Friday, June 27, 2008

Our Sandwich Generation

All week long I keep thinking I need to call my mom and I don’t know why I’m feeling this way and it is so very strange...

I miss having parents. My dad died a lifetime ago, twenty- seven years, but my mom's been gone less than a year and I'm still thinking I should call her and see how she's doing.

When I think about it, my mom had gotten to that stage of life where she was more of someone who needed to be taken care of than someone who was still taking care of me.

There will be a point in which we will need to parent the parent and with that role reversal there is a sense of loss - that you are no longer someones child in that someone is still looking out for you - even if it's more of a perception than a reality.

Let me offer you a precious thought.
God does not age and will never grow feeble.

No matter what age you get to be you will still be his child and even more than that, He will still be as capable a father as He has always been.

Still stronger, wiser, and more aware of the big picture.
Still able to take on every bully.
Still able to provide every need.
Still possessing of a lap to crawl up into and a strong solid shoulder to rest a perplexed head when you need to know that someone loves you and will take care of you.

I've been thinking about the parents of my peers...some have died, some are estranged, some in very frail states, and others who are beginning to have more and more health concerns, and as the responsible children that we all are the coming years will mean the roles will keep shifting.

But no matter how our responsibilities here shift and when a parent has become that in name alone; take comfort, as I have in the fact that you will always have a Father who will care for you more lovingly and capably than any earthly parents ever could.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Bottle of Cold Water

It had been a busy weekend of unpacking, washing, sorting, baseball, packing and loading in preparation to relocate for a few months.
And now it was Monday morning and the day promised to be full of unloading, unpacking, cleaning and organizing.

So of course the coffee pot was the first appliance on this morning! I brewed some Cherries Jubilee coffee I found in the pantry. With eyes still filled with sleep I poured that first cup... yuck!
Those contents went down the drain.
Now boxes of groceries have been brought in – ah, some Carmel Vanilla Crème…
Fresh coffee, same result.
Another pot down the drain.

It’s the water.
Although it’s been through the purifying pitcher with the fancy filter it still has a taste and water should not taste.
I run it through the filter a second time, but it still has a taste.

It’s now 10 am and I have a headache.
This body is accustomed to its morning coffee, at 8 am by the latest …I’m not proud of the fact, it’s just what it is.

I put a gallon of distilled water on my shopping list for tonight and plan to get some aspirin after I finish cleaning the refrigerator.
It’s going to be a long slow day…

Cleaning supplies in hand I open the fridge and start pulling shelves out and there it is - a bottle of water.
I crack the seal, screw off the cap and find it is water without taste.

I’m drinking my coffee now as I type!
And I have a better understanding of the scriptural idea of the importance of giving someone “a cup of cold water”.
I’ve always thought it meant that it’s good to help if we know someone is in desperate need.

But maybe it doesn’t. We can’t always tell if someone is in desperate need or sometimes if they are in need at all.
I could have made it through the day without my morning coffee; this wasn’t really a desperate situation…
But God provided 16 oz of purified water and now I’ve had my coffee and it’s affected my attitude (and headache) which will effect how the whole day will go.

For a while there has been a campaign to perform “Random Acts of Kindness”: in this stressed out world it’s a great idea, it's impossible to say how a small kindness can effect someone's entire day.
But as we offer “a cup of cold water” to those we come into contact with, be it by a smile, or by listening, or helping, we do much more than a random act of kindness for we have a promise that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25: 34-40). To think that I can give to the Lord after all He has given to me…

This has now become a day of amazing opportunities.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flip Flop Friends

Being that summer is just around the corner, it is time to pull out the most fashionable of all footwear styles -

Flip Flops!

Just as children should not be in school in these hot months, neither should feet be encased in material as the temperatures rise!

Today I tried some new flip flops and they were bouncy - really bouncy. When you walked it felt like you were on a gymnastics mat or a people mover at the airport. Talk about a spring in your step...!

So I put them on for a quick walking errand and found that after a half dozen steps I was adjusting them on my feet. Then after a bit I was walking a little differently to accommodate my shoes, the kind of gait you know if you keep it up for a long time that your feet will be killing you tomorrow, not quite broken in yet...

As soon as I got back I slipped into my old flip flops - ahhhh...so much better!

I'd broken these in all last summer and they conform perfectly to my feet, now they weren't springy but they were wonderfully and immediately comfortable.

I thought of my friends.
My old friends.

You know the kind; the one with whom you're immediately back to where you last left off even if it was two days or two months or two years ago.

The one you have had for so long the majority of your life has been in their company.

The one you can totally be yourself with because they will "never think any less of you". (You may have to think about that for a minute!)

The one you call or email when there's really nothing to say except "Hi", or the one you throw sheep at each time you log into Facebook.

And the beauty of old friends is that, they don't have to be old...either in years, or time of acquaintance - isn't that amazing?

I met a woman a little over two years ago and already she's an old friend - a comfortable confidant. We "walked around" together for a while and "broke" each other in through casual and then deepening conversation and various activities and voila', a new old flip flop friend.

I have often thought of James 1:17 when I think of friendship in that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father."

Any friendship, new, old, broken in, or just beginning, can be an amazing gift.

I'll bet you may be thinking of someone about now... so go ahead, thank God, by name, for each of these special gifts He's given you and let them know too.

I just did and you know who you are, because my love and gratefulness for you should not be new news!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Time is on God's Side

First of all, you have to journal.

If you don't, start today

If you already do, keep it up!

You have no way of knowing what an powerful thing it can be in your life.

I was looking up some information this morning and found a journal entry from ten years ago. In it I was imagining how great it would be if God could come over to my house one morning with the blueprint for my life. We'd roll it out on the table and He would explain to me what His plan was and then explain step by step how we would get from where I am to what I was going to be. Like an old lot that is going to be converted into a neighborhood playground: how we'd clean up the trash and then level the ground, lay some sod, build a playground structure, plant some trees and put up some benches and make a once barren space useful.

About a year later I drove past a sign with the verse "Now He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think"(Eph. 3:20) and I began imagining what I want to see in my life - in my marriage, in myself, at my church, with my God and I wrote it down and this morning I found it again and realized that God has been at work, even though I didn't realize it until today.

Most of the things on my list, still have not happened but a few have. I had imagined a place that I could sing and teach and I've had numerous opportunities to do both; all brought about by things God has orchestrated.

There is one thing that has been fulfilled that has had an impact far greater than any of the others. I wanted to "have a consistent friendship with God and an eternal/godly perspective on circumstances" and that God has brought to pass far beyond all I could ask or think but...

If I'd been given the choice to see the steps to the fulfillment of this desire I'm not sure if I would have been too keen on what was ahead. It has been accomplished in my life both by friendships that are far greater than ever before but also by events so awful even remembering them is difficult.

Does God have a blueprint for my life? Most definitely.
Would I like to see what I'm going to be "when I grow up?" yea, a little but I've already discovered what my future holds...

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found of you." Jeremiah 29:11-13

Do you see what God's plan is for my future and for yours as well?
Verse 11 is used often in a "good things are in store for you" kind of platitude but in context we see what the plan is to prosper us, that will give us hope and that is in our seeking and finding of Him: and when we find this ongoing relationship with the Lord, we can face whatever circumstances our days will bring.

Does God have a plan for me to grow in my relationship with Him? Yes.
Do I need to know how that will be accomplished?

Steve Green arrived at this answer long before I did in a song in which he says:
"I don't need to have the plan in hand
I don't need to have the end in mind
All I need to do is follow Him wherever He leads
and do what He asks me too."

Time is on God's side.

He sees far into the future and knows exactly what to do this day to continue this good work that He has begun in you and will continue until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:6)


If you journal, chances are it will reveal His hand working out His plan throughout your life.

But even if you can't see His hand, trust His heart, because His heart longs for you to know Him.
Whatever the blueprint God has for your life, be it a cathedral or a way station for the weary, if you have Him, do not you have enough?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Report Cards

At 10:30 on Thursday morning, suddenly the sidewalks were swarming with children.
What in the world???

They looked as all schoolchildren do, usually at 3 in the afternoon, but this wasn't then and many of them were carrying an uniquely shaped envelope... ah ha! It was the last day of school, early dismissal and report card distribution.

In their hands was an assessment of their performance over the last 9 months.

"What a gift. " I thought, although I don't know any children who would agree with me on that.

What if we, as adults, were given such a thing - quarterly reports and then an annual grade on how we're doing....

Let's see:
Becky Eppley
Grade: Grown -up
Plays well with others - E (exceeds standards)
Cares for materials - S (satisfactory)
Turns in assignments in a timely manner - N (needs improvement)
Completes all assigned work - NBI (needs BIG improvement)
Does not run with scissors - O (Occasionally-if hurrying to complete an assignment in a timely manner)

Unfortunately our assessments now come to us unpredicted: there is no warning that "There will be a quiz tomorrow"

No, now they're all pop quizzes like:

Cut off in traffic - Self-Control - F
Children asking the same thing for the 10,000th time (literally!!) -Patience - D+
Lack of recognition for a job well done - Peace - C-
A down turn in circumstances - Hope - D
Confrontation with co-worker, friend, child, spouse - Love - ????

I've just mastered not running with scissors and now I have to move on to
Love, Joy, Peace,
Patience, Kindness, Gentleness,
Goodness, Faith and Self-Control?

You recognized that list didn't you - the infamous "Fruit of the Spirit" but let me share my own "duh" moment with you concerning this list.

Somehow I never got it, what the whole Galatians 5 passage was saying. I seem to remember Sunday school lessons on how we should be more patient, loving, gentle etc. I mean, come on, as a teaching theme, you've got to love a list like this and the whole "fruit" thing too - You could make apples with the word "Love" on them, and a bunch of grapes that say "Joy"; but I digress...

Everything I need to be - loving, joyful, patient, good and gentle and having self-control, comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in my life- not my work, not my trying to be more patient, loving, happy...

Does that absolve us of responsibility?
How does the Holy Spirit produce such fruit in my life?
Take a look at John 15 - "I am the vine, you are the branches. .. He that remains in me bears much fruit... For without me you can do nothing."

God produces in me those things that please and honor him as I submit to his lordship over my life.
When I read His Word and He says, "Do this." I need to do that. When He says "Don't do this", I need to obey.

Do I always understand it? No way. Why I would voluntarily "walk another mile" when someone has already forced me to walk one? And the whole "Love and pray for your enemies..." and the "Forgive seventy times seven"?

All I understand about those concepts are that they are hard - like algebra - which I didn't understand either (sorry Mr. Roby), yet the study of it has influenced patterns of thinking and increased my ability to solve problems - even if they are not presented in a "If a + b = c - d what is the value of e?" format.

To pass the tests and the pop quizzes, of our lives we need to read the book, follow its instructions, and most importantly; talk with the author.

God made your heart and made you how you are.
God knows how to produce in you, all those things - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control - that will make you, on that final day in his presence receive the report card that reads, "Well done my good and faithful servant. "(Matthew 25:21)

A+

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Doors

To quote that great female literary character Mama Bear, "Someone's been sitting in my chair!"

But unlike the Goldilocks situation, somebody was still sitting in my chair and there wasn't any indication that they'd be moving anytime soon. That was my chair, my comfy spot for my Bible and morning coffee...(grrrrr)


So I opened the door and walked outside and with my first step, I knew this was a good decision...By looking out the window I could tell that it was a nice day; a blue sky and sunshine, which is wonderful given the typically overcast days of spring, but even seeing how nice it was hadn't made me want to go outside...

I was forced too!
And was I glad!

The sunshine and blue sky were just the beginning. There was a breeze tickling the tree's leaves making for a soothing layer of sound. I watched a tiny tiny bird hoping around the branches above me and swirling about was still the faint smell of lilacs.

This was so much better than being inside!!

You could not have told me that though.

Looking out the window wasn't enough to get me out there, it was only when I was in a different place that I realized that this was the place,that had I known, that I'd really would have preferred to be.

In Revelations 3:8 the Lord says "I have set before you an open door..." and we still use that expression today when speaking about opportunities. Yet, with the seizing of an opportunity, is the letting go of what is familiar and comfortable and who wants to do that? Which of us would choose to go somewhere unknown when we could continue to operate in our proven realms of capability?

I find myself in something akin to a twilight zone episode, sitting in a round windowless room with a half dozen doors around the walls. Door A or B or perhaps C over D, don't forget about the possibilities of E and F...!?!

So I must go back to what I know, and the words you know too:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5,6

The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalms 37:23

Show me the path where I should walk, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow. Psalms 25:4

Who are those who fear the Lord? He will show them the path they should choose. Psalms 26:12

A or B? Do or Don't? This or That?

Every time, every decision, every fork in the road...He's promised to show us the path we should choose.

And if the door leads into a place you have not been before; remember that the will of God will not lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.

Christ has given us this promise that, "I will never leave you or forsake you" Hebrews 13:5, be it in your everyday comfortable place or when you have stepped out into a whole new world which may end up being better than you could have ever imagined.