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Monday, February 24, 2014

Their Watch

By the world's standards, they were old maids. Never left home. Worked in the family business. One was rejected by the man she loved, losing out to a rival. The other was in such frail health that she gave up any hopes of becoming a wife and mother, the highest aspirations for women of that era.

Yet history will never forget the courage and sacrifice of these two "unwanted" women.

Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie lived quiet lives in Holland while Hitler waged war in Europe. They contented themselves assisting their elderly father in running his watch shop: Corrie found she had a knack for working with time pieces; Betsie was better suited for keeping the home fires burning.

Then came the day they had to face what was happening around them. Hitler's henchmen were rounding up Jews in an effort to exterminate the entire race. The three watchmakers, along with extended family, embraced the role of "underground" workers, making their home a way station for Jews being relocated to safety. They created a secret room - a hiding place for their "tenants" in the event of a Gestapo raid.

When betrayal occurred, all four of the Jews hidden in that tiny space survived, while an equal number of the ten Boom family lost their lives as a direct result of their rescue efforts and subsequent capture by the Nazis. The ten Boom Museum in Haarlem, Holland, where the family took in Jewish refugees, estimates that as many as 800 Jews were saved through the ten Boom family's courageous actions.




According to societal norms of the time, Corrie and Betsie did not measure up. They stood on the sidelines as their siblings entered into marriage and parenthood. Surely they longed for the embrace of a husband and the blessings of offspring; yet these joys were denied them by a Bridegroom who, centuries before, had promised countless children to a childless man named Abram/Abraham, and would later entrust hundreds of those children into the care of these spinsters. During their watch, they would follow their Bridegroom into an earthly hell while protecting His chosen children. They willingly laid their lives and prospects for worldly happiness onto an eternal altar, only to take up gifts greater than any temporal happiness could afford.

My prayer is to be just as faithful - and content - with whatever life situation He ordains for me.




"Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
18 
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation."
Habakkuk 3:17-18

Monday, February 17, 2014

Obstacles vs. Treasure

I keep bumping up against walls. Not figurative ones, either. These are real, honest-to-goodness, car-scratching walls that might just as well be made of concrete, instead of the "powdery" (yeah, right) snow they're really composed of.

By now we're all sick of winter. My wonderful neighbor is doing all he can to lighten the load for everyone, chugging up the street with his snow blower, leaving straight paths on pavements and smiles on faces. He is a true godsend, especially for the elderly and ill who can't do it for themselves.

What I can't figure out is, how come I keep making the same mistake over and over again? I try to ease my car in and out of the driveway carefully, striving to avoid the granite-like walls of heaped up snow on either side. Invariably, though, I miscalculate, or there's a giant Hummer parallel parked just where I need to be cutting my wheel, blocking my otherwise perfect escape route. I can't wait to see the nicks in the paint when all the salt finally washes off.

It's the way of nature. What appears beautiful and harmless at first glance often morphs into something with jagged edges when overindulged in. Most of us marvel at the softly falling snow, especially when its descent is framed by lacy window treatments alongside a roaring fire. But - on the day after (sometimes only hours later) - it creates problems that have to be dealt with laboriously and at great expense.

Sin is like that. It always looks enticing. It promises everything and usually delivers a payoff, however temporary. There's got to be something in it for us, or we wouldn't keep falling for it. It may appeal to one of our five senses, or some intangible need that no one and nothing else seems to be meeting. We turn a blind eye to - or don't even foresee - the perils, and advance full speed ahead. The next thing we know, we're walking around with indelible scars, wondering how we missed the turn trajectory yet again.

The only solution I've found (and I by no means always win over wayward impulses) is to walk arm in arm with the Almighty. I measure progress by frequency and duration of obedience. I look for an inverse relationship between time spent with Jesus and time spent on sin. It's that simple (and that complex). When I'm enjoying "down time" (such as snow days stacked up like ice blocks in an igloo), am I banking time with Jesus to draw on when my schedule gets frantic again? Does a hectic life pace mean I must rely only on past "savings"? Of course not! Even small deposits of prayer and Bible study, proportionate to daily demands, can add up to big earnings in the long run.

My mom used to say, "Pay yourself first." What she meant, of course, was that any paycheck, regardless of size, could spare even a tiny amount to be put into savings. My parents were neither rich nor savvy investors, yet they died with more than a small nest egg that helped their offspring pay off mortgages and send kids to college.

If this basic principle can make such a huge difference in the temporal world of finance, how much more can we expect when applied to the heavenly realm?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." 
Matthew 6:19-21

Friday, February 14, 2014

Crankiness...

I am - ahem - full of it. No comments from the peanut gallery, please. While these snow days are lovely, I find myself having more time to take others' inventory (after I finish sleeping in, of course). 
                                                    
This person ignored my correspondence. That person can't be pleased, wants everything her own way, showing no gratitude for all my efforts. This one over here is (gulp) constantly critical of others; no wonder she's lonely. Someone else is high maintenance (now how is it I can so easily recognize that failing, hmmm?).

 All this grumbling, even as I'm reminding my son to overlook          others' faults and keep his side of the street (well, driveway at    least) clean.


Why can't I suffer in silence? Why do I have to rail against things    I can't control? Why do I look at others' faults, yet find my own        so easy to tolerate?



  A little bit of patience would go a long way.



"What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through 
Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Romans 7:24-25

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Thick of It

Today I visited a church I attended for many years. How wonderful to see so many familiar faces and growing families! One group in particular struck me. Their four beautiful kids were sprawled all over the pew in various stages of activity. Two sat alongside Grandpa, clutching both of his hands. One sang with Mom, both of them smiling and swaying to the music. The littlest planted herself firmly in Dad's arms, resting her head on his shoulder as he alternately sat and rose according to convention. Downstairs, their newborn lay cradled in someone else's arms.

Afterwards in the parking lot, I caught up with this gang as they piled into their minivan. I complimented Mom on how happy they all seemed together. She replied wryly, "Sometimes it comes across that way!"

My own experience as a parent is much further along; my sons are nearly 22 and 17, while the eldest in the above-mentioned family is under ten. I couldn't help but wonder what trials they are in for. Raising children in this country at this point in history is challenging at best and hair-raising at worst. I'm in the thick of it, and so are many of my contemporaries. Worry and fear can get the best of us, unless we combat them with faith and prayer.

The good news is, God isn't going away.

"Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear." Isaiah 65:24

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dumped On, AKA, Winter Wonderland



It’s been an atrocious winter. We’ve had just about every mix of precipitation known to man since before the calendar even turned to the first day of winter. Schools have been closed, leaving parents scrambling to find child care at the last minute. Power outages abound, causing families to hunker down in unheated houses, while food spoils in stocked refrigerators. People all over the East Coast are muddling through but in truth, we’re starting to feel dumped on.

Yet, in the midst of all this inconvenience, the scenery is magnificent. The trees glisten, but with heaps of frozen snow that threaten to sever limbs from trunks, forcing us to contend with downed wires and damaged property. The landscape is truly grand, a silvery marvel, but at the same time, it makes traveling hazardous and unpredictable. There surely are two sides to this wintry weather.

In contemplating these paradoxes, I find parallels in my attitudes. I have so many blessings in my life, yet I’ve been taking others’ inventory (12 step program-speak for passing judgment) on a frequent basis. A neighbor who has come through in the clutch on numerous occasions criticizes rather than showing appreciation for my kindness; nothing new, it’s her usual M.O, as if she would somehow be diminished by expressing thanks. So why am I dwelling on it? A friend is a bit demanding; yet this same friend has been a godsend when my heart has needed it most. Why don't I focus on that? A car wash business does a shoddy job, then refuses to make good on it; there is no up side to this one, but must I let it ruin my day?



I guess my point is that it’s way too easy to miss the good stuff for the muck.


But none of this should surprise me. We humans are nothing if not shortsighted. God created a glorious garden, and our first parents tossed it away for a piece of fruit. Esau traded his firstborn privileges for a bowl of stew.  Moses’s newly freed campers looked back longingly on the provisions they received while living in merciless Egyptian servitude. If the world’s a stage, as Shakespeare postulated, we actors keep rerunning the same play. We let grumbling supersede gratitude, and gain only misery.

"Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” 
1 Timothy 6:6-8