A Life of Influence

The intensity and honesty of the whisper was not wasted on me: “You are a Titus woman.”

A Titus woman.

I remember running to my bible to read pages that had probably never been turned in my bible until that night. I read the verses over and over. I think maybe I was too young or too tired to really hear the message at the time. I had two young babes in my house and a husband who had just begun his ministry. I had no time to think of me besides wife and mother. Yet, these words have stuck. And as I’m wondering what these words mean for me, the Holy Spirit would graciously direct its attention to my Titus woman. There are many that have influenced me, that have challenged me, that have taught me with their life, yet there is one that I can pinpoint very specifically over the last two decades. This is for her.

In our early married days,  we had the common sense, not to mention the Holy Spirit prompting us, that we needed a place to worship in community. After a year of searching, we literally stumbled upon this place and haven’t looked back. We were young and bold and quickly asked questions, joined various groups and began making connections.

My earliest memories of those years are a reminder of how much I had to learn and how much grace would be poured out on me by my Titus woman. A mixture of laughter, deep wisdom, hospitality, generousity and care, our paths crossed every Sunday morning and evening for three years. I listened, I prayed.

I wanted to do it all, so I signed up for everything. I grew impatient and spoke very sarcastically and was quickly reprimanded by her. It stung a little, but I listened. I prayed.

Babies came. We were celebrated and showered by my Titus woman. She asked me to pray, and so with a foggy mind, I did and barely remember the words I spoke, except later she told me the impact they had made on her. She couldn’t have known what was coming but the words that spilled out of my mouth were for her. The embrace was sincere and lasting.

Our own families grew and grew and while I stayed at home, she returned to her vocation, a sacrifice, but she was willing. I watched. I listened. I prayed.

We celebrated a friend with a milestone birthday. She laid out her best table and asked me to help, this invitation, an honor. She prayed for our friend. I listened. I prayed.

Years passed, and our interactions were few. Then, as God does, he united us again, loving children who didn’t begin life with us, becoming a commonality we’ll always share. She’s gone before, me behind, and I’ve sought her out.  I’ve listened.  I’ve prayed.

When it came time for me to return to work of an old kind, God would have it that we would be together. She looked for me, checked in with me, encouraged and dispensed advice I desperately needed. I listened. I prayed.

And now, while life’s joys and disappointments continue, she is the person I share them with. Not daily, not even weekly, sometimes not even monthly, yet she is my Titus woman. Someone who can talk me off a roof I’m clinging to with my fingernails when life is not what I thought it would be. A hug that all at once in a span of seconds reminds me who I belong to and that she understands. A sense of humor and laughter that reminds me what is truly important. An encourager, a discipline dealer, an admirer and lover of her husband and home, a humble spirit-lifter, a savior follower. She is my Titus woman.

Thankfully I’ve had the good sense to pay attention, to remember, to pray. I’ve been taught with speech, I’ve been taught with gentle but firm rebuke. I’ve been taught with a life that I have seen in action. I’ve watched and listened and prayed for nearly two decades, and I’m wondering, if I have this Titus woman influence? Who is watching me? Who is listening to me? Am I courageously speaking boldly and with authority the way I’ve been taught? Am I pouring into the life of those younger than myself? Am I looking for an opportunity to share what I know or what I’m learning?

Until this life ends, we will continually learn from those older than us and forever teach those who are blessed to be younger in reverence, in speech, in moderation, in goodness, in love, in self-control, in kindness, in submission, “So that no one can malign the word of God.”

A Titus woman.

One who has listened and prayed. One who teaches to listen and pray.

God’s blessings to you dear friend.

 

Collecting Rocks

Dear Kiddos,

We made a break for it today. The sun was out, not too warm, but the sun was out, so we drove away from home. I’m smiling right now recounting our steps, our inside jokes and how the things that were bugging us melted away as we walked together, talked together.

I’ve been thinking about our walks in the woods. I’ve been thinking about the rocks we collect. Smooth stones, taking years to form and worn over with water and wind. We start out skipping them across the water, then one catches our eyes. Draws our attention, we point it out, then place it in our pockets.  It goes in a pile on the fireplace, or in a box of treasures in our bedrooms, symbolic of the time we spent together. After a while, we don’t know where one rock came from or who found it, but it doesn’t matter. The rock was only a physical reminder of something that formed in our hearts.

Kids, there are three kinds of rocks: Igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. It’s important to know the difference between the three and recognize them when you see them. You see, igneous rocks are the strongest and most valuable rocks. They are formed deep within the earth from molten magma. Sedimentary rocks are formed from the water and the air, leaving deposits from here and there. Temperature and pressure can also alter other rocks, otherwise known as metamorphic rocks. You will encounter all three of these rocks as you move through life. Pay attention to them. They are reminders.

Rocks have been used throughout time, mainly to build structures to live or work in or to mark a boundary. I’ve seen beautiful, low stone walls that meander through the English countryside, begging you to stop and wander over. I’ve driven past high, cobbled ones with broken bottles on top, a warning to the unwanted. I’ve seen rocks in a river providing a way across and still others stacked together, a memorial of remembrance.

Stones. Rocks of remembrance – they are what build you up. Those stories that go deep, that tell you who you are. The things you will learn over the years of your lives. It takes years, it takes dedication. It takes time. Yet God will continually whisper it over you forever, from the center of you, “You are mine.”These are your strongest, most valuable rocks.

Outside the core, family and friends will leave behind pieces of themselves. They get added to the pile. A few more stacked on top and an alter begins to take shape.  They’ll share their life with you as you share your life with them. You’ll make some trades, learn some hard lessons, some will stay with you and others will scatter. It’s ok, Jesus understands. He had close friends and family that didn’t get him either, but for those who stuck it out, who came back around, he shared his glory.

More years will pass and some of your rocks will take on new meaning or change in some way due to  the pressures and stress of life. These new rocks will accumulate, and sometimes seem stronger than they are. The good news?  They can be chiseled off and discarded. The place they once were will remain, another reminder, a space in your heart that was touched and is now gone. It’s a tender place, so let God fill it up with his whisper,

“You are mine.”

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You see, when you were born, your dad and I recognized you were too precious to belong to us. You are a part of us, but make no mistake, you are from God. HE is your rock. He has these incredible, masterful plans he’s made just for you, things I could never begin to dream of – just for you. He loves you more than I ever could. It is impossible to match his love and this is something I don’t understand, because I love you more than my own life.

So I’ll keep taking walks with you, I’ll keep talking with you, keep adding rocks that catch my eye to your life. You’ll decide where they go on the top of your pile. It will take a lifetime. It will take dedication. It is my gift to you. Layers of memories sitting atop the eternal Rock.

You see, this legacy, these rocks, were left for me to stack on my pile. When I was a little girl, your grandparents took me to church every Sunday and sometimes every Wednesday night. And sometimes we’d sing a song that I now know is one of my igneous rocks, one of my strongest rocks. All I remember is the chorus:

On Christ the solid rock I stand.

All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand.

Small Things

“Words, so innocent and powerless…when standing in a dictionary, how potent for good or evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne(1804-1864) American Novelist

I’m considering small things; the rudder of a ship, a tiny spark, a bit in the mouth of a horse, my tongue. And suddenly I don’t want to consider it, don’t want to give it one little thought, want to put it to bed and forget it.

A small thing that corrupts me. A small thing that sets to destruction.These small things, these tongues of ours, also known as pride, preservation and prejudice.  A small thing that speaks from the overflow of my heart (Matthew 12:34).

And I’m seen. Ripped through. Exposed.

What a gift to be shown one’s selfishness, greed, and gluttony for self-protection, wants and desires, our own brand of salvation. But we hide, for it is dark and disformed. It is not who Christ has made us to be, drenched in his blood. It’s as if we dip our toes in and say, “It’s too much and not everything. I just need to make my point clear. Then I can come back.”

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21

It can be tortuous to turn one’s back to the all the comments, all the words said that would have been received with encouragement, but only said, “You’re not good enough, aren’t gifted enough, not faithful enough.”

Bitterness takes hold. It grasps what’s left and grows quickly, filling every space needing filling. It grows in the heart.

And out of the heart, the words flow over the tongue. They feel strange and evil, but leave a sense of power. We can say whatever we want. After all, that is what we want. Yet under it all, we want to be healed. Need to be healed. Need to be told we are enough. Reminded that He is enough.

Instead the fire grows, and grows, and grows. It destroys friendships, it breeds distrust, it roots in and lives in death.

“We will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word spoken” Matthew 12:36

Eventually, the power is revealed as false, the fortified walls of protection crack, and we are bare. We decide if we will be visable to others, but make no mistake, WE. ARE. SEEN.

We are seen. Our words are felt. Our hearts are on display.

All the heaped up piles we lug around and try to cover are heard. But if we’ll let them burn, a beautiful word could come. Something lovely could be not just heard, but seen.

“Encourage one another daily.” Hebrews 3:12.

And as we consider the small things, let us consider every word – for its truth, for its encouragement, for its healing salve in deep, deep wounds.

Let us remember The Word, Jesus Christ as we make choices with our speech. And let us pray for the attitude of our hearts, for the power we possess for freedom and for love.

A Good, Good Father

dad 2Da-Da, daddy, father, pops, dad, even Pa. Sounds lovingly woven together to signify and represent all there is to know about a father; the men in our lives we go to for advice, for truth, for wisdom, for love, for protection, for provision. Our fathers are bound to us by blood or purely out a loving  heart with the capacity for more. Our fathers have come before us, they have wounds and scars and love won and lost, and time. Time to learn, to live, to share with us the good and the bad. To teach us if we are teachable. To form us if we formable. To love us in their way if we are lovable.

I have asked for stories, for words that speak to the men our fathers are. I will attempt to share these beautiful words. As you read, you may resonate with similar remembrances of your own father or find yourself wishing yours was more like those described here. Please remember, imperfection abounds, do-overs are abundant, and our Father God’s love covers it all.

Integrous, bold, brave, gentle, loving, Godly, trustworthy, strong, non-compromising, an advocate, tough. Only a handful of words a son used to describe his father, home now with the Father. Memories of driving an embarrassingly old car that ushered countless people to church, visited a shut-in, or served in any way possible. Days long gone that are a treasure, found in the youthful memory of a father of five. His father, “understood who he was representing for his entire life.” The legacy he left, now understood, now remembered for what it always was. “Only what’s done for God will last,” said this pastor and father. He lived with conviction and imparted it to his children and all that he touched.

A mother asks her young son, “What reminds you of dad?”

He replies in typical 9 year old fashion, “Hockey reminds me of daddy because he use to play it, and he loves it.”

She asks again, “What do you like to do when you’re together?”

In a little boy voice, he answers, “I like it when we eat ice cream together and play catch with the football and play pond hockey.”

Finally, mom asks,”Can you think of anything else to describe your daddy?”

With a little thought and squirmyness over all the questions he says, “He is funny, very smart, and he loves Jesus and God.”

You see, a father shares his love of sport, food and savior. Our little ones hear it, they see it being lived out in a father’s touch, in his words, and in his laughter and enjoyment of God’s gifts.

There are stories of fathers reading books, sometimes the same one over and over again, playing catch in the backyard until mosquitoes drove all for cover, working two jobs to make ends meet, and watching and cheering at every activity known to man.There are stories of fathers who put others first, sacrificing their own needs to see other needs fulfilled. There are stories of fathers who slipped, who made mistakes, who would give anything to change a moment that changed everything. There are stories of redemption, of forgiveness, of a great love that knows no boundaries. A fathers love for us. Whether we know our earthly father deeply or don’t have any memory at all, we do have a heavenly One that first gave us life, breath, and our true identities.

And so because of our deep need for connection we miss our dads when they are gone. A friend told me, “I miss him every single day. My parents divorced when I was in 6th grade, and I soon moved in with my dad. We weathered the middle school years together and in that time I saw God working within him like I never had seen before. I saw my dad in very vulnerable states as he grieved the divorce and later my brother’s death. Over the years, I saw him wrestle the loss of my brother and go through each stage of grieving. I know he was angry and hurt at God. We serve a merciful God who waited until my dad came back to Him to mercifully take him home with Him. My dad’s life has taught me many things, most importantly the power of prayer and the amazing gift of mercy. He is so good.”

Our Father is indeed, a good, good Father. With grateful hearts and love-full, we thank Him for the earthly dads he’s given us. For the moments and memories that fill our minds and have helped shaped us into the people we are today, for the people we are still becoming, ever closer to the heart and mind of our first Father.

Thanks Dad. I love you.

Gone

I’ve been fumbling around with something profound, maybe even prophetic to say in light of Holy Week. Feeling stuck, I kept coming back to this;

“So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!'” John 12:19.

They sound like whiny babies. But wait, for I too, am a whiny baby. When I’ve tried and tried to have my way and still, no one listens, I sound a lot like the Pharisees. So, I don’t judge them, yet I’m amazed by this scripture. And not by their reaction to not having their way, but by their words, “the whole world has gone after him!”

“The whole world has gone after HIM!”

How frustrating this must have been.

“The WHOLE WORLD has gone after him!”

And I’m wondering what it would look like if indeed, the whole world was going after Jesus. Actually, what would it look like if just the Church was going after him. I mean, really going after him! What if we sought him out so passionately in everything we said, read, thought, sweat, rested, ate, mumbled, watched, and breathed that people began to wonder if they had just seen Jesus for real? Standing right in front of them? What if we so humbly sought him that it bled through in everything we do.

Dearly loved, created beings see him everyday in the people I know. A friend meets with a young woman from China every week, patiently listening to all her new questions about her new faith. Another braces herself for the unknown reaction of little children to the simplicity of waking up in a house that still isn’t home, with a family they haven’t had enough time to know. A sister prays for Constance, homeless and alone, feeding her, praying for her. And my little girl, growing up fast, goes out into the streets of New Orleans, hands lunch to a bare hand, holds it and prays.

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Patience, humility, love, courage; all reflections of Jesus.

The Pharisees didn’t understand. Somedays I don’t understand.

I have this picture in my head of Jesus standing in front of me now. I will admit, he looks strangely familiar to all the paintings I’ve ever seen of him, all the men who have represented him on screen. The long dark hair, tan skin and robe. But it’s his face that is unlike any I have seen. His eyes are piercing but soft. Playful and compassionate and even sometimes disappointed, but even that is hard to pinpoint. He has wrinkles around his mouth from smiling, delighting in me. He also has wrinkles on his forehead, one eyebrow in a high arch, questioning my choices. But always, always, this unmistakable love.

And I think, what if my face actually reflected His? What if others saw all the same things in me, all at once, covered in love? Could people see Him? Is it possible?

It is completely possible that cold, hungry hands in Indiana and tired, forgotten hands in Louisana feel warmth and compassion. It is completely possible that curious, questioning eyes see grace and patience. It is completely possible for scared, cautious hearts to bear witness to courage and the quiet strength to love a child who does not share your blood. It is completely possible to be mistaken for Jesus to those all around us.

Nearly 40 days ago I began baking bread. I gave it to tired mothers, homeless sisters, to thank family for their help, to comfort a neighbor’s loss. And what I found was the noticing. I saw Jesus in those who received and in shared experiences of service. I heard him in grateful words spoken and prayers for protection and help, echoing, “What you have done for least of these…,” “Love is patient…,” “Feed my sheep…”

So here is the profound, prophetic word I have to give on this second day of Holy Week –

Notice Him. Let others notice Him in you.

See Him. He’s with us and all around us. In the people we pass. In the people we share life with. Even in the people who don’t yet know Him, we see His image for they were created in it.

Ask yourself, who sees Him in you?

And then wonder, what it would look like if the whole world went after Him…

Bread

Salt, water, flour, oil, yeast.

Simple for some, but daunting for others.

The measuring, the mixing, the rising, the baking.

The test – the eating.

I grew up in a homemade house. Everything we ate came from the barn, the garden or a very few store bought ingredients added to said barn or garden variety. My mother and grandmother baked and cooked daily as I watched and listened and practiced alongside them in the kitchen. Homemade yeast rolls were a staple at each holiday gathering.

I gave up on the 4-H fair the year I would have taken yeast rolls. They scared me – a lot. Getting the temperature just right to dissolve and activate the yeast seemed too hard. Impossible.

So I quit.

It would be nearly a decade before I would try my hand at bread, something other than banana or pumpkin, and feed it to my family.

I started with a bread machine.. I made everything I could in it and began to gain some momentum. We ate sweet potato bread, whole wheat bread, Challah bread, and old-fashioned white bread. I even made pizza dough in it.

I enjoyed it – fast, simple, and I could walk away from it and let the machine do all the work. Quite handy for a young mother of three.

But I always felt a little cheated. Surely I was missing something. Something delicious.

When my machine finally let out one last puff of steam, I knew I needed to try.

I would need a recipe.

Pizza dough seemed safe enough. I dug out my trusty Joy of Cooking cookbook and scanned the index for pizza dough. Sure enough, there it was. 1 and 1/3 cup warm water, 2 teaspoons yeast, 4 generous tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 4 cups flour. I’ve memorized it.

It was delicious and extremely satisfying to create, but I wanted bread. A huge loaf of warm goodness I could smell throughout the house. Something we would devour. Something we would love.

And my good mother came through for me the way she always does.

French Bread. No-knead French bread at that!

It has basically the same ingredients as the pizza dough, just different amounts and a little sugar. It makes the most delicious loaves of sliced heaven this side of heaven. When I bake them, my family can hardly wait to eat. It draws my teenagers out the depths of their rooms. It calms and then excites my youngest all at once. It is called dabo in his first home and it is sustanence to him. His first morning with our family, he filled his hungry and scared stomach with six slices of it. My middle boy, he just hugs me and asks for the first slice. It is his favorite. I am in love with this bread.

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These simple ingredients that come together into something I love. How does it work? How do they mix and rise and change into something so desired, so satisying, so beloved.

During these days of Lent, this leading up to Holy Week, to the rememberance of the night of betrayal, of death, of redemption, I have been thinking about the process of it all. These were just a few of the ingredients, the sequence of events. And a begging in the garden – “Father, this is too hard for me, I am scared, but I will do it. So they can eat my bread.” (my generous paraphrasing)

HE is the something so desired, so satisfying, so beloved.

So I have begun baking bread.

I am measuring, mixing, forming, baking and eating bread. My recipes design is for two loaves. One to eat, one to share.

And I remembering this mysterious charge to eat the bread of life. If you believe, if you follow, if want more than just consumption, if you want to really be filled, “Eat my bread,” Jesus says. And the contentment you receive is not flour and yeast and oil, but of scarred hands and feet and body, his forgiveness. His love.

His life.

Free Day

It’s a snow day. A free day. Truly a free day for me as my kids operated under a two hour delay, but my school was closed! How does that happen? It may never happen again, so I am making the most of the quiet day to do as I like.

And “as I like” means praying, reading, digging, and dreaming about those who not free today.

The nearly 30 million people who are slaves to someone. The men and women and children who are making bricks in India, picking cocoa beans in Ivory Coast, servicing the evil desires of men from all over the world in Thailand, houseslaves in England, Haiti and America, and, and, and.

Human trafficking is present in some way in every country on this planet. It is fueled by greed, corruption, manipulation and power. It is a $32 billion a year business. A business of selling people, little children and their innocence. Turning a profit from weakness.

We’re appalled when we bring up the slave trade that took place years ago on our continent and in Europe. Yet most of us don’t understand and couldn’t begin to believe it is much worse today. In face there are more people enslaved today than in any other time in history. It’s quiet and hidden but not as much as we think.

Mail order brides, massage palors, nanny and maid services, countless hours performing back breaking work, some cleaning our companies and corporations, picking our food, satisfying our desires for something more, something better, something we don’t have to do because we’re better than that. Besides, they’re probably happy to have a job.

Spending 3 years on a ship at sea, gathering King Prawn shrimp to be sold to Europe and America, sleeping 2-3 hours a day, and not allowed to leave doesn’t sound like something anyone would want to do – ever.

Ever.

Do you know any little girls who dream of making love to a 50 year old man? There is no choice in this life. It is chosen for them. They are beaten down, drugged up, and threatened with their lives to obey. And so they do. And so they do. And so they do. Maybe 10 times a day.

My fingers tremble to even try to put words to the reality of this life. There is so much more I don’t know.

But there is hope.

There are people all over the globe that are learning about human trafficking. Beginning to understand that maybe what they’ve seen, been told or conclusions they’ve drawn were innocent ignorance. And they are not sitting down about it.

A21, Not For Sale, Zoe International, Free the Slaves, International Justice Mission, and Polaris just to name a very small few are tirelessly working to educate, rescue and restore the lives of millions of people everywhere.

People are praying corporately, gathering in homes of friends, falling to their knees in their bedrooms, calling out to one who sees, who knows, who hears. God is with us. God is with all of us. And His Spirit grieves for His creation. And what is He doing about it?

He is pressing this issue heavily into our hearts and minds. He is reminding us that we were created for “such a time as this.” He is teaching us to do His work and watch Him at work, bringing life again to scared souls.

What will you do?
Are you willing to do one thing to fight back?

Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

You can pray, you can buy a t-shirt (theA21campaign.com) or jewelry made by a survivor (fairtradedesigns.com or madebysurvivors.com), you can find out how the products you buy are impacted by labor trafficking and how you unknowingly have slaves working for you (slaveryfootprint.org) and make some purchasing changes, you can donate to any of the organizations above, you can learn how to spot a trafficking situation(gozoe.org), and you can teach your children. Teach them compassion, teach them real, honest facts and depending on age, the raw truth of life for others who live in this world with us and among us.

Do one thing.

If each of us does one thing, then there is a real possibility to see human trafficking come to an end once and for all.

What is your one thing?

Barefoot

“Walk barefoot through these last days of Advent.” These words, or something like them, struck me as I read in the stillness of a sleepy house. Do you ever come across a phrase or even just one word that stops you? Keeps turning over and over in your mind? You start asking questions? You start to see things? Feel things?

I went literal and decided I would walk barefoot today in my house. Not a terribly insane to do indoors, but it is winter and the floor is cold. My experiment was born out of my wondering about Mary and Joseph. Their long walk on foot and glorified ride on the back of a donkey. I have wondered about their journey, their fears, their obedience, their trust, their questions, their faithfulness.

So I started well. A warm shower bought me a few extra minutes with no socks and no slippers. I am known to bring my slippers with me to a friends home – warm toes are very important to me – so I was determined to do this. But after a couple of hours, I folded. With frigid tootsies, I pulled on my fuzzy slippers and got to work. And forgot about Mary. Forgot about Joseph. Forgot about anything uncomfortable excepting my stiff joints after sitting on the floor for a couple hours wrapping presents.

The slippers come off, a rush of cold air, and a reminder. A long forgotten road, dust and sun and pain and hunger and questions. And obedience and trust and faithfulness.

Never before has it occurred to me to think so much of Mary and Joseph. Yet God thought so much of them. He saw purity and integrity. He saw gentleness and the strength to bear the weight of scorning stares, poisonous words, even the rush of escaping death in the middle of the night. He saw perserverance and devotion to the Creator of all, the God of love, the Father of their child. Mary, to know God’s hand over her, Joseph to believe God’s protection over them all. Listening.

I feel it – the cold floor on the bottom of my feet. Yet I feel it. And see it. Two people, humble in living, raising the King of Kings, obeying, trusting, faithfully following after the God who knew them. Who knows me today.

Take of your shoes. Read the story. Listen to each word out loud with bare feet on cold floors or wet grass or dusty fields. Let the words live and listen quietly to God. He has so much to tell you.

Speak

I will always love the sound of turning pages, touching paper, following the type of letters and sounds that lead to words and make me think. Things that make me go back and read it over and over. Wondering over it all.

A week ago I picked up a an old, familiar book of my grandma’s. She died when I was eight. I still remember the look on my dad’s face when he came and I didn’t yet know what. Just that something was wrong with grandma. Granddad gave me the pearl necklace she was given upon her graduation from eighth grade, the watch she received when she finished high school and her wedding ring. I’m sentimental and am in love with the past, so these items of hers, things she cherished and wore, remind me.

Yet what I prize the most of her earthly belongings is a book.

After my granddad passed, my father inherited a large book case my granddad had made, filled with his collection of classic literature, theological volumes and whatever else fell into his hands. I use to run my fingers across each one, looking for something to sink into, something that had gone through my grandfather’s head.

It was the smallest thing. I’m sure I had skipped over it’s unnoticeable blue cover many times before. The title – God Speaks, written by Frederick W. Brink. I’m not even sure of the copyright – it’s in roman numerals and evidently I was absent every day of school that we learned how to read them.

It was old. It even felt fragile and had that old book smell. But it looked new. My grandma wrote her name in it, the evidence it had belonged to her. But the pages looked unturned.

So I began to turn them.

I have read this book twice through over the last few years. But something stopped me last week.

The unnumbered page entitled, I Am a God Who Speaks, had this to say to me early in the morning, ” I am the God who made you for himself, so that when I speak it is to hold you close beside me.” Wait – read it again. I can barely type the words without a chill running through.

This word, speak. It is a verb. It demands a voice to be put to something. It can be a challenge or depending on the topic come with such ease and commanding presence that you don’t even realize what is coming out. It’s a part of who you are.

That’s what I think of when I read this line, “I am the God who made you for himself, so that when I speak it is to hold you close beside me.” This God, who made me for himself, who even speaks to me, does it to hold me close beside him. That’s the way it is sometimes. When I’m closest to my God, I don’t even realize what is coming out. It pours out. It is a part of who I am and who I am becoming.

I tell my children that He speaks to me. Sometimes I get a screwed up face that thinks I’m making it up. Or a, “That’s nice mom,” look. But there is one face that says, “Really? How?” And I say, “When I am close beside Him.”

And that’s the key, the secret formula. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” That’s the beautiful wisdom of James, brother of Jesus, who grew up so close to God. We say he didn’t know it, but I think he must have known something, denied it, and then thought better.

Speak to God. Come up close. He will speak to you and hold you close beside. Is there any better place to be?

Wash

There are national holidays and observances for every conceivable notion. Grandparents day, Ultrasound Day, and Groundhog Day for goodness sakes! Then we have Children’s Day – really? Yes! Because some children are not celebrated in this world. You will have to look hard to find it in the United States, but it is much more visible beyond our borders.

And as I looked, I found Global Handwashing Day. It’s the first thing I shout out to my boys before they reach into the bag of whatever is on the counter, “Did you wash your hands?” It’s one of the first things I taught my youngest to do, using soap. It’s one of the things I think they probably don’t use (soap) as is evidenced on the white hand towels in the guest bath.

It’s also one of the things Community Health Evangelists (CHE) teach children and even adults. The importance of one of the simplest acts of our day, yet taken for granted. Doesn’t everyone know to wash hands – before eating, after visiting the restroom, privy, or WC? When you’re sick? After a hard days work?

Yet, this is what I heard and saw. CHE workers teaching children in an orange grove near the Thai/Burmese border to wash their hands, explaining why they should, teaching the method, encouraging, even coaxing.

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Remembering that time, I thought, “Surely they know this. Did he (CHE trainer) really just say and demonstrate how to do this?” He did, and all the children dutifully repeated, wringing their hands, pretending to be wiping soap and water all over dirty little fingers, covered with the play and work of their day.

It’s the first picture that came to mind when I saw October 15 is Global Handwashing Day. A year ago, I would have thought Global Handwashing Day absurd. What a difference a year makes. My perspective completely changed as I watched the much too young being taught by near strangers, the simplest of sanitizing acts. Parents away at work in the fields, children wanting to please. I prayed they understood.

There are those who don’t know. How will they know unless someone tells them? This is biblical and refers to the telling of Christ’s love for the world. Yet it applies to all things beneficial, not just eternal.

First teach them to wash hands.