Sunday, June 3, 2012

Robin Reflections: Day 4

No new eggs.  The chicks have not hatched.  Now the waiting begins.

For me, waiting represents one of the most difficult things of life.  Have you ever been in a situation where it is difficult to wait?  My family and I have.  Take the occasion when I was without a job for nine months.  I was hard pressed to know how I was going to pay my mortgage (or groceries for that matter).  It was difficult when a prospective employer would say, "We will contact you in several weeks concerning that job opening."  Or, several years ago when the doctor said, "This might be cancerous.  We will get back to you in several days and when we know the lab results."  In times like those, Psalm 27:14 is a real comfort, "Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!"

Why is it so difficult for us to wait?  Why is it that this is a task that frustrates us as human beings?  It may be because it tells us that we can not control every aspect of our lives.  Waiting reminds us that we are not truly the masters of our destinies. 

There is an alternative to "waiting on the Lord".  It is called worry.  Worry gives us the false impression that we are accomplishing something when in reality it paralyzes and eventually chokes the very life out of us.  For example, our robin friend could have said, "I don't think I will lay eggs this year because a boa constrictor may eat the eggs."  Well, I suppose that is possible.  However, I have never seen a fence post climbing, egg swallowing snake any where near my back yard in Iowa.

I think another reason why waiting is so difficult is because we don't really know what is going to happen tomorrow.  Sometimes our imagination gets the best of us.  We stay up late watching a science fiction movie and then worry why this country doesn't figure out some way of protecting the planet from invading aliens!

I do not mean to belittle your situation.  Perhaps your world really is spiraling out of control.  The Bible gives us several practical suggestions regarding what we should do while we are waiting.  Philippians 4:5,6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

I heard someone with a witty sense of humor say once, "Why pray when you can worry!"  What is the end result of worry?  Fear.  Sleepless nights.  Ulcers.  What is the end result of prayer and petition?  The verse above continues and gives us the answer.  "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7  In other words, the Apostle Paul is saying that even though you can't figure it out, even though it doesn't make sense, when you pray God gives you His peace.  And that peace functions like a guard standing watch over your heart and mind.

A guard is someone who watches over property in order to protect it so someone won't break in.  Prayer watches over your heart and mind so the enemy, General Worry won't break in.

So next time, when you have to wait on something, guard against the temptation to worry by choosing to pray instead.  Perhaps remembering one of my favorite verses, Isaiah 40:31 will help:
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Why worry, when you can pray!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Robin Reflections: Day 3

It rained yesterday, May 31st, almost all day.  It started yesterday evening and rained all through the night.  That means our robin friend got soaked.  The picture below was one of the few pictures that came out.  Most of them were dark gray and blurry.  Several were completely black.  Perhaps I should have published one one of those images instead because it may have captured that dreary day more appropriately.

What kinds of thoughts were going through this robin's mind?  Why did she choose to do what she was doing?  I began to wonder what it would be like to sit in a nest, in the rain, all night long.  If I were a robin, I would imagine it would be easy (or easier) if I could sit on the nest with a friend, when the sun is shinning, the weather is pleasant and you have a balmy breeze in your hair, er ... feathers.  But I had to ask myself, would I have the courage that it would take to sit on the nest through a storm?

Mrs. robin got me thinking.  It is easy for me to do what is right when others are watching, especially when I am surrounded by family or friends that are like-minded.  However, when the snapshot of my life is out of focus, when it is dark, cold, and I am alone, during those moments, do I have the integrity to do those things that God has called me to do?

That robin's actions inspire me.  She is single-minded in her diligence and focused on what is really important.  In a word, faithful.

One of my favorite songs is "Find Us Faithful", by Steve Green.  Tears came to my eyes when I reread the lyrics.  The words brought back so many memories.  The guy that was sitting in the seat next to me on the bus where I am writing this posting, probably thought I was nuts!  The song captures my thoughts so much better than I could express:

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we've left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

The reward for our robin's efforts?  Three eggs.  The reward for our faithfulness?  A life that counts for something more than just the accumulation of stuff.  In addition, eternal life is not a shabby fringe benefit.

Since I was a teenager, I have been the kind of person who has wanted to do something "big" for God.  I have often said that when I retire, that my desire is to do something truly significant for the Kingdom.  I have also said that if I only had some serious monetary resources, I could impact a great number of people.

Evidently, the quantity of our faithful deeds must not be as significant as whether or not we are simply faithful.  Luke 16:10 says, "One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much."  From this verse, I must ask myself, "What has God already given me, for which I need to faithful?"

Similar to a precious gem, faithfulness is something that is rare.  In Proverbs 20:6, Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived said, "Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?"  In addition, faithfulness is something that becomes even more difficult to find in the end times.  Jesus, perhaps thinking out loud about the last days said, "... when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8

I don't know about you, but when the Lord returns, I want to be found faithful.  I want to be at my post doing the things God has given me to do.  It would be my greatest reward to have my Lord say to me, "... Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, ....  Enter into the joy of your lord."  Matthew 25:23  That's what I want for my life.  The applause of God, even if I end up sitting on a nest.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Robin Reflections: Day 2

Yesterday, May 30th, I found the brave mother hunkered down in her nest.  Like a soldier on duty, our backyard robin performed sentry at her post, vigilantly on the watch for danger.

When she flew away, I was excited to discover two perfect, blue eggs.

I was reminded of the scripture from Psalms 61:4, "Let me dwell in your tent forever!  Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!  Selah".  I was thinking, how foolish it would be for the chicks to shout (from within the egg), "I am a self-made chick.  I have no need of you!"  Or even more absurd, "I can not see a mother robin, therefore it does not exist."

Perhaps Jesus felt the same frustration with the religious leaders and his people who rejected his message when He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" Matthew 23:37

There is something comforting in trusting in Someone who is greater than ourselves.  When we don't know what the future holds, it comforts me to know the One who holds the future.  Today, those pre-hatched chicks can rest secure in knowing that a loving mother is watching over their well-being.  And I can be at peace knowing that I have an Almighty God who loves me with the fondness that ... well, that a robin has for her "children".  Perhaps King David said it best, "How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!  Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings." Psalms 36:7

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Robin Reflections

On Memorial Day, May 28th, our neighborhood robin finished building her nest on top of a post in our backyard. I can't help but wonder if it was the same robin that built a nest in the same location last year.

I wish I would have taken a picture of the nest when it was work progress however, it was nearly finished before I first discovered it the day before.

I took a picture of the nest at 6:00am yesterday morning, May 29th:

She must have known that she was going to lay an egg soon because after I took this picture, I saw the robin perched on top of our house a singing a loud and happy song.  Yesterday evening, after I got home from work, I was thrilled to discover that she had laid a single turquoise egg:

Psalm 50:11 says, "I know every bird in the mountains ..."  I realize that there are no mountains anywhere near southeastern Iowa, however, that verse reminded me today that even though I may not know this backyard visitor, God does.  And perhaps, He even knows this robin's name.  Psalm 147:4 says, "He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name."  If God knows the names of the stars, it is not hard to imagine that He knows the names of the robins as well.  It also comforts me to reflect that if God knows the name of the robin that lives in my backyard, he surely knows my name.  According to Isaiah 43:1, we find out this is indeed the case, "But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, ... 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.'"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Slides of my mom

My son Josiah was nice enough to post the slides of my mom that were shown at the funeral.  You can view them via his blog:

A Tribute to Mom

We place a great value on the “things” that are in scarce supply or difficult to obtain.  I have heard it said that diamonds are mined in only one location of the world.  This is one reason they are such a valuable commodity.  Wanda Lee McClurg was one of those diamonds because she was truly one in a million.

Come with me for a few minutes and by way of some verbal snapshots, I would like to invite you to see a glimpse of some treasures that my mom shared with me over the years.

In this stage of my life, I have come to realize that there are some things that I value more than a dozen sparkling rocks.  The treasure that is the most precious to me is the legacy my mom left behind.

One part of mom's legacy is ...

The treasure of a God-honoring heart

Some senior citizens become apathetic regarding their faith in the golden years, but it seemed to me that Mom and Dad became more passionate about spiritual things in their later years.  On the farm, mom and dad were busy with never-ending chores, just trying to squeak out a living for their family.  Upon retirement they had time to become more active in the church.  They started reading the Bible all the way through and were successful in accomplishing that goal for a number of years.  They continued that pattern of Bible reading even in the nursing home.

Some of my favorite memories of Mom involved her love for God's Word. My sister, Cora Lee, said this was one of her favorite memories as well.  I can remember waking up early in the morning to find her sitting at the kitchen table reading her Bible.  I don't think she ever slept at night.  I think this may be a common trait of most moms that have so many things to do and simply not enough time to do them.  Mom did, however, always seem to make spending time in God's Word a priority.  I remember coming to the nursing home unannounced on several occasions only to find her reading the Bible.  While the rest of the residents were napping or watching television, she was making the best use of her time.  Her love for God's Word coincided with her love for Jesus, and she was looking forward to seeing Him face to face.

Her routine at home was to have the Halley's Bible Handbook on her left, her Bible in the center, and a big slab of chocolate on the right.  For a number of years, she would receive a pound of chocolate as a present for Christmas.  Somehow she was able to make that chocolate stretch for an entire year.

I suppose many people might have viewed my mom as a simple farm wife.  In reality, she was really quite a scholar and knew an amazing amount of Biblical knowledge.  However, I don't think she would have been offended at the title “farm wife” at all, but rather wore it as a badge of honor.

She gave up her teaching career shortly after she and my dad married to become a full-time homemaker and mom.  We kids and my dad are the ones who benefited from that act of self-lessness.  Mom was always there when we got off the bus.  Sometimes there would even be cookies waiting for us, which were often not as tasty as we would have liked, but they were made as a loving action.  She was always eager to hear about how our day at school went.

She was also instrumental in sharing the love of Jesus with not only her own children, but just about everyone she met.

Another part of mom's legacy is ...

The treasure of a generous heart

One of my mom's treasures was the gift of giving.  On the farm, Mom had a nook upstairs behind a curtain that was filled with her stash of “goodies” that she had purchased simply to give away to people.  She had such a giving heart.  So much so that I am sure the manager at Dollar General simply loved seeing her come into the store.  We tried to get her to stop buying so much stuff for people.  It would have been easier to have held back the tide than to have gotten her to stop giving.  She was very others-centered.  It was just part of her nature. No one left my mom's house without a bag of something she had saved for the occasion.  Unfortunately, some of the things she saved had long since passed their expiration dates, but her generous heart was in the right place.

It wasn't just “stuff” that Mom was quick to give.  She was generous with her life.  Before she was admitted to the nursing home, I went with her on several occasions to visit one of the patients.  I remember asking her with exasperation, “For goodness sakes, Mom, do you have to water every resident in the nursing home?” Her reply was simple, “It would be a terrible thing to be thirsty and not be able to get yourself a drink of water.  I hope that if I am ever in that situation, that someone will give me a drink.”

Another part of mom's legacy is ...

The treasure of a gracious heart

Even though one of my mom's treasures was the gift of hospitality, we did not invite people over to the house very often. Mom's housekeeping skills left a lot of room for improvement.  However, she did have a way of making people feel welcome.  There are probably a number of people that attend Laura Street Baptist church because Mom invited them and made them feel at home.

Mom's cooking skills were also not one of her strengths.  I would absolutely melt when she would cook up a batch of peppermint tea and serve it to one of my friends or some unsuspecting stranger.  I guess no one told mom that you were supposed to filter the tea and take the leaves out before serving.  I would simply cringe when Mom would hand someone a mug of this green liquid with a melange of leaves at the bottom and stems sticking out the top.

Growing up, I looked forward to church picnics so I would not have to endure jello with the tops of onions sliced up in it, “to make it pretty”.  To this day, jello is not one of my favorite foods.  It carries with it too many bad memories.  My dad never seemed to notice Mom's lack of cooking skills, and I never heard him complain.  In his later years, my dad picked up where Mom left off by making his famous “Tomato Aspic”, which he would prepare for every social occasion.  It was just plain ghastly.  I often thought the name of that recipe was indeed appropriate because the word “Aspic” is similar to the word “Ipecac”, which is a medicine that is used to induce vomiting.  At our house, the name of the recipe was changed to “Tomato Ipecac”.  Due to this experience, both Mom and Dad taught me to always be grateful for whatever my spouse prepares.

Another part of mom's legacy is ...

The treasure of a cheerful heart

With Mom, it was difficult to take life too seriously.  And, I hope I haven't given you the impression that Wanda Lee was perfect. Those that knew her, know better.  However, she had such a good heart that it was hard to be upset with her for long.  Growing up, my mom had a knack for embarrassing me, and as an adult, I have carried on that tradition with my own children.  I have come to the conclusion that this is something all good parents do.

Once in grade school, I had to create a monologue for a character from history.  I covered a toy army helmet with tin foil to make a knight's head gear, and my dad made a wooden sword to go with it.  A cardboard shield with the words “Sir Fred” emblazoned on the surface completed the outfit.  I was mortified when my mom showed up at the school to take my picture.  Mom had a peculiar way of taking those pictures.  She was not able to close one eye and wink like most people. So, she would reach a finger under her glasses and mash down her eye lid in order to take a picture.  And she would take snapshots of everything.  Today, those photos are a priceless treasure.

More recently, mom's skill at embarrassment showed up at dad's funeral.  During a quiet and especially reverent moment, she said to Cora Lee in a “whisper” that the entire church could hear, “Thanks for taking me to the toilet!”

Another part of mom's legacy is ...

The treasure of an encouraging heart

One of my mom's greatest treasures was the gift of encouragement. Wanda Lee always knew how to build people up.  It did not matter what I was doing or how insignificant it was, she always made me feel like what I was doing was amazing.  In her eyes, I was the world's greatest trumpet player.  In reality, I never could read music very well.  When she went to my games, she never noticed that I spent the majority of three years sitting on the bench.  Mom thought I was the brightest, most clever, person in school.  It did not matter to her in the least that my grades illustrated otherwise.

In Mom's eyes, I could do anything and become anybody.  Deep down inside, I knew that this was probably not the case, however, I did try my best to live up to her high expectations of me.

Another part of mom's legacy is ...

The treasure of a heart with purpose

Growing up, one of Mom's favorite verses was, Ecclesiastes 9:10 which she used as a whip to motivate me into action.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with [all] thy might[!]

It was not until recently that I realized the words “do it” are not emphasized in the original Hebrew text of Scripture.  In addition, I think she threw in the word “all” especially for my benefit.

Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived had this to say about the sovereignty of God in Ecclesiastes 3:1,2:

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die.

I am sure that you have heard the expression “untimely death”.  However, from our perspective there is never a good time for death.  But I know that on God's calendar, this was Mom's time.  My wife, Marty, reminded me that two years ago, my dad passed away one week before I had lost my job.  My mom passed away one week after I finally got hired again as a full-time employee.  There is no question in my mind that I have my new job partly because of the faithful prayers of my mom and others.  My greatest regret is that she is no longer here to pray for my family any more.  So, perhaps now it is time for me (and you) to pick up the baton from my mom (and dad), start running the race in earnest, and make our lives count for eternity.  Perhaps it is time to start reading our Bibles in order to get to know the Jesus we say we believe in.  Perhaps it's time for us to start serving and laying up treasures in heaven, like my parents did.

Another part of mom's legacy is ...

The treasure of a loving heart

Growing up, it gave me great security to know that Mom loved Dad. When Lloyd proposed to Wanda Lee, he was taken by surprise at her profound reply.  From memory, she quoted from the Book of Ruth verse 1:16:

For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.

In preparing this tribute, I noticed that the verse following this passage was also very apropos:

Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried.

Today, a portion of that verse will come true in Mom's life.  She will be buried beside the husband that she labored so diligently with for 59 years.  Finally, Ruth's quote from the Bible closes with this solemn promise:

The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.

My parents did not have the perfect marriage, however, they were true to their promises to be faithful to one another.

Even in the final years of their life together, Mom and Dad continued to love each other.  When my mom was admitted to the nursing home and Dad was still living at the house, he would drive to visit her every day, often bringing two yogurts for them to share.

On several occasions, I was privy to a few of their sacred visits.  After eating some yogurt, we would read a passage in the Bible together.  When it was time to leave, Dad would escort Mom to the dining room.  They would shuffle down the hall together.  Dad with his cane and Mom with her stroller, they would stop at the alarmed double door for just a moment.  I noticed Mom let go of her stroller and reach for Dad. When I saw her do that, I held my breath, fearing that she might fall. Regardless of the risk, she reached up to touch Dad's face and leaned over and kissed him.  I think they both realized that kiss might be the last one they would ever share.  And then a smile would come across my mom's face and she would shrug her shoulders shyly and giggle a little. I am sure that in her mind she was that pretty young school teacher again, kissing her handsome man with the boyish face who'd just returned home from the war.

Up in heaven, I wonder how many of patriarchs and completely unknown strangers have been the recipient of my mom's signature arm rubbing “love pat”.  I would not be surprised if she was serving Jesus a mug of peppermint tea with stalks sticking out the top.  And, I am also sure that her Lord is saying to her, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things.  Enter into the joy of your master.” Matt 25:21

Wanda Lee McClurg shared her precious treasures with so many of us.  Her worth was far above rubies, and she will be greatly missed by all.