Saturday, February 29, 2020

Oil Can

About six years ago I found myself sitting on my bed with a spiral notebook on my lap, determined, yet again, to write something.  As I stared at the blank page, I scribbled the inspiration I had recently read: Write what should not be forgotten.

That was better.  Now I stared at a page that was only mostly blank. What should not be forgotten, my mind wondered? Certainly I have a lot to say on a broad range of topics - on faith, on finances, on family - but none seemed worthy of approaching that particular night. So I continued staring at the page. Blank. Painfully blank.

Slowly a doodle came out: the Tin Man, rusted to the side of the Yellow Brick Road, calling out for his oil can. For him, what should not be forgotten was definitely an oil can.

I recently read a short devotion by Mendell Taylor in his book Every Day with the Psalms. He likens oil for mechanics to joy for our souls. Keep that in mind when you're feeling like the Tin Man (you know, stuck where you are).

When I think about what God wants me to remember, my thoughts go to the Old Testament:

"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them" (Deuteronomy 4:9, NIV).

The people of God were about to hear the ten commandments. For us, that may not seem that impressive. I've heard them many times. I'd guess that even non-believers could recite a few of them. However, for these people, they were about to hear God's law for the first time. As they waited to hear this new word from God, they were instructed to follow the law as a witness to neighboring nations, and they were instructed to never forget the things God had done to deliver them.

We sometimes forget that God is not a spiritual policeman, waiting for you to roll through a stop sign so He can give you a ticket. He is a God of great love who has made a way to save us. The wonder of that love should be taught to our children and grandchildren, ensuring that all generations to come will know.

I am not always good at telling my children the things I've seen God do.  He has protected me and made a way for me more times than I could say.  More than I know.  Let this pattern of silence be broken today.

Friday, February 28, 2020


Sometimes it's not about what you learn, but rather when you learn it. Tonight while wandering around cyberspace I saw two posts that, in context of each other, really caught my eye:

There are about 7.7 billion people in the world.
There are about 153 million orphans in the world.

I readily admit that I'm a math nerd. Numbers dance in my head and sometimes I solve math problems just for fun, but what stood out from the above two facts was not a math thing. It was a God thing.

I have read similar statistics before, about the millions, nay hundred millions, of orphans in the world. It seems like such a large number, an undefeatable foe. With 153 million orphans in the world, what difference could I make? If I helped an orphan than there would be just 152,999,999 orphans in the world. Big deal.

But in light of the other figure, you know, the 7.7 billion people in the world, the measly 153 million orphans all of a sudden didn't seem so large. It's only 2% of the population. You read that right... 2%. So I began thinking about 2%.

What if we committed 2% of our time toward the cause of helping orphans?
What if 2% of our giving went toward orphan care?
What if 2% of our social media posts raised awareness?
What if 2% of our Sunday sermons were focused on orphan care?
What if 2% of our friends adopted/fostered an orphan?
What if I am the 2%?

Scripture makes it clear that God cares about orphans, and we must too. As my husband says, this isn't a "you should;” it's a "you shall". We are reminded of it over and over:
  • Deuteronomy 10:17-18 - The Lord your God is God of all gods and Lord of all lords. He is the great God, who is strong and wonderful. He does not take sides, and he will not be talked into doing evil. He helps orphans and widows, and he loves foreigners and gives them food and clothes. 
  • Jeremiah 7:5-6 - You must change your lives and do what is right. Be fair to each other. You must not be hard on strangers, orphans, and widows. Don’t kill innocent people in this place! Don’t follow other gods, or they will ruin your lives. 
  • Zechariah 7:9-10 - This is what the Lord All-Powerful says: ‘Do what is right and true. Be kind and merciful to each other. Don’t hurt widows and orphans, foreigners or the poor; don’t even think of doing evil to somebody else.’ 
  • James 1:27 - Religion that God accepts as pure and without fault is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help, and keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence. 

So, where do we go from here? To be honest, I don’t know. This issue, like so many others, should be taken to God who can grant the wisdom needed. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

I Don’t Know Why I Love You, But I Do

There's been an Expedia commercial frequenting television for the last few months. Initially it showed a woman planning her family vacation, selecting all the things her family needs, even selecting a dog friendly hotel. Over the months it was shortened to show her just choosing a dog friendly hotel for what appears to be her private spa weekend. In both versions, you hear Clarence Henry sing the first line of "I Don't Know Why I Love You But I Do."

For the short ad's sake, it's cute, I suppose, but in context of the longer ad, it's rather startling: a woman is looking at her family and wondering why she loves them. What?

If my husband serenaded me this song, I wouldn't swoon.

Despite the recognition that we should know why we love people, I began to think about how often I have heard people imply that they don't know why they love God, myself included. I remember when I was baptized and my pastor asked if I wanted to say anything. I stammered out, "I just love the Lord." So why do we love God?

The best answer for that question is found in one of the shorter verses of the Bible, "We love because [God] first loved us" (1 John 4:19, NIV). It's that simple, but it's not always that easy.

Why, specifically, do you love God?

Because of His mercy?
Because of His generosity?
Because of His forgiveness?
Because of His creation?
Because of His gifts?
Because of His grandeur?
Because of His will?

There are many reasons, each needing to be considered and explored. Each could be a superficial response or  a heartfelt confession of your spirit. If you are not certain, the words of Jesus give us the answer: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7, NIV).

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Rainbow Offerings

I co-teach a small class on Wednesday nights. In fact, it’s very small. Most of the time there are only two or three students, maybe two preschoolers and one elementary student. Last week it was just me and the two preschoolers, M & T. Our lesson was on Creation, laying a foundation for our next class when we would be making pinewood derby racers. I had prepared several items to let them think about human creation to better understand God’s creation:

We played with a traffic cone, making it a nose, an ice cream cone, a hat, a chicken.

We watched a clip from The Ellen DeGeneres Show of kids who had invented things.

I gave them a blank paper that said “I’d create...” and they were supposed to draw something they would like to create.

At this point T stepped out to get a tissue from the bathroom, and when she returned she saw her sister had (accidentally) scribbled a little on her paper. You could see the disgust in her eyes; her paper was tainted, and she would not accept it. So I presented her with her options: her original paper with her sister's small scribble, another paper that had been slightly crumpled, or my paper on which I had already drawn three lines to begin a rainbow. She chose my paper.

When she finished, I asked her what she drew and wrote down her response. Her paper now said, "I'd create... a rainbow for you." She took back her paper, looked at it curiously and asked, “Is that how you spell your name?”

It suddenly dawned on me; she was not drawing a rainbow for some generic, unknown "you." She was drawing a rainbow for me. Her teacher. Amie.

I now saw before me the most beautiful rainbow that ever existed. She appreciated what I gave her so much that she wanted to give it back to me.  Maybe this is why Christ told His disciples, "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).

There seems no better time than Ash Wednesday to reflect on the meaning and value of our offerings. While many believers are looking to give up material comforts as worship to God, I'm thinking about what I can create. I pray that during this Lenten season, my rainbow offering will make God smile.

Friday, February 14, 2020

FMF: Experience

It's Valentine's Day, and I'm thinking about my dad. When I was 16, he gave me a necklace on Valentine's Day. It was the most meaningful gift I had ever received up to that point. Now that I'm older, and he has passed away, I think about him a lot.

Sometimes my memories are deceptive. I don't remember my dad saying "I love you" much. In fact, the first time I remember him saying it was on my wedding day. I'm sure he said it before then, but I don't remember it. Memories like this are painful.

However, my experience tells me my dad loved me quite a bit. When believers talk about Biblical love, they often go to one passage: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV)

Using this passage as a yardstick, my dad was quite loving. Dad was kind; he was always doing things for me. Dad didn't boast; I don't remember him ever bragging about anything he had done. Dad was not self-seeking; he worked long hours to provide for his family. Dad was not easily angered; when he was angry he'd say "for the love of mud" and so it was hard to believe he was really that angry. On and on it goes.

So if you are like me, and you are struggling today, take some time to embrace your experiences. You may find some love that was hidden away.

This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit

Monday, February 10, 2020

Rise and Shine

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind there is a jukebox that plays long forgotten, dusty records. These songs can be almost anything: my high school alma mater, the theme song from a show cancelled decades ago, or an old Sunday School regular. The problem with this jukebox is that I never know when a quarter will be dropped into it. I could be walking through the mall when the urge to sing (and dance) a round of Father Abraham hits me. I see a construction site, and my mind reminds me that “the wise man built his house upon the rock and the rains came tumbling down.” But for all the times I’ve woken my children to an off key “rise and shine and give God the glory-ory,” I never realized the song is scripturaly based. Sure enough, I opened my Bible to Isaiah 60, and there it was:

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.“ (Isaiah 60:1, NASB)

Or, as the New Century translation says it:

“Jerusalem, get up and shine, because your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines on you.” (Isaiah 60:1, NCV)

One of the most interesting parts of reading a verse in multiple translations is the word variances. In these versions there are two verbs giving action to God’s glory: rise and shine. They are not independent of each other, however; when talking about the sun, to rise is to shine.

In my house we have a strange relationship with the sun. I love natural light. I love the sunshine that floods our living room through our oversized sliding glass doors. I routinely open every curtain in the house immediately upon waking, and I avoid turning on lights whenever possible. Meanwhile, my husband, who works late into the night, is terrorized by the light. When you work late you also sleep late, so both of the windows in our bedroom have three coverings. Our bedroom is almost pitch black, but it didn’t start that way. We started with a simple white linen; it’s clean and plain, and it allowed the sun to wake me each morning, just the way I like it. That was not supportive of my husband’s schedule, so we added a brown linen curtain. This layer is darker and sits closer to the window. It would be sufficient for most people, but not a day sleeper. One day I came home and found a layer of foil had been taped to the window in response to another day of poor sleep.

Isaiah 60 continues on to give purpose to this brightness:

“Darkness now covers the earth; deep darkness covers her people. But the Lord shines on you, and people see his glory around you. Nations will come to your light; kings will come to the brightness of your sunrise.” (Isaiah 60:2-3, NCV)

As believers we don’t live under a spotlight, seeking crowds to applaud out gifts and talents. We live as a beacon, drawing those in need to the God who provides: Jehovah Jireh.