The Blessing of Friends

IMG_1902Later this morning I’m meeting up with a dear, dear friend. We’ve known each other for many years, both being military families, but have only lived near each other again for the last 3 years.

Doesn’t God have a wonderful way of working things out? When I try to arrange plans (like an earlier meeting), snow falls and delays school openings. God, thereby, has allowed me a little time this morning to write, and I pray it is a blessing to you, my ChristBesideMe friend.

When I was teaching our daughter to drive, we lived near an area that was a Neighborhood-to-Be. There were streets. There were curbs. There were roundabouts. There were weeping willows and oaks and pecans. There was even a fountain. Along the streets, at even intervals, were wooden markers denoting where a future house could be built, but there weren’t any so far.

My daughter drove through and around and down all of those streets (and I lessened my grip on the armrest!) as she became a very good driver. More than just driving though, we had a wonderful time. As we passed each marker, we would assign that location to a family of friends that we loved. Let’s drive by the Millers. Let’s pick up Sarah and go see Nancy. And so we filled up the neighborhood, one imaginary house at a time. It was a glimpse of heaven.

Until then, let’s give a hug to our earthly friends and offer a thankful prayer to our heavenly Father for each one of them. Let’s close our eyes and imagine. Can you see us there? Can you see us all together, all worshipping Jesus?

Because God is holy, we–who are sinful people–are in enmity or opposition to God. Yet God loves each of us so very much, that He acted to reconcile us to Himself through His son and the cross. Accepting this reconciliation, we now know God as our Father and Jesus Christ as our friend–and that is the blessing of our Very Best Friend!

What a vision all that is! But the clock chimes and reality barges in. It’s almost time to see that friend of mine, and I’m looking forward to it.

The blessing of friends. A glimpse of heaven. A gift from God. Our reconciliation. A reason for joy!

Happy (Early) Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Yes, I’m a little early, but I just wanted to NOT be late–and to say You Are Loved!

I have a confession to make. I’ve let the opportunity to say “I love you” to my family slip by too many times. In the chaos of heading out the door each morning and making sure we have all the things we “need” in our hands, our words are usually few and our arms are too loaded for a farewell hug. Have you ever been in that situation?

I’ve done the carpool line, the ferrying to this and that lesson, practice, and appointment. I’m the menu planner and chef, the head laundry lady, the grocery shopper, and the home secretary. You could probably throw a handful of other “to” and “from” examples and job titles in there from your life! Those miles and missions are unspoken words of service, but many miles and missions do not by themselves guarantee relationship and faith.

That takes words–on the road, during the mission. It reminds me of this passage in Deuteronomy 6:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

So I’m going to try and intentionally take a little time before I head out the door each morning. I will say “I love you” to my family and give each one a loving hug, too–unless they’re in the shower! I will not be deterred by half-opened eyes or half-hearted returns. I will remind them I’m praying for them, and–at just the right times–I will remind them that as much as I love them, it’s only an inkling of the love God has for them. You may already be doing these things, but–if not–would you like to try it in your family, too? 

No one loves us and reaches out to us as much our heavenly Father. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Happy Valentine’s Day, every day!

The Long and Winding Drive Home

Hey there, kind reader! Have you had a smooth journey today or have there been some bumps and turns in your day?

Here, my day began when I woke up at 4:45–a full 15 minutes before my alarm. David was truly right when he wrote we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”!  A shower, some clothes, a little makeup, and a blast from the blowdryer and I was out the door by 6:30. (Did you know it’s dark then? VERY dark?!)

I made the one hour drive to work (so thankful for my part-time job!) and enjoyed a sermon podcast on the book of John along the way. Work was busy and, by the afternoon, I was looking forward to being able to leave a bit early due to working late a few other days and this morning’s early arrival.

There I was, gathering my things, saying “See you Monday,” and clocking out. I filled my tea thermos and headed to the car, jingling my keys and thinking how I would revel in the 4 free hours before dinner once home. I could sit down and leaf through all the mail. I could read a book. I could clean out the car. Why, I’d even have time for a little cat nap after I put a load of laundry in the washing machine! The possibilities seemed endless and each one wonderful.

Meanwhile, other people were on the road.

And that’s where my plans encountered a snag. Yes, “the heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)  Not long after being on the beltway, everything came to a startling halt. I checked my savvy GPS app. “EXIT AHEAD!!!!” it said (exclamation points added).

So I exited.

And so did a zillion other cars. There we went–up hills, down valleys, around curves, along straightways, through intersections, turning left, turning right, merging (I use the word loosely–in its slowest sleepy, old, Mr. Turtle form). Funny thing, though, the GPS just directed us all back onto the beltway a few exits down. It was a help, I guess, but it didn’t save much time. In another way, though, it was the best route.

Along the way, I enjoyed some beautiful scenery in areas I had never traveled before–and I had plenty of time to admire that scenery in those new areas. (Did I mention it was VERY heavy traffic?) Each time the traffic stopped (which was about every 8 seconds), we’d sit for several minutes until we haltingly inched along again. While stopped, I looked out the window.

For the longest time, we followed the edge of a woodland. It sloped uphill to my right. Afternoon sunlight streamed across the road, spotlighting bare trees and scattering long shadows on the dry leaf bed. Here it is:

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This may be a stretch, but have you ever felt like a landscape? Well, I felt like that one! I felt tired and spent and thirsty and on a continual uphill path. It helped, though, that I was listening to the book of John on the car’s stereo. I remembered the passage in John 4 where a tired Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and speaks of living water. Then John 10:10 rang out: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Living water, abundant life: suddenly everything looked different! The clear blue February sky was the perfect backdrop. Some trees had striking smooth white bark while others were artistically rough and brown. Some were straight and tall; others took an interesting bend. And the leaves? They looked almost golden in the afternoon sunlight.

Like that view out my window, the perspective of my mind underwent a change, too. Sure, my day was going to be a long one, but it was the day the Lord had kindly awakened me to and was leading me through. Undeniably, my commute was going to be a long one, but I was inching ever homeward.

Let’s remember anew that a life in Christ does not mean always being decked out in fairy tale foliage with a bluebird singing in our branches and chipmunks scampering at our feet. Sometimes we’re emotionally bare with disharmony clanging around us and agenda brambles entangling our feet. Many times, it’s somewhere in between–but no matter.

Let’s remember, life in Christ is fed by living water. It’s abundant life. It’s peace and joy–in the circumstances, in the season–because of what Christ has done for us and because we’re heading home.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:1-3