My husband built several bird feeders and birdhouses to attract the birds we enjoy in Kansas. Two years ago, starlings moved into one house. They weren’t the birds we hoped to attract, but we concluded they needed homes too, so we let them be.
We noticed that they tried to invade the other birdhouses to steal eggs and would wreak havoc on the nests of other birds. This weekend we noticed sparrows building a nest in a house they’d occupied last year, and the Starlings bullied them out. My husband made a new entry for the house that wouldn’t allow the starlings in. We saw the sparrows return, but they couldn’t get into the house.
As I watched the birds investigate the house, I prayed; Lord, you are our shelter from the storm, an ever present help in the time of trouble. (Psalm 46:1) People all around us need you. Melt their hearts, call them into your presence, into your sheltering arms. Let them seek safety in you.
My husband’s attention was on something else when I told him, “They can’t get in.”
He said, “They’ll figure it out.”
But they didn’t. They kept trying, first one then the other to no avail. I don’t cry often, but tears came as I witnessed the birds trying, but not being able to enter the nest. They could not enter the place of shelter without someone creating an entry. I thought of so many people I love who don’t know Jesus. They think they don’t need help, or they can do it on their own. I’ve been told, “Jesus is fine for those who need that.”
The fact is, we all need Jesus. It is only through Jesus that we can enter that eternal place of shelter. As much effort as we might exert, it is only through his blood that we enter hope and salvation. In his own words: “I am the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6.
I have not posted recently because I’ve been working on the sequel to A Better Plan. Although I don’t watch television or have a radio in my house, I know all the news is about the latest virus. People buying up hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and whatever else they can’t live without for a few days. (My daughter asked, does no one use regular soap anymore?)
Having grown up in Alaska where there was only one road in and out, we shot, caught, grew or picked most of our food, because that one road could flood, wash out, etc. We stocked things we’d need when they were on sale or available, and we cooked our own food.
Being taught to spend time in preparation left less time or reason for panic.
I have many favorite Scriptures, as so many of them have ministered to and encouraged me over the years. One particular passage though is Philippians chapter four. For years I had verse eight written on a note card on my sun visor in my car. Many times I pulled the visor down to read the faded words. Now those words are on the wall above our dining room table. A daily reminder to think on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.
There is no verse that says, ‘put thy head in the sand,’ but many verses say don’t worry, don’t fear, have faith, trust in Him.
Is that easy to do all the time? Nope.
But the real question, is it worth it? Absolutely.
We not only prepare for times of floods, tornados or hurricanes that may interrupt life, but we need to prepare our hearts for the storms that come through the loss of jobs, trials in relationships, sneaky viruses. We don’t prepare by keeping our eyes on the storm, but keeping them on One who calms the storm.
My hubby, Mike and I enjoy hiking and exploring and take advantage of any opportunity to do so. A few years ago, while living in Montana, we often went to the mountains that surrounded where we lived. We frequently came across wildlife and long forgotten items left by people who’d gone before us. Things like machine parts we couldn’t identify, fallen in cabins that still held dishes used by the inhabitants.
One day shortly before sunset, as we wound up a hike, we spotted four bull elk coming from the woods near us. We watched them, then turned to head back to our car when I spotted a lamb.
I pointed, “Honey, a lamb! What is he doing out here? Why does he have red paint on him?”
Mike turned and said, “He’ll be dinner tonight to coyotes or mountain lions if he’s not reunited with his flock.”
We looked for a while to see if there were any other sheep, but spotting none, we tried to catch the lamb without success. Then my husband tried to call and lure the lamb. Still without success.
I said, “He doesn’t know your voice, he’s not coming to you.”
We prayed for the lamb’s safety, and we got in our car and went to each ranch on the road back out to see if they knew who might have lost a lamb. We were told the red marking probably identified the lamb as belonging to a new rancher in the area. We asked if they could contact the rancher and tell them where we’d spotted the lamb. They told us the lamb had a worth of around two hundred fifty dollars — a high value to us.
Many times since that incident we have reflected on that day.
We are his lambs, and before we came to know him, we didn’t listen to his voice. He considered us of high value and covered us with his saving blood — the blood that marks us as his own.
John 10:27-28 says;
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”
Toby first came to our home at the age of a year and a half, and he’d had little training. In fact, his behaviour was so awful that I tried to find a rescue place to take him. None would because of his history.
You might wonder how we ended up with him. His family couldn’t control him so tried to give him away, but the perspective owners returned him. My neighbor heard their plight and remembered me mentioning I’d like to have a Doodle and he called me.
I brought Toby home on a trial, and it hadn’t gone well. I told my hubby, “I’m not willing to let this dog’s bad behaviour win.”
I found an online trainer who teaches ‘Five Golden Rules’ and implemented them with Toby. He still went nuts when he saw any kind of delivery truck or uniform, but we saw a huge improvement within four months. After two-and-a-half years, he still only responds to the command to come occasionally.
Each morning when my hubby and I finish reading the Scripture and praying, our dogs go into their morning routine of asking/demanding their morning run. My hubby usually takes them to a nearby lake where they can run to their heart’s content.
Last Monday they returned from their run, and Toby was limping. I examined his front legs but found no sign of injury. A few minutes later, I noticed him watching me and knew something wasn’t right. I went over to examine him again and this time I spotted blood, not on his leg, but on his chest. As I examined closer in his long curly hair, I found a gaping wound.
I grabbed my purse, car keys, and beckoned Toby to follow me to the car. We drove the twenty miles to the veterinarian to find his regular vet and tech were on vacation.
I explained what had happened — he’d been running in a field, stopped, and yelped in pain. My hubby spotted rebar protruding about four inches from a gate. He thought Toby had injured his leg, as his fur was on the rebar, and he limped.
While I spoke with the folks at the veterinarian clinic, Toby leaned into me like a small child, but allowed the tech and vet to look at his wound and reluctantly let them take his temperature. The vet said, “We must clean it out and we’ll staple it so it can drain. We won’t put him under.” Having worked in an ER, I understood the process, and knew Toby would be uncomfortable, but we had to take care of him.
The vet and the tech both tried to get him to follow them to the back. They called him and commanded him to ‘come’, but he stayed at my side, leaned into me.
“Ask him if he wants l-o-v-e” I said spelling out the word.
The vet said, “Toby? You want l-o-v-e?”
No response. The tech understood what I meant, and she said, “Toby? Do you want love?”
He glanced at me, and I nodded and patted him. “It’s okay.”
He reluctantly followed them to the back.
He astounded both women when he responded to the offer of love. They cooed over him, petted him and fussed over him. The tech said, “That’s so sweet! He comes to love!” The vet said, “Oh my, how precious!” His response won their hearts.
On the other side of the door, I heard Toby cry when they were putting in the staples. I frequently hum or sing at home and he responds to my voice. I hummed, knowing he could hear me, and he immediately quieted.
I hadn’t taught Toby to respond to love. He taught me. He’d lean into me, or place his head in my hand and I’d say, “Oh, you want love?” When I’d told my hubby that he may never respond to ‘come’, but he would respond to, ‘do you want love,’ we played a game where we’d each love him, then the other would ask him and he’d go back and forth for love.
We share Christ when we have an opportunity. We could tell people that their choices are harmful or that their lifestyle is destructive. We could tell them there is something better. We could say, “Come to Christ.” That might work — probably not. But, if we offer love, maybe they’ll hear our message.
When you think about it, God gave mankind laws we’ve never been able to keep. So He offered His Son, who offered His love. What draws us to Christ? For me, it was him stretching out his arms. That act said, “Do you want love?”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?“ Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread through the land.” Job 1:9-10
My hubby and I enjoy starting our day reading the Bible together. He makes his coffee; I make a brain freeze, and we snuggle up on the sofa. He follows along in his leather-covered Bible and I on my phone ap. We also listen to the reader. We stop to discuss, glean something new and apply it in our own lives. We encourage each other and then we pray together.
Today we were reading in Job. As I thought about the scriptures we’d read, I shared that we know how this goes, because we’ve read it before. We know his wife remains bitter, and he is restored with a new family. Sometimes teachers are hard on Job’s wife. She too lost all her sons and daughters, her grandchildren, and suffered in the loss of their wealth. And then she watched her husband as he daily scraped his boils with broken shards of pottery. Broken hearted, grieving, and angry with God. Job worshipped the God who had blessed them throughout the years, whereas his wife said, ‘Curse God and die.’ (Job 2:9)
That brought up how do we approach suffering in our own lives. We know so many people who are suffering from cancer even as I write this. Men who served in Viet Nam with my hubby, neighbors, and friends. And others who are going through battles of other kinds, relationships, loss, issues at work. Some lament and become angry with God, as Job’s wife did, and others remember the blessings. Great loss only comes after great blessings.
Job could not have known that his suffering came because of his devotion. But he trusted in the One who had also put a hedge about him and his family.
My son-in-law lost his brother-in-law today after a battle with cancer. The young man fought to beat the illness, and although he lost the physical fight, a recent note to my son-in-law assures us he won the Good Fight. Below are some of his own words;
‘The beauty of having my Lord & Savior in my heart and life is the peace and contentment that fills my soul, especially in times like now.’
‘I fully believe God’s healing power can come upon me at anytime and pray this is His Will for me. We all must realize – in a very tangible way – we all are day to day.’
‘I am not discouraged. My heart is filled with peace.’
This young man has left a legacy of strength, hope, and faith. God did not abandon him, but has received him home.
We will continue to pray that God keep a hedge around our loved ones; that He bless the work of their hands. We also pray His will to be done, because we don’t know the scope of the plans He has for us — whether it be by our lives, or by our passing.
Sixteen years ago on a lovely summer day, my daughter and I were on a walk when she asked me, “Mom, do you want to do the equinox with me?”
“Sure. What is it?”
“It’s a marathon.”
Because I love my children and enjoy spending time with them, I looked forward to the event which would take place the weekend nearest fall equinox, not understanding what I’d agreed to. September rolled around, and the day before the race we signed up and got our t-shirts. Early the next morning there were pictures taken, smiles, poses and anticipation. My daughter told me how we would reward ourselves with Chinese food after we finished the run. She told me the race would be twenty-six miles long.
When we arrived at the starting point, there were hundreds of runners lined up, some had come from various places around the world. Excitement filled the late September Alaskan morning. Spectators, friends and families chatted and laughed with participants, a welcome and instructions given, and finally the shot that announced the race had begun. Professional racers were at the front and disappeared up the hill we ascended the start of the race. Not disheartened, we chose a power walking speed and chatted with friends as we set out. As we made our way over tundra, through woods, up hills, we shed layers. Some runners passed us and we passed others. Along the route a couple had a table set up behind their house near the power line where they offered runners sourdough pancakes. Other places along the way offered water or Gatorade for hydration. Throughout the course, volunteers had stationed themselves to cheer or offer refreshment to those who wore an official number pinned on their marathon t-shirt.
At the top of the dome, there were tables set up with oranges, Girl Scout cookies, water, juice and even ibuprofen. How did they know? Immediately after that rest stop, we had to go down a chute — steep snowy, slippery. “If we had cardboard we could sled down,” I told my daughter. We spotted a man at the bottom who hadn’t successfully stayed upright on his way down and we stopped to offer aid. He’d bruised himself, his arm hurt, and no doubt he felt discouraged, but he assured us he’d be fine, so we pressed on.
Later we crossed a field that in my mind seemed to go on forever. “Are we there yet?”
My daughter laughed. “We have a while to go still.”
I plodded along. Not being a breakfast eater, my stomach growled. I should have eaten more oranges and cookies. I looked forward to that Chinese food. Finally, we spotted the twenty-six mile mark, but instead of a checkered flag, all that awaited us was more trail. “What? Why are we still going?”
“Because the race is twenty-six point 2 miles.”
I grabbed her hand. “Then let’s run!”
“No! I can’t run, Mom.”
When we came out of the woods into the clearing, I could see the end. My only desire at that moment to cross the finish line.
We finished, we got our patches; we went out with the family to celebrate and eat Chinese food.
Nine years later, in August, I asked my daughter if she wanted to do the equinox with me. She couldn’t go that year, but I had come through a difficult time and I needed to do that race. My friend is an orthopaedic surgeon, and he had told me if I wanted to do the race again, he’d help me get ready. So I called him. “Mark, you said you’d help me get ready for the equinox if I wanted to do it again.”
“You can’t do it. You don’t have time to build up and you’ll ruin your knees.”
I considered what he said, but the evening before the race I signed up and got my t-shirt. The next morning I stuck a granola bar and my phone in my pack and drove across town to do the race. I chatted with friends along the way, happy that I knew someone to run with. But I found out they were part of a relay-team with each person only doing one third of the race. In mile four, I broke my right middle toe on a root. By mile six, I had hit it on roots or stumps twice more — just to make sure I’d done the job well. No matter, I planned to finish and beat my time on this race.
Volunteers handed me liquid as I passed and when I drank it, discovered it was Gatorade instead of water, so I spit it out. At the dome, I realized I was on pace with the twenty- and thirty-year-olds who I worked with. Then something went wrong. As I did the loop at the top and made my way back to the checkpoint, the flag marking the way wasn’t there. I kept going, looking for the marker and after painfully making my way down a clearing to the woods, realized I’d lost my way.
I got my phone out and to my amazement I had cell reception. I called my son-in-law to see if he had tracking on his phone so he could tell me the way. When that failed I had to call 911.
“911, what is your emergency?”
“I’m sorry, this is not an emergency. I’m doing the marathon and I missed the trail. Can you locate me and give me direction?”
A bit of time went by while I made my way back up the incline. Going up didn’t hurt my knees like going down did.
“Yes, I’m trying to beat my old time.”
“But I can’t get a clear location unless you stand still.”
I spotted other racers coming down the hill and I waved at them to go back. “I’m on the phone with 911 to get directions, don’t come down!” Their facial expressions ranged from stunned to disheartened.
The operator came back on. “Okay, go forward and eventually you’ll see a tower. Your path should be in that area. Do you want to stay on the line? Do you want us to send someone to get you?”
“No, I’m finishing this race. Thank you.”
A father and his young adult son had reached me before stopping even though I had tried to get them to go back. The father became angry when he realized someone had sabotaged us. Maybe it was someone’s idea of a joke, on someone they knew, but we paid the price for it. We found our way back to the trail, we never spotted the marker, and then had to go down the chute. My knees ached so bad I went down sideways. By the time I got to the bottom, I limped, but I forged ahead, mile after mile. In the last two miles, a man I had passed hours ago, caught up to me. As he came alongside me he said, “Go baby, go baby, go!” At a highway crossing, people sat in parked cars along the shoulder. They honked as I passed. Some teenaged boys were flagging to stop traffic for runners. As I crossed the road, they cheered me on. Racers who had finished earlier clapped and called out encouragement. I picked up speed and pressed on. The last leg of the race wove down the starting hill — my knees were screaming; every step brought excruciating pain, yet that man stayed beside me chanting, “Go baby, go baby, go!” I crossed the finish line and strangers grabbed me in hugs and congratulated me. Someone handed me water, others offered me refreshments.
I still had to walk a few blocks to my car and when I got there, I had to lift my right leg in, then pull my left leg in. I drove home and had to lift my legs out of the car. I made it into the house and had to crawl up the stairs. But I finished. My detour had added forty-five minutes to my time, but taking off the extra mileage, I had beat my original time. Most important — I finished. It was a declaration that I was not a quitter, even if life challenged me.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. ” Proverbs 10:9
INTEGRITY noun: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. It does not mean when your lie doesn’t work, you try a new one.
Have you come across folks claiming a word for the New Year? I first came across that idea a few years ago, when another author wrote what her word for the year was. Personally I haven’t claimed a word, but this one was on my heart yesterday. And considering the times we live in, it seems like an excellent word to reintroduce to our society.
I read an article that stated in a survey of 300 students from both public and private colleges, including online universities, 86 percent claimed they cheated in school. * We have media outlets that spew untruths and even when exposed; they show no remorse. We have public figures from all walks of life vying to get to the top of whatever pile they fancy and will do whatever it takes to get there. We live in a time where if we claim something false is true long and loud enough; we believe we can convince others it is as well. But truth and lies are oil and water. They may be shaken together, but they will separate.
When the legislation starts sessions, it’s been customary to open with a prayer from the Senate Chaplain. April 18, 1947 Chaplain Peter Marshall prayed;”Our Father, we yearn for a better understanding of spiritual things, that we may know surely what Thy will is for us and for our nation. Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for — because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.” ** I desire to live a life that brings God glory. Are there challenges along the way? Yes. Are there opportunities to take short-cuts? Yes. Is living a life that points others to Christ worth it? Yes. Integrity. Let’s live it out. Are you with me?
In the mid-1990’s I took a job with the post office in Alaska. One of my favorite volunteer duties was answering letters to Santa. I purchased stamps and postcards and wrote a little note to the recipient, then had them postmarked at North Pole. One season a letter arrived from New York, New York. The writer had beautiful penmanship, and even though her first language wasn’t English, she succinctly stated her reason for writing. Her two children needed clothing. She listed their sizes and also expressed the need for food in their home. I knew I couldn’t respond with well wishes to this mother, but how could I help from thousands of miles away? That evening, I prayed for this family, and then turned on the computer. I scrolled through lists of churches before an idea hit me — if I found one in her zip code, I could call them and share the need. Because of the different time zones I waited until the next day at lunch to make the call. After three rings, a man answered the phone. “Hello, this is Pastor (name withheld).” “Pastor, my name is Elisa, and this will be a strange call, so please bear with me.” He cleared his throat. “Okay. What can I do for you?” “I work for the post office in Alaska and yesterday a letter arrived from your zip code.” I read the letter to him. “So, you can see I couldn’t very well send a postcard with well wishes. Do you think this is something your church would like to take care of? I could fax you the letter.” He asked for the address and I read it to him. “That’s two blocks away from our church! Yes, fax me the letter because we meet in less than an hour and I know my folks will be excited to take care of this. We can buy clothes and food and gifts and deliver it to her apartment. This is the perfect Christmas opportunity!” My heart nearly floated when I imagined this family’s response when God showed up at their door after they’d sent a letter to Santa. I never called back to find out what happened. God had put that letter in my hands and I did my part, then passed it on to let others to take joy in being the hands and feet of Jesus.
While reading the Bible I came upon the scripture in Luke 12:27, where people will be at the gate saying I did all this stuff for you and the Lord will say go away; I don’t know you.
Who are these people? When one accepts Christ as their personal Savior, they become a Christian. But what if Christ never becomes the Lord of their life — being first before desires, ambitions, lusts, habits, and so on, what happens?
I get a picture of a large gym fully stocked with top of the line equipment made to strengthen and build a strong, fit body. Along the walls are big overstuffed sofas and inviting easy chairs. The person who accepts Christ but never makes Him Lord of their life is like someone who goes to that gym regularly and lounges in those big chairs for an hour, then afterwards they meet up with their friends and say, “Yeah, I go to the gym five times a week!”
Their friends might look at them and not want to mention that they are wasting their time because that gym hasn’t benefitted them. They are out of shape, still living the life they lived before, because they don’t want to discipline themselves.
I get it, discipline can often mean sacrifice and maybe that’s uncomfortable, but the rewards are so amazing! And according to Matthew 7:16, others will recognize us by our fruit.
Over the years I’ve read stories and seen Christmas movies in which they inevitably find a missing baby Jesus. (One year in my own home Jesus was missing from the nativity set. We eventually located Him in bubble wrap.)
One morning as my husband and I snuggled on the love-seat reading the Bible together, I got to thinking about that missing Jesus.
“You know that’s not the first time Jesus has gone missing,” I said, totally off the topic we were reading. “Jesus went missing as a child and his frantic parents retraced their steps to find him — in his Father’s house. Where else?” (Luke 2:42-46.) I must note that I find it interesting that he’d been missing for three days.
Jesus went missing after healing a man on the Sabbath. (John 5:1-13)
Jesus also went missing when an angry crowd intended to do him harm. (Luke 4:28)
And let’s not forget the big one when Jesus went missing again — from the tomb. (Where he had been for three days.) (Luke 20:2)
It seems Jesus has a record of missing, yet He said if we want to find Him, all we have to do is seek Him. (Luke 11:9)
My pondering and the discussion with my husband about Jesus missing brought me to a question. Can people find Jesus in me? In how I speak, in how I conduct myself, in how I love others? Or would they say Jesus has gone missing again? I prayed that Jesus’ presence would always be clear in my life and that it would draw others to Him through me.
This fall my husband had a surgery that went well, but nine days later he ended up in the hospital with complications. In two months they hospitalized him three times, ran many scans, tests, procedures, and he ended up with a raging infection. Through this period our prayer was that we would walk with grace and glorify God — no matter what. At one point we both thought he might not have another day on the earth, but he pulled through. The big thing we had to focus on — we know God is with us no matter our circumstances. We know He has a plan for us. And we know He loves us.
We desire to live in a way that examples that love, and to share it with those He sends into our lives, whether it be a neighbor or even a medical care provider. We want to point people to Jesus.