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To Seniors and Others Missing Out

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.         Colossians 3:2

This piece, originally entitled “What Else Matters?” was posted May 3 of last year. I wanted to share it again, for all my readers who are or have seniors missing their prom, graduation, and other festivities they thought they would be enjoying now. Feel free to share this with them. I hope it encourages those who are feeling the loss.

It was the morning of the National Day of Prayer. I was sitting in the auditorium at City Hall, listening to my daughter’s school choir singing a goosebump-raising rendition of “You Are God Alone.” They were warming up for the city-wide prayer meeting that was starting in half an hour. And I was crying.

My daughter Kelly had been having a rough time in high school. The migraines that had first appeared when she was four years old had continued to plague her through grade school and middle school and had caused her record absences through high school, in spite of years of prayers and attempts to find a solution through medicine, both traditional and “alternative.”

But in spite of enduring more pain than some people suffer in a lifetime, Kelly had found a few sources of pleasure in her life. By far her greatest joy was singing, and her favorite part of school was choir. When the students performed, Kelly’s face radiated with unmistakable joy. She had looked forward to the national Day of Prayer and taking part, and as I had said goodbye to her that morning and she left for school, I had whispered a special prayer of thanks to God for this special day.

My optimism had been short-lived, however. Kelly had called me from the parking lot of a McDonald’s half a mile from school to tell me about the migraine that had assaulted her shortly after she had walked out the door. When I had suggested that she come home, take some medication, and rest until the assembly, she had sobbed that if she didn’t show up at 8:00 she wouldn’t be allowed to sing with the choir.

There are definite advantages to a small Christian school, one of them being teachers who know each student well and practice grace along with discipline. As I called the office to explain Kelly’s dilemma, the choir director, who “happened to be” right by the phone, responded with compassion. She said to let Kelly come home, take a pill and a nap, and meet the choir at City Hall at 11:30 if she was feeling better.

But the medication that knocked out the migraine had a way of knocking out the patient as well, and when I had tried to rouse Kelly for the prayer meeting, she had been hopelessly (and predictably) dead to the world. Now as the choir finished their warm-up and filed off the stage, there I sat, with nothing to do but feel sorry for Kelly, thinking of all the important high school events she had missed and would never again get a chance to do. And yes, I’ll admit I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, as well. (When “BabyBear” hurts, “MamaBear” hurts, too.) So in spite of my efforts to contain them, the tears flowed.

I was digging through my purse, looking for a tissue when I came across my small New Testament. Since the prayer meeting didn’t start until noon, I knew I had twenty minutes to kill, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend them wallowing in self-pity. So I pulled out the Bible and prayed.

Lord, Jesus, please encourage me. I don’t want to feel this way today!

I was not in the habit of looking for answers to problems by haphazardly opening the Bible; I hadn’t done that since college. But since I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, I opened the Book at random, planning just to read until I found something helpful, or until the prayer meeting started, whichever came first.

The scripture that first caught my eye was the last chapter of Mark:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb, and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!”                    (Mark 16: 1-6)

Something told me I had seen enough, so I stopped reading.

OK, what does that have to do with Kelly’s migraines? I wondered. But then I pondered the significance of the passage.

Jesus is alive … JESUS IS ALIVE! That means that death is not the end … for Him or for us! And it certainly means this life isn’t the be-all and end-all for those who trust in the Lord. – It’s barely the beginning!

Yes, my daughter had missed the National Day of Prayer, over a hundred days of high school, and numerous weekend festivities. She had missed Homecoming, but someday she would be at the greatest Homecoming in history. She had missed singing in the choir that day, but someday she would sing in heaven’s choir forever. Kelly loved Jesus, and she would get to spend forever with Him, at the never-ending, greatest celebration of all time. When one had that to look forward to … what else mattered?

What else matters? I asked myself, and I found that in spite of my pity-party, I was smiling. I decided that I would pour myself into the Day of Prayer and keep a better perspective on life from that day on, by remembering the one thing that really matters –

Jesus is alive!

Excerpted from BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?)                           c 2015 Ann Aschauer

Prayer: Lord, we rejoice that You are alive! Keep us mindful of what really matters. In Your name, amen

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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

Participating in the Supernatural

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:3)

Life for Christ-followers in some countries makes our problems in the U.S. look like a stroll in the park. Harassment, arrests, beatings, rapes, forced marriages, kidnappings, imprisonment, murder, and executions on false charges. Even in countries whose governments do not officially persecute Christians, believers frequently fall victim to violence, having homes and churches destroyed, and other atrocities while the authorities looks the other way. During the pandemic some countries, whose official religion is something other than Christianity, have denied Christians the government benefits everyone else is getting, and they are left to fend for themselves.

One day as I was in my comfortable living room, contemplating the plight of my brothers and sisters around the globe, I tried to imagine what it was like for them. They seemed to be in such impossible situations…

“But God …”

With Him all things are possible, so that morning I became more ambitious with my prayers. Knowing my imagination was no match for His power, I prayed for the hungry and those who were trying to feed them, that He would multiply their resources. (Remember the loaves and fishes?) I prayed encouragement for those who were in prison and feeling hopeless and abandoned – that their spiritual eyes would be opened to glimpse the angels in their cells with them, or their ears opened to hear the music of heaven. I prayed if they were sweltering in the heat, the Lord would send them cool breezes from heaven, and if they were shivering with the cold, He would “wrap them in invisible blankets.” I had a good feeling about that prayer, and I’ve been praying in this way ever since.

As I read today’s devotional from Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted Church, I learned that part of that prayer had been answered specifically for a believer named Paul in Afghanistan:

“Under the communist regime, Paul was arrested on false charges and put in a notorious prison where tens of thousands were executed. There was no heat in the jail during the cold winters. He had to sleep on the freezing mud floor with only his overcoat. A prisoner next to him was trembling with cold since he did not even have a jacket. Paul remembered John the Baptist had said, “The man who has two coats should share with him who has none.” (Luke 3:11) He took off his only coat and gave it to the neighbor. From then on, the Lord miraculously kept him warm every night.” – from Open Doors’ Devotional, Standing Strong Through the Storm, November 23

Here in America admittedly we don’t see a lot of miracles – answers to prayer that can’t be explained by natural laws. (My children’s book, From Grumpy to Grateful, begins with a young boy’s complaints regarding this subject.) We read about such miracles – usually in another part of the world – and sometimes wish we could experience those things, too. But if we have been praying for the “impossible,” we have participated in that miracle! I don’t know exactly how it works, but through prayer God invites us to partner with Him in what He wants to do. What an honor.

The hardest thing for many of the persecuted is the feeling of abandonment. Surrounded by enemies of the gospel who seemingly have the power over their circumstances, a believer can feel very alone. The answer to our prayers for a suffering individual often takes the form of a peaceful reassurance that he or she is not forgotten. Many saints have testified that they suddenly felt the power of others’ prayers just when they needed it most, and that assurance gave them the strength to go on.

If we find prayer boring, is it because we’re praying with low expectations? Often if we ask The Almighty for anything remotely difficult, we might tack on a timid “…if it be Your will …” and don’t really expect much to happen. I wonder if God is bored with our prayers, too. I wonder sometimes if at our prayer meetings, He is silently urging us to truly believe He can do the “impossible” – Come on, ask Me to do something BIG!

One more thought: Whether we see the results of our prayers immediately, a little later, much later, or not at all in this life, God does hear and answer our prayers. Faith can cause us to pray expectantly, joyfully. Although I pray many of the same things daily, I love asking Jesus to take my life that day and do with it what He wants, because I believe He will – and I’m excited to see what He has for me – or someone I’m praying for – that day.

Prayer: Lord, we are so blessed, often we forget that fellow believers struggle just to survive. Help us remember them in our prayers. Let them know they have not been forgotten. Comfort the grieving with the assurance of their eternal heavenly home. Remind the brokenhearted, betrayed, and abandoned by family, that they are part of a greater, forever family and that they are dearly loved. Bless those believers who are aiding the destitute. Move people’s hearts to give; multiply their resources supernaturally, if necessary, until there is even enough overflow to share with their neighbors and glorify You among the unbelievers. Remind Your servants of the truth of Your Word, and bring the right passages to their memories at the moment they need them most.

Lord, we know it is likely that some of Your servants will pay the ultimate price for their faith today. Give them the supernatural grace to leave this world with smiles on their faces and Your praise on their lips, enough to baffle their persecutors, perhaps even pointing them to You.

Finally, Jesus, help us to be inspired by their willingness to give up everything for You. You gave everything for us, and we can never thank You enough. In Your name we pray, amen.

Isolated and Thankful

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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. (Romans 8:38-39)

So, I finally got Covid. No clue where I got it. (Maybe masks don’t work…?) I have been through a sore throat stage, a coughing/bronchitis stage, a nausea stage (from consuming “lots of liquids” and little solids except cold meds and supplements – *bleah*) and now that my appetite is back, I can’t taste much or smell at all. These are pretty much the stages of every cold I have ever had, and I’ve had at least 200 of them. Only this time it’s been much milder than usual.

So, on this Thanksgiving Day I am THANKFUL.

Thankful that I was so sick so often as a teenager and twenty-something that I became a bona fide health nut by the time I was thirty.

Thankful that with my frequent illnesses and my love of singing I never dared take up smoking. (According to the CDC, twice as many people will die this year of tobacco-related illness than of Covid.)

Thankful that through knowing Christ I was delivered from an eating disorder in my early 30’s, and that the emotional healing helped me toward better physical health – not through an instant miracle, but through natural means, with self-discipline being an added bonus.

Thankful that at 67 I’m remarkably healthy, probably due to my early experiences, which at the time seemed “SO unfair!” (“All things work together for good to those who love the Lord, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28)

I’m thankful that my husband Marty has had mild symptoms, too, due to his healthy lifestyle. (Thankful that we were both born with healthy, functioning bodies to begin with.)

Thankful that each day as I offered my body to God as a “living sacrifice,” (Romans 12:1) He has accepted it. (He takes good care of His stuff.)

Thankful that being isolated for Thanksgiving isn’t getting us down, that we can finally be around each other, since we both have the same thing. Thankful that Marty’s stomach issues and the fact that I can’t taste mean neither of us is particularly bothered by the fact that I don’t feel up to cooking.

Thankful for Marty’s revelation last night: “Hey, after this we can go visit Ben and Rachel and the boys, and Kelly and Erickson.” (We haven’t seen our son-in-law, our daughter-in-law, or our youngest grandchild in most of a year, and our children only from arm’s length.)

Thankful that I finally can say “been there, had that, got the antibodies.” I will be researching today whether any of the nursing homes would be allowed to have me and my fellow Covid survivors come to sing Christmas carols to the residents who have been dying for human contact since March. If we can produce the proof that we are well and immune, they won’t have to fear us, and with the antibodies we won’t be afraid of them, either. We might even be permitted to give them smiles – the things my one elderly friend has said she’s missed the most through all of this.

Thankful that I know my Creator, and this pandemic has never been an occasion for fear. If I live, I live for Him, if I die, I go to Him. It’s win-win. It’s just been a matter of finding alternative ways to share His love and Good News with those around me (or in the case of this blog, with those around the world.)

I suppose I should explain what I mean by “Good News” for those who may be reading this blog for the first, last, and/or only time. It’s really a “bad news/good news” reality, so please read carefully to make sure you’re in the “good news” column!

First the BAD NEWS:

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) In other words, nobody’s perfect. (Duh.)

“The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a) That’s eternal death, folks, away from God. Why? God is holy and we aren’t. Face it, if a bunch of unholy people entered a holy place (heaven) that place would be polluted and no longer perfect.

But here’s the GOOD NEWS:

“…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b) God made a way for us to have the penalty of our sins cancelled and to be made perfect. He loved us – even before we loved Him! – so much that Jesus, His Only Begotten Son, paid that penalty Himself by dying on the Cross. He’s the only One who has lived a perfect life, so He’s the only One who could be the atoning Sacrifice, paying the debt for all of us. “Wages” are what we’ve earned; a “gift” is something we haven’t earned. We don’t deserve God’s gift, but He offers it to us anyway. All we need to do is receive it – receive Him.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12)

The greatest gift in the universe is being held out to you! Receive it or refuse it, it’s your choice.

If you have never made the conscious choice to receive this gift, I pray you receive it today, give your life to Jesus, and begin a brand new life as a child of God. He will help you become the person He created you to be, and you will have more to be thankful for than ever before.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for taking the penalty for our sins, for dying so that we can live – forever! If we had nothing else in this world but Your salvation, we still could never thank You enough. Thank You that we have the promise of heaven, and no fear, no man, no virus can take from us Your inexpressibly precious gift that You have given us through Your death. In Your name, Amen.

From Grumpy to Grateful (A Story of Thanksgiving) Chapter 5

And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

This is the last post from my new children’s book, From Grumpy to Grateful. This book has not been published yet, but until it is, this has been a “sneak preview” for my readers. If you missed the posts leading up to this final chapter, you can find them here:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1811

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1860

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1823

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1835

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1843

CHAPTER FIVE

Usa New Jersey Jersey City Father Waking Up Son Stock ...

          “Hey, Lazybones!”

          Jackson’s heart skipped a beat at the sound of the familiar voice. “You gonna sleep all day?”

          “DAD!” Jackson cried. He sat up and threw his arms around his father.

          “Whoa!” laughed Dad, nearly falling over. He gave his son a hug and a tickle under the ribs. Jackson shrieked with delight. “Hey, get up, buddy. If you’re ready in time, I’ll take you out for doughnuts before school.”

Donut Facts—Best Doughnut Facts (2020)

          “Doughnuts!?” Jackson gasped. The thought of doughnuts seemed too good to be true. His father laughed again at the look of amazement on his son’s face.

          “Yeah, you know, those round things with the holes that we eat too much of when Mom’s not looking?” He winked. “You get dressed. I’ll be downstairs.”

          Dad stepped out of the room, and as he closed the door, Jackson saw his Cardinals jacket hanging on the hook, partially covering the poster of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” He heard the rustle of shavings as Homer dug for his breakfast, and he smelled the coffee Mom had brewing in the kitchen. He heard the shower running from the bathroom and knew his sister was getting ready for school.

          Charlotte! School! For perhaps the first time in his life he smiled at the very thought of school. Friends! Teachers! The nice lunch lady – lunch! The library – books! Field trips! Sports! Art class! Jackson felt about to burst with thankfulness for all the people and things in his life – more than he could count or hold. As he dressed, he felt the soft, red cotton shirt against his skin and thought about how much he liked red. He picked up Homer to say, “Good morning,” stroking his little back and feeling the soft, silky fur.

Hamster Stock Photos, Royalty Free Hamster Images ...

          Then he felt something else, something warm and wet trickling down his face. He bowed his head.

          “Thank You, God,” he whispered. “You’ve given me so much … and I’m sorry for saying … well, You know …” He was ashamed even to think about what he had said when he was trying to be as cool as Bill. Then he realized the truth.

          Bill wasn’t cool. Bill was sad.

          “Please help Bill to know how much You love him,” Jackson prayed, remembering his discouraging conversation with the bigger boy. “I tried, but I think it has to be You telling him.”

          Jackson couldn’t explain what it felt like, but at that moment somehow he knew that Jesus was smiling at him.

Find Your Joy – Latter-day Soprano

Prayer: Father, forgive us for taking Your blessings for granted, and for complaining about what we don’t have, instead of discerning those around us who need our prayers, our gifts, our time, and our friendship. You have blessed us to be a blessing. Show us how, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

                      

From Grumpy to Grateful (A Story of Thanksgiving) Chapter 4

From Grumpy to Grateful is my soon-to-be-published-God-willing children’s book. I am still waiting on the illustrations, so it will not be published in time for Thanksgiving, but I wanted to share it with my readers and their children or grandchildren who like to read or be read to. For the posts leading up to this chapter, here are the links:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1811

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1860

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1823

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1835

CHAPTER  FOUR

          Play where? With what? Jackson stepped back out into the street, where the other kids were kicking stones around, banging on trash cans with sticks, or just sitting in their doorways, staring at nothing. He didn’t know any of them, and he didn’t know what he would say to them if he did. Some of them seemed mean like Bill, and he was afraid to talk to them. Others seemed tired and sick. Jackson stood leaning against the wall for what seemed like forever. He missed his friends. He missed his sister. Most of all, he missed his dad. What did Mom mean by “since he left us”? Where did he go? His hand throbbed. His stomach growled. His heart ached.

          Jackson hadn’t known that a person could be hungry for something besides food, but here he was finding a new kind of hunger. His eyes were hungry for color – his red jacket, his dad’s blue car, Mom’s marigolds she had planted around the mailbox, and the yellow, green, and purple kite he and Dad had flown at the park last Saturday. Here everything was grey – the sky, the street, the buildings, the dusty clothes, even the faces of the other children.

          Jackson’s ears were hungry for music and laughter. The only sounds here were the buzzing flies, the cry of a hungry baby, and the angry yelling of boys getting into a fight. (At his school Mr. Drake would have broken up the fight. By the time recess was over, he would have the boys playing together like best friends. But these children were on their own all day.)

          Jackson’s nose was hungry for the smells that greeted him when he got home from school each day. His favorite was the aroma of popcorn Mom sometimes made him as an afternoon snack. The warm, buttery smell would fill the house. But here everything smelled of sweat, garbage, and gas fumes.

          Jackson’s body was hungry for a hug.

Excellence in Child Health and Development

Mom always had a hug for him when he got home, and sometimes the two of them would snuggle up on the couch and read a book together. Here Mom seemed too sad to do anything fun.

          Jackson’s mind was hungry to read something, to learn something, to talk to a friendly person. Here the hunger of boredom and loneliness was more than he could stand. He buried his face in his hands and began to cry.

Sad boy crying — Stock Photo © olly18 #109861816

          “Hey ‘Jack,’” said a familiar voice.

          Charlotte!

          Jackson spun around to see his sister. Unlike the rags he wore, she was dressed in a clean school uniform. Unlike Jackson’s dirty, tear-streaked face, her face was washed and her cheeks rosy. Her hair was brushed, and she had a French braid at one side, tied with a red ribbon.

          “You can call me ‘Jackie,’” he sighed. He had lost all interest in being cool and just wanted things to get back to the way they had been.

          “Jackie,” she said, smiling kindly. “Do you remember when you asked, ‘What did God ever do for me?’?” As Jackson remembered, his face burned with shame.

          “Yeah,” he said, looking down at his dirty hands.

          Charlotte didn’t say anything for a moment. She waited as Jackson thought about what he had said, back when he was trying so hard to be cool. When Jackson finally looked up at her, she said quietly:

          “Well, today He didn’t do it.”

Prayer: Father, You not only meet all of our needs, but many of our wants, as well. But too often we forget to thank You. We even complain that we don’t have more! Help us to see not only the blessings in our lives, but ways we can use what we have to bless those who are truly in need, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

                       

From Grumpy to Grateful (A Story of Thanksgiving) Chapter 3

I have been sharing with my readers (and their children and grandchildren) my first children’s book, From Grumpy to Grateful, which I’m hoping will be published next year. If you missed the first posts, here are the links:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1811

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1860

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1823

“Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22:2)

CHAPTER THREE

          “Wake up, Jack!” the voice that startled Jackson sounded like his mother’s voice, but it didn’t sound as sweet and kind as it usually did. Had he overslept? Jackson opened his eyes to see his mother, but she looked different. She was thinner and tired looking, and the joy he usually saw in her face was not there. “Hurry up,” she said. “It’s time to go to the alley.”

          Jackson blinked as the morning rays of sun nearly blinded his eyes. Where were the blinds on his windows? For that matter, where were the posters on his wall? Where were his soccer trophies, his Lego sets and his hamster, Homer? The room was almost bare. The only thing there besides his bed was a worn, dirty cloth bag in the corner. Even his clock was gone.

          “What time is it?” he asked.

          “Time for you to get up and get to the dumptsters before all the food is gone!” His mother sounded urgent. “They’ll have nothing but garbage in them by the time you get there if you don’t get going!”

          Dumpsters?

          “Isn’t Dad taking me to school?” Jackson asked, confused.

          “School?” said his mother, sounding angry. “Poor children don’t go to school. And we haven’t seen your father since he left us. Wake up, boy, and stop wasting time!”

          Dazed, Jackson got out of bed. He looked around but didn’t see any of his clothes. Then he realized he was expected to go out in the clothes he had slept in. They were rumpled and not very clean looking, but his mother didn’t seem to care about that.

          “Don’t forget your bag, stupid boy!” she snapped, tossing him the cloth bag. Jackson was wide awake now, as his jaw dropped open in surprise. He would be in big trouble is he ever called another kid that word, and Mom never called anyone “stupid,” especially not her own children! What was the matter with her?

          When Jackson stepped out into the bright sunlight, he felt as if someone had opened a giant oven. He was confused by the street. He had never seen this place before, and he almost went back to ask his mother where he was supposed to go. But she had seemed so irritated that he decided to figure it out on his own.

          He noticed there were other children, each dressed in ragged clothes similar to what he was wearing, each carrying a dirty cloth bag, all headed in the same direction. He started to follow them.

          After walking a few blocks, the children came around a corner into an alley behind some tall buildings. Jackson saw fire escapes overhead and dumpsters lined up along the wall.

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The other children climbed onto some old crates and worked together to lift the lid on the first dumpster.

          Then it was a free-for-all, as children grabbed packages of food, fruits and vegetables, and anything else they could get their hands on that might be eaten. They reminded Jackson of his friends at his last birthday party after Kaplan broke the pinata.

          Jackson scrambled up the side of the dumpster and started grabbing. None of what he ended up with was his favorite food – no cereal, no peanut butter, no pizza. But he did get a package of green peppers that was a day past its “best by” date, an open box of stale crackers, a couple of bruised apples, and a dented can of black beans. He began to realize why his mother had looked thin and sad. How long had she been living on leftovers from other people’s trash?

          Just then Jackson saw something shining in the dumpster, and he decided to reach in one more time to see if it was something exciting. As he did, he was suddenly bumped by another boy and nearly fell in. As he grabbed the side of the dumpster to catch himself, there was a sharp pain in his hand, and he saw a trickle of blood roll down the rusty metal side. He realized what had been sparkling in the sun was only a piece of broken glass, and he had just cut his hand.

          As Jackson walked back to his house, he tried hard not to cry. His stomach was rumbling so much that even the bruised apples were starting to look good. He held onto his hand, trying to stop the bleeding. He was anxious to get back to his mother and have her wash the wound, kiss it and bandage it up. Mom always made him feel better.

          But when Jackson got home Mom didn’t seem too concerned about the cut. She just wanted to know what was in his bag. When he showed her what he had collected, she seemed disappointed and irritated with him for not getting more. While she tried to figure out how to open the can of beans, Jackson washed his hand and wrapped it in an old rag.

          “Where’s Charlotte?” he asked his mother.

          “Who?” His mother sounded annoyed.

          “Charlotte. My sister?” Why would Mom not know what he was talking about?

          “Stupid boy!” – There was that word again! “You don’t have a sister. What’s the matter with you today?”

          Jackson felt as if he had just been punched in the stomach. Not have a sister? What was going on? Where was Charlotte? Where was Dad? Where was his school?

          “Go play,” his mother snapped, sounding tired. She sat at the rickety table and buried her face in her hands.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for those who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. You have told us to help the poor, the widow, and the orphan. Jesus, You said that whatever we do for them we are doing for You. Open our eyes to ways we can meet the needs of those within our reach, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

From Grumpy to Grateful (A Thanksgiving Story) Chapter 2

I’m sharing my new, soon-to-be-published-God-willing children’s book, From Grumpy to Grateful, with my readers in the next few days leading up to Thanksgiving. If you missed the first two posts, here are the links:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1811

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1860

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. Luke 23:8

CHAPTER TWO

          “Don’t let him bother you, Jackie,” said Charlotte, who was brushing her hair at the bathroom mirror. Charlotte was Jackson’s sister. She was three years older than he was, and a lot more grown up when it came to handling mean kids. She had a way of making Jackson feel better – usually.

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But today even Charlotte couldn’t lift him out of his sour mood.

          “Don’t call me ‘Jackie’!” he snapped. “I’m not a little kid anymore. It’s Jack now.”

          Nobody called Bill “Billy.” That would be like asking to get punched in the nose. The kids respected Bill. Or maybe they were just afraid of him, but anyway, Bill was cool, and Jackson wanted to be cool, too.

          “OK, Jack,” his sister said, smiling a little. “Don’t let that kid get to you. He’s always been mean, especially since his parents got divorced. He’s mean to everybody.”

          “But nobody’s mean to him,” said Jackson.

          Charlotte laughed. “Yeah, they’re too scared of him. Come on, let’s get ready for Sunday school.”

          “I don’t want to go today,” said Jackson, trying on his new “cool” act.

          “What?!” cried Charlotte, looking very surprised. “You can’t be serious!”

          Wow, thought Jackson, this is a sure way to get attention!

          “You had fun last week,” said Charlotte. “That story about Jesus walking on water? And then Peter doing it? That was awesome! You said so yourself.”

            “Well, I haven’t walked on water lately,” said Jackson in his coolest voice. “Let’s see Jesus help me do it.”

          Charlotte looked surprised that Jackson would say such a thing, but she replied, “Well … I suppose you could ask Him.”

          Jackson went out to the sidewalk where the bug Bill had squashed the day before still lay, covered with hungry ants. He found a puddle in the pothole by the end of the driveway.

          “OK, Jesus,” he said. “Do Your stuff.” He took a deep breath and stepped out over the puddle. As he lowered his foot, it sank ankle deep into the water.

          “Way to go, Jackie,” said Charlotte, rolling her eyes. “Now you gotta go change your shoes and socks, and we’re gonna be late for church.”

          “I told you, it’s Jack, and I don’t wanna go!” Jackson snapped back. He felt a knot in his stomach for what he was about to say, but he said it anyway.

          “What has God ever done for me? I’ve never been healed! I’ve never seen anyone raised from the dead! I’ve never had loaves and fishes multiplied for me! I’ve never seen any miracles! Maybe it is all a fairy tale.”

            Charlotte looked shocked and about to cry. Jackson felt bad for making her feel that way, but he also felt cool.

          “Well,” said Charlotte, frowning, “Mom and Dad won’t let you skip church anyway, so you’re going, Jack.” She said the new name in such a nasty way that Jackson was starting to wonder whether being cool was going to be worth losing the good relationship he had with his sister.

To be continued …

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your patience with us when we are being ungrateful and foolish. Open our eyes to Your goodness, and help us reflect the joy that is available to us every day when we are close to You and grateful for Your presence in our lives. In the name of Your precious Son, Amen.

     

From Grumpy to Grateful (A Story of Thanksgiving) Chapter 1

My first children’s book, From Grumpy to Grateful, is being prepared for publication. For the next few days my readers are getting a preview, to prepare for Thanksgiving, and perhaps to share with the children in your life.

If you missed the intro yesterday, here’s the link:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/?p=1811

CHAPTER ONE

                “Sunday school?” Bill laughed, even though Jackson wasn’t trying to be funny. “Why would I want to do that?”

          Jackson felt his face getting red as the bigger boy rejected his invitation so rudely.

          “Well …” he began, “we sing songs and hear stories about God and stuff.”

          “God!?” Bill laughed even louder. “You still believe in those fairy tales?” Jackson had never heard Bible stories called “fairy tales” before, and it gave him a sick feeling in his stomach.

          “Fairy tales? No! Jesus really lived, and He healed people! He walked on water! He even rose from the dead after they killed Him!”

          Bill snickered and crushed a beetle on the sidewalk. “Yeah, and that bug’s gonna come back to life any second now.” With that he let out a loud laugh that made Jackson’s face burn. By now the kids next door were looking his way, and he felt like crawling under a rock.

          “Jesus … loves you,” he said, so softly the other boy could hardly hear him.

          “Sure He does,” said Bill sarcastically. He looked tough, but Jackson thought he sounded angry, too. “What did God ever do for me?” he demanded.

          “Jesus loves you so much He died for you!” Jackson suddenly felt stronger as he heard himself say the words, but Bill was quick to answer, and the feeling didn’t last.

          “I told you, I don’t believe in that stuff! What did He … what did God ever do for me?” he demanded again, and Jackson thought he heard a catch in his voice, as if he were trying not to cry. Jackson almost felt sorry for him, but Bill was bigger than he was, and the way he clenched his fists made Jackson back away and stop trying to talk to him.

          “OK,” Jackson murmured, walking away.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we get discouraged sometimes when the people around us reject the gospel. Remind us when we are rejected that You were rejected, too, and that in our rejection we are sharing in Your sufferings. Help us not to let discouragement keep us from sharing our faith. Give us courage to speak out, even when it doesn’t seem that we’re being heard. In Your precious name, amen.

      

From Grumpy to Grateful (A Story of Thanksgiving) Introduction

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 

I have recently finished the manuscript for my first children’s book, which I had hoped to have published by Thanksgiving of this year. But, like many other things in this strange and unpredictable year, From Grumpy to Grateful has been on the back burner. Still, I thought my followers might like a sneak preview, especially those with children or grandchildren who like to read or be read to. God willing, the book will be out, complete with illustrations, by next fall.

From Grumpy to Grateful will be posted in five brief posts for the next five days. Meanwhile, a note to the adults:

We can take many things for granted, from food and clothes to our freedom, to the people in our lives. It’s easy to look at what God is doing for other people and feel a twinge of envy, not realizing that these people probably aren’t blessed with many of the things we enjoy every day. These people might, in fact, be envying us at the same time! This cycle of ingratitude happens to adults as well as children. Sometimes it takes a crisis, a loss, or a journey into someone else’s world to give us an appreciation for what we have.

Jackson, the little boy in this story, has been hearing about Jesus and the miracles He did – walking on water, feeding five thousand, healing the sick, and raising the dead. Jackson wonders why Jesus isn’t doing impressive things like that for him, and he complains about it to his sister Charlotte.

You may know someone who has gone on a missionary trip to an impoverished region and come back a different person – a very grateful person. Jackson has the privilege of taking that journey in one night, as he dreams about what it would be like to be without most of the things he takes for granted. When he wakes up, Jackson realizes that he is one very blessed boy!

Before reading this story with your child, ask what he or she is grateful for. You might want to write down the response. Then after reading about Jackson’s adventure, ask your child if he or she has anything else to thank God for. I suspect the second list will be longer than the first.

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You might want to hang your gratitude list on the wall, refrigerator, or bulletin board and add to it each night. Ask your child (and yourself) “Do you know someone who doesn’t have these things?” then pray together for that person, and watch for changes that come from a life of gratitude and caring.

                                    Ann Aschauer

Prayer: Father in heaven, You take such good care of us, and so often we don’t take notice of what You’ve given us, nor do we thank You as much as we should. Help us to be more aware of our blessings and to thank You continually for Your goodness to us. May we set an example of thankfulness to the children in our lives each and every day, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Harder To Be Thankful This Year … or Maybe Not

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Last Easter was different from any we remember, at least for most of us. Many of us were sad that the usual family gatherings were limited, or non-existent, and kids who remembered the holiday as a time for egg hunts and seeing the Easter Bunny at the mall felt let down. But the absence of the “fluff” (and I don’t mean just Peeps) gave us a clearer picture of where our focus as Christians was supposed to be, anyway. After all, the first Resurrection Day began with a profound sadness for those who had followed Jesus, with memories of His excruciating, humiliating death on a Roman cross still fresh in their minds. The ache of inconsolable grief, mixed with residual fear of the Romans, no doubt filled their souls. But soon the devoted women who had come to anoint His body, then the other disciples, who took some convincing at first, knew that the story of their Messiah was not over yet! He had given His life to pay for their sins, then fulfilled His promise, that on the third day He would rise to eternal life – and so would they!

So, if we allowed it, last Easter/Resurrection Day was possibly the most meaningful we have ever had. What’s more, there was evidence everywhere that the gospel had spread to formerly unreached peoples, races, tribes, and tongues in astonishing numbers – as in billions. See “Pandemic: God’s Plan A?”: https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/05/08/pandemic-gods-plan-a/

As we look ahead to the holiday known in America as “Thanksgiving” (though admittedly we should be giving thanks every day), it seems we have another opportunity to make the holiday more meaningful. Those of you my age will probably remember Joni Mitchell’s lyrics, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone?” (“Big Yellow Taxi,” 1970) Or as the Mills Brothers put it many years before that, “You’ll Never Miss the Water til the Well Runs Dry.”

Some of us have a had a dry year, to say the least. So, How’s our attitude?

As we possibly get distracted thinking about what we’re missing this year, we shouldn’t lose sight of what we still have. And there’s nothing wrong with being thankful for what we used to have, especially if we didn’t think to give thanks when we had it.

Occasionally God has had to remind me of this truth. A good example is something I experienced decades ago…

I was still a college student, majoring in performing arts. I was also in the throes of a full-blown eating disorder with body image problems that might be hard to understand now. In those days the ridiculously thin and long-legged Barbie doll was considered the ideal female form, and every girl fell short of that model. (What were they thinking???)For years I hated my “fat legs,” although now I realize it was more that my legs are short, which could explain why I could stand and place my palms on the floor without bending my knees. But I digress …

I was at the university gym, heading out to the pool. My lower half was wrapped in a towel to cover what I considered a major flaw, but right by the door someone had decided to put a full-length mirror. (What were they thinking?) As I slipped the towel off to take a quick glance, I felt the usual disgust.

An old proverb says, “I complained because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” What happened next was a similar experience, only the Lord cared enough about me to make sure I would never forgot how blessed I am – as evidenced by the fact that I still remember that day vividly.

As I stepped out onto the deck, I was met by not one, but dozens of special-needs kids. Apparently this was a field trip for them to get out and enjoy a day at the pool. Wheelchairs were everywhere. Some kids were sitting by the pool, dangling their thin little legs in the water, smiling wistfully. Some were still in their wheelchairs waiting for someone to help them into the water. And volunteers were holding others, jumping up and down with them in the shallow end, as the children splashed and giggled with glee.

Shame came over me like a tidal wave. With tears in my eyes, I confessed my despicable attitude and begged the Lord to forgive me. (He did.)

I’d like to say that from that day on I had no body image issues, but I would be lying. It took years of drawing close to Jesus, learning who I am in Him, holding onto His truth rather than my emotions, and things like journaling, Scripture memory, and whatever else He led me to do. In talking with a Christian counselor once, I told him about my journey out of bulimia, which some say is impossible without a counselor! He said if I had come to him, he would have told me to do exactly what I had done. So, I guess I did have a Counselor – a “Wonderful Counselor!” (I hope to write more about this journey in the future, as I know I am not the only one who has struggled with an eating disorder, not by a long shot.)

The point here is that, no matter what we feel we lack, we have something to be thankful for – probably many things. Even if we had nothing at all in this world, if we have placed our faith in Jesus, we have eternity with Him to look forward to, and eternity will quickly swallow up this brief blink of an eye we call “life.”

So, let us GIVE THANKS!!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You gave everything for us, that we could be with You eternally! If the promise of heaven were all we had, we could still thank You forever. And yet, You’ve given us even more! We thank You with all our hearts, today and every day, in Your precious name. Amen

Quick Question

Dear readers,

I have written my first children’s book! From Grumpy to Grateful is a story about how one little boy learned to be thankful. I was hoping to get it published by Thanksgiving, but for various reasons (Covid being the least of them) I am now hoping it will be available by NEXT Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, I would love to give a sneak preview of the manuscript to my readers, especially those of you who have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors, and/or students who like to read or be read to. From Grumpy to Grateful is a “chapter book,” with five chapters, so it is considerably longer than my usual posts, which I try to keep under 1000 words.

My question(s) for you: (Would you like to read it?) Would it be best for me to (a.) divide the story into five “bite-sized pieces” the length of my usual posts, spaced a few days apart between now and Thanksgiving, (b) post one installment daily Thanksgiving week, or (c) post the whole thing in one long post between now and Thanksgiving so you can read it in one sitting?

Thanks for your input. I don’t take for granted the time you spend reading and commenting on my posts.

Blessings,

Annie