Hungry Kids Need Praying Hearts

In yesterday’s newspaper I read an article about a local principal who was leading an effort to see that students in his school had food boxes for the Thanksgiving holiday. In our community that didn’t seem particularly newsworthy since several local organizations, including our food bank and the Salvation Army, had delivered boxes of groceries  to families in need. The Mission and a community center served dinners to the hungry. My husband and I had donated a turkey to help fill baskets for those within our church who  struggle in this downturned economy.

What surprised me about this article is that the school mentioned sits in the heart of one of our more affluent neighborhoods. Homes there are newer, some of them pricey. The families within should be living in fairly comfortable settings. But the principal discovered, after budget cuts promoted him to cafeteria monitor, that many students were piling up their plates. Comments circulating among the students told him lunch was the only meal these children would see that day.

That seems a sad commentary on the condition of our nation. Unemployment stays around ten percent, leaving families stranded with bills to pay and mouths to feed. While it is comforting to know that neighbors are helping neighbors, that Americans still support, lift up and encourage others,  all the indicators point to a country in trouble. For those of us who spent this past Thursday with family and friends, sitting before tables laden with the fruits of the labors of seasoned cooks, we may find it difficult to imagine so many in need.

While the news media keeps us pointed toward the east, looking to our leaders in Washington, D.C. for answers, God’s word asks us to direct our attention heavenward. Politicians are only people—God is the Lord of creation.

 In 2 Chronicles 7:14, in God’s second appearance to Solomon, He says, “If my people who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

All indicators point to a nation that needs healing. God asks you to pray.  He put us in motion, He can let us fail as well. None of us want to see that happen. Will you join me in seeking His help? From the looks of things, we all might need knee pads before we’re through.  See you on the floor.

Happy Birthday to an Honorable Man

He told me he didn’t need a birthday party. Thought it best to keep it low-key. Sounded good.  In theory.

But this past Thursday, November 17, when I escorted him into a jam-packed room of seventy well-wishers, one to mark each year of his life, my husband’s face turned to smiles. The people who shouted “Surprise!” at him and sang birthday wishes together had come from every part of his past life—high school friends, former bosses, co-workers, siblings and their extended families, church relationships—to celebrate the life of this  man they knew as helper, encourager, example, and friend.

He didn’t eat—I knew he wouldn’t.  He wandered from table to table, catching up, reminiscing, reliving times and places that only he and the guests at that table would remember. Some had driven from as far away as southern California, as far north as mid-Oregon, just to attend this special birthday celebration with him. I circulated, directing restaurant staff as I made sure people’s plates were filled, and  their drinks quenched their thirsts.

While I served cake, some roasted him, most toasted him. I could tell by his stance that he was both humbled and pleased, tongue-tied on the one hand, laughing until his eyes watered on the other, while guest after guest remembered some incident that was important to them. Many said they were better people for having known my  husband.

 I’d attended funerals where similar stories were shared, but this was far better. The person for whom the praises mattered most stood in the room. He was able to hear firsthand how much he was loved while he was still able to appreciate it.

Matthew 5:16 says “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” From the responses of the guests, my husband had lived that verse.

And so I close this week with birthday wishes for my husband, a man I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and sharing life with for almost thirty-seven years. Together we’ve owned two houses, reared two children, driven many cars, and cared for an assortment of pets.

I pray we have many more birthdays in the years that lie ahead, however many God in His wisdom will give us together. Happy Birthday.  Of all the people I know, you deserve those words the most.

I love you.

Happy Birthday!

Tenacity of Flower Teaches Lesson to All

You know I love to grow flowers.  Especially dahlias.  Living in temperate Oregon, many of my favorite tubers winter over without digging or storage. The next spring they pop from the ground, ready to bloom again.  But one dahlia, a favorite variegated variety, started slowly this spring and stayed sluggish throughout the summer.

Bummer.

When I checked in June its tubers didn’t even show sprouts.  I observed the plant again in July and found shoots about an inch high and all the leaves chewed by slugs. Planted near the fence, the dahlia didn’t seem to be getting enough light, what with the foggy mornings and short exposures to the sun in the afternoon. I knew if I didn’t do something I might lose it altogether.

I discussed moving the tubers with my husband.  The risks were great. Since the plant was already above ground, moving it at the end of July could kill it.  If I left it where it was and it didn’t bloom, I could lose it as well. New tubers are formed when the flower blooms. No flowers, no tubers. My choices were a toss-up.

I opted for a move. My husband helped me dig the plant out, cutting a wide swath around the tubers.  We transplanted the wad of sod to the front of the dahlia garden, filled the hole with seasoned animal fertilizer, and plopped the lifeless plant in the ground.

The dahlia sprang to life.  Every week I could see  at least another two inches of plant pushing toward the sky. By the end of August the plant had grown to a foot in height. Encouraging, except  no blooms were to be seen anywhere.  By the end of September, the plant reached two feet in height. Still no blooms. Convinced the flower wouldn’t bloom this summer, I shrugged my shoulders in acceptance of that fact.  I’d certainly tried my best.

In his letters ( II Thessalonians 3:13, Galatians 6:9, and II Timothy 4:7) Paul talks about running the race to win. I was amazed at how many times he said to stay at the task to finish.  Don’t become weary, he says, in doing good. Yet how often do we let life’s obstacles stop us, discourage us, shut us down?

As I watched the dahlia struggle to bloom where it was planted, I wondered why we couldn’t all possess the tenacity  of that determined plant. If we did press on through the trials and temptations of life, think what victories we could achieve.

Meanwhile, October moved in with rain and colder weather, often sprinkled among days of Indian summer sun.  The dahlia began putting out flower buds. Fascinated, I did a dance with nature as I waited to see if the dahlia would outrun the onset of winter.  The blossoms kept coming. While other dahlias in my garden were fading fast, their heavy heads bent under the weight of water from rain, this dahlia pushed skyward.

Then frost hit.  Really hit. Temperatures dropped below freezing.  Not once, but twice. Two days in a row. I figured my dahlia was lost.

But sunny days followed the frost. The blooms kept trying to open. I waited some more.  Come on, come on, I pleaded.  Just one bloom.  That’s all I ask.  Just one!

On October 29 (I kid you not!) the flower opened.  Not one blossom, but two, three, four and five. I ask you.  Was it worth the wait? I think so. Here’s the proof.

Worth the Wait

Catching the Last Rays of Summer on the Pacific

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Knowing the advent of autumn could easily usher in turbulent weather and cloudy skies, my husband, daughter, and I decided to seize the moment and head to the beach for one more outing a weekend ago.  The forecast called for sprinkles, but when we arrived, the sun was out, the wind was warm, and we walked in shirt sleeves along the Oregon coast.

Oregon beaches are not California beaches. The water often beckons from beyond rugged and sometimes impossible terrain.  State parks and waysides have been carved out of the landscape, affording day travelers like us many opportunities to stop, gaze and wonder.

There’s something about the ocean that stirs reverence in me.  Maybe the massive expanse of the water is what makes it so overwhelming. Perhaps it is the fresh ocean air.  Maybe it’s the feeling I get when I am here that I am but a tiny little speck in God’s very big world.  Whatever it is, I love visiting the coast and soaking in all it has to offer.

I am reminded of a scripture I have referenced before, but it bears repeating.

 Psalm 107:23-25: “Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters, They see the works of the Lord, And His wonders in the deep.  For He commands and raises the stormy wind, Which lifts up the waves of the sea.”

In Psalm 104:24-25 the psalmist writes: “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom You have made them all.  The earth is full of Your possessions—This great and wide sea. In which are innumerable teeming things. Living things both small and great.”

I could not have said it better.