The Whole Truth?

I emerged from our pop-up camper just as my husband pulled something from his wallet. Jim grinned. “Can you use this?”

Wow! Fifty dollars! “Sure.” Just what I needed to take out four grandchildren out to lunch and mini-golfing. “Thanks.”

I folded the bill twice and stuffed it deep into the pocket of my blue knit shorts.

Jim frowned. “Better put that in a safe place so you don’t lose it.”

Lose it? Did he think I was a child? I patted my pocket. “It’ll be fine right here,” I said, and hurried up the camp site hill to help my granddaughter set up her tent.

Later, I reached in my pocket to put the $50 in my purse. My heart leapt to my throat, and my knees nearly buckled. My pocket was empty.

I quickly revisited every area of our camp site I had gone to since Jim had given me the money. I had to find it before he found out it was missing.

Finally in defeat, I stood at the top of the hill and prayed. “Lord, you were trying to protect me through Jim, and I ignored you both. Please forgive me and help me find that money.”

I made the rounds again. Again without results. At the bottom of the hill and behind the camper, I bowed my head. My conscience pricked me. My wrong ran deeper than simple pride or disobedience. Though I had long ago given up telling outright lies, wasn’t I lying right now by hiding the truth from my husband?

I went to him. “Jim, I lost the $50.”

To my amazement, he calmly helped me look for the money. When I opened a folded camp chair, out dropped the $50 bill.

How easy it is to talk ourselves into not telling the whole truth in order to keep the peace, save face, or simply urge life on as we believe it should go. But neither outright lies nor keeping the truth from someone who has the right to know honors God. In all our daily choices, he gives us a gentle reminder.

Focus: “You must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”~ Philippians 1:27, New Living Translation.

How about you? Have you ever been tempted to make life easier by not telling the whole truth? How did that work for you?

 

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Making Decisions

I stopped my car on the white “V” where two major highways merged outside of Chicago. While traffic roared by on both sides, I stared at the sign above the busy tollway. Do I go right or left? To my nervous brain, the sign seemed nothing but gobbledygook.

Since leaving home that morning, I struggled with worry about driving alone to a writers’ conference in Wheaton IL. What if I took a wrong turn and wound up hopelessly lost in downtown Chicago?

To avoid the problem, I tried picking up Highway 45 near Kenosha, Wisconsin. However, as I entered Illinois, 45 turned into a country road with few signs to guide me. Coming to a gas station in the dense woods, I stopped for directions. A kindly woman behind the counter told me I was on target but couldn’t get to Wheaton without taking the tollway. “When you come to it, keep to the left,” she emphasized.

Did she really know what she was talking about? Gritting my teeth and sending up a prayer, I entered the traffic to the left. Thirty minutes later, I arrived safely at my destination.

We’re often faced with decisions that might sweep us into untold trouble or take us safely to our destination. When we’re not sure which way to go or what is best for us, who do we rely on?

Early Christian believers relied on their rabbi (teacher), Jesus. What they learned from him, they told to everyone who would listen. They later wrote these things down for us. Among other things, they taught that God’s Word is truth (John 17:7), that Jesus is truth (John 14:6), and that the Holy Spirit is truth (John 16:18).

When faced with decisions, we sometimes wonder, “Can I really trust God and his Word to guide me? If I ask him, will he show me what is best for me?”

God’s children down through the ages have learned from experience that the answer to those questions is “yes.”

Focus: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go” ~ Isaiah 48:17, New International Version.

How about you? When faced with decisions, who do you trust to guide you?

Facing the Empty Nest

Who is like you, O Lord? Your beauty is in all your creation. The words welled up in my aching heart as I sat alone outside my campgrounds tent.

No longer would I hold the hand of a small boy and guide him through life. My youngest son would soon be off to college. His whole senior year had been a series of goodbyes: his last high school drama, his last forensic competition, his last musical play, his last choral concert, his last prom. Then graduation. Would this be our last vacation as a family?

A Great sadness engulfed me. My life was changing, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to face the empty nest.

But somehow I sensed God reaching out to comfort me in the unfolding beauty of dawn. Dry weeds hugging the sandy soil like a delicate carpet of dusty rose. Oak trees standing tall against a blue sky, their leaves shining in the rising sun. In a flash of black and white, a red-headed woodpecker flew to a nearby tree, its busy rat-a-tat-tats echoing in the quiet of the morning. Below, a chipmunk darted across the campgrounds in bursts of quick rhythm.

Then I caught my breath. A small, fair-haired boy marched up the hill to the bathhouse, shouting, “I’m Jeremy! Follow me!”

His words hung in the air as I remembered a similar call years ago. “I’m Jesus. Come, follow me!”

I’ve never regretted answering His call. Through good times and bad, I’ve experienced God’s unfailing love. One thing will never change. I can go fearlessly into the coming years because my God will go with me.  Therefore, today and every day …

Focus: “My soul will rejoice in the lord and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim, ‘Who is like you, O Lord?’ ~ Psalm 35:9-10, New International Version.

NOTE: This piece first appeared Sing a New Song, an anthology of devotions for women complied by Mary Beckwith (Evergreen Publications, 1991). Funny how, though I wrote it many years ago, its truth encourages me today.

How about you? What gives you the confidence to face uncertain days?

(The blog post adapted from a July 1991 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)

When Tragedy Strikes

I picked up the phone. “Hi, Mom, what’s up?”

“I have sad news, Beth.” Her voice shook a little. She took an audible breath. “Your Uncle Dick died of complications from surgery yesterday.”

Uncle Dick gone? Just like that?

I lowered myself into the nearest chair while snapshots of family life danced through my memory. A young Uncle Dick in his Army uniform, grinning from Grandma’s Whitney Street porch. Him and Aunt Mae rejoicing on their wedding day.

Like my dad, Uncle Dick always had a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face. He was the guy with the camera, taking pictures at our family reunions. Now suddenly, another of dad’s brothers was no longer with us?

Mom and I talked about the shock of his unexpected death and the funeral arrangements before we hung up. For several minutes, I wandered about the house before the full force of his death hit me, and I wept. Yes, Uncle Dick was in heaven with Jesus, but it hurt to realize that another piece of the fabric of my life had been ripped away when I wasn’t looking.

Sometimes life swoops in and wallops us from our blind side. We stagger under unexpected tragedies that shake us, reduce us to tears, and turn our insides to jelly.

Where do we go then?

Some choose to blame God for letting it happen and cut themselves off from Him. So sad because He waits to comfort and carry us through hard places.

When tragedy strikes, I’ve found my best choice is to run to God. He alone holds the ultimate healing balm for our hurting hearts. He alone knows how to take the shattered pieces of today and put them together into a “something beautiful” tomorrow.

Run to God when tragedy strikes.

Focus: “For I know the plans I have for you … plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope” ~ Jeremiah 29:11, New Living Translation.

How about you? Where do you run for comfort and healing when tragedy strikes?

 

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?

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

In the late 1800’s, the life of a young Civil War veteran’s wife faded as she gave birth to their sixth child. Widower William Smart raised his daughter and five sons on the family farm in the state of Washington with such devotion that, as an adult, his daughter began a campaign to honor all fathers.

In 1906, Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, then living in Spokane, discussed the idea with her pastor. She envisioned a day of special church services and children offering their fathers words of appreciation and small gifts. The city’s YMCA joined the sponsorship, and on the third Sunday of June 1910–the month of William Smart’s birthday–Father’s Day was first observed.

In 1916, President Woodrow Calvin Coolidge recommended its observance, but decades followed while others slowly joined in the effort to establish Father’s Day. During those years, wearing a red rose honored a living father, a white rose for one not living. Today we celebrate Father’s Day with backyard barbecues and gifts for our birth fathers, stepfathers, fathers-in-law, and grandfathers.

This is all as it should be! However, this year as we honor the fathers in our lives, let’s remember the most wonderful Father of all–our heavenly Father. The One whose abundant love is always the same.The One who never tires of watching over us and providing for our needs. He who, when we stray, never stops wooing us back to him. More than all that, he is the Father who made the way at great personal price–the willing death of his Son on the cross–that we might be his children.

Focus: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!” ~ 1 John 3:1, New International Version.

How About You? How many fathers do you honor on Father’s Day, and how do you choose to do it?

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

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.)