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Before Christmas

“Father, it’s a breathtaking galaxy You’ve designed and created, but I feel it’s not yet complete.  Something’s missing.”

“Yes, I know exactly what You mean, and I have an idea.”

There is silence as the plan unfolds before Him.  Father closely watches the Son’s reaction, occasionally looking up to see the Spirit’s expression.  Jesus’ face is like a kaleidoscope – amazement, wonder, joy, deep sorrow.  In the Spirit’s face He sees total acceptance and notices that He now looks to Jesus for His response.  Spirit is already interceding, already strengthening and helping.

Jesus takes a deep breath.  “I only have one question – why?”

Father looks intently into the face He loves, and replies with a single word.  “Love”.

Jesus takes a deeper breath.  “Father, it’s a beautiful planet You’ve designed and created, and the animals are wonderful, but are You sure about creating people?  I realize they are in Our image and they certainly start out well, and some are very promising, but…”

Father doesn’t answer right away.  He continues to watch the kaleidoscope before Him.  After a while, He gently and quietly whispers, “but?”

“But the people are flawed and everything You’ve designed and created is perfect.  I can see the possibilities for great joy and fellowship, but You know there will be conflict with Satan.  He will hurt them.  Satan has already brought You great pain.  The people will cause You even more.  Are You absolutely certain about the people?”

“We have so much beauty in the universe We have created.  We should share it.  We have more than enough love within Us to be able to bear the pain.”

“Yes, but We are holy and these people…  There would always be a barrier between us.”  Jesus looks intently into the face of His Father.  “Couldn’t we do something to remove it so the relationship would be as perfect as the rest of creation?”

God returns the intense gaze for the longest time.  His face is not a kaleidoscope, but it clearly shows He is weighing a matter.  Very quietly He replies, “Yes, My Son, there is something We could do.”

The Father lays out the plan.  The Spirit audibly sucks in a startled breath and returns to watching the Son and praying.  The Son looks into His Father’s face.  “Incredible!”  The Father waits.

“An embryo?  I would become an embryo in an unwed mother?  A baby?  I would be a baby and have to learn everything I already know?   I would be a toddler who learns to walk, a child who learns to obey, a teenager who learns to relate to people, a carpenter who earns a living, a teacher they don’t understand, a Savior they don’t want?  I would have to leave You and perfection for more than thirty years?  The betrayal, rejection, scourging, crucifixion?  The resurrection.

“Will it be hard?”

“Yes, my Son, it will.  You will need to be truly one of them in order to bridge the gap between us.  You will need to struggle as they do, to experience everything they experience, every joy, every sorrow, every anguish.  But We will help You and strengthen You.

Jesus returns to deep thought.  After a long pause, He murmurs, “It is the best way.”  He looks up again.  “But Father, so few will believe, so many will reject Us.  Are You absolutely certain?”

“Everyone will be able to choose whether or not to believe.  Everyone will have the opportunity for perfect love and relationship.  We have more than enough love for all.  I’m certain.  It’s up to You, Son.  Are You willing?”

Once again, the Spirit holds His breath.

Jesus’ smile is bittersweet.  “I will miss Our oneness, but yes, I’m willing.”

“I’m proud of You, Son.”

“Father, how long will they have to wait for Me to come?  How long will it be until My return?”

“Don’t worry, my Child, the timing will be perfect.”

 

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A Volunteer’s Reward

This post is dedicated to the innumerable volunteers who give so much of themselves to serve others.  Sometimes it is a thankless and unappreciated service.  There are times when we have to get ready to go out serve when we’re tired and have so many other things calling for attention in our lives and we wonder if it’s worth continuing because we have no idea whether or not we’re making a difference.  Once in a great while God allows us to see the difference we’re making or have made.

One of the volunteer positions I served in was called Read Fur Fun at our local library.  We would bring our therapy dogs on a Saturday morning, the children would pick a book and read it to the dog of their choice.  One Saturday our time was up, but I saw a young boy who had that “love at first sight” look when he saw Buster Brown, so we lingered.  Tommy (not his real name) was developmentally challenged and wanted to know why a dog was in the library.  We explained the program to him and he started to get a book, when he was told we were done for the day, but he could sign up for next month.  He eagerly looked at his mom.  She was the kind of mom who was doing everything she possibly could to help her son.

A month later Tommy came and slowly read to Buster Brown, his finger under each word.  His mom was trying to get him to put more feeling in to his reading, but Buster Brown listened attentively nevertheless.  As they were leaving, his mom said, “He practiced every day for the last month so he could read to the dog”.  Tears came to my eyes and I never forgot him.  I looked for him each time we went, but he was involved in several other therapeutic programs and didn’t make it back to the library. 

It’s been five or six years since that Saturday.  I was at the library this afternoon for a performance of Old Time Radio Players.  I recognized Tommy at the counter as soon as I saw him.  He came to the show and sat in the front row.  The performers asked for two volunteers to read from the scripts for the next skit.  Tommy was the first to volunteer and I admit I cringed a bit – some of the old time radio shows were rather fast-paced.  His turn came and he had no problem following the script or reciting his lines.  His expressiveness was much better than it was years ago.  I was so proud of him!

I was also very touched to have been a minute part of his progress, and grateful to God for allowing me to see a glimpse of what we encouraged.  Don’t give up.  Don’t doubt your effectiveness.  Keep volunteering!

BB best pic

 

Mama’s Rainbow

In memory of my mother, who went to heaven on a July 20th, years ago.

She had always wanted a child.  There were several miscarriages and a stroke while she was pregnant.  The doctors told her not to get pregnant again – having a child could end her life.  But her desire for a child was greater than her fear of death, so she had me.  I don’t really know all the details – just what I gleaned here and there from what other people told me, from what I heard by eavesdropping when Daddy thought I was occupied and not paying attention to the grownup conversation.  You see, one of the strokes Mama had took away her speech – she could say single words, but not sentences.

Daddy grew up Catholic and Mama Protestant.  Both churches practiced infant baptism.  I’m not sure why (one aunt told me I spent the first two years of my life with another aunt while Mama was recovering from another stroke), but they didn’t get around to baptizing me until I was four years old.  It was the first time I ever went to church and what a church it was!  Carved wood pews, stained glass windows and a pipe organ.  I had never seen or heard anything so beautiful.  We were up in front and during the service I fell in love with church and the things of God.  I made my parents take me every Sunday after that. 

I became the center of Daddy’s world.  After all, I came at a high price – the near loss of his beloved wife.  So he protected me – to the point of overprotecting me.  One day, the boy I had loved since I was a little girl came calling.  Daddy was worried.  I told him he didn’t have to be – I wasn’t going to marry the man.  But then he proposed and I said yes, and the war was on.  It didn’t matter that Daddy had known him since we were children (and had always liked him).  Now that he wanted to take his little girl away, he wasn’t good enough.

One Saturday afternoon, the argument had been intense – the list of apparent and imagined faults was long.  Mama and I had to leave for the beauty shop and as soon as we were out of sight of the house, I stopped, faced her and asked point blank, “Do you want me to marry him?”  With a look of determination and defiance I imagined her having when she was trying to have a baby, she simply replied “Yes!”  That was enough for me, and from then on, it became a matter of gently convincing my dad I was indeed going to get married.

It was a month before the wedding and one morning we were making breakfast.  Mama dropped the gallon of milk and just before she fell to the floor, a knowing look passed between us.  A look from deep in our spirits that told each of us she wouldn’t be at the wedding.  The doctor took my fiance and me aside that afternoon at the hospital and told us to go on with the wedding plans.  “Don’t change anything, don’t postpone it”, he said.  We were too overcome with emotion to say anything – we just nodded. 

My fiance and I were standing in the kitchen later that night and I started to cry.  We had led a sheltered life, my dad and mom and I.  Handicapped people in public weren’t as common then as they are now, so we pretty much stayed home.  Mama had picked out a beautiful dress for the wedding – I’d never seen her with anything so fancy.  She was going to be queen for a day when she walked down the aisle and everyone knew I was wearing her wedding dress.  I cried for the experience she would never have. 

Mama was unresponsive, but every time I saw her, I brought her up to date on the wedding details and told her I expected her to come.  When the wedding ceremony program was finished, I brought her a copy, read it to her and left it on her night stand.  I had never prayed so hard in my life.  At first I prayed that she would recover and come to the wedding.  Then I prayed that she could participate in some way.  While it seemed God was silent, I never got angry with Him or pouted – for the first time in my life, I simply trusted and waited.  Somehow I just knew that God knew my heart and would do something special.

It was customary in those days for the bride and groom to present white roses to their mothers.  Since Mama couldn’t come to the wedding, I made arrangements to bring the wedding to her.  My father and husband-to-be in their tuxes and I in her wedding dress went to the hospital to give her her rose.  The staff moved her to a private room for the occasion.  As soon as I walked in the door, she knew exactly who I was and why I was there.  She sat up in bed and reached for the nurse to try and tell her something.  She pointed at me with joy and excitement.  I don’t remember how long we stayed.  I can’t tell you how anyone else reacted, but I think the nurses were crying.  It was as if she and I were the only ones in the room.  Whenever anyone asked about my mother that day, I told them that she had sat up and knew who I was and tried to talk. 

During the two months Mama was in the hospital, that was the only time she was awake or aware of her surroundings, let alone interacting with them.  She died a month later.  It rained the day she died and we saw a double rainbow on the way home from the hospital.  I believe it was God’s special way of welcoming her to heaven and letting me know she was free at last. 

Mama’s illness and her miraculous awakening for my wedding day visit confirmed several things for me.  While God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we would like, He cares very deeply about the people and events that are important to us.  No matter what is going on in our life, He knows, He cares, and He wants to help us and touch us deeply.  He can do anything; including awakening a loving mother from a coma long enough to bless her daughter with an unforgettable memory.  I’m reminded of that every time I see a rainbow – especially a double one.

Farewell to Buster B

As I look back, I see he’d been aging for quite a while, the wonderful English Springer Spaniel I’d had since he was a pup.  Two summers ago, he began to tire out on our mile and half walks through the subdivision.  Last summer, he no longer followed me the whole time I mowed the back yard and he was slow to get out of the way when he did follow me.  The more I think about it, the longer the list gets – all the things he used to do and wasn’t doing any more.

As I look back, I see how God prepared me for what was coming.  Earlier that week, he literally bounded into the living room one evening.  My first thought was that he was having a seizure of some kind!  I followed him as he pranced through the house and enjoyed the momentary return of the “life of the party” dog he’d been for fifteen and a half years.  That Friday, I had gotten an email of happy dog pictures, and it occurred to me that Buster Brown was no longer as happy.  Once again, I prayed that God would just take him in his sleep.  I did not want to have to make the decision to put him down – I wanted God to do it for me.

Buster Brown was incontinent at times and that same Friday morning, he had soaked his dog bed overnight.  That evening I came home to his worse mess – one that required a complete dog bath.  Saturday morning, his gait was off and uneven – he fell several times.  So I called the vet and made the appointment for later that morning.  I looked Buster Brown in the face, and told him I was sending him home to God.  I had mentioned it to him several times before, telling him that if he was in pain, he should let God take him home to heaven and I’d understand.  Before, he had always turned away quickly in disgust, but this time he turned away slowly in resignation. 

Friday night and Saturday morning, I was mad at God – really mad.  I had asked Him to take Buster Brown in his sleep and He was making me go through the pain of making the decision and the phone call.  I was in the bathroom later that morning when I heard the word “resolution” in my spirit.  Yes, I had always hoped for resolution and complained about not getting it.  I never got to say goodbye to my mother or my ex-husband before they died and I wasn’t with them when they left this world.  I was at my father’s side to talk to him when he was dying, but he wasn’t responsive and he didn’t die until the next morning.  Now, with Buster Brown, my beloved friend, God was giving me the opportunity to experience the closure I had never known.

I carried him that morning – the one and only time he let me carry him.  I carried him to the car, to the vet, to the scale and to the office.  He didn’t protest but for a wiggle or two.  I held him the whole time – the one and only time he let me hold him in my lap for more than a few seconds.  He didn’t even want to pace or go exploring.  I told him how good he was, how much I loved him, how grateful I was for him.  I felt his breath stop and then his heart.  He died in my arms.  I looked one last time into his eyes, and although the cloudy cataracts were no longer visible, the life was gone from his eyes and I cried harder. 

I felt guilty and unsure of my decision to put him down.  I wondered if I had done it out of impatience and for convenience.  As I went to bed that night and began to read the novel I was in, I came to a part in the story where the main character’s parents travel to see him and spend time with him, because the father has a bad heart and is dying.  The father tells his son it’s his time to die, and I knew God was telling me that it was indeed Buster Brown’s time to die.  The doubt and the guilt vanished.  Sunday I had my lunch outside and was reading a magazine where the introduction from the editor was a piece about how they put their dog down.  Another confirmation from God, just for good measure.  What a tender God that cares so much to comfort and reassure us about what we feel deeply!  What a wonderful God who designed and arranged the perfect match between a dog and a person!  Farewell Buster Brown, this woman’s best friend.  I’ll miss you.

Buster Brown and the Old Man

He sat there in the nursing home’s dining room, deep in thought, his hand on his chin.  The show was on, but his thoughts were back in the past somewhere, wondering where the time and the people and places and events he once loved and cherished had gone.  He wasn’t even aware of the show that was going on, or the songs or the jokes, but every once in a while, he looked at Buster Brown from out of the corner of his eye.  His thoughts had a deep and painful hold on him and he didn’t sing or speak when spoken to. 

God nudged my heart and I knew we had to break through.  I sat next to him and kept maneuvering Buster Brown past him, next to him, around and around.  The show was almost over, and Buster Brown finally did what God gifted him to do – he nudged the man’s hand.  The man was a bit startled, and Buster Brown put his head under the man’s hand on his thigh.  The man had no choice now and no excuse – he began to pet the dog.  

That’s when Buster Brown started doing what is frowned upon by TDI (Therapy Dogs International) officials – he licked the man’s hand.  Ready to tell Buster Brown to stop, I looked into the man’s face, and saw a sparkle in his eyes.  I watched and a smile appeared, and then he began to laugh.  He laughed and told me what a wonderful dog he was.  I smiled and nodded; my heart full that the God of the universe would care enough to use a dog to bring joy to a little lost lamb. 

Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap a harvest of blessing if we faint not.  (Galatians 6:9)