The Empty Egg

This story (quote from Charles Swindoll) brought tears to my eyes as, over time, I’ve known several children with Down’s Syndrome.  Sometimes an understanding of the seemingly big and complicated things in life comes from the understanding of the simple basic things.

Philip wasn’t like the other children at church.  Though he was a pleasant, happy boy, he struggled with things that came easily to other kids.  He looked different, too, and everyone knew it was because he had Down’s Syndrome.  His Sunday school teacher worked hard to get the third-grade class to play together, but Philip’s disability made it difficult for him to fit in.  Easter was just around the corner, and the teacher had a wonderful idea for the class.  He gathered some plastic eggs that pantyhose used to come in and gave one to each child.  Then, together, they went outside into the beautiful day.  “I want each of you to find something that reminds you of Easter—of new life,” the teacher explained.  “Put it in the egg, and when we get inside, we’ll share what we found.”  The search was glorious.  I was confusing.  It was wild. The boys and girls ran all over the church grounds gathering their symbols and finally, breathlessly, the eight-year-olds were ready to return inside.  They put their eggs on the table watching.  He opened one, and there was a flower.  Everyone oohed and aahd.  He opened another, and there was a butterfly.  “Beautiful,” the girls all said.  He opened another and out fell a rock.  The kids laughed.  “A rock?”  But the boy who found it said, “I knew you would all get flowers and leaves and stuff.  So, I got a rock cause I wanted to be different.  That’s new life to me.”  The kids laughed again.  But when the teacher opened the next egg, the group fell silent.  “There’s nothing there!” said one child.  “That’s stupid,” said another.  “Somebody didn’t do it right.”  Just then the teacher felt a tug on his shirt and turned to see Philip standing beside him.  “It’s mine,” Philip said.  “It’s mine.  The children said.  “You don’t ever do things right, Philip.  There’s nothing there!”  “I did so,” Philip said.  “I did do it right.  It’s empty.  The tomb is empty.”  There was another silence.  A very deep, unlike-eight-year-olds kind of silence.  And, at that moment, a miracle happened.  Philip became a part of that third-grade Sunday school class.  They took him in.  He was set free from the tomb of his differentness.  From then on, Philip was their friend.  Three months later, Philip died.  His family had known since the time he was born, that he wouldn’t live out a full life span.  An infection that most children would have quickly shrugged off took the life out of his body.  The day of the funeral, the church was filled with people mourning Philip’ death.  But it was the sight of nine third graders walking down the aisle with their Sunday school teacher that brought tears to most eyes.  The children didn’t bring flowers.  Instead, they marched right up the altar, and placed on it an empty egg—an empty, old, discarded panty hose egg.

Want To Be Like God?

After World War II, many American soldiers remained in England to help pick up the pieces of the war-torn areas.  One of the most heart-breaking things that they saw in the aftermath was the number of orphaned children struggling to survive on their own.  One soldier was driving through one the ravaged towns when he spotted a rag-tag boy with his nose pressed to the window of a pastry shop.  He watched in silence while the cook kneaded the dough for a fresh batch of doughnuts.  The soldier pulled up to the curb and walked over to the boy.  Through the steamed-up windows, he could see the delicious-looking pastries as the baker pulled them out of the oven.  The boy salivated and released a slight groan.  The soldiers heart went out to the orphan and he asked, “Son…would you like some of those?  The boy was startled, but said, “Oh, yes I would!”  The American stepped into the shop, bought a dozen, put them in a bag and walked back to where the boy was still standing in the foggy cold of the London morning.  He smiled, held out the bag and simply said, “Here you are.”  As he turned to walk away, he felt a tug on his coat.  The soldier looked back and heard the child ask, “Mister…are you God?”

In these trying times, remember to be generous.  Share your love.  There are many people in out lives who are hurting.  And we are never more like God than when we give.  “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.” (John 3:16)

 

John 3:16

Talk to Them

 

The days, weeks months and years fly by so quickly.  Before you know it, it’s too late.  Don’t let your words of love, appreciation and encouragement go unspoken or unwritten.  How long has it been since you contacted your parents, your best friend, old friends long unseen, but not forgotten?   Have you ever contacted a favorite teacher, coach or counselor and told them how much their influence their influence has meant in your life?  Can you imagine what news like that might mean to them?  With the isolation we’re facing today, now would be the perfect time to renew and maintain some of those relationships.  And maybe even to start some new ones.  With social media and the myriad of ways to connect with people, the opportunities are there for you to use.  And if you’re not connected in that way,  good old-fashioned phone calls or letters still work.

“Like cold water to a thirsty and weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.”  Proverbs 25:25

Focus on…?

 

In his book, Truman, David McMcCullough shared this story:

As times got more and more difficult, President (Truman), felt more than ever a need to see and talk to what he called “the everyday American.”  And he always felt better for it.  One evening in Washington, on one of his walks, he had decided to take a look at the mechanism that raised and lowered the middle span of the Memorial Bridge over the Potomac.  Climbing down some metal steps,  he came upon the bridge tender, eating his evening  supper out of his lunch pail.  Showing no surprise that the President of the United States had climbed down the catwalk and suddenly appeared before him, the man said, “You know, Mr. President, I was just thinking about you.”  It was a greeting President Truman loved and never forgot.

We are living in difficult times right now.  If God showed up where you are right now, would you be able to say, “You know, I was just thinking about you.”

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way…”(Hebrews 12:2)  And so can we.

Worried? Me Too.

 

If worry were a sport, we’d all be the MVP of our team.  Can anyone identify with this?  It’s hard not to with our current troubles all around us.  When we worry, we torment ourselves.  No one else is making us do it.  We do it to ourselves.  When we worry, we allow ourselves to be consumed by actual things we can’t control and even potential situations that may never come to pass.  Worry causes stress to our body, prevents us from getting a good night’s sleep, impacts our relationships, affects our appetites and prevents from doing the daily necessities of life.  When we worry, we look for ways to cope.  Many of us choose denial, others may turn to substance abuse or fall back into destructive habits they thought they had defeated.  Most of us choose something.  But they don’t work.  The more we worry, the more it occupies our mind.  And each worrisome thought is like throwing fuel on our “worry” fire.  What we sometimes don’t realize is that we only have so much emotional, mental and physical energy to use each day.  Don’t let worry burn you out.  Pray and don’t let worry take over your life.  And if praying isn’t your thing, try it anyway.  What have you got to lose?  “Worry weighs a person down, but an encouraging word cheers up a person.”  Proverbs 12:25  Encourage each other and be encouraged in return.

Saying Your A,B,C’s

 

I read this and wished that I had this kind of faith.

A grandfather was walking through his yard when he heard his granddaughter repeating the alphabet in a tone of voice that sounded like prayer.  He asked her what she was doing.  The little girl explained: “I’m praying, but I can’t think of exactly the right words, so I’m just saying all the letters, and God will put them together for me because He knows what I’m thinking.”

Anyone feel the need to start repeating the alphabet?

Triple E

This past week, I read an article that talked about people who are eccentric, eclectic and extreme-hence “Triple E.”  The reason it caught my eye was that I realized that I am that person.

Eclectic?  In one of my favorite pastimes, reading, I enjoy science fiction and non-fiction, adventure and romance, westerns and poetry, suspence and fantasy.  In music, I enjoy old-time rock and roll and classical, show tunes and Christian, acappella and instrumental, swing and marching bands.  Last week my wife and I went to see “Avengers: End Game.”  This week we want to see a Christian film.  I also like comedies and chick flicks.

Eccentric?  Even though I’ve gotten older and more conservative, I still like to wear all kinds of funky reading glasses and crazy patterned socks.

Extreme? I hate weeds in my lawn, so I literally pick them out one by one while on my knees or even sometime laying down on the grass to see them better.  One day my neighbor saw me and was ready to call 911 because she thought I had collapsed with a heart attack.

Ultimately, I am a “Triple E” kind of guy.  While you may not be a “triple E” kind of person, each of you are unique.  Don’t try to be someone else or try to make yourself into what someone else wants you to be.  There is no one else like you and no one else could fill your place in the grand scheme of your life.  Being different is good…it makes you who you are.

God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.(Ephesian 2:10)

You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this. (Psalm 139:13-14)

Music Memories

I was just working around the house earlier today with one of the cable music channels on, when, suddenly, I heard a song that instantly brought to mind a very vivid memory.  I was transported to the mid-90’s when the Girl’s Cross-Country team I was coaching was having a team-building meal at my house the night before an important race.  In that memory, they were all singing along with “The Rose” by Bette Midler.  And, yes, I was singing right along with them.  I don’t know why that song had become our team song (nor did I know why I ever started singing along with them), but it did.  And I don’t know why a 1979 song was still popular in the mid-‘90’s, but to the girls it was.  Hearing it today brought back that, and many other, happy memories of coaching and running with the girls.

This was not the only time this kind of experience has happened to me.  I like listening to “oldies” music—and, for me, that means the ‘50’s to the ‘80’s—not like what kids today consider “oldies “music.  But that’s a topic for another day.  Anyway, I had an “oldies” station on in my car when “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor came on.  Once again, an image instantly came to mind.  This time, instead of the sweet sound of Bette Midler’s voice, it was the hard-driving guitar blasts of Survivor that caught my attention.  Maybe it was because it was written as the theme song for Rocky III.  The song was released the day after the movie opening-1982 and later used for Rocky IV (1986).  But for whatever reason, it became the theme song for my Cross-Country teams of the early to mid-‘80’s.  The specific memory is of being in the school weight room doing a workout designed by one of the runners.  “Paul’s Tour of the Weight Room” became legendary for all the running teams ( male or female) for years after.  I can still feel the sweat, the strain, and the pain of that workout.  Worse yet, I can hear Paul’s voice in my head “encouraging” me by telling me what a wimp I was if I couldn’t finish.

Music has always been important and has had some amazing results when directed by God.  At one point, the Israelites were trying to capture the city of Jericho.  God gave them some specific instructions which involved marching around Jericho’s walls while playing trumpets.  Sounds like a silly way to conquer a city, doesn’t it?  This is what happened:  “So, the priests blew the trumpets. As soon as the people heard it, they gave a loud shout, and the walls collapsed. Then all the army went straight up the hill into the city and captured it.” (Joshua 6:20)

Got any walls to bring down?  Any battles you need to win?  Find the song God wants you to sing, sing it with all your heart and might, and you’ll live to fight another day.  And every time you hear or think of that song, you’ll have the memory of what it meant to you.  And, if you can’t sing,

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, 
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. (Psalm 150:3-6)

“Why me, Lord?” (Kris Kristofferson, 1972)

Not too long ago, I posted how our extended family has been going through some difficult times–extending roughly over the past 10 years.  There were deaths too numerous to mention and health issues that none of us ever expected.  I know we’re no different from other families who probably have gone through similar situations.  But that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with.  People say that whatever doesn’t kill them makes them stronger.  Then we must be one incredibly powerful family.  It just doesn’t always feel that way.

So, here we were planning and looking forward to starting the new year with a fresh and positive outlook.  Well, so much for that idea.  Our nephew passed away unexpectedly on New Year’s day, leaving 4 sons (including an infant), his partner, and all of us.  Following that, there were unexpected issues with custody of his baby.  Then there’s an unexpected health issue that will require surgery.  Some of the non-family responsibilities we have are now requiring a lot of our time dealing with very stressful issues.  And January isn’t even over yet.

I said (wrote) all of that to say this:  In the midst of all that (and whatever else may be coming down the road), I need to remind myself:

Psalm 147:3   He heals the broken-hearted and bandages those wounds.

Matthew 5:4   Those people who are grieving will find comfort from God

And, it’s true.  He does and they will.

Step out the boat.

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!  ”Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?” Matthew 14:29-31)

Ever notice how the Christmas season seems to amplify the hassles and complexities of our lives?  Health issues seem more debilitating.  Finances seem to overcome our wallets.  Relationships seem more fragile.  In my own family, we suddenly needed a hole in the roof patched (probably needs to be replaced in the spring), our refrigerator died ( just after the warranty expired), our front brakes needed to be replaced (where we discovered that we needed four new tires) and our alternator light went on (we hit a deer on the way to the repair shop).  Add in a cardiac catheterization and things were looking pretty bleak.

Remember the expression, “up the creek without a paddle,”? (Some of you may remember a slightly different version.)  Well, our boat seemed to be taking on water fast.  At similar points in our lives we all have a choice to make.  Do we go down with the boat, or do we step out in faith, believing that God will help us to walk on the water?  Those remaining in the boat will try to convince us to stay and not take the chance.  After all, who can walk on water?  Since I was going to get wet anyway, I decided I might as well step out.  Since I have, we have managed to keep up with our finances, the heart procedure showed no major problems, the car is still running, the roof isn’t leaking anymore and we’re learning how to direct our grief over losses into helpful ways with our family.

Life is never easy, but it’s far better when you step out of the boat.