Friday, September 28, 2007

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Child of GOD

Part 3 - Work in Progress

When I was a baby Christian, there was a song that was very popular on Christian radio. It was called “He´s still working on me”. I claimed that song as my very own. Even now, years later I will catch myself humming it. What a reminder it is to me that God is patient and loving and compassionate with his rebellious, wayward, stubborn child! I praise His name that He is. Anyone else would have thrown up his hands long ago and walked away. Not God. He is so good.
God has known me from throughout eternity past, right up to the present, and on into eternity future. He has always had a plan for me. Even when I was only His creation, and not yet His child, He protected me and shielded me. He was working on me, preparing me, teaching me.
I remember one of those times very clearly. In fact, just thinking about it sets my heart to pounding and brings me the cold rush of a chill up my spine. I was 20 years old. Some friends and I were on spring break. We headed for the Ozarks to do some camping and rock climbing. Do you remember one of the songs in “Sound of Music”? The one that goes “Climb every mountain.”? Well, even though my mother assured me that Julie Andrews was no singing about physical mountains, I claimed that as my goal in life. To literally climb every mountain.
We had camped at the base of a cliff the night before, ready for climbing and later repelling off the face the next day. We had spent time checking harnesses and ropes and other equipment because we taught rock climbing to kids and were in the habit of being careful. All our equipment was in great shape. The cliff was not a particularly hard climb. There were plenty of hand and toe holds on the way up. Of course, the real joy was repelling down the face once we reached the top. The cliff was just alittle over 100 feet in height. The climb up went well and without event. My friend was going to belay for me as I repelled down to the boulder strewn base. I stepped off into space with a rush of adrenaline, feeling like this was as close as you could get to truly flying. I had hopped down only about 10 feet when I noticed an interesting shaped rock lying on a narrow ledge. I paused, picked it off the ledge, and shoved it into my pocket. I glanced down between my legs at the nearly 90 foot drop. Looking up, I waved at my friends, flexed my knees and kicked off into space. I remember kicking off twice more in rather short hops, and then kicking way out. The rope stretched out, went taunt and snapped. I actually hear it pop. I was still some 35 to 40 feet off the ground. For a moment it was as though time had stopped except for the broken end of the rope snaking by me as it plunged toward earth, and suddenly I was following it down. I didn´t scream. I didn´t do anything. I hit the ground flat on my back, spead eagle, on the only patch of grass in that boulder field. There were boulders within inches of my head and even one between my legs. I remember blinking up at the bright blue sky and wondering if I was in heaven. Then I realized someone was screaming. It was one of my friends up on the cliff. I laid there for several seconds and I remember thinking that God must really care about me. I knew there was absolutely no reason why I should be alive, but I was. Not only alive, but unhurt. I learned later that one of my friends actually fainted dead away when I got to my feet. Other than having the breath knocked out of me, there was not a scratch or a bruise on me. As I glanced around me at all the rocks and my little patch of grass where I had landed, I told God that I had climbed my last physical mountain. It is a promise I have kept to this day. But I have done a lot of mountain climbing for Him. Spiritual mountains. I still have many more to go.
God had a task for me. He preserved my life long before I became one of His children. He waited patiently for me, and He is still patiently working on me. Serving Him has been the greatest joy of my life. Knowing how much He loves this rebellious, stubborn, wayward child of His is what gives me the strength and courage to face each new mountain, knowing His hand is leading and guiding me every step of the way. Knowing that with Him by my side I have nothing to fear. Knowing there is nothing that can touch me or harm me that is not in His will. I know that like Job I can honestly say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,” Job 13:15

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Part 2- Wayward and stubborn?

Wayward? God is such a patient Father. Praise His wonderful name for that. I am sure if He could ever run out of patience with anyone, it would be me. I can honestly say that my intentions are good, but so often they don´t turn out that way. I can honestly say that the desire to do right is overpowering at time, and yet I will do wrong. The war between me, the flesh, and me, the spirit, is ongoing and furious. God has to get my attention frequently and bring me back, wounded and bleeding, to His place of sweet peace. The Bible speaks of the tongue being such a small part of the body and is yet so powerful. I know mine can sure get the best of me. You´ve heard the saying, “Open mouth, insert foot”? How I wish I could get my foot into my mouth more quickly. It would prevent me from saying things that are hurtful and unkind; things that I later regret. My tongue is so wayward I often wish I didn´t have one.
Stubborn? My daddy use to tell me I was the hard-headedest kid he had ever seen. God surely feels the same. Once I set my mind on something it´s like a steel trap and changing it may take an act of God. While living in Honduras, I became well acquainted with donkeys, which are called burros there. Growing up in Kentucky, I spent a lot of time with horses. They may be cousins of some sort, but horses and donkeys are as different as day and night. Truly, a horse, if it likes you, has a desire to please you and have fellowship with you. A donkey has no desire to please anyone or anything, and would just as soon kick you as look at you.
There was a man who lived near my little house in Honduras who cut and sold wood for the cooking fires. He had a donkey. He and the donkey would head out before daylight toward the jungle where they spent the day. In the afternoon they would return, the man trudging wearily along, axe on his shoulder, soaked in sweat, his head down and his back bend under the load of wood he carried. The donkey also was loaded with wood and he would follow along after the man. One afternoon for no apparently reason the donkey stopped in the middle of the road just beyond my little house. The man came to the end of the rope, jerked to a halt not knowing the donkey had stopped behind him, stumbled and dropped his load of wood. When the man turned back to see what had happened to the donkey, the donkey laid his ears back, bared his teeth, and stomped one hoof. Then he dropped his head, his chin almost touching the dust in the road and closed his eyes. The man pulled on the rope, he pushed from behind, he shouted, he begged, he threatened, he said some very unrepeatable things to the donkey. The donkey remained unmoved. The man picked up his wood and continued his trip home. A short time later he came back with several of his small children and a bucket. He offered the donkey water. No response. The children offered the donkey handfuls of grass that they pulled from my yard. No response. The man unloaded the donkey, and he and his children carried the wood to their house. Throughout the evening I would glance outside to see if the now unloaded donkey had wandered on home. Nope, he was still there, nose nearly touching the dust. In the morning when I got up the first thing I did was to take a look outside. The donkey was still there. The man stopped by with a bucket that morning and asked if I would be kind enough to offer the donkey a drink of water from time to time during the day. I asked him what was wrong with his donkey. With a very Latin sort of shrug he smiled and said, “The devil is sitting on his neck, pushing his nose into the dirt, whispering bad thoughts into his ears. But he is only a burro, not very smart, and very stubborn. When he is tired of listening to the devil, he shake the devil off and return to his work.” From time to time throughout the day I went out to offer the donkey a drink from the bucket. It was hot there on the north coast of Honduras. Not unusual for it to reach 110ºF by mid-day and the humidity was often nearly 100%. The donkey, however, ignored me. He stood there under the full force of the sun all day. The man came back from the jungle in the late afternoon, his load of wood on his own back larger than usual. He trudged by not giving the donkey even a glance. Moments later, the donkey whished his tail and slowly raised his head. He shook himself like he had just awaken from a long nap and slowly followed the man home. The next morning the man and his donkey went to cut firewood as though nothing had happened.
Are you wondering where I am going with this story? Well, I must admit that sometimes I am very much like that donkey. I let the devil get a toehold in my thoughts and attitude, and he pushes my face into the dirt. Do I like it? No, but for reasons that leave me baffled, I am too stubborn to shake him off. Too proud to admit that I have once again messed up and need to ask for some help. Too proud to ask my patient Father to forgive me and help me. I sometimes wonder if I am the only person who is rather donkey-like.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Child of God

Part One - Rebellious?

Who am I?

God´s little rebel? God´s wayward child? God´s stubborn little donkey?
There have been times in my life that I have been all of those things and a great deal more. None of them very complimentary from a Christian viewpoint, to be sure.

Unfortunately, we are not born as God´s children. Adam and Eve saw to that way back in the beginning of things. However, God has never stopped wanting us to be His children, and in His grace and mercy He immediately gave us a way to return to the sweet preciousness of being His child. It is sad that so many think that just because we are His creation we are automatically His children. Not so. That is perhaps the greatest of the enemy´s lies. A great deception to blind millions to the truth. Our enemy, by the way, is Satan, and he is very clever. Don´t underestimate him, or you will be sorry.

I grew up in a Christian family. My great grandfather was a circuit-riding preacher. I had uncles who were deacons. Family members who were Sunday School teachers. The church doors opened and I was taken inside, sometimes kicking and screaming. Sometimes angry and sullen. Never joyfully or gladly. I´m not quite sure why. I had grown up in the church, weekly going to choir practice, Sunday School, Bible studies, etc. I knew all the right answers to all the questions. Who is God? Who is Jesus? What did Jesus do for us?

Maybe “us” was the key word to my lack of understanding. My answer was “He died for our sins on the cross” and I thought that was the end of it. I knew I had to be good and I thought that if I was good enough, I would go to heaven when I died.

Really, how many children even know what death implies? I didn´t. I thought it was what happened to people over 30 until I was about 10 years old when I decided it happened to people over 40. (The age of death has been taking a steady march toward higher numbers all my life so it will stay ahead of me.)

Back to the key word “us”…. I grew up with no understanding that I could not be a Christian just because members of my family were. I grew up with no understanding that it was an individual, not a collective, decision. I knew all the answers, but did not understand that I had to personally apply them to my life. I had the head knowledge, but not the heart knowledge. I would be 26 years old before I moved that knowledge from its storage place in my head to the throne of my heart. I can´t place the blame for my lack of understanding on the church. We had a great pastor. Even I liked and respected the man. But somehow I totally missed out on the part about the decision to do something with that knowledge being a personal one.

A rebel? Who me? You better believe it. In an age of free love, pot, and wild partying that were my college years, I remained untouched by them all. I was not particularly interested in men romantically at that time of my life. They were okay to go rock climbing or hiking with, but beyond friendship, no thanks. Pot didn´t interest me in the least. It grew wild all over the river bottoms where I was reared. Literally, it was a weed. Why would anyone want to smoke that stuff? It stunk worse than tobacco. Wild parties? I went to a few. Was the designated driver. I can clearly remember watching my friends and classmates making fools of themselves and knew I had no interest in being a fool. May not sound like much of a rebel, but believe me, in my heart I was truly a rebel. I had a deep dislike for authority and everything that went with it. And yet God was obviously keeping a protective hand on my life.

How was God protecting me? Part Two will explain.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Taking a Stroll

I've had a few people ask me where I came up with the name of this blog. I will try to explain.
I'm a writer. That might explain it to some, but in case you are still in the dark, here's an explanation of sorts. My mind is a BUSY place and (as a writer) characters, scenes, plots, and conversations materialize as I stroll (mentally) along. All I have to do is write them down.
People frequently ask me, "Why do you write?"
Years ago, my first response, with a pleasant smile, was "Why don't you write?"
I got various comebacks to that, but the most common was "Because there is nothing to write about."
At that point in the conversation I usually said, "I'm sorry."
I truly felt sorry for people who felt there was nothing to write about. I have learned through the years that just because someone asks a question, they don't necessarily want to hear the answer. For that reason I no longer make comments like "Why don't you write?" or "I'm sorry." I just smile and shrug. I didn't and don't think that everyone can or should be a writer. My response then, and my feelings now, have nothing to do with their abilities to write. It has to do with their attitude toward the world around them. For me, they live a sad existence. The universe around us is running over with miracles and wonders and stories to be told. It's a tragedy that as we age, moving from infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood, that many of us lose our curiosity and sense of wonder. If growing up means losing my ability to observe and feel and experience, losing my curiosity and my need to 'know more', then I prefer not to grow up. (I'm 53, by the way). There is a precious beauty in seeing the world through the eyes of a child. One of my favorite pieces of poetry says it so well:
To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
William Blake

In the past I've taught high school grammar (no moaning or groaning allowed), literature, and creative writing - among other subjects. For me there are few things more exciting than assigning teenagers to keep a journal as part of their course grade (the moaning and groaning is substantial), and after a few weeks having a teen stay behind after class to fearfully or timidly ask me if I would read his/her first attempt at a novel or short story.
Brings joy to my heart. I've help the blind to see. That teen will never be the same again. He may not one day have a book on the Best Seller list, but he now sees the universe with a sense of wonder. His eyes and ears and emotions have been opened to a universe of endless possibilities, limited only by his own imagination.
The world is not a static place. It is dynamic! Life is never boring. Every person you meet has a story to tell; every situation has a lesson to teach. We were not created to mope our way through life. We, as humans, are the jewel of GOD's creation and HE gave us a universe overflowing with light, color, sound, smells, and tastes; a universe for us to experience and enjoy. If GOD wanted us to merely exist HE could have given us a drab, dull, bland world of grey and brown, but HE didn't. HE put us in a place of beauty. A place that is the reflection of His glory and majesty. Open your eyes and your hearts to the treasures around you.
Take a stroll.