Friday, October 29, 2010

A Joyful Heart and a Broken Spirit


"A joyful heart makes a cheerful face...

James sat quietly in his rocking chair, cherishing the cooler morning. The peaceful tapping of the raindrops persuaded his eyes to close and his face to relax. The book he was reading lay silently on his lap as he followed his thoughts to earlier days of sunshine and laughter. He smiled.

In the quietness of his room, James loved spending time with his memories. His sweet Opal had been gone for years, but her memory never left. The rhythm of his creaky rocker added to the rain’s gentle rhythm and set the pace for the snapshots as they passed in single file across his eyelids. His smile sunk deeper.

The rain continued and protected the serenity of the moment for James. He could read another day. His walk through the neighborhood could wait for the sunshine to return. For now, he was transformed back to a house filled with his Opal and their eight children. He would just hang out with them for a spell.

******

Downstairs James’ granddaughter, Addie, sat quietly on the worn cushion of the window seat and watched rain drops slide down the streaked panes. With hands locked around the outside of her bent knees, she dug her heels into the cushion’s edge to secure their position. Her half-eaten lunch rested on the window sill.

The watery trails on the windows mirrored the tears that fell down the backs of her eyes. Addie had long since refused to share her grief publicly. Another long, dreary day. Too quiet. Too empty.

The silent phone sat stubbornly on the corner table. No amount of coaxing would cause it to ring.

Music wouldn’t help. Listening to others’ joy just magnified her sorrow. And she didn’t need to shoulder the loneliness that wailed from songs born deep within the hearts of those who shared her dark, dank world. She had written enough of those.

The tick, tick, tick of the mantle clock seemed to slow with each minute that passed. Would this dreary day ever end? Probably. But it would be followed by another day just like this one. A few hours’ sleep would be her only reprieve.

She released her hands from around her knees and her numb feet fell to the floor. She slowly rolled up and stood, careful to let the feeling return to her tingling legs before trudging to the door.

Once outside, she stepped from beneath the striped awning and lifted her face to catch the quickening drops. Maybe they would wash away the despair. But the heavy clouds just added to the weight of her aching heart.

...but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” Proverbs 15:13 (Holman)


Learning to Live

Learning to live a life that is free
Is learning to pray and wait patiently
Learning to live a life full of hope
Is yielding to God when we cannot cope
Learning to live a life that is strong
Is trusting while healing – when days seem so long.
Learning to live a life we can’t see
Is reaching our hand through eternity . . .

To the God who knows our needs and our cares
And lovingly, thoughtfully answers our prayers
To the God who is waiting for us to release
The things that deny us our comfort and peace.
To the God who created and made us His own
Who reaches to heal us from His mighty throne
.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Heavenly Voice



The sight of the cell phone sitting silently on the small night stand brought tears to my eyes. That tiny phone was a constant companion to Mom over the past several months. The lengths of her visits were always determined by her measure of strength for that day, but even the short, “Hello’s” were a bright spot in her small world. Mom’s cheery “How wonderful to hear from you!” surely added equal amounts of sunshine to the caller’s day.

Long days and nights of pain that became increasingly difficult to manage were over. The peace that filled her room when Mom quietly slipped into Heaven was now just a strange quietness and felt too empty for words. How I longed for just one more, “love you” to end our day.

Mom had been my confidant. She was such a good listener and had acquired so much wisdom for someone whose world was encompassed in just a tiny speck on the globe. Her brown eyes held soft responses to my news of the day – whether happy or discouraging. When Mom spoke, her words were well thought out and delivered gently, and her hands held mine with a strength that had developed through many years of hard work.

I forced myself to scan Mom’s room for the medical equipment that needed to be returned. The clothing ministry would surely welcome the sharp ensembles she enjoyed wearing before her waning health required a complete wardrobe change to soft gowns and slippers.

I made a mental note to pick up an appropriate box to hold the countless cards and well wishes. Mom re-read them often. It was then that I noticed a plain white envelope with my name in Mom’s handwriting. A soft sob stuck in my throat and my hand shook as I reached for what must have been her final word to me. Was it a personal note? Did it hold instructions that had not been included in finalizing her personal affairs?

Carefully, I slipped my finger under the flap of the envelope and unfolded the paper inside.

“My Dear Marcie,” it began. “I’m sorry I left you with so many details and loose ends, but I have only one more request beyond what we have already covered.

“You know that my cell phone has been one of my best friends these past few months. Just the sound of a friend’s voice or of one of my grandchildren’s has brought so much joy.

“I’ve spend many hours wondering how I could leave something special behind that would somehow brighten the days of my loved ones long after I’m gone, and when the idea came to me, I could have jumped right out of this hospital bed!”

When I had finished reading her letter and cried once again at her final request, I completed the assignment. By the next morning, Mom’s wishes had been realized. The note she left behind came straight from her heart:

“To my amazing family and friends. Thank you so much for filling my days with words of love and encouragement. Your calls made my days sweeter than I can express. A terrific invention, the cell phone. Who knew a device so small could hold hearts to big?

“Very soon we will have face-to-face conversations as you join me in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Until that time comes, my last wish is to return the kindness of your phone calls with a message of my own. My cell phone number will be available, along with my recorded message. At the end of that message, and ‘at the beep’ (smile), leave a good word for me. True, it will be a one-way conversation, but a response to an invitation given in love and gratitude for your faithfulness in my greatest time of need. God Bless.”

I slowly dialed the familiar number, then listened to Mom’s heavenly voice: “How wonderful to hear from you! How was your day? Remember, I love you and I’ll see you soon.”

“Love you, too, Mom.”


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From a Gold Ring to a Scarlet Cord


H
e was accustomed to seeing men come and go from his daughter’s home during the night. These two looked different. They were not shuffling and stumbling up the stairs like so many of her late-night callers. They were moving more like cats, darting in and out of the shadows and watching over their shoulders. Even their clothing seemed unfamiliar. He quietly stepped outside to get a closer look at the men near his daughter’s back door.

T
he people behind the massive walls of the city were indifferent in their immoral culture. But the old man had never been able to accept that his daughter was a major attraction to residents and visitors alike. She had been such a beautiful young girl with eyes that sparkled at the sound of his voice and a spirit that saw each morning as a new adventure waiting to unfold.

The decline of morals in their secluded community changed all of them. Rahab’s beauty was her downfall. She had been drawn in to a world of depravity and accepted her “status” in the the most public part of town. A father who had once dreamed of grandchildren could only watch his little girl become hardened and aged beyond her years.

“A beautiful woman who rejects good sense is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.” Proverbs 11:22 (Holman)

Sudden activity in the streets drew him back to the present. The King’s messengers headed straight for Rahab’s house. He inched closer and craned his ear to the voices. “Spies? They must be Israelites!” The hearts of the Jericho residents melted inside their chests at the news of the God of Israel and how He performed indescribable miracles at the Red Sea and dealt with the two kings of the Amorites.

And now the king’s messengers were at his daughter’s house demanding that she turn the intruders over. But why did they insist on searching her house? Then he remembered the two suspicious callers. His heart sank. “What was
Rahab thinking when she let those men in?”

He heaved a sigh of relief when the messengers rushed away from her house and toward the King’s palace. Moments later Rahab was at his door. “Papa, let me in quick,” she whispered.

“T
he Israelites are coming to destroy Jericho, and you want me to believe that they are going to spare us, the family of a prostitute? How can you place your faith in something so bizarre? A God you have never seen, never prayed to, never included in your idol worship is going to save you, your father and mother, even your brothers? Our best chance to survive this is to stay inside these walls. Armies have never been able to get through them. This isn’t water we’re talking about, Rahab. It’s solid rock. Not even the God of Israel can knock these walls down!”

R
ahab ignored her father’s protests and hurried to explain their rescue: The two men would hide in the hills for three days, and return to Jericho. She had hidden them from the king, and they promised to spare her and her family. They would see the scarlet chord hanging from her window and take them out of the city before they destroyed Jericho and everyone inside the walls. She had their word.

S
omehow Rahab knew in her heart that the God of the Israelites would be her God, too. The gods of Jericho were fashioned from gold and silver. Lifeless and powerless. She had heard of the God Who could not be fashioned by anyone’s hand. He demonstrated unbelievable power protecting His beloved Israelites. She wanted to serve that God, regardless of the danger.

“They burned up the city and everything in it…but Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, her father’s household, and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent to spy on Jericho, and she lives in Israel to this day.” Joshua 6:24,25 (Holman)

* * * * *

Months later, the old man watched as Rahab embraced her daily chores. He marveled at how young his daughter looked. Her eyes regained their sparkle, and she began each day with expectancy of wonderful things that would come their way. “I wonder if that smile has anything to do with the young man, Salmon, who visits in our home. Maybe, someday, I’ll have those grandchildren after all.” (Matthew 1:5)


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Friday, October 22, 2010

Faceless Acquaintances


Editors are uniquely introduced to writers through their shared passion for the written word. From the beginning, they enjoy a freeing experience that bypasses the normal first impressions of face-to-face encounters. Very quickly, this new relationship can develop into something very endearing or, in an outcome that may fall short of the writer’s search for validation, self-preserving.

In our micro wave society of the likes of e-mailing and texting, the electronic age has reduced our communication skills to abbreviated words and symbols. But when a writer pours his soul into a piece, whether an essay or a novel, the communication reaches depths that are quickly disappearing from most walks of life.

Instantly, the author shows his vulnerability, yet trust to a complete stranger. In turn, an editor who faced the blue ink himself can show empathy toward the faceless acquaintance. Empathy that may not be found in any other encounter the writer has experienced.

This new relationship in many cases is a paradox: Deep, but short-lived. The results of this encounter can last a lifetime.

There is another unique relationship that is introduced through the written Word, a Word that also leads to a freeing experience that bypasses superficial encounters and focuses on the heart and soul. One searching for validation from the Editor of this Word will find unconditional love.

His ancient words can neither be taken lightly nor rushed through on a high-speed keyboard and are eternal. They are convicting, encouraging, and demanding of our time and respect. The very soul of the original Author is the standard. Each submission to this Author/Editor is measured by, and held accountable to, His Truth. Vulnerability is handled with agape love and blessed assurance.

This two-way communication and relationship is possible only through the shed blood of the Author and Editor’s Son, Jesus Christ. And, unlike the relationship previously mentioned, is eternal rather than short-lived.

In the soon and coming presence of this Acquaintance, we will surely experience unmeasured joy at our Face-to-face encounter with the Author and Finisher of our faith.


Do you want to see Jesus "Face-to-Face?" Check the Sidebar for the Link, "I Want To Know Jesus."

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