Nathan...

TOP OF THE HILL

As the video came up on my TV screen I immediately recognized my young nephew Nathan. Barely four or five years old at the time, I could see him in the camera lens wearing his Spider-man rubber boots & a big winter parka. He was just a little bundle climbing up what appeared to me, to be a very rocky & treacherous hillside path. I could hear his little voice calling back to what I then determined was his father , who was advancing up the slope behind him. His daddy was holding the video camera that was filming the ascent & chuckling & encouraging his young son. Now, I will tell you that my first impression was --- “Get that child down from there before he slips & hurts himself”. I then questioned whether my brother-in-law was operating with all of his faculties with the thought forming in my mind something like “Have you lost your mind?!!” Nathan was dutifully climbing this steep rocky slope as fast as he could & looked like a mini-Michelin Man as he labored on. “ No daddy!! I’m scared daddy!!”, Nathan repeatedly called back to his dad. His father could be heard audibly giggling as he encouraged his young son up the slope. “ You’re okay Nathan” was his daddy’s call back to him. “ I’m right behind you son, you can do it I know you can.” Now, Nathan at no time looked back. He kept his eyes on the hill ahead of him & though he was less than confident, he kept climbing. I had assumed, as I watched his bulky snowsuit body keep going up & up that hill, that at some point he would just sit down & begin to cry … but he never did. When the filming finally showed them at the crest of the hill the grin on Nathan’s face was from ear to ear!!! A priceless moment of victory for this little guy!! Courage had been birthed in himself & a bond of trust had been built with his daddy --- who had not lied to him.!!! His daddy was right --- He HAD done it !!!

That is a picture of faith for us. As you move through life & begin to climb your own rocky slopes, don’t forget your Daddy is right behind you. HE will be the lamp to your feet & the light for your path.!! HE is the one that sticks closer than a brother. HE is the one about whom you can say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. “ If GOD be for me then who shall be against me?”You make be scared but just keep your eyes on the road ahead & say “ I’m coming LORD!!--- “ I can barely move, but I’m coming LORD !!!” “ My lip is bloody & my eyes are swollen from the fight … but I’m coming LORD!” “ I’ve got nowhere else to go so I’m coming LORD!” “ I’m exhausted from the struggle but I’m coming LORD!!” FAITH is knowing that there is a divine hand moving in an unexplained world. I cannot feel HIM but I know HE is there. I cannot show you a picture of HIM but I know HIS face by heart. I cannot tell you what HIS voice sounds like … but I can hear HIM unmistakably in my spirit.

Copyright © by Lynn Parker

 

Kathryn

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Her daddy died when she was fourteen .

Her mother immediately sank deep into depression. So she, as the eldest of three children, was left the task of finding a way to bury her father.. The family were East Texas Sharecroppers, and in the midst of the dust bowl that was the 1930’s they had no money to bury their dead.

Kathryn, her given name, knew of only one wealthy man in the whole of their small town who might have the resources to help her with the funeral costs.. He owned the drugstore . After school the day following her dad’s death she stood in that store and told the Druggist that if he would help her bury her daddy she would work for him in the store every afternoon until the debt was paid. He mercifully agreed, and her father was given a decent burial.

That memory was etched like stone in her psyche and though she is now in her early 90’s she can retell that tale as if it happened yesterday.. She had two siblings, Morris, her younger brother, and her baby sister Betty. 

I adore her.

She is my husband’s aunt. Morris was my husband’s father. My husband tells tales of coming to Kathryn’s house after school in the afternoons and raiding her pantry. He said there was always something good to find there, and that pecans, or graham crackers were always in ample supply.

Kathryn has an indomitable spirit. She has a love of gardening and after years in the banking industry she retired back to her childhood home to become a well-respected herbal expert & traveled for many years giving lectures on native botanical and their medicinal value. I can remember her trying to coax me into eating the tender tops off the shoots of a clump of green Briar Vines . When I hesitated, she teasingly said under her breath …. “Coward." Of course I was now forced to reclaim my honor. I took a leap of faith and tasted several of the tender tips, and to my surprise, and I hope -- to her delight, --- the greens were actually quite tasty.

To know Kathryn and her bright-eyed zest for life, you would assume that aside from her father’s untimely passing and the deal she struck at the drugstore, her life must have been quite idyllic . But she has had many joys and none too few heart-breaks. She has seen the birth of her 3 children – two boys and a girl. She has seen the birth of grandchildren and great-grandchildren and has prayed for healing from breast cancer....You would never know by listening to her that she had buried two husbands, her younger brother, and her baby sister.  She has also buried her own first born – a daughter, along with a granddaughter & two of her grandsons.  She has lived a life of steely-eyed triumph and mind-numbing tragedy. A life of restorations and renewals. A life of losses and burdens too heavy to carry alone. Yet as each day began you would find her on her knees praying for the gift of “daily bread”.

As each season of life has come and gone, she has traveled on with hope, expectation, sometimes with a heavy heart, and sometimes with joy unspeakable - always knowing her life was in GOD’S hands . Choosing to be at rest in HIS care, she is a product of “ gracious uncertainty.”  Not knowing the end from the beginning, but given enough grace, enough mercy, and enough hope for each new day.

The scroll on which the story of her life is unfolding has not reached the end, but each page holds a story - a book is still being written. Each page chronicles the passage of time, with family, friends and a stalwart devotion to GOD.  One day the “roll will be called up yonder” and she will be there. That is the promise... That is the will of GOD, that none should perish.

She has written a book whose title is "You Can't be Big and Act Little". 

Sage words to live by.

Her example of a life well lived has been a treasure to all who know her. She has a uniqueness that is disarmingly charming and a mind that misses nothing of import.  On the last page of her book she makes this statement, “I have three securities – my Bible, my dog and my shotgun... Not one of them has failed me yet.”

Bravo Kathryn! Oh that I could adopt her spirit and move resolutely through life, come what may! She is my inspiration.

 

Lynn Parker 2015

WD... NS... NC

WD …. NS …. NC ….

These are terms well known to all tournament golfers.

The game of golf has some notable anachronisms that appear on tournament scoreboards worldwide. The terms give a clear picture of what happened to a tournament entrant with a minimum of fuss & melodrama. It occurred to me that it would be helpful for the scoreboards of life to be as easily explainable. How many times have you thought to yourself, “ I wonder what ever happened to so and so?”

What if we could google some social media ”life tallying scoreboard” & learn that someone we once knew simply “W – D’ed” — that means “ withdrew”?

They simply withdrew from life ….

No more hopes or dreams to break a heart. No more energy expended in some fruitless enterprise. No more bad lies, or bad breaks.. The light has gone out. “Ain’t” anybody home.

Or perhaps the "N – S” might appear on the scoreboard of a life.

That means they “no showed”.

They did not even have the inclination to announce departure — they just never showed up.. These folks are different from the people who withdrew, at least the players who “withdrew” intended to show up. The “no shows” never intended to play. They never invested the time to hope or dream, they never risked a broken heart or failure, they did not even put their cleats on! Nothing was ventured ; therefore nothing could be gained.  Expecting nothing … they could never be disappointed. The light is not just — out !!— it never got turned on.

“N—C” means “no card”. This indicates that a player started to play the game & then some bad break, or ball out-of-bounds, or monstrous score on the back nine caused them to despair of posting a score that was not in keeping with their own image of themselves.

So the scorecard of life is tragically “no carded ” away. “Not a college graduate” “Not a superstar” “Never pledged a sorority” — Could never post the score for they had the "wrong zip code”  "wrong car" "wrong purse",  "wrong shoes", "were from the wrong side of the tracks" “Never married” “divorced"...  Would that we could count all the shots & post the tournament score — humbly tallying & owning all our miss-hits! scanks !! & scuffed heel shots!! Would that we could relish all the shots that came off the club head just right! —and be thankful for the occasional magical shot that got holed from the fairway. Would that we would spend little time bemoaning the bad bounce or missed putt. Life gets messy !!! Our intentions get sidetracked !! Our purposes get misdirected!! But it is critical for our lives to own it all — the good ! the bad!! & the really ugly!!

Scripture tells us in Job 23:10 “GOD knows the way that I take. And when HE has tested me I shall come forth as pure gold!!”

Every experience of our lives leads to the molded totality of what GOD has purposed for us. Nothing we go through is wasted! The person we are to be, in GOD’S view, requires HIM to stretch & shape us. We can never become the best GOD would have us be, by trying to skip the class or gain wisdom & understanding by reading the cliff notes. We can’t “ withdraw”or “no show” or “no card “ our way through this world. The game requires that we show up. —That we tee it up & be prepared to finish the course !!! We cannot stop the clock & wave in a substitution. This life will require much practice. It will come with some hard knocks & occasionally call for improvised shot-making. But the prophet Jeremiah encourages us ( speaking GOD’S words) “ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,” plans to prosper you and not harm you , plans to give you a hope and a future.”Jeremiah. 29:11

Come ready to play ! Hit the shot ! Go find it! Then, hit it again !!! Count it all !! Rest secure!!! — your GOD knows ! Your GOD knows!!

Standing Firm..

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“ There is a peace in quitting!” — A lie that comes from the devil’s pit !!!

To battle long in a season of difficulty can zap your strength & drain your energy.

When you have little fuel for the fight it is easy for the devil to convince you there is no hope & no escape from the struggle. If you are at that desperate place in some season of testing or trouble you can be tricked into thinking that it is easier to give up than to take the next step forward. Fatigue & frustration muddy our minds to the point where we make poor decisions & the unrelenting assault of the enemy can con us into hoisting the white flag of surrender.

But GOD’S Word says this : “ HE gives strength to the weary & increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired & weary, & young men stumble & fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run & not grow weary, they will walk & not faint". Isaiah. 40: 29-31

Sometimes the battle is the fiercest the closer we get to the goal line.

Stand firm ! Paul encourages us in Ephesians 6 .

When we have done all to stand …. Then stand firm! Surrender is not an option.

Taffy-Lou

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I have a 40 lb. toffee colored dog named Taffy-Lou. Louey is a very headstrong little girl and it is a constant battle to have her mind her “mommy”. With keen eyesight and an even keener sense of hearing, it startles me to have her wake from a deep middle-of –the-night sleep , bolt from her bed, and shoot out the pet door to investigate some nocturnal offense that is taking place in her backyard. It is her unofficial duty, it seems, to patrol the fence perimeter and clear her yard of anything that she determines is out of position.Sometimes, if I can catch her while she is still in the bedroom, she can be persuaded to return to her dog bed and be still. But … if she makes it out into the hallway before I have become coherent enough to give her a command, she seems to have justified in her canine cranium that the instruction has too late, and that she MUST proceed with her backyard reconnaissance mission. It is that way with us a times; in response to a command given by a sovereign GOD. When we stay close to HIM, in quiet and rest, we are most receptive to his guidance and, ready to comply obediently to the direction HE gives. But, if we drift down life’s hallways, --- away from HIS presence and promptings, --- we can be led blindly onward by our own impulses and into that yard that is this world; --- racing headlong into all manner of trouble as we are led out into the darkness of our own desires. Now, in the backyard, my dog can be goaded into a great frenzy of activity by something as harmless as a possum; who merely bars its teeth in a ferocious, albeit frozen pose on a fence post. Happily, the possums hold little danger to Taffy . The encounters amount to lots of barking and a flurry of useless energy, but , ultimately, the nocturnal patrols end painlessly --- though always disappointingly for Louey. Historically her little dalliances have remained 100% fruitless and the possum goes on its way, untouched and undeterred from its mission to get over our fence and into the neighbor’s yard. That can be us too. There are endless opportunities for us to chase worldly “possums on the fence posts”! We can become, like Taffy-Lou, distracted and lured away from following GOD’S careful direction in our lives. In some cases not much harm is done --- nothing more than wasted time and energy, and no profit for the labor. But in the world’s yard, if the boundary fences get knocked down, we can be blind-sided by worldly rascals that we never saw coming. The world’s yard is full of many proverbial skunks and porcupines.

A good “ skunking” will leave us with an unmistakable aroma; the faint scent lingering long after the event. We will not soon forget a “skunking “---the gasping for air, --- the stinging eyes, ---the head spinning. Porcupines pose a different set of problems --- There is no way to engage these type of folks and not get bloody. Porcupine people leave us howling in pain & tending festering wounds. Many worldly adventures of this sort leave scars that are perennial reminders of some whipping we took in the yard!! GOD, like Taffy’s mommy is trying to keep those HE loves --- safe.!! HE does not give us instruction to spoil the fun or harm us. HE instructs us to protect us. The moral of the story is …. “ Stay close to the MASTER!” Pay heed to HIS instruction. Hold fast to the boundary lines HE has drawn. Be still in HIS protective care. Be confident that HIS plan is to prosper us and not harm us …. To give us a hope and a future.

Lynn Parker 2015@

My Friend Joe

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It grieved my heart for a moment, as I began to come to grips with the possibility that Joe might not be the earnest seeker I had presumed him to be --- but rather --- an unbeliever!! We had jostled for years in friendly conversation, regarding a belief and faith in a sovereign GOD and in HIS Son Christ Jesus.But, reflecting on the many conversations we had, thoughts lead me to consider that he may be in perennial pursuit of snappy repartee ---an intellectual exercise --- rather than possible answers to his mountain of questions. It was this reflection on my “ Joe” conversations that led me to an even deeper introspection regarding this thing we call “ faith” -- the mystery of what brings a person to faith & what holds a person in faith. It is never an accident that GOD causes us to contemplate those things which, when we are saved and walking in faith, seem so normal as to be taken for granted. The mental exercise of trying to define this FAITH thing was a good exercise for me --- helping me nail down some of my own answers as to why I believe. When you run into a person like my friend Joe, a believer begins to realize how miraculous this thing called “faith” is. It is indescribably perplexing ; impossible to assert with clarity “This is where it began!” - or definitively chart its optimum versus standard rate of growth.

We know that” faith comes by hearing & hearing by the Word of GOD.” So there is a foundational element of faith that is tied to intimate knowledge of the Word of GOD --- That Word has been flawlessly chronicled in HIS Book --- the Bible.

The Bible tells us “that faith is the substance of things hoped for & the evidence of things unseen.” So we know that there is provability to faith that is both quantifiable & verifiable. We do not believe in fiction, folklore, fantasies or fairytales . What we believe is measurable as well as experiential. We are not accidental beings strewn into orbit in some random universe . We are designed with a GOD given purpose & an ability to have a personal relationship with our Creator GOD & HIS Son Jesus. Access begins with stepping out in faith .

We know that ”without faith it is impossible to please GOD.” So we understand that faith is the currency that moves heaven. Faith is the catalyst that sparks divine action. The complexity of the miracle of coming to faith leads me to marvel that anyone can come to Faith in Christ at all !!

We do not come, like my friend Joe is laboring to do, -- to a wealth of intellectual understanding. ---- As if there were some quantifiable body of evidence that once reached would catapult someone into faith. We come by faith to belief in Christ. We do not come to a lie --- or a locked door --- or a dead end --- We come to faith in Christ; and, any way we measure it --- it is the stuff of miracles. We do not come by accident or by some stroke of good fortune , but --- by FAITH. That is a miracle!! It is said that Darwin studied the life & habits of the inchworm for almost 25 years. He monitored its mobility, its nourishment tendencies, its social interactions & its reproductive cycle. Then he was left to study its physiology --- Do they have a sense of smell? Can they hear? How do they respond to light? What is the makeup of their digestive system? Do they have a circulatory or autonomic nervous system? He died without all the answers to his questions. There was a gaining of all this knowledge by reasoning & deduction through observable facts, but it led in turn, to a deeper well with even more questions. Darwin never did get all his questions answered. It can be like that for many of us too. We set out in search of some undefined volume of evidence to hang our hat of faith on & can become caught in a maze of endless questions that require still more evidence and lead to even more questions. My friend Joe may never put his faith in Jesus. He may leave this world & never have enough knowledge to satisfy his mind and lead him to “peace that surpasses all understanding.” He may never find “ joy unspeakable” that is present irrespective of circumstance. He must seek HIM with all his heart --- to find HIM. He can only come by FAITH. I can’t make him understand this thing called FAITH. I cannot endow him with that spark of revelation that leads him to Christ. That is the mystery of it all. “By grace through faith” we come to HIM. It is a miracle!! --- A “doggone” miracle!!!

Lynn Parker 2015