I just scratched off the last appointment on my calendar.
How about we get together here and pray?
IN THE COMMENT SECTION
My oldest son is a producer of a morning show for a news station a few hours away from here. I am thinking a lot about him these days. I know that he has to sort and prioritize through a barrage of news every night, cutting them into bitesize tidbits, so that we can easily digest them for breakfast. Many news don’t make it as far as the TV-screen or the phone app. There is not enough time in the world to cover it all. A few times, when I shared my concerns about what I’d seen on the news, he has said, “And that’s just the news you see, mom!”
This afternoon, an onslaught of news hit all within a few hours.
“Mom, I am sick. Can you pick me up?”
“Mom, school is cancelled for Monday,”
“Mom, college classes have been cancelled for next week.”
“Mom, school is out for all of next week.”
“Mom, I am coming home tomorrow. I will be home until April.”
“Honey, all the kids will be home for the next three weeks. Oh, and there is no toilet paper!”
A twenty-four-hour news cycle doesn’t sound that bad to me. At least it gives moms time to adjust and a break from the breaking news.
Long ago, at a time when wars were fought with swords, in a warring country, lived a young, valiant man who yearned to fight at the front lines of the raging battle. He was courageous and often asked his father for a sword so he could fight in the war. The father, a wise and noble man, denied him the privilege each time the young man asked. The want-to-be warrior became increasingly impatient. One day, in despair and frustration, he took his moneybag and set out for the blacksmith to buy his own sword.
When he arrived at the blacksmith, he saw two men hitting a red-hot rod alternately with precise blows, filling the air with loud clanking. The men looked tired and dirty, but kept diligent eyes on their work. Tools of every kind hung from hooks, lay in corners, and filled dirty shelves. A tall, burly man stood in the back by a stone fire pit next to a pile of wood and a giant bellow. He was tending a hot fire.
The tall man saw the young one, wiped his sweaty brow and walked toward him. “What can I do for you?”
“I need a sword for the war,” said the young man with a fire in his voice, matching the heat of the embers in the pit. “I will kill our enemies until they are completely destroyed!” he said and gave the man his moneybag.
The fire stoker, who was the head blacksmith, sensed the determination in the young man’s voice.
“Come on in!”
The young man was excited. It wouldn’t be long and he would be able to join the war.
The blacksmith looked at the coins in the bag and replied,
“I am sorry, but this is not nearly enough,” and seeing the determination in the young man’s face, he continued,
“Would you like to work for me? We are short-handed in here. Soldiers need new swords for their warfare. Many need their weapons sharpened. Men are dying for lack of good swords.”
The young man felt disappointment rise up in his fearless heart. But, since he was also a charitable man, and in need of a sword, he asked,
“What I can do for you?”
The blacksmith’s face grew a warm smile behind his long, gray beard.
“I will show you. Come!”
The young man followed the blacksmith to the fire pit.
“Tend this fire! Do not let it go out, young friend,” the blacksmith said, grateful for the help.
All day the young man kept the fire burning. When he ran out of wood, he carried in more. When all the cut logs were gone, he chopped more wood. At the end of the day he was exhausted.
“Come back tomorrow,” the blacksmith said. The young man agreed, for he was eager and loyal. He returned to the shop day after day.
As time went on, the young man grew fond of the men in the shop and became devoted to the hardworking blacksmith. He hauled iron and wood, kept the fire going, and tended to the various jobs. Day after day he grew stronger and more vigorous in his work. Soon, he knew how hot the fire had to be in order for the metal to be rightly heated. He knew what tools to use, when to strike the glowing iron, how to forge new swords and most of all, how to make swords sharper than any other swords around. Even though in the depth of his heart he longed to be on the battlefront, over time, he became a devoted and capable blacksmith.
One day, while airing the fire with the bellow, he noticed a soldier by the door. He looked tired and worn. His uniform was bloody and his hands dirty. The soldier walked in, drew his sword from his sheath and laid it on the anvil.
“Did you forge this sword?” he asked the young man.
The young man knew the sword well for he had held it in his hands for many days while forging its metal when it was hot. He remembered how he had worked for hours to craft it into the sharpest sword anyone had ever seen. He nodded his head.
The soldier looked into the eyes of the young man and said with kindness,
“My valiant fellow soldier, the war was won last night. The country is free. Though many are injured and slain, the enemy could not withstand the power of this weapon. This very sword killed the king of our enemy. I wanted to thank you and return it to you as a sign of my gratitude.”
The young man picked up the sword from the anvil on which he had forged and sharpened it and looked at it with pride.
That night he walked home with a grateful heart, knowing that his sword had slain the enemy in the battle he was not allowed to see.
The Word is forged and proven true
In hearts of those who follow Christ,
Becomes a weapon piercing through
The darkest evil – slaying lies.
There on the anvil of the soul,
The Truth is driven deep below.
The Father, in the blacksmith’s role,
Crafts swords with every painful blow.
He asks His warring child to wield
His Word, the doubled-edged Sword –
Not fear the prayer-battlefields –
For every battle is the LORD’s.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
“Lord, let me stand strong in the battle of prayer. Draw me to your Word of Truth, the only weapon that will defeat the enemy of our souls.” (Story, poem and bottom picuture, Heidi Viars, Scriptures taken from the ESV)
He wasn’t dying. That is, he wasn’t dying as quickly as everyone expected. Dying slowly was one thing; dying alone was another. She hated the thought that he had to endure both.
She pulled up a chair next to his hospital bed and reached across the flimsy white sheet for his bony hand. His body twitched. The muscles in his face contorted rhythmically, expressing smiles and pain intermittently. She didn’t know if the morphine was the cause or if he was comforted and tormented by eighty-four years of memories.
She hadn’t been able to ignore him for many of those years. How could she? She could see his house from her bedroom, kitchen and laundry room. His back porch light traveled easily across her one-acre property, especially piercing in the dark of winter leaving an illuminated trail in the snow between the two houses.
He once stood tall and strong among Chicago’s finest as the Cook County Sheriff’s right hand man. He saw it all – all except the stars at night. That’s why, when he retired over two decades ago, he moved a few hours north with his wife. He had grown indifferent to the red and blue lights that once gave him excitement
and tired of the orange glow that polluted his view to the stars. He built his dream house at the end of a cul-de-sac and in the middle of her view.
Then ten years ago, life played an unkind trick on him. Without permission it left the beautiful, green eyes of his beloved of nearly fifty years and made him throw cold dirt on her casket and their dreams. After he left the cemetery that day, he went home and locked the door.
He hated company. That’s what he wanted everyone to believe. He never allowed the neighbors in through his front door. But somehow she was able to sneak through the cracks of his suspiciousness and the peephole of his hope for humanity.
Every Christmas she left him a small bag of cookies and a book about Jesus. He liked the cookies. She found out he had a sweet tooth and didn’t mind a banana bread every so often. When walking became difficult he felt comfortable asking her for rides to the doctor, the grocery store, the bank. Then he fell. Soon he fell more often and eventually grew too weak to get back up on his own.
When his porch light stayed on that winter night and knocked on her kitchen window, she knew he had fallen.
Seconds dripped from the wall clock of the hospital room into her ears and heart. They were slower seconds than the ones at home. There, the hours filled with chores flew by in no time. Here, these seconds seemed limited, finite, drawn out and begging to be filled with one more opportunity for speaking and hearing the things that mattered most. She was thankful for every inconvenient moment in the past. Those moments now fueled these seconds with meaning. Love, not unlike dying, takes time.
She held his hand and prayed out loud,
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
He was unable to speak but squeezed her hand one last time.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”
(Heidi Viars, 2020)
Only a couple of weeks ago my cell phone rang. “Hey mom, the ring is ready to be picked up. Can you get it?” He had ordered the ring from a good jeweler close to home, even though he had moved.
Today, he would meet me half-way for breakfast exchanging the ring for a cup of coffee.
Here, still in the early morning and a few hours from breakfast, I sat alone with God at the dining room table. When I pulled the ring out to look at it one more time, I felt the deep need to pray.
I turned the smooth, white-gold ring in my hand and looked at it from every angle. I noticed its perfect condition. Nothing had tarnished it. No scratches. No bumps. No gouges. Gold is beautiful.
I felt tears coming up and closed my eyes. Holding the band in my hand I prayed. Thirty-one years of experience fueled my prayers and requests. I knew God would be there to see them through their highs and lows, laughter and tears and every bump and scratch.
p.s. When I looked at the picture after posting it, I noticed where the bottom corner of the box was sitting, “A prudent wife is from the Lord”. I had no intentions of making a point in that way. I suppose we never go wrong putting our hope on God’s Word.
“Lord, you make me smile in my tears.”
Some choices come easy. Those that do, usually don’t qualify as obedience.
I don’t fish. I’d be hard-pressed if you asked me to set a fishing pole. When I came across this sign on my walk, I chuckled and said to myself,
“I can do that!”
I had no problem obeying. Digging through six inches of fresh snow and several inches of ice and wait in the cold for a bite does not sound like a merry pastime to me. (I know some of you are avid ice-fishermen. Sorry, for you the analogy has just broken down.)
Obedience involves deliberate thought and effort. It is usually inconvenient, hard, annoying and scary. Our adoption worker told us something five years ago. Her words still come back to me.
“If adoption was easy, everybody would be doing it!”
Following Jesus into any calling is more than not doing something. Christian obedience is costly. Submitting to Christ means to follow Him, often into uncomfortable situations, many times seemingly impossible circumstances.
However, Jesus has promised to be with us. He told us He’d leave us a Helper who would not abandon us to the insurmountable. For the follower of Christ, the Holy Spirit is never more than a breath away. He lives in us.
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
The sign wasn’t suppose to be there. I had other plans for the nail that holds it now. But each time I look at it, I remember the story and the goodness of God and smile.
We were at Bible Study around Christmas time several years ago. I had posed a question about our true motives behind the gifts we desire. After we took turns and shared, we came to the conclusion that it’s rarely the thing we want, but that the wishes for material possessions often hide our true heart’s cry.
One woman shared how she had always wanted metal measuring cups. However, Christmas after Christmas and birthday after birthday passed without receiving the simple gift. She shared with the group that it really wasn’t about the cups but about her deep desire to be heard.
After our study I ran a few errands. I had made plans to buy a clock for my kitchen.
Strolling through the household isle at the store, I came across the perfect clock. I had just enough cash. I grabbed it and headed toward the checkout. Suddenly I remembered my friend and the metal measuring cups.
I found them. I really wanted to bless her but realized quickly that I only had enough money for either the clock or the measuring cups. I decided against the clock, put it back in its place and picked up the cups instead, even though I had already pounded a nail in my kitchen wall for it.
Still in the parking lot of the store, I texted my friend to see if she was home. She was. She greeted me at her front door and opened her present; She was overwhelmed and said, “Crazy, I am making banana bread at this very moment!” We hugged and I headed home.
Back in my car, happy about my decision, my cell phone rang. It was another friend from Bible study. She told me that she had something for me. She didn’t say anything else except that she had made it herself. It “just so happened” that I was in the area and told her I would stop by for a quick visit.
When I walked into her home, she was excited and showed me the craft she had made for me: A pickle-board sign, matching the color of my kitchen walls. I couldn’t believe it. I told her I already had a nail in the wall where it needed to be hung. She had no idea what had just happened.
The words on the sign penetrated deeply that day and still strike me today. They are a great reminder of God’s kindness to me … and … that the time really doesn’t matter when you plan on doing something kind.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments,
show kindness and mercy to one another”
(Pictures and devotional, Heidi Viars, 2020)