Monday, January 25, 2010

Faithful God

I wonder if most moms are like me--children's birthdays bring back memories of their baby days. Two of my children have birthdays coming in the next few days. Liana will be 10 and I have been thinking about that chubby baby who screamed for two hours when she first met her new mother. My second son Dominic has been on my mind too, especially after church yesterday when we sang that old classic hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness."

I am reluctant to admit it, but I never liked that hymn. I love the message and the scripture it refers to that comes from the book of Lamentations. But the song is slow and seems to drag. But maybe it has never been my favorite because I always associate it with the night before my son was born.

I had gone to a Bible study that evening with the guilt-ridden aunt of my derelict first husband. When I was pregnant with Dominic, my husband left me and my first son behind because he didn't want the responsibility of a family. I had to return to my parents' house to live. It was not a good situation. My mother had a baby of her own and my dad resented having to support me when my deadbeat husband should have been doing that job. My husband's family tried to help out as they could. They were a good family and were dismayed over their wayward son. So that's why I was in a church basement with Aunt Rocky when the group closed with the hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." I was in labor but hadn't told anyone. I was alone, afraid, forsaken.

Later that night I could not sleep because of the pain, and I stayed up suffering alone in the dark. In the morning my mother took me to the hospital. I labored alone among strangers, gave birth alone, and two days later went back to my parents' home where it was clear I had to soon move out and be forever alone--in my mind. When you're young you think life is over when any adversity comes along. I was very frightened. Where would I go from here? How could I support myself and my two little ones?

The next few years were more difficult than anything I could have imagined or anything I've ever experienced since. It wasn't just hard for me, but for my children too. They were fatherless, and often motherless, since I worked so much. Many times they were left alone with near strangers. But our God is a faithful God. Jesus promised his disciples when they were afraid and alone, "I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you." (John 14:18) God never failed to provide all we ever needed.

Dominic, the baby born that incredibly lonely night, grew to be a fine man. All during his childhood he had an unusual blessing on his life. Everything he touched turned to gold-- really. He excelled at every venture. Illnesses were miraculously healed. When doors were shut to him, new ones opened. Difficulties quickly turned around. He was "lucky". He would find money; he would win contests--from writing essays to racing Pinewood Derby cars, to guessing jelly beans in a jar. Even now, Dominic is doing great things in his career. The work he does is changing the world. God has always had a plan and a purpose for his life and continues to lead him. God is faithful to him.

God has been faithful to me too. I would need a book to tell of his kindness, mercy and gentleness to me throughout my entire life. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23) Why do we worry? What exactly has God promised? "I will be their God, and they shall be my people...and I will be a father to you and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty." (II Corinthians 6:16, 18) Dominic and I were both deprived of having an earthly father who loved us. But our heavenly father always takes good care of us.

God has also promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) I have changed my mind about that hymn. Instead of a reminder of a night of despair, I will remember with gratefulness how God led me through that dark valley. I will remember his blessings on each member of our large family. God takes trouble and tragedy and hardship and turns it to healing and hope and joy.

"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS." (Lamentations 3:21-23)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Creation groaning

Scripture tells us all of creation is groaning, waiting for redemption. I haven't been able to write. There are no words for the sorrow all around us. The earthquake and the people and their stories and the pictures we see from Haiti are heart wrenching. Also last week I ran into my former neighbor whose son died in Afghanistan last year. She told me of a single day of joy she experienced last month, the first in almost a year. But then she turned once more to tears as she reminded me the anniversary of Marc's death was approaching. I had not forgotten.

On Sunday we learned a 12-year-old boy from our church was killed in a sledding accident. I think of my neighbor and another good friend who have lost children and I know the oceans of tears this family will shed for the rest of their lives. Will the suffering in this world ever end? My own life is insignificant and shallow next to these people and their despair. How can I write about trivia? How do we pray? What can we do?

"Comfort, oh comfort my people," says our Lord in Isaiah 40:1. On the news we see pictures of food and supplies stacked on the tarmac in Haiti. Are there not enough people to distribute it? I wish I could join a team and go there. I read that our governor came back on a plane with 53 orphans who will stay with foster families until they are adopted. Sign us up. We will care for a child. I know my frustration of being helpless to help is felt all around us here in the land of plenty.

We have learned more about the 12-year-old's death. At the hospital the nurses removed his boots and found a piece of paper with a scripture written on it. He apparently had tucked this into his boot before going sledding that day. This paper was given to his parents when they arrived at the hospital. Their only son's last gift to them.

Here is the scripture: "Count it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tower of Babel

It is Day 12 and I have continued with my reading! That might not sound like much, but reading the Bible in a year is a major undertaking and I hope I will succeed.

A few days ago I read Genesis 11 about the Tower of Babel. The tower was being built after the flood, after God had told people to scatter and populate the earth. The people say, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth."

The commentary in my Bible says, "This episode is significantly more important than its length suggests." (It is only nine verses long.) "It presents a unified humanity using all its resources to establish a city that is the antithesis of what God intended when he created the world. The tower is a symbol of human autonomy, and the city builders see themselves as determining and establishing their own destiny...The Babel enterprise is all about human independence and self-sufficiency apart from God. The builders believe that they have no need of God. Their technology and social unity give them confidence in their own ability..."

For those who don't know the end of the story, God confused their language, so they couldn't understand each other. Then he sent them on their way and they settled in other lands.

Now I was thinking about this story and remembering the huge structure in Dubai that is being built. And then, to my surprise, I found an article about it in the Sunday paper. The Dubai Burj Khalifa has been completed and is now the world's tallest building at 2,717 feet. Interestingly, people from other countries came to Dubai to build it. These people, Pakistani, Bengali, Indian and Chinese, have protested against human and civil rights violations while they worked on the tower. The article goes on to say that 85% of the population of Dubai is from somewhere else in the world.
So what does this all mean? One tower being built long ago by people who spoke the same language and didn't want to spread out as God wanted them to do. The Tower of Babel was most likely in Babylon, now Iraq. Not too far away is the tower in Dubai, built by people who had spread out to other lands, but then converged in this city of many languages to build. But human nature hasn't changed--the rebellion toward God and the desire to be independent from him. People are still very much impressed by their own technology and they still want to make a name for themselves.
"The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in the loftiness of your dwelling place, who say in your heart, 'who will bring me down to earth?' Though you build high like the eagle, though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord." Obadiah 1:3,4.

What do you think?

Friday, January 08, 2010


I am witnessing first hand how destructive facebook can be. I've never been a fan of this social networking idea and only opened an account because all my kids were sending me a "friend request." I have nothing on my facebook page except a picture my daughter-in-law sent there (not sure how that works) and there are no comments except the initial one when someone found me there. Arielle would like to have her own page and I'm sure I would have loved it as a girl her age. But she doesn't need another thing to encourage her to spend more time on the computer, and now after what has happened with my other kids, I don't see her having one in the near future.

After a phone call from one son and an e-mail from another directing me to check out the action on facebook, I realized I needed to see what was going on. I read a string of comments on one person's page. This person had a video clip and asked what others thought of it. Others made it clear they didn't like it. So then she defended herself and it went on and on and got ugly. These are family members and they are all adults! They were saying things they would never have said in person. I can only imagine how it goes with high schoolers and their facebook interactions.
While I was reading, a screen popped up and an old friend of mine wanted to talk to me. That was distracting! I tried to respond to her, but I don't think I did it right. So she might think I didn't want to talk to her, which I do, but not right at that moment. So maybe I offended her. Later as I skimmed other friends and their pages, it all just looked so superficial to me. People have said that about e-mail, but at least e-mail is personal. How about people connecting to other people with phone calls? Or dropping by for a visit? I admit I too often neglect this important human interaction. Then there wouldn't be nasty words among family and friends.

Can someone fill me in on what is so great about facebook? I just can't see it. Maybe I'm too old-fashioned. Will we eventually have a whole generation of people who can only communicate with brief comments sent through cyberspace?

You can also tell me your thoughts on blogs. Maybe they are just as bad, I don't know.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

New Year Project

Fred and I have decided to work through one of those Read-Through-The-Bible in a year schedules. Our pastor posted a few different ones on his blog and we chose one and diligently began reading. Fred is even more serious than I am, and I will see him with his Bible open and it will remind me that I haven't done my reading for the day yet. So far, we read two or three chapters in Genesis, one in Psalms, and one or two in Matthew each day. A nice balance of scripture.

Here is the link: We are doing the first one on the list, but as you can see, there are many different ones. You can even hear them rather than read them. You can also sign up to have the passage delivered to your e-mail box so you don't have to go on the website each day. Of course, you don't have to use this version of the Bible. The idea is just to read!

I have an ESV Study Bible and sometimes I get caught up in the commentary and it takes me a long time to finish a chapter. The study Bible gives the historical context, which I find fascinating. It is even more meaningful to do this daily reading with a friend. With Fred and I both reading the same passages each day, we have been discussing ideas that we find interesting or puzzling or inspiring.

Let me know if you choose to do our plan and then I can talk about what we read with you too!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Best Christmas

My good friend Helen wrote this story:

I have been blessed by the goodness of God's love throughout my life. I have had the special blessing of loving parents and a father in particular who always tried to make Christmas special for his daughters. I have enjoyed many special Christmases, so finding the best was a difficult assignment. I can remember only a few that were not so good and really remember one truly outstanding Christmas.

It was Christmas 2002; I spent the previous Christmas anxiously worrying about the health and welfare of my unknown daughter as she waited for me in China. 2002 found me at home with my youngest daughter for almost 8 weeks and settling into a pattern, we were now a family of three! My eldest daughter and I had waited, prayed and thought so often about this baby who would complete our little family that having her home for that first Christmas made the lights brighter, the ornaments shinier, our smiles broader and our hearts fuller. I remember wrapping gifts late that Christmas Eve with my mother at my side and rejoicing with the angels because my baby was finally home.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Best New Year's Eve Ever

We woke to snow again! I can't remember it ever snowing here three times in the month of December. Even though it was supposed to warm up later, we all trekked outside to shovel the couple of inches on the deck and driveway. It was hovering at the freezing mark, perfect for packing snow. So we had a brief snowball fight and then the girls wanted to roll balls across the grass and make a snowman. We worked for quite awhile and made Frostina, Frosty's wife. The girls then wanted to make a whole snow family, so we stayed outside another hour or so and made two more snow people, plus a snow dog. It was so pleasant to play outdoors because no one was cold even though were were on our hands and knees digging and sculpting.

I guess it wouldn't take much to make this the Best New Year's Eve Ever. I have had a lot of unpleasant ones. When I was a child, New Year's Eve meant the day before one of the worst days of the year--New Year's Day. My dad was most irritable and demanding on that day and there was no escaping him. Then, of course, January 2nd came and that meant back to school with nothing to look forward to for a long, long time. Later on, I spent many lonely nights babysitting on New Year's Eve watching other people on TV having fun. In high school there were parties when people hooked up and kissed at the strike of midnight, but that never seemed to happen to me.

But this day is enjoyable with Fred and the girls. A couple of years ago we started our own family traditions for New Year's Eve, but this year was especially fun because the girls are older. Fred came home after our snow adventure and we began a board game marathon. We played Monopoly, 10 Days in Europe, 10 Days in Asia, Scotland Yard, and Apples to Apples. The girls are formidable opponents now! Then it was time for our seafood fest. We rarely have seafood because it is expensive, but we splurge on New Year's Eve. Fred hauled up the clam steamer from the basement where it stays the whole year until this special night. We boiled up shrimp and baked some scallops and also steamed a couple of crab legs. Everyone dug into his or her favorite.

I had a special surprise for the girls for the rest of the evening. Months ago I ordered Celtic Thunder's second DVD and we cuddled up on the couch next to the twinkling of the tree lights and watched the concert of our favorite group. Each of us was ready to drop off to sleep but we turned on New Year's Rockin' Eve about 11:45 to see the ball drop. Instead, we were thoroughly disgusted with Jennifer Lopez's quasi-nude performance. Enough of that.

What a glorious, blessed year it has been. HAPPY NEW YEAR, FAMILY AND FRIENDS!