“Leave your table looking like …”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA(No, I am not scolding him; I’m actually praying a blessing on each child)

Reward, success and insight come in the  strangest places.

In the third week one of my least favorite jobs, I listened to the assistant principal decisively tell the room full of fifth graders that if they didn’t clean up their table and sweep the floor after their lunch period,before the sixth graders came in, they’d be sitting in his office. That went over like the proverbial lead balloon, and I thought, “I’d better find another way to inspire these kids  or it’s  going to be a very, very long semester for us all.” I give the Holy Spirit credit for the  thought that came to me. I began going table to table, cheerfully and positively telling the boys, “You’re young men of valor,courage, integrity, commitment, teamwork, strength, and honor. I know you want to leave your table looking like a man of that true strength was sitting here,” and to the girls, I said, “You’re beautiful young women of honor, virtue, strength, courage, compassion and kindness. I know you want to leave your table looking like that kind of  beautiful woman was sitting here.”

Completely puzzled looks met me, but I simply smiled and moved to the next table,and  repeated the process for every grade level that came into the multi-purpose room for lunch. One eighth-grade  girl had the surprised confidence to respond, “Miss Jackson, nobody ever talks to us like that!”

“Well, I’m going to tell you that until you believe it!” I  replied,  and her face lit up. Encouraged, I repeated the process for the rest of the week, for fun throwing in situations to the boys like, “You’re the pit crew, and you want to take care of  this ‘car’ and leave the pit ready for the next crew, looking like dedicated, capable,  smart, honorable men were just here,”and similar  girl-themed situations for the girls. Table after table, boys raised their hands and asked if they could be pit boss, and girls asked if they could be the head attendant at the coronation.

For three weeks,  grade by grade, twenty-minute lunch period by  period, I repeated character affirmations to the girls and boys, young men and women, from fourth grade up to seniors in high school, and in those three weeks, something wonderful happened: children started asking me for the rags, spray bottles, and brooms.  No threats of detention, no raised voice, no wagging  finger, just an affirming call to be someone higher, greater, and to have the power to lead by a servant-hearted example of true strength and grace. The assistant principal was surprised by how clean the room and tables were, I was enormously glad  that my venture worked, the students  felt good about themselves, and even more importantly and delightfully, I began to develop good relationships  with quite a few of the children.

It occurred to me at the same time that I was also telling myself something important about myself, as well as others: this is precisely what Father God wants for us and from us as His  children: to conduct  ourselves in such a way that  we leave our corners of the world looking like women of inner beauty, valor, value, honor, strength, kindness and compassion were “sitting here,”and men of courage,  strength, integrity, commitment, teamwork,  and honor were “sitting here.”

There was not time and no place in the multi-purpose room for, “It’s not my job. Oooh! That’s yucky! I don’t want to. Somebody else can.” May I propose that there is no time and no place in our  families, friendships, relationships, work associations, neighborhoods, churches, cities or world  for those kinds of self-centered, self-serving, weak, uncaring, and flatly irresponsible attitudes either. God may not call us into his “office” or wag his finger in our  faces, but we can be assured of  this certainty the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman believers:

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Romans 14:10-12 NIV

Sadly I see a spirit of taking offense and entitlement rising in our nation, perverting the idea of individual liberty (which ought to include individual accountability and responsibility) into narcissism. This  attitude is nothing new,and sadly, it isn’t limited to immature children. Jesus dealt with this attitude among his disciples.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 35-45 NIV

We should take  Jesus’ words very seriously, but can we put the same affirmative spin on this command that I put on cleaning up the lunch tables? Can we live out our lives in the strength, beauty, dignity, honor, commitment, kindness, and courage of  humbled service, knowing how it positively impacts others,  how glad it makes our Father God, and how much  true strength, validation, and outright joy we will find within ourselves when we live our lives with an eager, enthusiastic, “May I please have the rag and spray bottle?” attitude? If it was good enough for Jesus,  theKing of KingsandLord of Lords …. then there is true greatness in  every act of giving, listening, sharing, forgiving, mess-cleaning helping, and walking alongside one another.

And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23: 9-12 NIV

I know the children  at that school with a high academic reputation were and are not  simply brains to be filled, but lives to positively, affirmingly, enthusiastically shape for a lifetime of real valor, courage, strength, kindness, beauty, dignity, commitment, compassion,and serving.

IMG_5439

 

A “…BUT…” to pray: Father God,I  admit I’ve looked down on people who work at jobs like ______________________ and I’ve drawn back from_______________________ because I thought it would be yucky,time-consuming,  no fun, someone else’s job, beneath, or __________________. I seen I have missed opportunities to rise to true strength and dignity, integrity, honor, courage,inner beauty,commitment, and compassion,  BUT you never tell me it’s too late or I’ve missed and messed up too much. Awaken me to opportunities to live  my life in Christlike ways. Holy Spirit, what could I to today,this week? Where and for whom could I “leave this home,job, relationship, community, world looking like a man/woman of  those  values was ‘sitting here’?” ______________________________________________________________ Please  remind me to pick up the “broom”  or ask for the “spray bottle” where and when I can, and help me remember that bending and sweeping and wiping and serving lifts me up to the greatest I could possibly be within me, not justified by works, but reflecting the character and powerful love of Jesus.

Cotton Candy Daddy

Rose on swing image1Family in Salt River Canyon 1956In motel pool in Phoenix 56

My big brother and I walked with Daddy in the deepening twilight. I was four, Dave was eleven, and Dad had taken us to the small carnival in our little town for some fun after dinner. Tongue out, I happily lapped in the pink strands of cotton candy from the cone held in my right hand, my eyes more on the sticky confection than where I was walking. Suddenly Dad stopped, and I ran – SMACK – pink sugar and all, into his gray wool dress pants. With horror I saw the wet wad of candy sticking to Dad’s trousers and felt instant pangs of accountability – yes, even four-year-olds can feel responsible for their actions.

Dad turned as tears sprang into my eyes, but the only words from his gentle heart were, “Uh-oh! We’ll have to clean that when we get home. Are you okay, Rosie?” My giant of a hero was heroically there for me again. I have absolutely no memory of any ridiculing, blaming, or invalidating words ever coming from my father (or my mother, for that matter). Dad never bubbled over with affection, either – he was a quiet man by nature – but he was always quietly, warmly present and welcoming.

I don’t remember if I ran into Dad and Mom’s bedroom in the mornings or in the evenings, but I do remember climbing up on their bed when I was five with the jolly request, “Make a hill, Daddy!” He’d bend his knees in bed and obligingly let me slide down his legs. I wish in later years I’d asked him what he thought of this silly game; his answer might have surprised me with what it meant to him. And I wish I’d had the insight to tell him how much he influenced my understanding and perception of God as Father.

I see God as approachable, kind, listening, welcoming, valuing, approval-giving, merciful, dependable, honest, gentle when we fail. Rarely have I thought of God as a mean, hard master just waiting for this child to mess up so he could denigrate me and put me in my place. Frankly, only the insults and blame from a person whose opinion I valued and integrity I trusted, out of an emotionally absent father in his young life, have pushed me into shame and cries to God for his mercy for my mistakes. Did God tell me, “You’re just not doing it for me?” No, but a man with a huge Father Wound did, and in recent years I’ve seen what damage the Father Wound does in young hearts, spirits, and even literally in developing young brains.

Gordon Dalbey on the website abbbafather.com, writes: “No pain strikes more deeply into a man’s heart than being abandoned emotionally and/or physically by Dad. No pain, therefore, more directly beckons the saving power of Father God.”

See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. Malachi 4:5-6 NIV

Because the Father Wound is so destructive, Satan, the enemy of our soul, the father of lies – our mind, will, and emotions – is “Hell-bent” to hide the truth of this destructive wound and twist, pervert, deny the Fatherhood of God and leave a man, as Dalbey states, “divorced from his destiny.”

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44 NIV

Crushing criticism kills; dismissing identity and value kills; abandonment kills. Attachment disorders, narcissism, personality disorders, anger, abuse, abandonment, all trackable to Father Wounding. Epidemic in our culture today, the Father Wound impacts daughters as well as sons, depriving girls of their inherent dignity, beauty and value, robs boys of their integrity, courage, strength and awareness of Father God’s call to servant-hearted brave leadership and true manhood in their lives.

Because I knew my father admired me and loved me, no way would I allow a boy to take advantage of me. To a man who asked why I didn’t immediately hold his hand and give him a kiss, I replied that holding a man’s hand, and even more so, giving a kiss, meant something to me and I didn’t give either expression of affection and trust casually. A man had to show me his character to receive the gift of my proffered hand. My lips were – and are –sacred ground.

Where I did sadly cave in to ungodly demands was actually in my marriage to a man with a huge, unrecognized and denied Father Wound in his life. Neglect and callous comments from his mentally-ill father short-circuited the emotional wiring in his developing brain and sent signals of insecurity and invalidation that set up such static in his spirit that he said he’d never heard, felt, seen or experienced God as he saw others had. The empty heart he held up in his hands to his earthly father left him mistrusting his Heavenly Father’s intentions toward him. No amount of my affirming that God did love him and value him, that he was a creative and capable person I admired and God cherished, could make up for the hurt in his heart and spirit. The wound from his emotionally absent father put a distorted filter over the eyes of his understanding, and he began to view God as a big disappointment.

We can’t fill that hole in us that destroys our own and other’s lives out of our own weaknesses; we can only go to the source of unconditional, unmerited, healing love in God found through Jesus.

I saw God’s hand evident in my life nearly every day. God wasn’t in the trees, but trees bore God’s fingerprints, trees were OF God, just as the dollhouse my father made for me was OF my earthly father’s love, and the train layout he made for my brother was OF his love. How many hours did my Dad put into carving “bricks” in the block of wood that became a “fireplace”, wiring my dollhouse so the lights truly worked, cutting real shingles into tiny squares to roof my dollhouse. How many hours did he spend laying track and making plaster mountains and tunnels for my brother’s train?

How many hours did my Heavenly Father, Abba, your Father and Abba too, spend creating me and creating you in your mother’s womb? How deeply was he grieved when your earthly father wounded you?  How gentle has he been when we “run into his pants” with our sticky messes, simply inviting us into relationship while he cleans up the messes we make, or helping us as we gather up the courage to admit our wrongs and mistakes to the people we’ve wounded and ask for their forgiveness?How deeply, passionately, fervently does he want to heal your wounds? Will you let him?

The most profound memory I have of my mother was the evening she bent down by my bedside to ask my forgiveness for unjustly accusing me of lying. The most profound memory I have of my father, even beyond all the wonderful times I spent with him in childhood, was the evening when I was thirty when Dad came out of a church service and quietly, simply, broadly smiling, said, “Rosie, I love you.”

Perhaps you know someone with a deep Father Wound. Perhaps you carry a deep Father Wound that you’ve never been able to honestly admit before. Perhaps you’re a man and realize now that you unknowingly, out of your own wounding, created Father Wounds in your children and don’t know how to clean up that mess. Perhaps you view Father God through a distorted lens of that disappointment, mistrust, and deep longing for unconditional love. The wonderful thing about our Father God is that, when we lift our sticky hands and messes to him, he turns and bends down to embrace us with his smiling, approving, limitless, healing, joyful love.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 14-19 NIV

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure…  This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 3:1-3, 4:13-16 NIV

A “…BUT…” to pray: Father God, may I call you Daddy? I know sometimes I’ve pushed you off and held you at arms’ length because I though you were/would ______________________________________________________________________ if I did what I wanted to do and run into your arms. My own father ______________________________________________________________ out of his own humanity and woundings OR thank you that my own earthly father __________________________________________________________ out of his human love. Abba, I “ran into your pants” when I __________________________________________________________________. Thank you that you walk me home to simply clean up the mess. I made an even bigger mess when I ____________________________________________________________________________ and I confess that I thought that would end your acceptance and love for me. I was wrong. You can’t deny your nature, and your nature and character are love, so Father, Daddy, I run to you today and say _________________________________________________________________. You call me your beloved, period! Help me walk in the security of your love as I ___________________________________________________________. In the name of your beloved Son, my Savior, the lover of my soul, Jesus, who made me clean to be your very own cherished child, Amen!

Absolutely, Positively!

“Oops, here we go again,” I’d think as I edited and fleshed out the books I helped my friend and much admired pastor write. My job was to add background and supporting material, all the while maintaining the author’s voice. It was, after all, his book, his name on the cover, his reputation that he entrusted to me, and I took my responsibility seriously. He was and is a visionary, painting, as one of our editors at the publishing house observed, “in broad brush strokes,” often splashing the canvas of his compelling ideas with the words everywhere,everyone, no one, always, never. I took my “blender brush” to soften, tone and blend his concepts, transforming those words to many, some, sometimes, usually.

In real life as in writing, it’s generally true: you can’t apply a blanket statement to people. You and I live in an age of increasing moral relativism, which only makes this generality seem all the more universally applicable. After all, we’re adults, not preschoolers who see the world in black and white. We know better; experience has matured us. BUT . . .

I raised two precocious sons and worked with young children in classrooms and churches, so I’m accustomed to dealing with “Why” generators and “I do it myself” machines. My second son, 11 years younger than his brother, grew up in a climate of continually trying to fit into adult conversations and activities. Argument was the fencing foil he wielded (effectively, I might add) to insert himself as an equal into the family. If I said the sun was yellow, he’d reply, “No, it’s more golden orange.” Aaugh! Did we have to verbally dissect even the names on finger paint containers?

I asked him one memorable day when he was four why he needed to argue so much, and he thoughtfully replied, “Well, if I do long enough, one of these day’s I’ll be right.” Touché!

Eric at 4 in mask and fins hallmark

Right, wrong. Black, white. We are adults and know better; experience has matured us. There is always room for divergent opinion because everyone has his or her own ideas. After all, Chinese people use red to paint the sun….BUT…. Just as I wrote for my friend under obligation to “speak” in his voice in his book bearing his name and his reputation, so we all “write” our lives under an Author – the Author and Creator of the Universe – to bear his name and his reputation.  According to the one who engineered life and the cosmos, me and you and everybody else, yes, absolutely, positively, he has some absolutes, some brush strokes broad enough to include us all.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 NIV

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7: 20 NIV

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Romans 3:11-12

Oh come on, God! Don’t the good things I do count for anything? I‘m not THAT bad, am I? Isn’t there some kind of cosmic tally sheet I can rack up my comparative score on? Don’t tell me I have to measure up to Jesus! You know I’m better than ______   Just like preschoolers, we don’t like to be told who we are or how we should paint our lives, or how truly – let’s use a word we don’t hear often, but it fits – reprehensible our sin is, even in the “best” of us. “Why, God?” “I’ll do it MY way! My way is just as good as his/hers/yours.” “I’m not a sinner; I’m more of a good person who occasionally …”

Absolutely, positively, God redirects us to the consequences of “I’ll do it my way” – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Absolutely, positively God counters our protests and culturally logical arguments through convicted surrender to truth via a flawed human being named Isaiah, a man of self-confessed unclean lips, equally tempted to moral relativism as we all are, and amazingly, God counters our arguments with truth for a very POSITIVE reason: LOVE.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to her/his own way; AND the LORD has laid ON HIM (the Savior Jesus/Yeshua) the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 NIV

and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24 NIV

I viewed a TV nature program recently and saw the story of a seal with a runny nose. Vets suspected a brain tumor, but found the problem was an equally deadly infection in the seal’s canine teeth. Left untreated, without removing the hardened infected tissue in the seal’s nose and the abscessed teeth, the seal would have died with nothing visibly wrong beyond nasal drip. We can be, and usually are, oblivious to the abscess of sin endangering our own lives. Rather than making us LESS than we are, admitting our complete and utter helplessness to will ourselves or act ourselves into any resemblance of true goodness puts us in the perfect place to be cleaned out, cleaned up, made perfectly righteous BY the only Righteous One who ever walked the planet, Jesus/Yeshua/Isa/whatever His name is in your language. Yay and thank God for this positive absolute! Absolutely, positively we are relentlessly loved!

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father BUT through Me. John 14: 5-6 NIV

By this will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all. Hebrews 10:10 NIV

 But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]. If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts]. If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness[everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]. 1 John 1:7-9 AMP

Again, the former successive line of priests] was made up of many, because they were each prevented by death from continuing [perpetually in office]; But He (Jesus) holds His priesthood unchangeably, because He lives on forever. Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them. Hebrews 7: 23-25 AMP

Now mature adults, both of my sons looked aghast at themselves in their early years in family photos and asked me, “Mom, why did you let me go out in public dressed like that?” My answer was, “Because you wanted to. You insisted on wearing purple shorts and over-the-knee tube socks pulled up as high as you could get them. You thought you looked cool, and I let you have your way.” Wardrobe relativism at its zenith!

Oh, God, my Father in Heaven, don’t let me go ”out in public” dressed in popular culture’s compromises like engaging in sexual intimacy before marriage, adultery during marriage, doctoring accounts, keeping so tight a hold on money that I can’t even see the needs of the poor, divorcing my spouse just because “I’m not happy, and my happiness matters above all,” peppering my conversation with profanity, “if it feels good, do it,”   “everybody has to find their own way to self-actualization/spirituality.” I can’t, I choose not to dilute or adulterate the colors of the life God wants to paint in and for me with muddy values and a stubborn “I do it myself! The sun is purple! If I argue with God’s Word long enough, eventually I’ll be right!” attitude.

The primary absolutely positive, positive absolute God will not change is salvation by faith through Jesus, no matter how I’d like to argue the point, and frankly, looking back over my life seeing some of the ways I “dressed” myself apart from Jesus, I don’t want to argue! I’m bound by God’s love and friendship, and more than that, his Lordship, to “dress myself,” to speak and love, live and write out the story of my life in the voice of the Author and Finisher of me, who does speak in absolutes for my positive good:

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:20-24 NIV

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 NAS

Imagine that – YOU are the “joy set before him,” absolutely, positively, finger paint and tube socks and all. Rejoice in the only one who COULD do that and DID do that for you, simply because he loves you.

I hope you enjoy this positive song about the absolute Way, Truth and Life, “No, Not One”

If you’d like to kick up your heels and dance along to your own copy of this song, you can find it on my friend Greg Picard’s album “Boundless Love” sold on Amazon. You can also read his blog on  current culture and Christianity at

http://upstreamatbittercreek.blogspot.com

A “…BUT…” to pray: God, you are my Father, and Jesus, you are the author of my faith, the author of my very life. I know I’m tempted to water down the depth of the sin in my life when ______________________________________________ and it’s probably because I fear _______________________________________________________________. Help me to stop arguing with you, God, about ______________________________________________________ knowing that you want me living by your word so my life can be _____________________________________________________ and I can __________________________________________________ to experience the fullness of life you want me to find through Jesus. I’ll do it your way, Father, for all the love you have for me. In Jesus’ name, amen!Absolutely, Positively!

Long-Distance Love

Long-distance grandparenting – ouch! Sadly it’s the norm for many families today.

Some families move across town, some across the country, and some across the globe.

Our only two grandchildren live literally on the other side of the world. Our son and daughter-in-law work for a non-profit humanitarian agency whose home leave policy is three months at home for every year on the field. Most families in their agency save up leave to come home for an entire school year. For us that year was last year, ten months packed with intentionally made memories large and small, from camping at the Grand Canyon to geocaching in the parking lot of our neighborhood drugstore to just plain babysitting so our son and daughter-in-law could have real “date nights,” a hard-to-come-by commodity when they were on the field.

So much fun meant so much heartache saying good-bye. Though our grandchildren were only three and six, they knew they were going back to another far-away country and culture. The anxiety of leaving family spilled out of our grandson’s heart, eyes and conversations during the final month of their home visit: “Grandma, I wish we could stay here with someone until Mommy and Daddy are finished with the work they have to do.”

“You can stay with us!” my heart cried silently, protesting the words coming out of my mouth, “I know, but you’d miss Daddy and Mommy. I’m sure your friends there have missed you, too, and can’t wait to see you again!” Over my heart’s objections, true love told me I needed to do something to help our grandkids make the transition, so through my tears I wrote a poem – with a bow to Dr. Seuss – to tuck into their carry-on bags along with toys and treats for their 32-hour journey – a fun surprise for them and therapy for a grieving Grandma’s heart!

I’ve been blessed to visit them three times since, to see where they live and share in some of their adventures and favorite places in the towns they’ve lived in. I am so proud of my son and daughter-in-law for providing love, grace, shared faith, strength and the stability of love for both of these kids we share in family love, wherever they are!

back on good bed at Suan Bua

Home is Where the Love Is

On the grandkids’ moving day, they were scared to move away,

So Grandma called them on the phone to say, “You’ll never be alone.”

“No matter where the road may wind you, know my love will always find you.

If you move to Timbuktu, I’ll still come visit you.

If you fly to Zanzibar, my heart won’t think that is too far.

If you’re as close as Nacogdoches, I’ll come hug you so ferocious!”

“If you wake up in Jingxi, you both mean the world to me.

Take the bus back to Nanning?  Call on the computer and we can sing.

I’ll send you packages in Key Largo, even though it’s farther than Fargo.

If you drive to Jodrell Bank, my love will fully fill your tank.

If you stop in Honolulu, my love won’t stop; it will pursue you!”

“Ride a camel to Kyrgyzstan, and I’ll still be your biggest fan!

If you get hot in Madagascar, Gram still thinks you’re cool – just ask her!

Sail a boat to Truk or Yap? My heart won’t even need a map.

Cruise the Strait of Kattegat? My heart always knows where you’re at.

Stuff your backpack for Hong Kong? You’re carrying my heart along.

Forget you in Ulaanbaatar? No way!  My thoughts are where you are!”

“Across the globe while you are sleeping, I’m awake; you’re in love’s keeping.

When I sleep and you’re at play, your hearts are just a dream away.

Around the world we’ll rendezvous because I think the world of you!

It’s true, no matter where you dwell, your Grandma loves YOU. Can’t you tell?

From east to west, Cape Town to Nome, where family love is, there is home.”

I’m Not Buyin’ It

Our culture sells it in a very appealing way, a self-validating and inflating way, but the cost is simply too high. The twisted view that a woman only has real value in terms of how she stacks up against a man or a man’s performance in the workplace and society is an insult to women. Yes, a woman can be and millions are as intelligent as men, but our value has nothing to do with our IQ. A woman should be paid what a man is paid for the same job and have equal access to jobs, but at the same time our value has nothing to do with the position we hold or the money we bring in.

I know many women work because they have to bring in a paycheck to survive. Some women work simply because they want to, some because they have to. Yes, we all need a roof over our head, food on the table for us and, if we have them, our children, clothing, and the list or needs goes on and on. I applaud and uphold my sisters in this boat. I am right now, not by my choice.

At the same time, I’ve seen the tremendous price our children have paid for the absence of a nurturing mother in their early, critically formative years. I’ve worked part-time in public schools and in a private daycare since 1981, and I’ve sadly seen the cost to children placed in day care from their infancy. I gave my best to 35 children in a classroom but once they got home with their homework, and questions, did they have a supportive parent to encourage them, catch their mistakes and trouble-shoot with them so that 1) the child could feel free to know that mistakes are part of learning and correcting them is a GOOD thing, and 2) the someone cared enough about them just as a person to invest some time and attention into their lives.

I gave my best care and my smiling nurturing to five infants and toddlers at a time, but in no way could I replace a mother’s love and validation and security, even though several of them bonded with me and ran (toddled) to me when I came into the room. They needed to know 1) they were loved and 2) they wouldn’t be abandoned – that they were secure. The glaring truth from child development is that if a child does not develop a strong bond with a primary caregiver (and folks, that’s Mom, not their daycare teacher) in their first five years, the “wiring” needed to be able to develop attachments to others does NOT develop in a child’s brain and that child will grow into adulthood unable to establish significant relationships with others. That child will go through life trying to find someone to validate her/his worth and identity.

How much is your child’s emotional and mental health worth? I vividly remember my mother 60 years ago cutting out Betsy McCall paper dolls from “McCall’s” magazine every month, gluing each “Betsy” to cardboard so I could play with “her” over and over. The time came when we cut the clothes out together, and then I could by myself, but that was so much more than cardboard and paper. My mother gave me both the security of her gladly involved time and love that said I was a person of value, and an outlet for my own imagination and creativity. What is that worth in today’s marketplace? Is that worth as much as being Chairman of the Board? To me it was a priceless gift that bore fruit in the creativity I brought into teaching children in school, grown women in Bible studies, kids and parents in the playful activiti9es I created for the Education Department at the Phoenix Zoo – nobody else would get down on a child’s level and cavort to sing “Did you ever see a monkey to this way and that way” or pop out of a large vinyl zippered “egg” with a chicken comb headband on and peep for the toddlers.

I was a National Merit Scholar. I graduated second in a class of 660 in high school. I am neither stupid nor lazy, but a good friend of mine gave me a backhanded compliment that sounded like criticism when she said about ten years ago, “I though you’d have the Nobel Prize in chemistry by now.” THAT did wonders for my self-esteem… until I looked at the children I played with at the Zoo, and more importantly, at my own children: two God-honoring men of amazing abilities, yes, but with courage and integrity and compassionate hearts that give into their own families, to colleagues at work, and to “the least of these” also.

I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want to fight for my equality with a man, or turn myself into someone more like a man to make other women admire me. I am GLAD to be a woman, glad to be wired to nurture and love and create and value and affirm and encourage, as well as wired to write and teach. My value and identity comes from who I am, who God says I am and the immeasurable price He paid for me through Jesus to be adopted into his family, through my character, my commitment to the people I love and care about, my integrity as I walk and now work in the world representing his character and love.

My children never had a boxcar-sized flat screen HDTV or summers in the Bahamas or travertine tile on the floors of our expansive house, but we rolled balls and trucks back and forth on the linoleum and watched meteor showers from the comfort of sleeping bags on the grass in the backyard. While I pulled in $120 a week from the two days I’d substitute teach, or occasionally more if I did a week, we made gingerbread houses and cinnamon-and-applesauce cutout Christmas ornaments. I helped them with their homework after school and was their Den Leader for Cub Scouts – and I have two Eagle Scouts to show for all the junk I collected and turned into art projects and the mess on my garage floor every week. They drew greeting cards and stationery to give their grandparents as gifts, and my younger son is now a designer. We didn’t have a swimming pool, but they took the heads off the in-ground sprinklers and ran through geysers in the back yard, making a huge puddle of mud to squish in and never mind, the grass would grow back.

We prayed together every night, I read them Bible stories, we went to church every Sunday, they went to Vacation Bible School with me in summers, and I had the joy of seeing both of them accept Jesus as Lord of their lives.

No, I didn’t win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Though I’ve helped write five books, I never won a Pulitzer Prize. I’m happy to say my treasures, my “Pulitzers,” are named Eric and Ethan.

Where is your treasure? Where are your treasures? In front of a big-screen HDTV with controllers and your daughters playing shoot and kill video games or I have to look like a queen to be beautiful avatars, your sons telling their teacher at after school care as they finger their I Pad, “No, that isn’t blood coming out of his head – it’s Kool-Aid” as they grow desensitized to violence and disregard for human life?

If you’re a working mom who has to work, I pray God gives you stamina and creative ways to bond with and spend quality time with your children. If you don’t have to work, and you are only working to give yourself a sense of validation and identity, might you rethink that if you have young children? Your treasures need you to treasure them. You are woman, and your are mighty in all that means. “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” and in many ways that is absolutely true. Where did Isaac Newton come from, who was Abraham Lincoln’s primary influence, who gave Harry Truman such a compassionate heart and wise understanding?

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:25-30

That I’m “buyin'” and investing in! Selah!

Lord Jesus, let me always point to you in all I say and do.

That I’m “buyin” and investing in!Ethan and dioramas Ethan gingerbread house

The Painted Pickle Jar

The Painted Pickle Jar

One of my greatest treasures is the “jewelry box” my younger son made for me from Popsicle sticks.  The lid has a wooden bead for a “handle,” and the interior is lined with a square of red felt, roughly the same dimensions as the bottom of the box, Why on earth are fifty Popsicle sticks so precious to me? Because the shape they took and the gift they are came from a heart and life precious to me. Ethan gave me the best he could create from fifty Popsicle sticks, glue, a bead and felt. His heart is the treasure; the box is a reflection of his love.

Mommies get it. Maybe Daddies do too. I know this for a fact, but more importantly, what I realized this morning is that same joy in God’s heart when we craft our lives for Him. Before this sounds too lofty and climbs too high, let me ground it in what I see so clearly now that I didn’t see when I was five years old.

Sunday School, Mason, Ohio, just before Easter 1955, me five years old. All I brought was a pickle jar, and even that my mother bought with my father’s hard-earned money at the grocery store. Our craft was painting a jar with tempera paint to make a “vase” to hold one jonquil bulb, an Easter gift for our mothers. Limited eye-hand coordination in us all, we stroked our glass jars with chubby paintbrushes and watery tempera in spring colors. I can still feel the cool of the glass, the rough edges of flaking paint on my paintbrush, see the dribbles running down the jar and onto the newspaper on the table, smell the chalky, rich odor of the paint. Mine was going to be yellow, like a golden jonquil flower. Of course the paint didn’t stick very well, and in many places the clear glass showed through, but I reveled in the transformation happening under my hand.

I suspect we had a Bible story lesson while our jars dried, or we might have had to wait till the next Sunday to pour tiny stones – pebbles would be too glorified a term for what we used, more like the ballast along the railroad track that ran about 500 feet behind our house. – into the jars to support the single bulb we placed inside. Water came next, then anchoring the jonquil bulb flat end down in the stones.

I was so happy to carry the gift downstairs and thrust it up into my mother’s hands! I’d made something to give my Mommy joy! Mom must have read the “Mommy Manual,” or internalized it from her jolly, loving, short but ample-lapped mother who was my Gramma Miner, so of course when we got home she placed it in the sunny window above the sink in the kitchen, a place of honor if ever there was one, where she could watch the shoot, the leaves, the stem, then the flower gloriously unfold in the weak Ohio spring sunshine.

What on earth does this have to do with God? Sixty years later it hit me on a windy, drizzly Arizona morning that I didn’t give my mother anything from my own resources; someone else supplied everything I gave her, even though I regarded the gift as mine and found great pleasure, delight, and value in being able to create and give a gift to my mother.

This morning I look back on everything I’ve been blessed to “give to God”: the messages I’ve spoken, the Sunday School and Vacation Bible School classes I taught, the youth ministry and prayer teams I led, the books I helped my senior pastor write, the stories I wrote that ended up in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, the leader and study guides I’ve written, the sons I poured my time and energies and love into, the marriage I tried to do the same in, the people I’ve prayed with and for (Gosh, don’t I sound wonderful? All of this just so many Popsicle sticks …) and I realize with a shock of revelation piercing deep into the core of me down to my five-year-old true self that I DIDN’T BRING ANY OF MY OWN RESOURCES TO ANYTHING I’VE EVER “GIVEN” GOD!

He created my body and my brain, the wiring in me that sees analogies and relationships, the eye-hand coordination I have and the joy I get in making things with my hands, the mental aha to see ways I can use junk, the limited courage I have to stand up in front of people and open my mouth, the very thoughts I have and nudges I get ALL COME FROM GOD TO BEGIN WITH! I don’t give Him anything that isn’t His first, in fact, His gifts to me!

Every Sunday after the offering plates were passed and the ushers took them up to the front of the church, we all perfunctorily sang, “We give Thee but Thine own, what ere the gift may be. All that we have is Thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from thee.” Did any of us mean what we were singing? Wasn’t it more a case of, “I worked hard for this money, so God, I’m going to give you a bit of it, good, giving person that I am, and I feel proud of myself for being so generous.”

Oh, the five-year-old in each one of us, but OH, the lavishly loving God who remarkable receives what we give Him and treasures it as much as I treasure my Popsicle stick jewelry box, as much as my Mom treasured her painted pickle jar, because against all common sense, HE TREASURES US! I only hope that, like the loving DAD I know He is, God has received all the clay figurines and Popsicle stick creations and painted pickle jars I’ve given him with – and honestly, this is true – the same delight I felt in giving my mother the pickle jar. I could give a gift to God!!!!

Maybe now I can appreciate my mother’s receiving that jar as a great gift to me. Maybe now I can see being that privileged to get to use God’s gifts to make something I hope and pray makes a difference to, for and in other lives in this world is, in fact, a gift GOD gives to ME, a way he fills my life with value and beauty and joyyellow-mason-jarsyellow-mason-jars.

Ah, ABBA, do you have tempera paint in Heaven? Can I make you a vase for a flower to grow in your throne room? Thank you that You give me SO MUCH. MAY I TURN AS MUCH AS I CAN INTO TREASURES FOR YOU, but may I always remember they come from YOUR heart of love and grace into my chubby fingers.

A “ . . . . BUT . . . .” to move: God, Daddy, Father, everything I have and am and ever hope to be is all a gift from you. I can’t take credit for anything other than what I do with what you give me, and even those opportunities are gifts from you. I may not be anything in the world’s eyes, or I may daily hear the praise of other people, BUT it’s your praise after all, I may have much or I may have little, BUT GOD, thank you that you receive my ___________and say _________________. I hope it grows in your kitchen window to be something of beauty and fragrance for You.