Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chuckling at the Speed Bumps of Life

Image found here
When we lived in Indonesia, one of the "delights" of driving was the presence of polisi tidur -- sleeping policeman. No, I'm not talking about human policeman asleep on the job. I am talking about the speed bumps that existed in plenty to control the speed of traffic in residential areas.

Don't get me wrong. These polisi tidur are needed. Without them, cars and motorbikes would have zoomed through areas where small children played in the streets. Those who fail to heed these "sleeping policemen" might very well find their motorbike airborne or the transmission on their car getting the worst of the experience.

Image found here
Some of these speed bumps are not too bad. They do the job without doing any damage. Others, though, resemble ten inch diameter pipes buried in a shallow furrow in the street and barely coated with cement. These are the ones that every driver hates.

Not everybody minds the polisi tidur, though. When my daughter was about two years old, she absolutely loved those bumps. We had to cross probably ten or so of these whenever we drove to a certain friend's house. I would slow the car down to a crawl when I approached each speed bump, but no matter how slowly I crossed them, it always resulted in a good-sized bounce. With each bump, Rachel giggled, chortled and chuckled in the back seat. "Again, Mommy! Again!" (As if I had a choice in the matter.)

Image found here
God gives us speed bumps in our lives from time to time. Sometimes, we are set on our own plans. We want to race ahead with our own plans. If we do, we may very well end up in trouble. God's speed bumps slow us down and keep us (and sometimes others) safe.

We may not like them. We may view them as inconvenient obstacles.  OR...we can view them as gifts from the hand of our Father. When we see one ahead, slow down. Cross safely. And just maybe, in some strange way, you can be like Rachel and get a chuckle as you experience the bump.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Be Careful What You Let In

Image found here
Last night, I was attempting to figure out how to do something in Microsoft Word that I didn't yet know how to do.  In the process, I found an online tutorial to help me. Unfortunately, my computer lacked a particular file that would allow me to fully use the tutorial.

I attempted to download the file. I failed to notice that I also gave permission for the computer to download a number of other programs -- malware that wreaked havoc on my system. 

I spent hours tonight undoing the damage. I deleted the programs that I had inadvertently downloaded last night. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and HitmanPro went to work to seek out and destroy all the little files that those unwanted programs had spread through the system.

Thankfully, I seem to have succeeded. I hope I have succeeded.

Here's the thing. I was careless with my computer, and I allowed things in that didn't belong. I wasn't vigilant, and I ended up with a mess.

How like life. How easy it is to get so involved with our plans and goals that we allow things in that shouldn't be there. Perhaps we focus so closely on a particular goal that we compromise. We do or say things that we know we shouldn't.

In the process, we create messes in our own lives, in our relationships with others, and in our relationship with God. How delighted our Enemy is when we fall for these tactics.

Thankfully, God has provided a way to get us back up and running. When we confess whatever it was that got us into the mess to begin with, we "delete" those files. Then God's "Malwarebytes" and "HitmanPro" goes to work as the Holy Spirit leads us through the process of forgiveness and restoration. By the time He is finished, our hearts are right with Him again, and there is hope of restoration of relationships with others.

What is our job after that? Be more vigilant next time, and don't let the malware in.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 
1 Peter 5:8

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Love - Expressed Without Words

After nearly two years in the process, when Rachel was two years old, her adoption was finally completed. With a grateful heart, I brought my precious girl home to Ohio to meet the family.

You can find
"Child of My Heart" here.
While shopping one day with my mother, I saw a collection of Willow Tree statues. I took some time to browse through the collection. Suddenly, one of them caught my eye. It was called "Child of My Heart".

As you can see, the baby in the mother's arms is a bit darker in skin color than the mother, perfect for a mother who has adopted a child who doesn't look like her. More importantly, the way the mother so tenderly holds her child made me immediately identify this statue with the way I often held my daughter in my arms.

Mom gave me "Child of My Heart" for Christmas that year, and it was displayed in a special place of honor in our home for a number of years. Then, sadly, the bookcase where it was displayed got jostled a bit too hard. The figurine toppled off its shelf and broke into several pieces. I did my best to glue it back together, but it just isn't the same.

Thankfully, the sentiment behind the figurine hasn't been broken. It has changed over time. It has grown, even as Rachel has grown. 

You can find
"With My Grandmother" here.
A couple weeks ago, I browsed the Willow Tree website for an appropriate gift for my mother for mother's Day. I found a sweet figurine called "With My Grandmother"

This one was especially appropriate as a gift from Rachel to her grandmother as they often cuddle together just like this on the couch as they watch game shows or a movie together.

My daughter and my mother share a very precious bond. I trust they will for many years to come.

In the process of looking for this gift for Mom, I ran across another figurine that spoke to me, even as "Child of My Heart" did over six years ago.
You can find
"Close To Me" here.

As I said before, Rachel has grown, and my love for her has grown stronger over time. Rachel is now a tall, beautiful, bright and energetic eight-year-old. Although she is far too tall for me to pick up and cuddle, I love it when she comes to me for a hug. 

We wrap our arms around each other. I rest my cheek on the top of her head, and I reflect on the marvelous blessing God gave to me when He brought this precious child into my life.  

As we left my parents' house this evening, I mentioned to Mom that this was the first Mother's Day in twenty years that we have been together.That makes today extra special.

There is one more figurine from the Willow Tree collection that caught my eye, but it wasn't available to order online. Maybe this one is for another year. It is called "Generations". I think the picture says it all.

You can find "Generations" here.
 Thank you, Father, for Your precious gifts.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, 
who does not change like shifting shadows. 

 James 1:17

* (I am not in any way compensated by Willow Tree for this post.)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Do You Really Think I'm That Stupid?

Today, I was a substitute teacher for a music teacher / intervention teacher. Most of the morning was spent with small groups of second graders, a half hour at a time, doing a lesson on comparing and contrasting two different things. 

The lesson was fairly simple. The teacher had blank chart like the one here.
The students were to fill in in something like the one below.

 She had inserted each chart into a plastic sleeve so the kids could write on them with a dry erase marker and not waste a lot of paper.

The first two groups went very smoothly. When I picked up the third group of kids at their classroom, I could see immediately that this group was going to be a handful. The kids were a bit rambunctious as they lined up at the door. Cute...but rambunctious. One blond-haired, blue-eyed boy named Patrick took his sweet old time coming to the door and sulked all the way up to the intervention classroom.

The kids sat down and I introduced myself. I then passed out the papers. One of the girls gave the very helpful suggestion that they all write their names on the top of the plastic sheet, so I would know what their names were.

Great idea, I thought. I quickly noticed something odd as they wrote their names. They "couldn't" seem to remember what their names were. A name would be written, then erased and replaced by another name. 

One of the kids would say something like: 
"No, he's not James! He's Dalton!"

"No, he isn't! He's Dustin!"

I didn't say it, but I thought, "How stupid do you kids think I am?" The name-switching was just so blatant. The funny thing is that they thought they were being so clever.

But the funniest thing of all...the thing that kept me chuckling to myself the rest of the day...was when blond-haired, blue-eyed Patrick tried to pass himself off as Roberto. 

Yes, I know it is possible that the parents of a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy just happened to like the name Roberto. Possible, but not likely.

Well, I got control of things pretty quickly. I knew from the other classes that the kids looked forward to getting a stamp on the back of their hand if they did well in class. The solution was simple. I let them know that there would be no stamps for anyone unless all the names were straightened out immediately. It worked, and we were back on track.

Well, that's it for today. Nothing deep. Nothing profound. Just a light-hearted anecdote from real life. I hope it gave you a smile.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Listen! Listen!

One day, a little girl was in her preschool class. The other children were with their teacher at circle time. This little girl, however, always had difficulty sitting with the other children. This particular day, she was fascinated with the computer and the office chair at the
teacher's desk. The class aide stayed close by to be ensure the child's safety. (Now, before you jump to the conclusion that the aide should have just made the child sit with the others, let me say there were valid reasons why, in this case, she did not. Classroom management in a preschool classroom is not the point of this story.)

Anyway, the little girl climbed up on the chair. The aide got her down. She tried again. The aide sat down on the chair and tried to direct the child's attention to the story. After a while of doing this, the little girl took the aide's hand and began to pull her toward the other children in the circle. Thinking the little girl finally wanted to join the others, the aide went with her. 

When they neared the circle, the child dropped the aide's hand and firmly told her "Listen! Listen!" She then returned to the computer. The aide followed. No matter how much the little tyke tried to redirect the aide's attention, she still was not allowed to climb on a rolling chair or mess with the computer.

Do we sometimes do that with God? Might there be some "fascinating" things in our lives that we know are wrong? Things we do. Things we say. Ways we relate to others in an unhealthy manner. Attitudes we harbor in our hearts. Deep down inside, we know these things are wrong, but we don't want to give them up.

God speaks to us about them. He speaks through others. He speaks in His still small voice to our hearts. He speaks through His Word. But we don't want to listen. We don't like it when He tries to correct the problem area.

So what do we do? We point our fingers at others. "Just look what is going wrong over there, God! Listen! Listen! Listen to all the problems everywhere else. Go clean up that really big mess over there, God. Listen to them, and leave me alone. I want to go back to what I was doing."

Thankfully, God is not easily distracted. He doesn't give up. He cares enough about us to not leave us alone. Hear what He says to us. 

"Listen! Listen! Leave behind this thing that will harm you. I have something much better in store for you. Listen! Listen! Listen to me!"

The question is...will we listen to Him?

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