There in that place…

The days rush by, and I think about my grandnephew, whose days are unending, his nights just long enough to remember the tilled fields of spring followed by the green expanse of crops pulsating in summer’s breezes, broken only by the creek winding through our land connecting farm to farm where family wait for his return.

There in that place where even subtle sins are noted, he is lost amidst the many who are watched day and night yet never known beyond surveillance screens that reveal everything yet nothing of the boy he was when he became a man when he was barely more that just a boy.

Like any child who looks for love, he found it in the gentle words of his grandfather, who taught him how to put together and take apart the toys of boyhood one block at a time. And, as he grew older, he watched and learned under the gaze of his almost-dad, who was not there when the judge handed down the ruling that took him away from everything he loved.

He had looked for love so many times in the circle of other wounded children grown up, who saw each other through the glazed eyes of alcohol-induced laughter that hardly hid the pain that roiled deep inside. And the alcohol that took him away from the pain tore the best friend he had ever had from his days and his nights where now the constant glare of prison lights robbed him of the dreams he longed for.

He made himself remember the fresh smell of rain on tilled fields, the familiar aroma of oil and grease in his grandpa’s shop, the joyous atmosphere of family dinners and the sound of his mom’s laughter, the combine’s roar and the sound of the grain swirling up the auger to the bins. He thought of the clicking sounds Grandpa would make as they waited for their plates of BBQ to come at noon and the nudges in greeting from friends and farmers who filled the room from 12 to 1.

He remembered so much and then could take no more and waited in the still dorm as snoring ceased and breaths were held, as the dreaded prospect of one more endless day began.

O, Holy Father, just as Your Son burst forth from the grave, invade that stark place with the reality of Your Presence. Break into hearts and flood them with Your Perfect Love. Shatter the walls that conceal the men you created them to be, and destroy the plans of the enemy to steal, kill and destroy their very lives. Birth hope in jaded hearts this day, and set them aflame for You.

Don’t let this moment go by…

        Fathers Day has always been a difficult day for me. I only had my dad for 24 years, but during those years, I knew what it was to be loved unconditionally, and I’ve never forgotten what that was like. There are no arms now that hold me close but there is a Love that will not let me go.

      My dad went to church his entire life but didn’t accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior until two months before he met Him face to face. He was 70 years old. No one would ever have thought that my dad was not on his way to heaven. He never gossiped or said unkind things about anyone. Dad never talked much–except about farming–but when he did it was always worth listening to. He loved life and the land, his family and being at home. He was respected in the community because he was a good man and a good farmer.

      On one of his frequent visits, our pastor, Kenneth Pickering, who knew that Dad didn’t have long to live, asked him if he was ready to meet Jesus.  Dad admitted he wasn’t totally sure but said he’d always tried to do what was right and had gone to church all of his life so he supposed he would go to heaven. As Kenneth shared Romans 10:9-10 with him, Dad realized that, even though he believed in Jesus, he never had asked Him to be the Lord of his life.

      That afternoon I got a call from Kenneth, who told me I should go see my dad, so I drove the mile to Mom & Dad’s house. When I went in the bedroom, I saw the huge smile Dad had on his face, and I sat on the edge of the bed while he told me how he had asked Jesus to come into his life and knew he would be in heaven when he died. Even though Dad was bedfast and in constant pain, there was a new peace in his voice and in his expression too—a peace that had never been there before.

      During the next two months, as the cancer claimed more of my dad’s once-healthy body, he didn’t complain about the increasing pain but always tried his best to manage a smile. One night when I was spending the night so Mother could sleep, my dad cried out, “Sara, Sara, come here!” I was just a few steps away in the den and was by his side in a few seconds. Grabbing my arms with his trembling hands, he looked into my eyes and said, “Make sure they go to heaven. Make sure they all go to heaven—all of you and the children—make sure they all accept Jesus. I want to see all of you again. Will you promise me you’ll do that?” he cried. As I comforted him, I assured him I would tell everyone in our family what he wanted, and through the years I have. Two weeks later, my dad met the Jesus he had heard about all his life but had only really known for two months.

      It dawned on me just today that I am the same age Dad was when he went to his heavenly home; and although I have no life-threatening illness, who knows except God how much time I have left on this earth? I’ve shared my dad’s story with many people, and the bottom line is, someday, and it may be today, we will go from this place we call home to the place we will spend eternity—either with God or without Him. Don’t let the opportunity go by to say ‘I love you’ or ‘Forgive me’ or ‘Do you know Jesus?’ This moment–right now–might be your last chance.


He is faithful.

Hard to believe it’s been six years since I wrote this. How my world has changed, but that’s another story for another time.

Feb. 22, 2010
So this a.m. in the midst of checking out the news online before getting started on the multitude of writing I have to do this week, my mouse quits working … splat! nada! no mouse trails when I move it back and forth or in circles, nothing! So being the techie cretan I am, I wake my son Darin up (and I feel bad about it too!), but he groans a couple of times and emerges from his man cave to help his panicked mother, who by this time has managed to push ctrl-alt-del and has that weird screen up but can’t shut down the computer and is further panicked.

Darin sits down to undo my failed attempts at making this contraption work but this time, can’t do it … it’s stuck and won’t go anywhere, but he does manage to get the computer to shut down and disappears back into the darkness where, hopefully, his mother won’t disturb him again.

I fix myself another cup of coffee and wait patiently in front of the computer while it comes back up but, of course, with me at the helm the mouse is still dead. I manage to push ‘mail’ on my keyboard, but Outlook, not Yahoo comes up, and naturally, I am stumped.

Then I hear his door open and listen as he rummages in the junk drawer in the kitchen before returning to his mother, who is telling him that it still won’t work and she is going to have to go to Staples (in this bad weather, I’m thinking) and get another mouse … as he picks up the mouse, opens the battery compartment, inserts a new battery and brings my mouse back from the grave.

As I continue apologizing to him for not thinking of the battery, Darin pats me on the head and says “That’s okay, mom — it took me awhile for my fuzzy brain to work too” and disappears once more to the other end of the house.

So you’re probably wondering why, with all the work I have to do, that I’m taking the time to write all this down to email to you. Here’s why… there are a couple of lessons for all of us in this. The most obvious lesson is never to overlook the obvious, which means you first have to identify the obvious.

How many times do we do this? Yes, I had asked God in the midst of my panic to help me, but it seemed that He hadn’t, because I had jumped to worrying about having to drive in this weather to Staples! It took God nudging Darin with the obvious when I was too busy worrying to even think of the obvious.

The second lesson is I need to be more like Darin. He was willing to wake up from a deep sleep to try to help, and he knew he didn’t have to either. He could have stayed in bed, and I would have just waited until 9 and driven up to Staples to explain my mouse problem to some young guy, who would have wisecracked, “Did you check the battery?”

But Darin responded to my apologetic plea, because, well, that’s just in his nature. And, even when he himself was stumped and returned to his room, he was still thinking about my problem.

So, I’m going to get back to my writing, and you’re going to get on with your day, and God probably is going to personalize all this to your life, if He hasn’t already done so.

He is faithful … wow, is He faithful! And He loves us with an everlasting love! Did you hear that? An everlasting love! It will not end! We are caught up in His arms at the moment we believe and He never lets go!

We may squirm to free ourselves from His grasp to do things our way. We may even forget He has a hold on us. We may get so wrapped up in ourselves and our own troubles that we don’t hear His voice. We may even think He doesn’t care … or worse, has failed us, but, Praise His Holy Name, He holds on to us, waiting for the moment we will realize with the clarity that only He can give, that we are there, safe and secure, in His arms!

Hallelujah, He is Lord! And He’s waiting.

Growing up…

God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in a crisis they are the ones upon whom He can rely. ~ Oswald Chambers

For approximately 25 years, I’ve been reading the same book almost every morning. More than anything, it has been responsible for my growing up in the reverential awe and admonition of the Lord. That last part is a mouthful, but that’s what growing up in the ‘fear of the Lord’ means. The book is Morning & Evening Devotions with Oswald Chambers, which comprises two books, My Utmost for His Highest and Daily Thoughts for Disciples.

I was one of those kids who loved Jesus from an early age. My favorite song as soon as I learned it, probably at four years old, was ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ and somehow even at such a tender age, I began to believe it. So it was only natural that I would respond to an altar call at our church when I was six. From that time on, I came to understand more and more about how Jesus loved me, mainly from my Sunday school teachers.

My family went to church every time the doors were open, but, until I was 12 and received my own Bible, no one read the Scriptures in my home except on Christmas Eve. That’s not an indictment, just a fact. Mother’s Bible was precious to her, so it was kept on a shelf in the living room unless she had to prepare devotions for a club meeting or if it was Christmas Eve.

However, that was not the case at the home of my grandmother, who read the Bible every day and often would read it to me when I was at her house. I faced some harsh realities as a child, but because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, those hardships only drew me closer to Him. And, in the process, though I was still a child, I began to grow in my understanding of God–and in my faith in Him.

Please know, I am not saying my childhood was dreadful. It wasn’t. I grew up on a farm with an older brother and sister, and a dad who was an encourager and advocate, so there were times of laughter and fun as we explored woods, creek and barns with the freedom few kids enjoy nowadays. There were, however, big challenges of discrimination because we were adopted–even from those who were supposed to love us–as well as harsh discipline by a mother who had been raised with the ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ mentality. Couple that with her fear that we three kids might somehow disgrace her by what others might judge as merely childish behavior, and unreasonable discipline was bound to become the norm at our house.

My life as a kid growing up in the 50s and graduating in the early 60s was pretty normal for a kid raised on a farm in Indiana. Field trips and concert band in the fall, pep band and basketball games in the winter, band contests and track in the spring, and instrumental lessons in the summer, along with Bible School and church camp, swimming at Matter Park, day trips to places like Lake Maxinkuckee and Mounds State Park, and frequent Sunday afternoon picnics at Francis Slocum. Around home, there were always chores to do–chickens to feed or butcher, eggs to gather and clean, gardens to weed, produce to can, and 4-H projects to work on–all before we could go fishing, climb trees or read.

Although we were maturing physically, in many ways we weren’t really growing up, mainly because of my mother’s fear of letting us make our own decisions, and, likewise, learn from the consequences of our choices. I was married at 19, because that’s what most girls did, continued with college, and had my first child at 23. However, it wasn’t until I began to face the experiences of my childhood in the Light of God’s Word that I even began to grow up emotionally and spiritually.

In Genesis 22:2, God’s promise to give Abraham a son has been fulfilled, but God tests Abraham: “And He said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of.”

God’s command (to Abraham) is,“Take now,” not later, Chambers writes. It is incredible how we debate! We know something is right, but we try to find excuses for not doing it immediately. If we are to climb to the height God reveals, it can never be done later—it must be done now. And the sacrifice must be worked through our will before we actually perform it.

“So Abraham rose early in the morning…and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3). Oh, the wonderful simplicity of Abraham! When God spoke, he did not “confer with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16). Beware when you want to “confer with flesh and blood” or even your own thoughts, insights, or understandings—anything that is not based on your personal relationship with God. These are all things that compete with and hinder obedience to God.

Please listen carefully. There are some of you who are right where Abraham was. You know what you should do, but you’re trying to find excuses for not doing it immediately; and all that stands in the way of you obeying God is your will. You can think and think and think about what you know you ought to do, and you can talk and talk and talk it over with others, but just know that all of your thinking and talking puts the focus on what you want and not on what God wants.

Remember the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat as the storm rages? Even though Jesus said they were going to the other side of the lake, when the storm came up, fear rose up in the disciples, and they woke up Jesus. Listen to this from Chambers’ Daily Thoughts for Disciples:

When we are in fear, we can do nothing less than pray to God, but our Lord has the right to expect of those who name His Name and have His nature in them, to have an understanding confidence in Him. Instead of that, when we are at our wits’ end, we go back to the elementary prayers of those who do not know Him and prove that we have not the slightest atom of confidence in Him and His governing of the world. He is asleep–the tiller is not in His hand, and  we sit down in nervous dread. God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in a crisis they are the ones upon whom He can rely.

1 Corinthians 13:11 says, When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.…”

What childish things are you refusing to abandon? Are you taking responsibility for your choices? Are you insisting on your will, or do you want His will?

You can hold tight in your fist what you want, but just know this: If you hold onto what you want, ignoring what He wants, yet praying for His will to be done, God will pry open your hand and remove it from you–and with a whole lot more pain and trauma than if you just willingly open your hand and surrender to His will.

Prayerfully…  Sara

The Annual Memorial Day Drive-By

Across my shaggy lawn replete with an army of dandelion stems standing at strict attention, I watched the event unfold at 7 o’clock this morning. I’m referring to the annual Memorial Day Drive-By of my only living uncle, who snags one of his kids every year to chauffeur him the 10 miles north of his lake cottage on Tippy so he can get a good look-see at ‘Sara’s place’ just outside of Syracuse.

As in past years, an unrecognizable car drives by my property very slowly and predictably turns around in my neighbor’s drive two doors down so they can coast by this time at about 3 mph for Look #2. And just as in past years, the action is repeated at my neighbor’s lane to the south, and I see my uncle’s recognizable face plastered to the window of the small black car during Drive-By #3. I wait patiently here on the couch for the minute or less it takes them to turn around again for what turns out to be his final look-see.

I admit I feel sorry for whatever co-conspirator he forces to enable him to satiate his curiosity so he can pass judgment on whether or not the place is being ‘kept up’; but, really, his trip is at least partially pointless nowadays, since Mother, who looked forward to his reports each year, passed away nearly six years ago at 102. Maybe he thinks he will be able to give an accounting to her on the state of the property she purchased and put in trust for my children when he joins her in the Great Beyond someday, but surely he will have better things on his mind then.

I pause to remember that my uncle is almost 89, still actively farming and calling the shots of his and his grandson’s successful seed corn business. Furthermore, last Thanksgiving when I dropped by his home place, it was surprisingly apparent that he had mellowed way more than I ever thought was possible.

“Give him a good day with his kids and grandkids,” I say to the only One whose opinion about my life matters. “And next year, would it be too much to ask to prompt him to call me beforehand and say he wants to drop by for a visit? I’ll make sure the lawn is freshly mowed and the coffee on.”