The Lady in the Window

It’s funny how the brain works and how suddenly out of nowhere, a random thought occurs or a memory which was buried deep within suddenly resurfaces. This coming June will be 10 years since my dad’s mom, my Grandma Alice, passed away. She was 90 years old when she was found sitting at the window of her kitchen. Grandma had spent many hours at that window, a window positioned in such a way that a comfortable chair next to it allowed for a view of the church next door, the railroad trestle, the homes of several neighbors, including a granddaughter and her family, and the main road which ran through the small town.

From early childhood, I remember countless times when visiting Grandma that we’d find her relaxing in her chair at the window. Often during visits, we would sit around the kitchen table while Grandma sat in her usual window seat. Some of my strongest memories of Grandma are of her in that seat or of the visits on warm summer evenings when we’d gather on the large front porch. We’d spend hours out there – Grandma usually on one of the gliders, while other family members sat on porch chairs or gliders or on the wooden ledge at the top of the porch’s wall around its perimeter. The wooden ledge was a favorite spot of mine, but reserved only for the older grandchildren and adults. Sitting there came with a warning to be careful and not fall off to the ground 7 feet below. I’d often sit with my back leaning against one of the porch posts with my legs stretched out and resting on the ledge. From that front porch, we’d talk to neighbors across the road or wave at passersby in their cars or on motorcycles as they honked their horns. It was a carefree time. 

Graduation day with Grandma Alice in her yard (June 4, 1982)

In Grandma’s aging years, she had become forgetful and would sometimes be confused in her thinking. During one of our visits, we had a conversation about that kitchen window and the chair where she sat. Grandma remarked that she enjoyed sitting at the window and waving at neighbors or to those in vehicles as they passed by. I know for sure that she did because anytime that we passed by her house without stopping to visit, we’d make sure to slow down enough to catch a glimpse of her at the window, to look for her wave, and to wave at her. I waved at Grandma in that window dozens upon dozens of times throughout my life. As our conversation proceeded, Grandma, as serious as could be, went on to tell us that she needed to be at that window, for if she wasn’t at the window, then the people wouldn’t wave at her. There’s no doubt that Grandma was convinced of that.

Our family still chuckles over Grandma’s declaration every time it’s retold. And yes, it is true. My Grandma Alice, The Lady in the Window, took her last breath while sitting in her chair at the window. On her final day at the window, my dad, who faithfully visited her every day, made the short drive from his house to see his Ma. On that early summer evening, as he approached the side porch of the house and looked toward the window, he noticed that she was still, and that she hadn’t waved. I’ve wondered different times about who the final person was that she waved to and who the final person was that she saw wave to her. 

Grandma waited and she watched. She was ready at that window every day. I know that Grandma was always ready to wave to her neighbors and even to strangers who would pass by. I don’t know if on that last day, she expected Jesus to call upon her. She believed in Him. She claimed Him as Savior. She had sat in the pews of that small church learning about the Gospel of Christ. But, did she expect to see Him that day? Did He wave to her or did He gesture for her to go with Him? I trust that she was ready to meet Him on that day.

Grandma Alice, Christmas 1994, age 74

Are we waiting and watching for Jesus? Are we ready for Him? Are we dressed for service with our lamps burning? When He knocks, will we open the door? Have you opened the door of your heart to Him?

HOPE NUGGET: “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes…..You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” [Luke 12: 35, 36, 37a, 40]

Flashlight Tag

A favorite activity of our 2 and 4 year old granddaughters on “sweepover” nights is playing “Flashlight Tag” with Pappy & Grammy. The popular children’s game of Hide-and-Seek can be traced back to second century Greece. It’s a game that most anyone reading this probably played as a child. The game resurfaced in our household when grandchildren came along, with Uncle Nick being “It” and little Junie hiding in the same spot every time under the covers in the bed of “The Toy Story room.” She would run back through the hallway giggling and diving under the covers of that bed, convinced that she was fooling Uncle Nick and that he would not be able to find her this time! 

Flashlight Tag hiding place!

Our game of Hide-and-Seek evolved into a game which we now call Flashlight Tag. This game has become a routine for us played on sleepover nights after the sun goes down and before bedtime stories. The past 2 weeks of Christmas vacation included countless rounds of Flashlight Tag. The team of Hiders uses their flashlights to find a good hiding spot and after shouts of “Ready, Set, Here We Come!” the team of Seekers uses their flashlights to locate the Hiders. Flashlight Tag with 2 and 4 year olds is highly entertaining …. flashlights left on while in their hiding spots, laughter coming from the places of hiding, hiding over and over in the same locations, and shouts of surprise when a hider is found! 

On Sunday morning, our last day of Christmas vacation together before their drive to the airport, we did something different together by holding “House Church” at Pappy and Grammy’s. We read the Bible story of Jonah and sang songs and talked about how Jonah ran from God. Like 2-year old Ellie playing Flashlight Tag and thinking that she could leave the flashlight turned on while under the cover and not be found, Jonah mistakenly thought that he would not be visible to God if he went in a direction opposite of Ninevah, the place where God had commanded him to go. Jonah thought that he could run from God. He thought that by boarding the ship sailing for Tarshish that he could avoid obeying God’s voice. He ran, but he could not hide. The cover of the ship did not keep God from finding Jonah’s hiding spot. [Jonah 1]

Our House Church lesson…paintings by Junie and Ellie

Our 4 year old granddaughter has improved her skills in Flashlight Tag. She stays quiet when hiding, she doesn’t leave on her flashlight, and she now tries to find unique and different hiding locations. She understands that even when putting a lot of effort into hiding that sooner or later she will be found. Do you wonder why Jonah had the idea that he could avoid God’s plan for him to speak to the people of Ninevah? How could he have not realized that no matter how far he traveled that he wouldn’t escape God’s presence? Why did it take something as drastic as being in the belly of a great fish for three days for Jonah to submit to the will of God? Will God need to get your attention or my attention by appointing a great fish to swallow us?

HOPE NUGGET: “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.” [Jonah 2:2]

A Cautionary Tale

Have you ever been told to “trust your heart” or to “follow your heart” when making a decision? It’s a pretty commonly given piece of advice, from both Christians and non-Christians. Most of us have more than likely followed that advice at one time or another. Sometimes when doing so, it went well and things worked out for us. At other times, the outcome was disastrous. The advice was well-intended and meant to help, not to harm. The problem though is that according to God’s word, we know that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) 

Would it be wise to follow the advice of something known to be deceitful and sick? It would mean following something that lies to us, that misleads us. You see, God knows the hearts of man better than we even know them for ourselves. He understands what motivates us and what drives us. He knows that apart from His guidance, there will be failure in our decision-making. That is why He gives us warnings to not rely on our hearts to guide us and that is why He cautions us to seek Him in all things. Unless and until your heart is aligned with God’s, it cannot be trusted to guide your decisions.

What to do? Make sure that your heart is right with God, that it is tuned in to the heart of God, that it aligns with the principles laid out in scripture. Make sure that you seek God with all of your heart when making plans, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” [Jeremiah 29:11-13]…..and…..”Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

HOPE NUGGET: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. [Proverbs 3:5-6]

Make me a servant

“Make me a servant, humble and meek, Lord, let me lift up those who are weak, And may the prayer of my heart always be: Make me a servant today.” The lyrics to this 80s gospel song by Kelly Willard is a wonderful prayer for the start of the new year, and for the start of each and every day. In my early days after becoming a Christian, it seemed like we often sang this chorus. It had a big impact on me. Though the words are simple, I knew that they had deep and important meaning to my newfound faith. I knew that choosing to follow Christ would mean a complete and necessary change of lifestyle for me. I knew that making the commitment to serve Christ would mean sacrifice. It would mean a sacrifice of time, talents and treasures.

But finding ways to serve didn’t feel like a sacrifice. It felt right and good. The hours that I had been devoting to myself and to the ones close to me would need to be shared with others, sometimes for others who I barely knew or didn’t know at all. The gratitude and enthusiasm I had for being accepted as a child of God into God’s Kingdom spurred me on with a strong desire to serve. I remember not yet having a solid grasp of the Bible’s teachings, but I did have an interest and willingness to learn. Because of that, one of the natural places for me to begin to serve was in children’s ministry. I had young children of my own, and through teaching them and the other children of the church, I learned more of the Bible stories that are taught to kids. It was a time of growth and service.

Since then, I’ve continued to have the desire to serve. There’s definitely satisfaction in doing so, along with rewards for all involved. I came to realize that my interactions with others and my acts of service made as much or more of a difference to others as the words I spoke. In recent years as the leader of a young adults ministry, weekly meetings were held and Bible lessons were taught, but if my words to the young adults hadn’t been combined with the outreaches and activities that we were involved in, and in serving one another in various ways, the ministry would have been much less effective. I’m still working on perfecting an attitude of servanthood, both in word and in deed. Having a servant’s heart means having a meek and humble attitude, as the song declares. Servanthood isn’t a chore. It isn’t to be avoided. Instead of asking ourselves, “Why should I have to do ‘this or that,’”we should be offering our services for the benefit of others. Servanthood might mean investing some “sweat equity” into a task (credit for this term goes to my friend Sharon who shared it with me recently).

True leadership requires servanthood. The greatest leader and servant of all time is Jesus Christ “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2: 6-7). Christ is the ultimate example of servanthood and He is the standard after which we should model ourselves. It isn’t always easy; it can be exhausting. But ohhhh…..serving others is extremely rewarding and is the essence of Christianity and Christian ministry. Dear God, make ME a servant. So, Christian friends, let’s humble ourselves, roll up our sleeves, and serve God and others.

HOPE NUGGET: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Throw Your Cares Upon God!

While many tonight are marking the end of the year and celebrating the start of a new year surrounded by friends (or strangers) in an atmosphere of noisemakers and fireworks and loud music, I’m comfortably relaxing at home in my recliner. The calm and quiet of this evening has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on the past year. It’s been a good year. A blessed year. In countless ways. That doesn’t mean though that the year wasn’t without its problems. It had its share of troubles. For me and for you.

Today, on the final day of the year, not all is well and not all is perfect. Some of you are carrying great burdens. Some of you are facing major trials. Some of you are not in a celebratory mood. Your burdens are weighing you down. Though my burdens and concerns may not be as great as some of you, I too carry them into the new year…. The concern of a beloved family member in his illness… Disappointment… Important decisions to be made… Heartache for a close friend and her family… An unspoken situation which is affecting dear friends… Sadness… Anxiety… Weariness… Stress… A host of trials facing family and friends….

Though the year included grief, illness, sadness, and even though some of these troubles are left unresolved, my Hope is in The One who is able to carry my burdens. As a follower of Christ, I can trust the promises given by God to the people of God. If you’re a follower, you can trust those promises of help too. If you’re not a follower, if you haven’t repented of sin and turned to Him as your Savior, I urge you to do it now. Don’t enter another year, don’t go into 2020 without having made the choice to follow Christ. Choosing to follow Him doesn’t mean escaping all trials, but it does mean having the burden of sin removed and it does mean having access to the multitude of promises of God found throughout the Bible.

May 2020 be a year filled with the Love, Forgiveness, Peace, and Hope of Christ for you and yours.

HOPE NUGGET (1 Peter 5:7):
We are told to cast our anxieties (or cares) upon the Lord which literally means that we throw them upon Him. He is able to carry the burden for us AND He cares THAT MUCH for us!

God, What do You want me to do?

God, what is it that you want me to do? I asked that question nearly 2 years ago and referred to it as “the most important question of 2018.” I was seeking God’s direction in my life for what He wanted me to do and for how He wanted me to devote my time in ministry and in the work of the church. I had been leading a weekly Young Adults ministry which I truly enjoyed with young adults who I love. After putting thought, prayer and counsel into the decision, the Young Adults ministry came to an end and I became involved in a ministry which was in need of volunteers. This new ministry was not one that I felt particularly called to, but I chose to make the change because of the need for leaders. God has certainly brought about plenty of blessings as a result.

Now with 2020 just around the corner, the most important question to be asked hasn’t changed. It’s still: “God, what do You want me to do?” We’ll all have decisions to make and important questions to ask of ourselves. What is it that God is leading me to do? Will I sincerely seek Him in prayer, asking for His guidance and direction? How will my decisions impact others? Will I seek advice and counsel from the godly? Will I get my advice from those who will be honest with me or only from those who tell me what I want to hear? If I only follow advice given by those who tend to tell me what I want to hear, I can be assured of having limited growth and will likely not be stretched or challenged to improve. 

As our sons were growing up (and as proud parents who dearly love them and think highly of them), we encouraged and affirmed and supported them in their pursuits and interests and talents. We also though realized the importance of being direct and honest with them about their shortcomings. Sometimes it caused hurt feelings, sometimes it wasn’t very well received, but we knew that truly loving our sons meant that unpleasant discussions were sometimes necessary. It was up to us as loving parents to give honest advice and counsel to the best of our ability without just making it easy on ourselves by telling them what we knew they wanted to hear. It’s funny now that as our sons are in their 30s, they sometimes advise me. Yes, I respect, appreciate and give consideration to their advice and counsel. Every now and then, I’ll hear one of them say, “Moooommmm…” I’m definitely aware that I fall short of knowing everything, and that from time to time I need to rely on a little nudge from others to be redirected. It’s a great blessing to have wise and godly friends and family. It has been to my benefit when I’ve been willing to “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you [I] may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20).

In just a few days, 2020 will be here. A new year. A time when many of us look at making changes and improvements. If we’re wise, we’ll seek God for direction and we’ll accept guidance from an abundance of counselors (Proverbs 11:14). What changes do we need to make? What can we do to improve? How can we be more of a blessing to others? Are we to do what’s easy? Are we to do what’s safe? Are we to do what’s most pleasurable? Sometimes, perhaps. But above all, we are to do what He leads us to do. Sometimes for the sake of filling a need. Sometimes for the sake of others. Sometimes setting aside our own yearnings or desires. Sometimes following a path that isn’t laid out beautifully and sometimes following one that is a bit rough and not completely clear. God, what is it that You want us to do? For those of us who love God and who are called according to His purpose, may all things work together for GOOD in 2020 and beyond. (Romans 8:28)

HOPE NUGGET: Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. [Proverbs 4:13]

Beautiful Feet

The term “beauty” usually brings to mind that which has an aesthetic quality or is pleasing to look at. “Beauty,” as defined by Webster’s College Dictionary is the quality of a person or a thing that gives pleasure to the senses. Upon researching the Internet for articles on beauty, there was an abundance of information on beauty and how to attain beauty. The majority of this information had to do with the outward beauty that has been defined. Beauty though, involves much more than outward appearance alone. Beauty can be found in the depths and the innermost being of a person.

Our society is inundated with information and images that force the idea that beauty relates solely to the external and physical qualities of a person. My research on the Internet is a perfect example of this. After searching through dozens of websites concerning beauty, it was difficult to find any that had to do with beauty other than from the standpoint of physical beauty. At vogue.com, you’ll find “everything you need to know about the latest beauty trends and styles.” Walgreens.com provides the ability to shop for beauty products and supplies, stating that you can “make the season bright” for someone by purchasing “makeup, fragrance and more.” Articles like these are typical of what is available while searching for “beauty” on the Internet.

While difficult to find alternative sources to the usual viewpoint on beauty, there were a few that did offer a different definition to the meaning of the word. The book entitled Beauty by the Book written by Nancy Stafford points out that real beauty has more to do with who we are. Ms. Stafford writes that “Inner beauty – knowing who we really are – is the message closest to my heart because it’s been a lifelong search and a long, hard journey to reach the point where I really believe and feel that I am worth something, that I have value, that I am beautiful.” If a person feels that they have value, it is likely that they may recognize beauty as being much more of an inward quality than an outward quality.

The Bible also speaks on the subject of beauty. There are references made to physical beauty, however in the verses of Romans 10:15 and Isaiah 52:7, it is clear that beauty is seen as actively serving. It might sound strange, but the Bible also has some important things to say about our feet. In a search, I found 100 Bible verses having to do with feet. The verse in Romans was written by Paul, an apostle of Christ and was referencing a statement by Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet. The verse in Isaiah says: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!'” This is the ultimate example of beauty: having “beautiful feet” by sharing the good news of God’s love with others.

Our family is acquainted with several missionary families who I would put into the category of being beautiful people. They may not appear to be beautiful by the standards of the world, but are beautiful to those who have benefited by their sacrifice and commitment to serving. A couple with their three teenage sons who live in Bolivia and work teaching English and sharing God’s love with the people there are beautiful people. A young adult couple with four children living in Papua New Guinea for the purpose of sharing the Gospel of Jesus and working side by side with the PNG natives are beautiful people.

Many celebrities who are deemed as “the most beautiful people” are not necessarily those who would fit into the previous category, yet they are elevated and held to a high status simply due to popularity and good looks. I believe that it is more important to have beautiful feet than a beautiful face. If we would learn to be more concerned with “serving” and less concerned with “self,” the obsession with beauty that we witness daily would surely diminish. Society would have us believe that we must measure up to those images that we see on television or in magazines. Ms. Stafford says “This I know: Real beauty isn’t what we see in magazines or on movie screens, and it doesn’t depend on the opinions of others or the changing tastes of culture. True beauty is seeing ourselves as God sees us, reflected in the mirror of His Word.” If we depend on the opinions of others to determine whether or not we are beautiful, we are assured of being disappointed sooner or later. Our looks will change; we will grow older, maybe fatter, maybe grayer, or maybe balder. Those characteristics should not be the measures used to determine real beauty.

The constant bombardment of images from television, books, magazines, billboards and the Internet has helped to keep the concern for beauty always before us, and a constant reminder of the expectation to look beautiful. It is difficult to escape its influence and to somehow not be affected by the pressure to improve. The way that beauty is viewed is different for each person. Some tend to focus more on those outward features, while others are able to look beyond and see the value of character and actions as contributing to the loveliness of an individual.

The church I attend, Grace Fellowship, holds a weekly prayer meeting. Once a month, rather than gathering for our meeting within the church walls, we take our prayer meeting to the streets of our small community. Sometimes our group of pray-ers stays together and sometimes we divide into smaller groups. We spend the hour walking the streets, stopping to pray for the occupants at each home. Sometimes during those walks, we have the opportunity to talk with the folks who are outside. Sometimes they ask us what we’re doing so we let them know that we’re praying for them. By doing so, we are sharing the love of Christ and perhaps opening the door for the Gospel message to be shared.

Beautiful feet on Brown Street in Everson PA

My experiences in life, such as my interactions with missionary friends and prayer times with my church family, have influenced the way I see beauty. I am more inclined to see beauty in those who sacrifice by giving of themselves than I am in those who are photographed and paraded before us because of their appearance. I have been privileged in knowing a number of people who I would say have beauty emanating from their lives. These are people who give of their time, talents, and treasures and live every day making sacrifices for the betterment of others. They are those who pray, serve, and share the Gospel of Christ. They are those who have “beautiful feet.”

HOPE NUGGET: Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. [Proverbs 31:30]