad Reunion

January’s fierce winds blew as I hurried toward the restaurant door. Tomorrow I would travel through several states to be with my sister as she buried her dear husband.

But first, I had an appointment made last week with a meeting planner who had invited me to speak at her church’s women’s retreat. With a heavy heart, I pushed open the door and stepped inside.

A blonde woman who looked vaguely familiar smiled at me. ‘Beth, you haven’t changed a bit!”

I thought of our phone conversation last week. “How much could I change in so little time?”

She looked puzzled but didn’t say anything. We settled in a booth where bright sunshine streamed through the window. I tried to listen as she talked, but the fresh news of my brother-in-law’s death made it hard to concentrate.

I watched her lips move. I know those lips! I squinted as I studied her face. I know that nose! And that face! Suddenly, it hit me. I last saw her many years ago when her hair had been dark brown.

“Are you–” I could hardly believe it. “–my Katy?”

She laughed, and her blue eyes crinkled in that familiar merriment. “You mean you didn’t know?”

How could I? In the years since her first husband’s death, we had lost track of one another. I had no idea that she had remarried and changed her hair color.

Oh, oh, oh! In a surge of excitement, we jumped up and hugged one another fiercely, then quickly settled back in the booth. We couldn’t talk fast enough to catch up on the past thirty-five years. Laughing and re-living our high school memories as best friends, we enjoyed our happy reunion. Four hours vanished before we reluctantly parted company, still excited and glad that the women’s retreat’s was not far off.

On the way home, I thanked God for this time of joy in the midst of our family’sorrow. He gently turned my thoughts to another glad reunion.

In God’s economy, a Christian’s death is not the end of life. It’s a new beginning. It’s a transition into a glorious, face-to-face life with him. A time of no more sorrow, pain, sickness, or death. A time of glad reunion with Jesus and our dear family and friends who have gone to be with him before us.

Focus: “Blessed are those who die in the Lord” ~Revelation 14:13, New Living Translation.

How about you? How do you find comfort when a loved one dies?

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Plucked from the Storm

Dark clouds boiled up on the far side of lake Winnebago. From a crowded public diving raft, Mary and I watched them head our way. On shore, speakers mounted on the bathhouse crackled, “All swimmers come ashore immediately!”

As lifeguards launched rowboats into the choppy waters and a distressed voice repeated the command through the bathhouse speakers, the waters near the raft teemed with swimmers trying to outrace the fast -approaching storm. Mary and I jumped in with them.

Never a strong swimmer, I came within four feet of the boat dock. Powerful waves kept pulling me back, sapping my strength as I struggled. “I can’t make it, Mary.”

“Yes, you can!” she shouted above the confusion around us.

“Go on without me,” I sputtered. I could no longer fight the waves repeatedly washing over my face and began to sink.

Mary caught me. “Look!”

From a boat only a few feet away, a lifeguard searched the waters around him. Mary waved to catch his attention. “Over here! Help!”

Moments later, he reached over the side of the boat and plucked me from the dangerous waters.

Like  that lifeguard, the Lord stands ready to rescue us from the dangerous waters of our lives.

Do overwhelming problems threaten us? He reminds us, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” Deuteronomy 33:27, New International Version.

Have we strayed from the Lord God who longs to gather us back to himself? He assures us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” Jeremiah 31:3, NIV.

Do we need to be freed from the sin that grips us? He promises, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Acts 2:21, NIV.

Whatever the storms of our lives, when we call out to Jesus, we find that his Word is true.

Focus: “The Lord will hear when I call to him” ~ Psalm 4:3, NIV.

How about you? On what occasion have you called out to the Lord and found him faithful to pluck you from the storms of your life?

Quick to Forgive?

I sat on the back porch steps, observing my six-year-old granddaughter attempt to teach the game of Frisbee to her deaf playmate. She launched her new toy through the air. “Come on, Anthony. You can do it!”

Anthony shook his head. Kyra coaxed until he tried and succeeded. In his excitment, he hugged the yellow toy and refused to return it. Kyra begged, but he laughed, playfully holding it just out of reach.

Bursting into tears, she ran to the side yard. Anthony laughed, and her back stiffened. She spun around. Glaring at him, she seized a big stick from the ground.

I leapt to my feet. “Kyra! No!”

My little girl looked at me. Her shoulders sagged and tears puddled in her hazel eyes. Dropping the stick, she darted into the front yard, sobbing. No longer laughing, Anthony followed her. Minutes later they returned. He shrugged and dropped down near the porch steps. Picking up a piece of colored chalk, he began drawing pictures on the sidewalk. Kyra stood stiffly a few feet away. “He was mean to me, Grandma. I’m angry.”

“What are you going to do about it?” I asked quietly.

For a few moments, she thought about it, then grinned and nodded her head triumphantly. “I’m never going to speak to him again forever!”

“Oh,” I ventured. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

Kyra’s grin vanished. “Why not?”

“Well—” Lord, please help me here. “—if you don’t forgive Anthony, you can’t be friends anymore.”

Kyra’s eyes grew wide. “We can’t?”

She climbed the porch steps and snuggled into my arms like a wounded bird. After all, they had been friends since they were babies. I held her close while stroking her silky blonde hair. “Besides, Kyra, Jesus wants us to forgive others, even when they hurt us for no good reason.”

“He does?” That clinched it. She wiggled out of my arms and joined Anthony on the sidewalk. He looked up, smiled, and handed her a piece of bright blue chalk.

Her crisis over, I marveled at how easily my little granddaughter had acted once she knew what God wanted her to do.

Wouldn’t our world be a much happier place if we were all so quick to forgive those who hurt us?

Focus: “Love your enemies! Do good to them! … Your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as sons of God” Luke 6:35 (The Living Bible).

What do say? Is it possible today’s chaotic world be a better place if we were quick to forgive? Why or why not?

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

The Bachelor Next Door by Kathryn Springer

I love Christian-based novels. They not only offer entertaining stories but inspire me to better living.

Take The Bachelor Next Door by Kathryn Springer (Love Inspired, 2014). It features home-based businessman and workaholic Brendan Kane. With ulterior motives, his mother hires Lily Michaels to paint the rooms of the family home. Much to Brendan’s annoyance. (Of course, that will slowly change. After all, this is a romance!)

Back to Lily. What struck me immediately about her is her cheerful willingness to go the extra mile for a friend. Shelby’s recent diagnosis of Lyme disease stirs Lily to take a few weeks leave of absence from her job in order to keep Shelby’s custom painting business afloat. Never mind that Lily is no painting expert. Or that she must secretly study technique as she goes. Or that Brendan doesn’t care for the necessary noise, distractions, and interruptions while he works. Lily steadfastly perseveres through each challenge.

Maybe you’ve never before considered steadfast perseverance to help someone as another facet of real life love. Nice to know though, isn’t it?

So, how about you? Have you stayed with helping someone in need in spite of difficulties? Has someone persevered to help you? Please share!

I’m Beginning to Wonder

I’m beginning to wonder. What day goes by without a friend stopping in to meet a need? This time it was my dear friend Susan Baganz. Putting aside her own pressing needs to write, edit, and take care of all things mommy, she came from out of town to help me put up this blog. (I’m told writers should have a blog!)

So here I am, up and running due to Susan’s unselfish love for a friend. Forever grateful to her for her kindness, I’m also forever grateful to God for providing such a friend. One with whom I can laugh and be silly. One who understands this writing life and can talk incessantly about it with me.  What a joy! Also one who shares my love for God and the incredible depth of meaning He brings to a life, no matter what the challenges.

How about you? Do you have such a friend?