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On Being Transparent

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.     Isaiah 64:6a

I don’t do windows.

Well, every few years I try. There will be that bright sunny morning when the light was streaming in, and the need for cleaning was so obvious, I grab the window cleaner, spray bottle, rags, paper towels, and squeegee and get to work. Two or three hours later I throw in the towel (and everything on it) and once more promise myself, never again!

Every summer we go to the house in Michigan that my grandparents built it in the 1940s. It was elegant then and it is still elegant now. Forty-six years ago my husband Marty and I got married there, and two years ago our youngest daughter married the love of her life there. The house has French provincial architecture, fireplaces, a bay window, and French doors that open onto a patio overlooking the lake.

It also has windows that have had a curse put on them. Or maybe it’s just the paint on the frames that dissolves every time any liquid touches it… Each magical little pane is specially made to get dirtier the more it’s wiped. After several attempts at cleaning, the glass will go from mildly dirty to ridiculously streaked on the outside – when you’re looking out. Of course, when you’re outside looking in, all you see are the streaks that are inside. I have on occasion treated the job like an Olympic event, “the Window Sprint” – Can I run outside and get that streak off before I forget where it is? Pretty soon I’m streaked too, with sweat and dirt, and breathless with exasperation. No gold medal here.

(Now please don’t write and tell me how you clean your windows. Believe me, I’ve heard the advice, all about vinegar and newspapers and yada-yadda-yadda… I’ve tried it all.)

A few years ago we put our house in Port Huron up for sale, and one of the many jobs that needed to be done was … clean the windows. [Insert scary horror movie music here.] When a perfectly gorgeous day came up and I had absolutely nothing on my schedule, there was no excuse to put off the job, however desperately I wished for one.

I was delightfully surprised to find the job was not only effective but surprisingly fun when it actually worked! I found myself singing as I got into the rhythm -squirt-squeegee-wipe, squirt-squeegee-wipe – and pretty soon I was looking around for more windows to clean. At the end of the day I was standing in the living room, gazing out at the Lake Huron, relishing the fact that the windows were virtually invisible and I may as well have been standing outside. >Eureka!<

For some reason I took this to mean I now knew how to clean windows, so when we later went to Portage Lake, one bright, sunny day I confidently grabbed my trusty squeegee and began to make the dining room gorgeous, one little pane at a time, forgetting that these windows were cursed… Two hours, one roll of paper towels, one bottle of Windex, and one tantrum later, there was not one pane that was totally clean. I threw up my hands and yelled “I GIVE UP!” followed by a few other things that were probably inappropriate for a Christian to be saying.

Have you been there? I don’t mean just with windows, but anything that you’ve tried to “fix,” that only gets worse the more you try? As I stood there that day, hot and exhausted, scowling at the streaks blocking the view of the beautiful lake, I figured the only way to get a clear view would be just to break the windows. That’s it! Just take out the pains – er, panes – completely, and the view would be great. Of course, that would have made the house a bit drafty and buggy, so Marty didn’t go for that idea.

It occurred to me that I was looking at a picture of sin. The Bible tells us that ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all of Mankind has been under the curse of sin. For many people, their lives may seem “good enough.” But then the light of God’s truth shines through, and it becomes painfully obvious that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 6:23) The more we look at our sin, the more it bothers us.

So, what do some of us do? We try to clean up our act. Somehow we think we can make it right on our own, although it should soon be apparent that if we were so capable of doing good, our lives wouldn’t be such a mess in the first place. After trying to make things right, we see that we have failed, and more often than not, our feeble attempts have made the situation worse than ever. At this point we should see that we can’t do this ourselves. But some of us refuse to believe we’re that helpless. So we try harder, thinking if we could just try hard enough, we’ll finally clean up our lives.

The bottom line is, we can’t fix the mess ourselves. We have only two choices. We can avoid the Light and hope nobody notices the dirt, or we can go to God and ask Him to help us. Fortunately, He can. In fact, He sent His Son, Jesus, to take all our dirt onto Himself. When He died for us, He was taking our sin and nailing it to the Cross, and we never have to be enslaved by it again. He can make our lives clean, and He can shine His light through us. Isn’t it a relief to know we don’t have to try to clean ourselves up?

I haven’t yet figured out how to get Jesus to do my windows for me, but two years ago before our daughter Kelly married the love of her life on the lawn at that house, we did hire a professional exorcist – er, window cleaning service. Now when I look out through the crystal clear glass and remember how it used to be, I know what a mess I would be without Jesus. I’m just grateful that I’m not without Him, and that He was willing to do what was necessary to make me clean, so He could shine His light through me.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in ourselves we are powerless to clean up our own lives. Thank You that You have not left us on our own, but You have shed Your blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that we can live the lives You want us to live – the lives we truly want. We choose to trust You to shine through us today, in Your power, in Your name. Amen

How To Drive a Writer Crazy

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also                                     to the interests of others.                                                                                                                                                                                   Philippians 2:4

Recently Marty and I finally saw “Yesterday,” the movie about a singer/songwriter who is one of the only three people left on the planet who remembers the Beatles. Once he realizes that not even Google has any recollection of the musical geniuses, he began to pass off their songs as his own.

In one scene, he is sitting at the piano, wanting to share “his new song,” “Let It Be,” with his parents. He starts to play it but is interrupted when they tell him to start again, they weren’t quite paying attention. Then there are other interruptions – a cell phone call, someone dropping by, conversations while he’s trying to sing, until finally he “loses it.” The others in the room look stunned. What is he so upset about?

While Marty may have found that scene amusing, and the songwriter a little neurotic, anyone who has written music, poetry, or stories can relate to the situation and will want to yell at the rude people along with the young man. But what we (writers) have to realize is that the distracted people have no clue why their undivided attention is so important to us at that moment.

Songwriters, poets, storytellers – anyone who puts their thoughts and feelings into words – do it because we are passionate about something. We have a message that we long to share with the world, and if the world (or at least our world) shows little or no interest, it wounds us. When those people are more interested in other things at the moment, as hard as we try not to take it personally, their inattention causes us to question our creation.

If you know a writer, and that writer one days tells you, “I wrote a new song [or poem or story] today,” the proper response is not to say “How nice” and change the subject to the weather or your latest project. I can’t explain why writers are such impatient people, but the moment we finish “giving birth,” we want to show our “baby” to someone, now.

If the writer asks, “Would you like to hear it? Or would, you like to read it?” the right response is not “Maybe later,” or “Not right now,” or “… How long is it?” Granted, you may be busy, but if the writer is someone you care about at all, try to take the time. Who knows? You may have the privilege of being the first to hear or read a masterpiece. (If the person is a random stranger on the street, feel free to say, “Sorry, I’ve got to be somewhere. Good luck.”)

I’ve had the experience of trying to share my latest, or even someone else’s that I’ve just learned and think is awesome, and heard the mumble of conversations that caused me to cut the performance short.

Then there was Karen.

Karen and I were acquaintances whose children played together. I’m not sure where our kids were that day, or why she was in my home, but I do remember having just finished writing what I considered (and still consider) one of my best songs. I had been inspired while on a plane, staring down at the city and realizing that God knew every one of the people who lived there. I had been gripped with an emotion that was unexpected – His deep longing for each of them to know His love. The last line had eluded me until that day.  It had come as I was reading Isaiah, and I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was aching to share the song with someone, and Karen showed up …

We were standing by the piano, and I asked if she’d like to hear my latest song, and (Bless her!) she said “Yes!” with enthusiasm. I sat down to play it, expecting at any moment to be interrupted by our children, or something she just thought of to tell me or ask me, or any number of other things. But she sat in an armchair and listened to the whole song without saying a word.

When the song was over, there was a brief silence. Then quietly Karen stood up, walked over, and hugged me.

“That’s beautiful,” she whispered. She had tears in her eyes, and I knew she had caught the meaning of the song and that she shared my passion for what it was saying.

So … would you like to read the lyrics? (If you have more important things to do, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. )

 

I Wonder Who Will                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Staring out the window at the city far below,                                                                                 I see endless rows of buildings full of people I don’t know.                                             Though their malls and mills and mansions look like pebbles on the sand,                            My Father knows each one of them; He holds them in His hand.

But I wonder, which ones know Him and which ones never will?                                              Which homes ring with laugher, and which ones are cold and still?                                        And I wonder, who is hungry, and which ones have their fill?                                                  If we don’t share the Bread of Life with them, I wonder, then who will?              

The Lord knows me inside and out, every hair that’s on my head,                                           And He knows the things I’ve done and felt, every word I’ve ever said.                                    And He knows the days ordained for me that He wrote down long before,                           And it amazes me that in that way, He knows millions more!

But I wonder who is crying, and which ones need a friend                                                         And where they’ll spend eternity when their lives are at an end …                                           And I wonder, in a world of darkness, who will help them see?                                                  Lord ….                                                                                                                                                    Here am I …                                                                                                                                                         Send me.

(Ann Aschauer, copyright 1989)

 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, who stepped down from heaven into our world, help us to care for others the way You care for us. Help us never to be so wrapped up in our own lives that we miss an opportunity to reach out to others, even when reaching out involves just a listening ear, in Your name. Amen

Healed, Not Healed

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”                                                                                                                                                                             II Corinthians 12:8

The Michigan church where we attend half the year is not a large one. When the pastor had left and the search was on for a new one and the drummer was scheduled to be the guest preacher and the worship leader was taking a well-deserved vacation with his family and the bass player had a camping trip planned for the same weekend, the worship team was shorthanded, to say the least.

Although I usually play a simple “layer” of chords on the keys for worship, I can play the guitar, too, although not as well as I used to. It’s painful to press down hard on the strings with arthritic fingers.  Still, when it was strongly hinted that I should lead worship that Sunday with my guitar, I agreed to do it. The perk: I got to pick the music.

I am one who can enjoy and appreciate practically every genre of music, though some more than others. Our worship leader is a young man who usually opts for contemporary style worship, which is fine with me. But the older people who attend that church would love to hear the classic old hymns every once in a while.  For this reason when I’m asked to sing an occasional offertory I frequently sing an “oldie,” or even put together a medley of old hymns. The older folks love it.

So, when I was given the reins for that Sunday’s worship, I toyed with the idea of doing classics like “How Great Thou Art,” “It Is Well With My Soul,” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” especially since those songs don’t require drums.

The worship leader must have caught wind of my plan. He called me on the eve of his family trip to urge me to play contemporary worship songs, lest we have a visitor drop in and think we always sang hymns. I refrained from mentioning that some visitors might actually like hymns and obediently worked on some of the more “hip” songs. That was when the problems started.

After practicing one or two songs my fingers were in so much pain that I didn’t think I’d last a whole service. Meanwhile, it looked as if I would have very few people, if any, on the platform with me. The couple from Nigeria (The husband played piano, the wife sang.) were moving that weekend and would be doing well to get to church at all. The drummer suggested I call Rachel, a local teacher who attended the church and occasionally sang.

When I called her Wednesday, she said she’d love to help out – if she could get over a sore throat.

Well, Lord, it seems Rachel and I both need healing. If You want me to play the guitar, please heal my fingers, and if You want Rachel to sing, please heal her throat.

Saturday afternoon my fingers were still aching, and giving no sign of letting up. I didn’t know what to do.

unless

I saw the piano sitting invitingly in the corner of the room. With silent apologies to our absent worship leader, I sat down and played “It Is Well With My Soul.” The arpeggios flowed effortlessly and painlessly, as if it hadn’t been years since I’d played them. Suddenly I was at peace about playing the next day. I texted Rachel, along with the drummer, who had said he would sing with me, and told them I – actually, my fingers – had made an executive decision, and we were going for the hymns. As a compromise, I said I would play an updated version of “Amazing Grace” with a new chorus, “My Chains Are Gone” before Communion with the guitar, but that was all the guitar playing my hands could take.

Sunday morning Rachel showed up with a testimony: She had been in the car on her way to school Friday, praying, “Lord, I’ve done everything I can think of for my throat, and none of it has worked. I want to sing Sunday, but I need You to heal me.” By the time she’d arrived at school, her throat had been healed! I was thrilled for her, but had to confess that my fingers had not been healed, hence the list of songs that weren’t “cool.” (Frankly, we aren’t cool, have never been cool, and never will be cool, but I kept that thought to myself.) We began to practice the classic hymns. I was at the piano, and Rachel and the drummer at the other mics, as we sang in three-part harmony. I thought it sounded fine, even though the younger people might roll their eyes at it.

… or would they?

OH. MY. GOSH!” cried the thirteen-year-old in the sound booth. “You guys sound AWESOME!!!” We smiled, then went on to sing the remaining songs.

OHMYGOSHOHMYGOSH!!!” squealed our one-girl fan club. “I can’t BELIEVE how AWESOME you sound! You sound like ANGELS!!!” She was literally jumping up and down. I was astonished how much this teenager liked these old songs. I would have expected her to want to hear newer ones.

But then it occurred to me that to her these were new. It also encouraged me to think that maybe the oldsters might not be the only ones to enjoy the worship that morning.

And so, the worship went as planned, not by us, but by the One who perfectly orchestrated it. Interestingly, He did it by healing one of us but not the other. At least not yet. I fully expect that when I get my new body, the fingers will be working perfectly, and I’ll be able to play any music I want, on any instrument I want. Meanwhile, I’m willing to have God’s providence guide me to whatever He wants me to do today.

Prayer: Lord, you are God, and we aren’t. Help us to remember that and to give You full reign in our lives. And to praise You, whatever the outcome, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

‘Tis the Season …

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.   John 1:5

It’s been at least five years since my friends and I last performed our Halloween drama, but it still seems strange to be in mid-October and not to be consumed with rehearsals for “Satan’s Worst Nightmare.” (The title refers to the Resurrection of Jesus, not to us!) My book of the same name was to be released this past summer, but I’ve hit some snags. I shouldn’t be surprised. With all the resistance we encountered presenting Christ’s Resurrection on Halloween, why would I not expect even more push-back when writing a book that I’m hoping will inspire other people to do similar things where they are?
Still, nothing says I can’t share bits and pieces of the manuscript with my readers in the meantime, so here’s this week’s preview, from the chapter entitled, simply, “Weather”:

When the topic of weather is referred to, it is often with the connotation of its being the epitome of shallow and trivial conversation, but there are exceptions. These exceptions include when a hurricane is heading for your home, when a drought threatens to destroy your crops, and when you are planning an outdoor production in Michigan at the end of October with no “Plan B.”

It is a well-established fact that man does not control the weather conditions on any given day; the closest we can come is prayer – lots and lots of fervent, repeated, consistent prayer. In the case of the Halloween outreach, the prayers for the weather on October 31 usually began in August or earlier. They continued in growing numbers in October as we would gather before each rehearsal to come before God in unison.
In the fifteen years we had the outreach, we have never once been rained out.
This does not mean that performing outdoors was always comfortable, not by a long shot. It does mean that there was always an audience. Some years the fire pit on the sidewalk probably caused some spectators to linger a little longer than they otherwise would have. God knows, and He controls the elements.

Every year Kelly would pray for a “warm, balmy night” for the outreach, and I would always agree, thinking in the back of my mind, “It couldn’t hurt to ask…” One year we actually did have temperatures in the 60’s, and it was delightful. But overall, the weather was usually typical of southeastern Michigan at the end of October, it just never rained on us during our production.

There were plenty of times the skies and the weather man threatened rain all evening, and as each performance ended and the actors looked to me for instructions, I would tell them, “Hey, it’s not raining yet, let’s go for one more,” and we would start again, always squeezing in as many of the 20-minute performances as we could before the 10:00 closing.

Usually the night of the outreach was cold enough that the actors would run inside to warm up between performances. Dollar store gloves (black for the demons, white for the angels) were a staple, and some years I would give up trying to keep the kids from drinking hot cider in costume and just pray they wouldn’t spill it on their white robes before the evening was over.

Probably about half the outreaches we did had heavy clouds hovering over us until the very end of the evening, after which the rain would start. More than a few times I would be driving home Halloween night in a downpour, barely able to see the road in front of me. But it was always with a grateful heart – God had made the rain wait for us again.

In the Eye of the Storm

One year I drove to the Tuckers’ house in a downpour, praying, OK, Lord, this has never happened before, but You are in charge. Just let us know what You want us to do now…
But when I got to the Tuckers’ it wasn’t raining there. We did have people coming in from all directions, asking, “Are we still doing it? It’s raining like crazy in Marine City.”

“It’s pouring in Richmond.”

“It’s raining cats and dogs in Marysville.”

“Wow,” I thought out loud. “Wouldn’t it be cool if it rained everywhere except St. Clair?”

Annie,” said one of the moms, who lived in St, Clair, “it’s raining in parts of St. Clair, it’s just not raining here.” (Understand that St. Clair is not all that big.)

We gathered for a few minutes of intense prayer before going on with a whole evening of performances, while the skies above us held off – again.

This Is Cool, but …

I remember one year it was windy and bitter cold. During the first performance, as Satan stood raising his fist and gloating over the death of Jesus, the wind whipped his cape, while a maelstrom of giant snowflakes whirled around him. Some of us stood taking in the drama of it, our mouths agape. As a director, I was slightly torn.

OK, I thought, this looks awesome, but if it keeps up, these kids will all have pneumonia by the end of the evening…

Kelly wasn’t torn at all. From behind me I could hear her authoritative voice bellow, “In the Name of Jesus I command this snow to stop – NOW!

Seconds later, no more snow. I was mildly disappointed, but mostly relieved.

Each year it was a matter of prayer whether we would have the outreach again. For fifteen years the answer was “yes.”

The year we decided to forego the outreach there was a hurricane that affected practically the whole east half of the country, and Halloween night the weather was so unpleasant that I could count on one hand the number of trick-or-treaters that showed up at the Tucker household. I was sitting on their porch handing out candy and tracts, and a couple of them asked how come we weren’t having the show this year. I laughed and pointed to the weather they were crazy enough to be out in, and silently thanked the Lord that we had not worked for six weeks on a production that was clearly not to be that year.

Prayer: Lord, You have ordained seasons, and I thank You for the season when I had the privilege of retelling the story of Your Resurrection on what some would consider the darkest night of the year. Indeed, You always shine, even through the deepest darkness. Shine through me, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Not Seeing Eye To Eye

My friend Alan has a beautiful story to tell about those moments of offense, how we miss so much by holding onto them, and about coming to a moment of “divine perspective,” albeit a late one.

Thanks, Alan, for this story, and for allowing me to share it with my readers. Blessings.       – Annie

Fuel For The Race

Photo:  Thiago Matos via Pexels

“Oh, crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got…So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It’s the bitterness that lasts.  So don’t yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different date…Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye.” – (1988)  The Living Years,  Recorded by:  Mike and the Mechanics.  Written by Mike Rutherford and B. A. Robertson

The hallway was busy between classes that day.  The platform shoes were loud on the polished hard floor like horses on a brick street.  Everyone was running to their next classroom before the final bell rang.  I, in my bell-bottoms…

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The Vanity of Vanity

Do not love the world or anything in the world.        I John 2: 15a

It was a typical morning. Marty was sipping his coffee and checking his phone for the day’s news stories. I was sipping my coffee and getting ready to take the dog on his morning walk. This was the time I usually prayed, as the early morning solitude was perfect for talking to God, my phone got left at home, and the dog was happy, thinking I was talking to him. It was also typical that a multitude of things were vying for my attention. Of course, since I was still sipping my coffee, I thought I may as well take a quick look at my emails – checking for prayer requests.

Off at the side of the screen an image flashed of an absolutely gorgeous dress. If not the most beautiful dress I had ever seen, it was definitely in the top five. Royal blue (my color!), neither tight nor baggy, just flowing gracefully. The model even had my hair, so if I blurred my eyes or covered her face with my thumb, I could see myself wearing that amazing garment to the next wedding. Or ball. Or coronation…

Desire took hold. I showed the picture to Marty, whose opinions on women’s fashion is usually somewhere between indifferent and comatose, and even he did a double take and said, “You should get it!” without even knowing the price. As it was, the dress was on sale, and the price ridiculously low. I would gladly have paid three times that much. I knew the dog (not to mention the Lord) was waiting, but I thought, This will just take a minute, and clicked onto the site.

Of course, the “just a minute” takes a little longer if you have to set up an account, but I typed in my name and email address and created a password at record speed. I then went on to place the order but was told that the password I had just entered and confirmed was “invalid.” After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, I clicked on “Forgot my password” to have them send me what they thought it was, only to be told that my email address was also invalid. By this time my mood was, shall we say, not exactly prayerful?

Then the Holy Spirit, or maybe it was just the voice of common sense, told me that my prayer time had again been sabotaged, and I was getting emotionally upset over not possessing a dress that an hour ago I had no idea existed!

My prayer time that day included some meditation on the sin of vanity.

Prayer: Lord, we are so easily distracted by the world and its “treasures.” Help us to set our minds on You and to have the divine perspective to know that true treasures come from You. In the name of Jesus, the greatest Treasure of all. Amen.

Guilty as Charged (God’s Perspective on Murder)

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sandhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.                                                                                                                                                                                Matthew 5: 21-22

I committed murder this morning.

I called a man a “fool.” In my defense, he had told his wife “the marriage is over” and is living with his new girlfriend. If that isn’t the biblical definition of a fool, what is?

Still, I took it upon myself to do God’s job. I judged someone who is a sinner – just like me. And I had to repent, pray, and receive God’s forgiveness.

Some people have opined that it’s easier to be a Christian than an Orthodox Jew, since the Old Testament has hundreds of laws to follow and instructions on how to atone for oneself when having broken one of those laws. The New Testament, recognizing that the Old Testament law was impossible for anyone to follow, offers us grace. We no longer have to offer endless sacrifices to atone for all of our blunders; Jesus gave His life so that we could be forgiven on the basis of His sacrifice.

But there is a way in which Jesus made it harder on those who would like to think themselves holier than everyone else. These “religious” people knew the Law and kept it – outwardly. The Law said, “Thou shalt not murder,” and as far as they knew, they hadn’t. The Law said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and as far as they knew, they had kept themselves sexually clean.

But then Jesus came along and raised the bar. In His Sermon on the Mount, He redefines “sin” in terms of not just behavior but the heart. Jesus said that someone who is angry with his brother is murdering him in his heart (Matthew 5:21-22), and that “anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)

Suddenly, everyone is guilty. Jesus did not present this perspective of the Law to make us more righteous,  but to show us that none of us can obey God’s Law. He wanted us to know that we need a Savior. Those who say Jesus was a great teacher who taught us how to live, and at the same time do not believe that He is the Savior of the world, are missing the whole point of Jesus’ life and teachings.

Please don’t misunderstand, having a relationship with Jesus will help us live better lives. If we truly know Him, we will love Him, and if we love Him, we won’t say, “Man, I’m glad my sins are paid for,” and go out and do whatever the devil, our sin nature, and the world tell us to do. If we love Him – if we’re in love with Him – we would rather die than hurt Him. But living a good life is not what saves us.

I have known Jesus for more than half a century, and I can’t begin to tell you how much He has blessed my life. (This blog is an attempt at a start, anyway.) And I still sin. The difference is, I don’t believe I sin nearly as much as I would without knowing Him, and when I do sin, He lets me know. Like the other time I was aware of being a murderer.

I had the radio on while I was fixing dinner, and a story came on about some people who had swindled a trusting elderly lady and had taken her entire life’s savings. My instant reaction was to became judge and jury, declaring out loud, “Those people oughta be shot!

Immediately, I recognized that in that split second I had become a murderer in my heart. I’m hopeless, I thought. But I also knew immediately that I would be hopeless without Jesus, but I wasn’t without Jesus. I stopped what I was doing, repented, and thanked Him for His grace.

Psalm 103:8-14 is a passage that has been my lifeline whenever I would realize how much I fall short of God’s standards.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,                                                                                                 slow to anger, abounding in love.                                                              He will not always accuse,                                                                                                                               nor will he harbor his anger forever;                                                             he does not treat us as our sins deserve                                                                                                        or reward us according to our iniquities.                                 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,                                                                                          so great is his love for those who fear him;                                                      as far as the east is from the west,                                                                                                              so far has he removed our transgressions from us.           As a father has compassion on his children,                                                                                                so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;                  For he knows how we are formed,                                                                                                                  he remembers that we are dust.

It is such a comfort to me to know that God understands that we are incapable of living the righteous life on our own, and He is here to help us. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. All of them. For anyone who will repent, this forgiveness is His free gift.

Even for a murderer like me.

Prayer: LORD, alone we are helpless to do good. Thank You for spelling it out so clearly that keeping Your Law by sheer willpower is impossible, and that You understand. Thank You for providing a way for us to be cleansed of our sins committed through word, action, thought, attitude, and even our myriad sins of omission. Lead us in a life that reflects Your grace, and never let us make the mistake of thinking that we do good things on our own. It’s all YOU. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

There’s Got To Be an Easier Way To Get Readers

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”    Romans 8:28

I had been on the road for about two hours, making good time and thinking I would be back in Louisville before 8:00. But in a moment my plans were changed, and I found myself on a new “assignment,” “adventure,” whatever you want to call the unexpected event.

I had made it from the Michigan town where I had attended an author event, as far as Ohio, when traffic on the highway in a major city suddenly became heavy. Several vehicles slowed to a complete stop, and I could see the car in front of me fishtailing to keep from hitting the car in front of him. I slammed on the brakes, barely avoiding a collision, but a split second later I felt the unmistakable sensation of being slammed into from behind. My first thought was profound:

Oops.

After pulling off to the side of the street, I looked around amid stuff that had been thrown about – my purse and its contents (I really need to get into the habit of zipping that thing up.) the box from the restaurant that had held (loosely) leftover salad from lunch, and a little of everything else, except my phone, which was in an unknown location, having flown off its holder.

My next thought was OK, I’m alive. Thank You, Lord. My thoughts went back to the meeting my husband and I had had with a lawyer a few days prior to update our wills, and the fact that I had started a letter to the worship pastor at our church, telling him what kind of service I wanted in the event I should be “called home.” As I sat amid the mess in the front seat of my car, I told myself, I really need to get that letter written!

Pulling my mind back into the present moment, I got out and approached the vehicle behind me, where a teenaged girl looked shaken, and asked if she was OK. She said yes, although “That was scary.” I agreed. The front of her little car looked like a smashed tin can with dangling headlights.

My car, on the other hand,  didn’t show much damage, and what upset me more than the crash was having no clue where my cell phone was. Even when I had the young lady call my number, I couldn’t hear it ring. I wondered if it had been flung off the side of the road and lost forever – my address book, my camera, my photo album, well, you get it. I was seriously bothered.

After about fifteen minutes, at last I found my phone, beneath the carpet under the passenger seat, wedged into a small space in the floor. (Go figure.) I called the police to report the accident, and when they asked if anyone was hurt, I honestly told them “No.” (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) Consequently, it was nearly two hours before the police showed up. The girl’s father arrived more promptly, a little shaken himself, partly because the car his daughter had been driving was totaled, and mostly relieved that she was all right.

While we were waiting for the police to arrive, much of the time the young lady and I sat on the side of the hill, talking and getting to know each other. To be more exact, we were learning each other’s life stories. I’ve always loved teenagers, and she was the kind of kid I could like right away – open and transparent, telling me some very personal things about her life, which I won’t share here. Not surprisingly, like many young people, she had struggled with anxiety, and I was sure this present situation wasn’t helping. I noticed she seemed anxious whenever her attention went back to her car, and I felt it best to keep her talking about other things. Once her dad was on the scene and we had to focus on the crash, he and I ended up reminiscing about our first accidents. (At the age of sixteen I had done to my Mustang pretty much what she’d done to her car.) I think that might have helped her feel a little better; nobody’s perfect.

Of course, at one point in our conversation about school and such, I asked her if she liked to read, and when she said “yes,” I gave her one of my books written for teens and young adults, which just happened to be in my car after the author event. 😉 Since she had a job at a well known candle company, she in turn gave me something to make my car smell good.

When the ordeal was over and I left, we hugged and wished each other the best. I remember thinking as I drove away in my car, which now had the scent of pumpkin spice to drown out the smell of spilled salad – We are SUCH GIRLS! (Somehow I can’t see guys behaving the way we did.)

Romans 8:28 says, basically, that there’s a reason for everything if we love the Lord – and if we are called by Him. In other words, even before we know Him, things are working together to bring us to Him. Although she and I had prayed together, thanking God for our lives, I don’t know exactly what that teen’s relationship with God is. I do know that if she reads the book I gave her, she’ll know how to know Him, if she doesn’t already. And I hope that rather than increasing her anxiety, that crash just might be something she’ll look back on and see as part of God’s plan in her life. She is still alive, so He certainly has something planned for her.

To put it another way, I don’t believe that accident was entirely an accident.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for sparing my life and the life of that young girl. Help me never to take for granted that every day of life is a bonus – another day to serve You. Help us both to fulfill Your purpose for us, in Jesus’ name. Amen