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?

Love and Faithfulness at Work

Chee! Chee!

A piercing distress call pulled my attention to an area of the parking lot where three little girls giggled. Their father drew them away from the mother bird. As others walked by her nest, the beautiful killdeer spread her wings and puffed up her feathers in a protective bluff.

A few feet away, I looked among the rounded decorative stones where she stood guard. Sure enough. She had laid a clutch of eggs, almost invisible in their surroundings. Settling back on her eggs, she also became nearly invisible.

As the weeks went by, intruders frustrated her efforts to see to the safety of her eggs. Severe thunderstorms battered her. Yet nothing could drive her away. Nothing could pressure her into abandoning her special work. Because of her faithful love, four baby killdeer came into the world. She continued vigil over them until they were ready to go out in this world on their own. Once again, she had completed God’s plan for that season of her life.

When Jesus entered public ministry, no doubt he felt battered, too. His mother and brothers heard how he worked day and night with barely time to eat or sleep. Worried about him, they arrived to take him home. Instead he continued his ministry to the poor and needy. Important religious leaders scorned him, tried to trick him, insulted him and plotted to kill him. Yet he refused to run and hide.

When he told his closest friends that he would be betrayed and die on a cross at Jerusalem, they didn’t understand. One tried to talk him out of it, but no one could drive him off course. Nothing could pressure him into abandoning the special work he had come to do.

With all the faithful love in his heart, he held true to God’s plan to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind. He knew that, only through his death on the cross would we ever know the blessing of eternity in heaven with God. God, who loves us more than we could think or imagine.

When life batters us, we have a choice. We can yield to well-meaning arguments. We can run and hide. Or we can refuse to be pressured off course. Instead, we can pray for the strength to be a blessing and hold true to God’s plan for this particular season of our lives.

Focus: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you.” ~ Proverbs 3:3, New International Version.

How about you? Like that little mother killdeer, are you struggling—or have you struggled–with a particular season in your life?

(This blog post is adapted from a June 2005 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.)

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 Last Supper

Jesus looked around the Upper Room where he and his disciples had gathered to eat their Passover supper. Though they were unaware, he knew his time was near. Within hours, he would hang on a cross, dying an excruciating death for the sins of all mankind. On the third day, he would come gloriously back to life.

His gaze found  Thomas who would doubt him, Peter who would deny knowing him, Judas who would sell him to his enemies. All of his disciples so devoted to him now would run for their lives when he was arrested this very night. At the moment, however, they were squabbling over who would be greatest in his coming kingdom.

Leaving his place at the table, he–the great Lord God among them in human flesh–put on the garb of the lowliest slave in a Hebrew household. Filling a basin with water, he knelt down before his astonished disciples to wash their dusty feet.

When he finished, he said, “I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet” and urged them to do the same because “no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:13-15, New International Version).

On the night before he died for all of our sins, Jesus set us a great example of humility. No matter what position, talent or wisdom we might possess, we are to be one another’s humble servants. If we willingly perform even the lowliest of tasks to serve the people in our lives, Jesus promised we will be blessed. Yes, we will be happy!

The apostle Paul expressed the same idea when he wrote that we should …

Focus: Be devoted to each other in brotherly love and honor each other more than ourselves. (Romans 12:10).

How about you? Have you served someone else and found yourself blessed by that simple act?

(This blog post adapted from a March 1999 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)

Will You?

In a recent reading on forgiveness, I was reminded of a relative. Through family stories during my childhood, I came to mistrust and then dislike him. It wasn’t until years after his death that God took the matter up with me. By that time, I was a grown woman with a husband and a baby.

While walking to work one day, I heard these words in my heart. “It’s time to forgive. Will you?”

I had been harboring those ill feelings for a long time, not even aware of them most of the time. But that day I discovered that, for Jesus’ sake, I could forgive. The person didn’t have to ask for my forgiveness, didn’t even have to know he had offended me. I could set myself free of ill feelings simply by forgiving.

How about you? Have you struggled with the remembrance of someone’s offenses against you or someone you love? What has your struggle taught you about the power of forgiveness?

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!

Love and Politics

I hope you don’t mind my sharing some very personal thoughts with you. Because the subject is touchy. Especially with elections coming up.

During a recent happy gathering, I heard a dear friend–one whom I love and respect–blurt out with vehemence, “I hate (she named a politician)!” It took me by complete surprise. Not that she expressed dislike, but actually said she hated the person.

And she’s not alone.

Gone are the days when voters discussed the issues, worked hard to support the candidate of their choice, but then gracefully accepted the outcome at the polls. Back then, I was proud of our country, its electoral process, and its citizens. Personally, I’d like to see us return to those upright and gracious times when we might hate the policies of a candidate or elected official, but we didn’t hate the person.

As Christians, we are called by God to love others, even if we disagree with them, even if we believe that what they choose to do might harm us. If Jesus could hang on a cruel cross and still say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” should we do less? He not only entrusted his life to his Father in heaven, but he forgave and prayed for his enemies on earth.

Am I trying to preach to you? Absolutely not! But I do want to remind myself of the excellence of gracious Christian love we are called live in the name of Jesus.

How about you? What are your thoughts regarding “Christian love and politics”?