Tag Archives: eternity

LOOK UP!

Seriously. Look up, especially if there are currently others near you. You’ll find it doesn’t take much effort to direct the attention of others in the direction you look. Don’t believe me? Do it. Look up!

As I explained this concept to my younger sons, it was easy to see that they they didn’t believe that they have the power to direct anyone’s attention in any direction. So tonight I assigned them *homework* while they are at school tomorrow. All they need to do is look up while with someone. I’m confident that they will find that they are indeed capable of directing attention. In fact, even animals can direct our attention!

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It doesn’t seem very important, does it? But it carries much more weight than a simple sociology experiment carried out in the classroom of an elementary school by my children.  We’re always being observed … by our boss, colleague, teacher, peer, parent, friend  and yes, even by our foe. Those observations carry with them incredible opportunities, but if we lack awareness, they will be missed.

With the choices I make personally, I have opportunities to influence someone in either a positive or negative manner. That choice will cause others to at least momentarily direct their attention my way.

So what do I want others to see in me?

  • I want them to see someone that works hard and plays hard;
  • I want them to see someone who is trustworthy;
  • I want them to see someone that is both kind and loving;
  • I want them to see someone that lives courageously;
  • I want them to see someone who is grateful; and most importantly
  • I want them to see Christ, not really me.

That imparts so much more significance to our choices, yes? While others look at me, I need to be looking up!  I need to be Christ-centered, demonstrating godliness in my actions, behaviors, and choices because others are watching me. I want them to have what I have, to know Who I know, to love and be loved by Him.

It’s such a simple concept bearing more power than we often realize.

Look up! Others are watching you.

Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.

The Stepping Stone in the Journey

Minnesotans … We’re a people known for our extended goodbyes. We start saying goodbye in the living room, lumber through the dining room remembering missed conversations, progress slowly to the entryway discussing plans for tomorrow, follow the guests out the the driveway while providing armfuls of hugs and ample driving advice, and then wave unceasingly as the guests drive out of view. Eventually we walk back inside and turn off the lights, resigning ourselves to the fact that our guests have left.

I’m in the process of saying goodbye now and it is tough. Incredibly tough.

I’ve had the same neighbor for over 20 years now. Rob has been a friend, a confident and quite often a role model to my children. For 18 of those 20 years, he has consistently beaten back the cancer monster. He would go into remission time and time again, only to have it rear it’s ugly head in some other form, but Rob was a fighter and no one ever thought that cancer could overcome him.

As I sat inside Rob’s living room, perched on the couch next to his bed, I made light conversation with him, hoping that he was able to hear and process at least some of the things I spoke to him. Occasionally he would open his eyes and I would see him in there, looking at me, wanting to talk but unable.

“The Cowboys won last night. It was a close game, but they pulled it off in the end.”

“You’ve been the best of neighbors. I couldn’t have asked for better.”

“Thanks for always being there when we needed you. We appreciate you.”

“We’ll be here to help JoAnne out. Don’t worry about her at all.”

“It won’t be long now and your body will be restored; healed.”

“I love you. You will be missed.”

While Rob slept on and off, I gently held his hand and talked to his wife seated across the other side of his bed.  We talked about his childhood memories, his kind nature, his football allegiances, his squirrel-shooting hobby, the length of his illness, and his incredibly valiant efforts to survive his odds.

“He didn’t deserve this.” she said.  I nodded in agreement. He so did not deserve this.

“This isn’t what it’s about. Life is just a stepping stone for what follows.” she continued.

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Bird’s Feather Stepping Stone

Amen. I could not have said that better myself. A stepping stone … intricately designed before being carefully set in place, then lovingly positioned into just the right spot, placed to   provide both direction and confidence of footing on the journey. Once established in its given path, it quickly becomes dirty with use and time, yet is easily restored to its initial beauty with one sweeping motion.

A stepping stone … just a small part of a journey along a much longer path. Over time it wears down. Through the hot sun, the brisk winds, and the seasonal storms, it gradually erodes – an unavoidable process that begins at the exact moment it is laid in place. Amid the dirt of life and the inevitable erosion, the One who laid that stone is enthralled with its beauty while understanding its very temporary nature.  Quite often, time itself will cause that stone’s mere existence to cease. Other times, there will be situations that expedite the process.  One day there may even come those that have never known of the stone’s existence.  And yet, fragments will continue to be carried along in the sands, leaving an indelible footprint; proof of its time here on earth.

It looked painfully obvious to me that Rob needed to be moving on from this life. His stepping stone had been well-utilized, but was now wearing so very thin.  Even though Rob wasn’t a Minnesota native, he (not unlike myself) had mastered the long goodbye – both in everyday life and in leaving for the next life. Now, however, was my turn to linger. In my heart, I knew this was probably my very last earthly goodbye to my friend and walking out his door was extremely difficult. I kissed my dear friend on the head, gently hugged his frail body, and told him I loved him one last time.

Today Rob’s stepping stone has served its purpose; his earthly journey complete.

A light has gone out indicating that one of earth’s guests has gone home.

God speed, my friend. You will be so very missed.

Romans 8:38-39

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When the Written Word is Clearer

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We’ve all said it …

“E-mail is a tough way to communicate since we can’t read tone or intent.”

That’s true – in some cases.  However, in other instances, the written word stands in stark contrast to that statement. Given the time that an e-mail affords when responding to a discussion can often save us from the potential of arguments, embarrassment and frustration due to a quick and thoughtless response such as that required in an actual conversation. Additionally, the written word becomes both necessary and effective in areas such as the transfer of title when purchasing a car, writing statutes governing a locality, state, or nation, and recording historically significant events.

Of greatest importance, however, is THE Written Word. The Bible, one of the top selling books of all time, was written that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30), that our joy might be complete (1 John 1:4), and that we might KNOW that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). The Bible is clear in tone, intent, and transmission of the message of Good News of Christ.

God could have chosen to hand these significant events down to us orally, from generation to generation, but in His infinite wisdom, He chose to write it down, that we might carry it with us not only in our arms but in our hearts as well. It’s His very effective conversation with us, His love letter to us. He promises us that we will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart (Jer 29:13).

We all have the Written Word readily available to us. Are you reading it? Are you seeking Him?  If not, what stops you? Great rewards await you within the pages of the Greatest Book!

A Word A Week Challenge: Different

I’m different.

I’m not the same person I was 20 years ago.

Some changes are more than obvious. In that time, I’ve gone from single to married, city-dweller to country-lover, career-oriented to family-focused, liberal to conservative, medical intervention to holistic healing, carnivore to vegan, and civilian to martial artist. In general, I’ve gone from living the majority of my life in the mainstream to living the majority of my life in a manner more distinctive.

Quite often I find myself and my views running contrary to those surrounding me, sometimes embroiled in deliberate debate over a topic of immense meaning. Since I’m assertive and outspoken, I don’t find my divergence to be problematic, although others might argue that point as I consistently call out for deeper discussion other thoughts that run in opposition to mine. Personally, those discussions energize me. Understandably, the sometimes drain others. Assuredly, that is not my intent!

What calls a person to be different? In many senses, life experiences unknowingly change us. We live through an incident in life and come to understand it in a different way, a new light. We are faced with an issue where we are forced to assess the outcomes of our alternatives, often resulting in a changed mindset. We stumble upon new friends, sometimes allowing our slant to be altered by their opinions.

While these are some reasons that I stand a different person today, this is not an exhaustive list, nor are they the reasons that bear significance for my change. A change occurred in me thirteen years ago that made me completely different – eternally. With my head bowed in the dark of the night standing in my  messy kitchen, I invited Christ into my life. He changed me then. He still changes me now. And He has made all the difference in who I am today.  I am different; the old is gone and I am new.

2 CORINTHIANS 5:17

English Standard Version (ESV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

If For Only a Moment ….

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I was driving to church to meet with a group of ladies for our study on significance as the sun was slowly setting, when suddenly and swiftly, it happened. The golden rays shone through the auburn leaves of the enormous Maple tree in front of a small, unpretentious white house in the middle of town, creating a beautifully appointed canopy overhead and an array of warmly scattered colors on the grass beneath. And if only for a moment, I was there – almost magically transported back to the innocent days of my childhood growing up in a neighborhood surrounded by the laughter of children and the innocence rooted in those young lives, just as the Maple tree was rooted to that very ground.

That fleeting passage back was not of a specific day, memory, or event. It was more generalized than that. Without hesitation though, I can state that it was a reflection of a time prior to my ninth year, a time when things were simpler, when I understood as much as I needed to, and life was not left with gaping holes, unanswered for the sake of protection. That momentary trek back in time … it brought me to a moment filled with perfect peace, purity, and an assumed protection of all things big and bad. After all, that’s why every little girl has a daddy, right?

The Fall of 1973 brought most of those days to a halt for me, a chapter in a book closed well before the ending. It called into question the very basis of my known peace, my perceived world of purity, and the existence of any possible protection that I imagined would always be there.

On October 31 of that year, my sweet, young, loving friend, Lisa, dressed as a hobo and went out into her neighborhood, armed only with a smile and a candy bag, never to return home again. I wasn’t with her that fateful night, but I can almost see her – still. Lisa had a charming smile that drew you in in an instant. She had an accepting manner that allowed for a great circle of friends, and at that very young age, she had a beautiful heart of gold, totally sold out for her Lord.

I remember November 1, 1973 as though it happened yesterday. It was a crisp, cool day. The sky was a bright azure canvas with very few clouds interrupting the flow of sunshine overhead. “Pray for Lisa. They can’t find her,” was the urgent plea that came from our family friends as I stood inside at the white counter of the bakery they owned.  “What? What do you mean they can’t find her?” I asked as I furrowed my brow. Life was much simpler in those days. At just nine years old myself, it was all I knew to ask. And I can guarantee that I didn’t understand the implications of that plea for prayer. “She went trick-or-treating last night and never returned home,” came the grave reply. Confusion would be an understatement. I could see it in their faces and sense it in the room. There were so many words left unspoken but the worry was thick.

I prayed … and prayed  . . .  and prayed. There were no answers that day, nor the following day. I honestly can’t remember the number of days that passed as we waited for some news. Since Lisa didn’t live in the same town, we waited anxiously for the ring of the phone … Days ambled by as hours grew longer and minutes more intense.  It was a time in my life filled with such a pregnant pause that doing anything other than awaiting a resolution was almost unthinkable. Finally the news came. Standing in the same spot in the same bakery, the dissemination of information was sparse and obscure. “They found her.”  “OH! Where?” I asked excitedly. As she knelt before me and looked me in the eye, the answer came softly, gently, cloaking the anger behind the words but not the tears brimming over the edges of her already swollen, red eyes. “They didn’t find her alive.”

Those five simple words rocked the foundation of my life as I knew it. The peace, purity, and protection of my days were all up for grabs. Hundreds of questions stormed through me, leaving me stunned and unsure which, if any, should be given voice. Who found her? Where was she? What do you mean, “not alive”? How can that even be? How can this happen to my FRIEND? I left the bakery that day in a manner previously unknown to me, shoulders slouched forward, tears streaming down my cheeks, confusion consuming my very core.  No one could answer my questions that day, for my protection. They knew in the years that ensued, I would eventually put the pieces of the puzzle together, but it wasn’t time for me to understand – not at nine years old.

To this very day, Halloween is a *holiday* shrouded in bleak memories. With my oldest children, I would bribe them into staying home by purchasing them a bag of their chosen candy and enticing them with a family movie. Together we would hunker down in the dark, ignoring the knocks at our front door, eat popcorn and candy, all while loosing ourselves in the adventure of the home cinema – played out on a television very small by today’s standards.

Now my youngest children are nearly six and nine years old. Nine. The age I was when I learned about my sweet friend; the age SHE was when she breathed her last breath; an age that no one should know about such atrocities, but certainly should never experience them. To my dire disappointment, my youngest boys so badly want to partake in trick or treating. Do I tell them about Lisa? No … they are far too young. I want to protect them … from the knowledge of this crime, yes, but also from bullies on the bus, from fights on the playground, from injury in a fall … from life. After living that impossible lesson at nine years old myself, I know that I am utterly incapable of protecting them in every sense. So I look skyward every day I release them to the bus, every time they go to play at the neighbor’s house, every moment I let go of them, and say to my great big God, “You’re up!”

Lisa never made it home that night. That was my *take* on the subject for so many years. After reconnecting with Lisa’s mom last year, sharing memories, tears, prayers, and long-distance hugs, I came to the realization that Lisa never made it back to her earthly home that night. Looking back with eternal eyes, however, Lisa really DID make it Home that night.

That moment in time that I mentioned earlier? Without a doubt, that was a God-moment. It was a moment of pure peace, serenity, and security. It was God’s reminder to me …. “I’ve got her. She’s OK.”

Below is a link to a newspaper article written over five years ago about my young friend. Reader, if you pray, could you please lift Lisa’s mom up to the Throne Room today?

If you don’t pray, why not try seeking Christ and inviting him into your life? It can only bode well for you … and one day you, too, may meet my wonderful friend, Lisa.

Life – The Game

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The Game of Life

It’s been a while since I’ve played Life. My older kids (19 and 17 years old) are really not interested in board games and haven’t been since they discovered video games. o_O  My two younger kids (8.83 and 5.92 years old) have recently rediscovered these gems that were long ago relegated to the far reaches of the basement, however, and LIFE hasn’t been quite the same since then.

Now I am greeted in the morning with an obligatory good morning, followed immediately with the question, “Do you want to play Life?” or “Can we please play Spy Alley?”  Don’t get me wrong – I’m SO glad they are requesting board games! They require cooperation, communication, creativity … most of which are all lacking when they choose the alternate – those dreaded video games!!

I couldn’t help but laugh as I played The Game of Life with my youngest yesterday!  How closely it emulates real life, right?

As the players spin and move around the board, they land on squares that are supposed to replicate …. LIFE.  One of several things may happen: the car lands on a happy little square where you’ve done something grand and you get to choose a LIFE card (seemingly no big deal immediately, but WOW … it pays off later in life!); the car lands on a happy little square where you’ve done something grand and you realize immediate financial gain; OR the car lands on a sad little square and you pay money either to the bank or to other players for a plethora of reasons (taxes, tattoos, and TVs to name just a few). But the number of happy, financial beneficial squares outweigh the sad, cost-incurring squares, so …… LIFE IS GOOD!  🙂

Each player begins with a car.  HEY!  I never began life WITH a car! Before I could get a car, I had to have a job and have money in the bank so I could make payments.

The players are given the option to buy or NOT to buy automobile insurance. That’s not even a CHOICE for most of us. In Minnesota, a licensed vehicle MUST carry liability, personal injury protection, uninsured motorist, and under-insured motorist coverage. To opt out of this is illegal and carries a significant fine if the indiscretion is discovered. Buying automobile insurance WILL save you cash later in the game, however, if you happen to land on one of those sad, cost-incurring squares declaring you’ve been in an accident. So while this does not quite imitate the legal consequences to non-insured motorists, it DOES imitate risk-avoidance assessment!

Each player can choose to go to college, acquiring immediate debt.  OK, admittedly that part is incredibly realistic, but the debt incurred in the game is a mere pittance in comparison to actual debt incurred by young adults unequipped with wealthy parents – which are NOT an option in this game!  Deciding against college is an option in the game but will limit your salary immediately. OK, that is probably pretty realistic, too.

Quite often a spin can result in passing TWO PAYDAY squares simultaneously. Sweet!  I would LOVE that option in real life! How do I sign up?

Securing employment is not optional in Life. Everyone has to work if they expect to proceed! What a noble concept that is!  You can, however, choose from a few career cards ranging from a rock star to a doctor, with a number of obsoleted careers falling in between those choices. And you’ll have some options regarding an associated (or not!) salary!  Beware though, because if you BEGIN your career as a doctor earning $100K per year, someone MAY have the privilege of exchanging salaries with you midway through Life while remaining in their same career! That’s realistic, right?  o_O

You don’t WANT to get married? Tough. You can’t proceed without a spouse!  But take heart … You’ll also get a LIFE card (with the promise of future riches!) with that spouse!  It’s as though that spouse came with a modern-day dowry! And per my youngest (and wittiest?) child, women CANNOT be in the driver’s seat. It’s to dangerous. Even WITH insurance! (What da ….. ?  Makes me wonder whom he’s been talking to!)

You don’t WANT a house?  Again, if you want to proceed, you’ll have to buy one! And again, insurance is entirely optional, mortgage or not. Realistic …. um, no. Definitely not. But it’s a consistent (just not fair or well thought out) 25% of the value of your chosen home, whether you choose the home on Monsoon Bay, the Victorian mansion with a nicely manicured lawn, or entry level, split-level, fixer-upper dump!

You don’t WANT kids? You don’t get to choose that for yourself but kids come with Life cards, too!  It’s incentive to have MORE kids. Load up the car, Honey!  One day this will all pay off financially!!

There are stock options, too, where you can either make a small fortune or dole out a few easily earned pay checks to the bank. We ignore those. I decided to do that after observing the deer-in-headlights stare after I tried to explain stock options to a five-year-old.  THAT probably emulates Life since I don’t really have a good grasp of the stock market and largely ignore it myself! 🙂

As each player spins their way into retirement, there exists a choice to live at either Countryside Acres or Millionaire Estates. Either way, you’ll end up retiring wealthy as all those Life cards are redeemed so it’s a win-win situation. Assessing your accomplishments, totaling their value, and counting your cash at the end of the game of Life will determine the REAL winner. In this case, yes, the old saying rings true: He who retires with the most money wins!

In hindsight, I’m not sure if I inadvertently taught Owen that material STUFF with great monetary value are the greatest goals in Life. I could argue with myself (and I always win!!!) that he is learning turn-taking, counting, the concepts of banking, and the fleeting nature of money, and risk-assessment. But he’s five. The latter items are entirely unnecessary for him however at this stage of his Life!

I guess the game DID teach him a few things though.  He probably noted that he was broke after spending money on things he didn’t really need to have … that lake cabin and sailboat comes quickly to mind!  He also likely noticed that, as we journey through Life, events will likely occur that will not have been in our own foreseeable future.

He probably missed the very real lesson that risk is inherent in Life. Some risks will require more thought or effort than others and may or may not work in our favor. We will take other risks that afford less effort and garner and the payback might end up being incredible, even if delayed.

My own Life has been fraught with risk. While I’ve taken numerous risks, there has been one risk I’ve been unwilling to take. That would be the risk of neglecting to entrust my Life to Christ. With Him, the journey can still be bumpy but without him the end is so very, very bleak. With Christ as my Savior, I WILL end up at Millionaire Estates regardless of my financial status here on earth.

Where will YOU retire? Do you know? Don’t risk it … It won’t bode well for you, Friend.