Why I Don’t Smoke or Fear Death

For some reason, I keep thinking a blog needs to be a profound, life-changing read. Most of the blogs I read, though, are simple snapshots of everyday life.

I think it started when Uncle Bud came to live with us Monday-Fridays for about six months. He had lived on the east coast, and I started getting to know him after cancer and God gripped him in his early 50’s. Continue reading “Why I Don’t Smoke or Fear Death”

Holding Hands and Learning The Way

“Winnie, do you know why we hold hands in the parking lot? That’s right-to be safe,” my three year old taught her best friend. As we walked into the grocery store, she held my right hand and Pooh’s left paw.

Her words were exactly mine except that she made them personally applicable to her fuzzy friend.

Jesus said that, “The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

Can you imagine only saying the words God gave you?

In studying the Gospels, I’m so thankful God records so many naive blurts of the disciples. They were human and learning Jesus’ Way. God literally knows we can’t understand everything.

We aren’t called to be Christ, but Jesus does go on to say that “anyone who has faith in Me will do what I’ve been doing.”

dip-lo-mat n.
1. One, such as an ambassador, who has been appointed to represent a government in its relations with other governments.
2. One who uses skill and tact in dealing with others.

Perhaps one of the best compliments the Father could give me is that I am diplomatic. Not p.c. or “tolerant,” but a person that represents the kingdom of grace and love in a selfish, cruel world. A woman who uses skill and tact instead of her ego to make a difference.

* * *Do Good – Winnie – do you know why we hold hands? To be safe. What instructions and inspirations has God given you that He in turn wants you to share with others? Share your thoughts in a comment below.
Lord, give me desire and diplomacy to share You and Your Way with others.

Give Me A List

I handed my three year old an index card with a quantity, name and rough drawing of several items.

“What’s this, Mommy?”
“Your shopping list. Can you help me at the store today?”
“Yes!” my three year old said.
I knelt next to her. “Okay – what’s this?” I asked, pointing at the first four fruits.
“Apples,” she replied. Whew – at least I can draw a recognizable apple!

We read the list, and she hesitated at the last item. “That’s a strawberry snack,” I explained.
“A strawberry snack? For me?” she turned and gave me a big smile.
“Yes, for you when we are all done with our shopping trip. I appreciate your help at the store.” I said as I squeezed her little shoulders.
Up and down the aisles, she held her list and I held mine. For the first time in months we got through the store without several potty breaks, time outs, or please-everyone-stare-at-me tantrums.
The difference? You already know it – she had something to do! The Father who created us knows we want our Parent’s attention and approval. We want a list so we know what to do.
Jesus had a conversation on this very topic with the people following Him.

Jesus said, “Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”
They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

I admit, being told to believe sounds a little like telling a three year old to just pick out a few apples. Is that even a real “work”? What does that mean?
At the risk of redundancy, I believe it means believe. If my daughter had tried to grab and read my list at the store, we would have just spent the errand wrestling and struggling with one another.

Do Good – What does it mean to believe? Do a little research starting at BibleGateway.com and Dictionary.com.

We can’t understand God’s list. It’s not written in language we can understand at this stage of development. Instead we believe and trust that we have all we need to successfully fulfill our purpose and find fulfillment in Him.

My list for today? You guessed it – believe. Actively, completely, I live my life choosing to believe Jesus is God’s Son and that through Him I have life. I don’t want to miss a moment of it, especially the strawberry snacks!

I Still Hate Goodbyes

Today was the end. The end of my winter/spring Bible study. The end of a routine that had become predictable and comfortable. The end of seeing friends weekly until fall.

I realized again today that I still hate goodbyes.

However, today is also a beginning.

I started reading a new book. I began a new fresh study of John’s gospel, and I feel freedom in my flexible summer schedule.

I realized again today that I still like to start something new. It’s energizing, exciting, and full of possibility.

Saying goodbye hurts. Especially when it feels like you are leaving a piece, a tender deep piece of yourself with people you will no longer see.

Starting new heals. It gives hope and expectation and has a way of filling up the holes of grief.

The ebb and flow of life – birth, life, death; birth, life, death. Except there is One who interrupts this cycle. Jesus Christ says that when we believe in Him there is eternal life. We have a second birth, but no second death.

John writes this when he received a new Revelation of Jesus:

“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. Then He placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'”

He holds the keys. I adore those words. He is in control, and Jesus says later that “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

In eternity the ebb and flow will be something we cannot yet comprehend. It will not be a cycle of birth, life, and death. It will be a new order!

I ache for the day when I never need to say goodbye. As for today, I acknowledge my sadness, but I smile at the possibilities of tomorrow and promises of eternity.

Do Good – Write a note of thanks to a teacher or mentor. Give a specific example of how they have influenced and/or helped you.

God, thank You for incomprehensible forever. Thank You for creating a need for heaven in us and giving us the Way through Jesus Christ. We are so thankful that our eternal life with You starts today.

Breakfast with The Champion

Do you know what Michael Phelps eats for breakfast? In a Wall Street Journal Blog by Sarah Rubenstein titled: The Michael Phelps Diet: Don’t Try It at Home she recounts this champion’s typical morning meal.

Breakfast: Three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. Two cups of coffee. One five-egg omelet. One bowl of grits. Three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar. Three chocolate-chip pancakes.” I pretty much eat the same. That is, I usually have two cups of coffee and a bowl of granola or oatmeal. So not really the same, but I do have coffee.

Do you know what Jesus ate for breakfast? True, He didn’t get any gold medals, but He did keep quite a busy schedule most days. According to His beloved friend, John: “When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’

His friend Mark adds: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

I used to hear how Mother Theresa got up at 4:00 to pray and think, “Of course! Such a religious practice fits for people like, well, Mother Theresa and Jesus. I live a busy American life with sitcoms and comedians to refresh me late at night. I can’t get up early to pray!” Now, maybe I’m getting older, but I’ve lost my appetite for those empty, brief laughs. I am hungry for more, for something that will not only fuel my day but really satisfy me.

“Come and have breakfast.” Jesus prepared the meal. He’s ready to serve it, but will I rationalize ten more minutes of sleep instead? Trouble is, those ten minutes are just never enough to really revitalize me.

On the days, however, when I do follow the Voice, I am refreshed. Not fully awake, especially right away, but fed and loved. Jesus meets me with a forgiveness and grace that transforms selfish me into a loving wife, mom and friend.

I may never be able to stomach Michael Phelps’ breakfast (I hope!), but as my Bible study leader Candace Van Ark said this week, I can daily “have breakfast with The Champion Himself.” He is too much for me to handle, too, but somehow He makes it work.

Thank You for the invitation, Jesus. Here’s my RSVP…

Free Saki for Moms

I laughed as I read the small sign in the Japanese restaurant window: “Free Saki for Moms on Mother’s Day.” Wow – that’s it? How about a free meal? Complimentary toys to occupy children? Maybe even a ‘mom’s only’ section in a quiet, clean part of the restaurant? Apparently the manager didn’t ask his mom for ideas.

Mother’s Day is a time of great stress at our home. Since our children are only advanced enough to stuff spaghetti in their mouths with both hands, they certainly can’t write Mommy a gushing note of gratitude. Daddy has the daunting task of making Mom feel special.

Let me make it simple: celebrate your Mom. I know, that sounds a bit selfish, but hear me out.

Consider all Mom does in an average day to meet the physical, social, emotional, fiscal, recreational, and spiritual needs of her family. Can you name something for each area? What is like when she is gone? What is it like if she is gone?

Do Good – Make a list of the widows and/or single moms you know. Pick a name and buy a gift card. Mail it with a simple “Happy Mother’s Day!” note. Consider sending it anonymously. If you know her well, tell her what you admire about her. (Don’t worry if it arrives after Mother’s Day!!)

If you are looking for the right words feel free to borrow them from an ancient poem found in Proverbs. I found the amplified version, a traditional version, or a contemporary rendering. The opening line is:

“A capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman– who is he who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels and her value is far above rubies or pearls.”
-Proverbs 31:10

You can have the Free Saki. I’m too busy drinking in all the giggles, tears, story-times, dancing, singing and prayers of young, innocent hearts. If that weren’t enough, my husband thanks and encourages me as a woman, wife and mom daily. Thanks, dear ones, for celebrating me. I celebrate you right back!

Lord, thank You for our moms. Teach us how to forgive hurts, cherish the everyday, and be in healthy, vibrant relationships within our families.

Note: If you are without mom or in a strained place with her, please accept my sympathies. Feel free to leave a comment, and I will be in prayer for you.

I Just Learned How to Cook (and Love)

“I can change any one’s eating habits,” a friend declared.

Hmmm, I thought to myself, I’m not so sure…

“After all,” she continued, “Myron didn’t even eat vegetables when you got married, and now look at him!”

It’s true. Myron’s idea of a salad used to be iceberg lettuce slathered in dressing and buried in cheese. Now he prefers romaine and spinach with a variety of veggies and proteins.*

I pondered my friends comment and thought back to the last year.

Nursing a dairy and soy-intolerant baby forced me into a diet of unprocessed, whole foods. I really learned to cook as I could no longer warm-up prepared foods. In this process Myron and I discovered our new healthy diet tasted delicious and helped us feel great.

Did I change his eating habits? No, I realized, I just learned how to cook!

Do Good Personally – Make salad a main dish for at least one meal in the next week. If this doesn’t sound filling, creatively add proteins, vegetables and a slice of bread on the side.*

I wondered more deeply, is it really possible to change anyone? A simple thought emerged: We don’t change any one’s mind or heart, we just learn how to love.

Saint Paul said we could be the most thrilling, eloquent speaker or a spectacular miracle-worker or even the most generous person in history, but if we don’t love it won’t mean anything! “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (I Corinthians 13:1-7)

Am I motivated by love in all the encouraging words I say, things I do and even the sacrifices I make for others? Or, am I simply acting out of my own need to matter in this world? What is this kind of love truly infuses meaning into life?

I used to be completely compelled by my own longing to be significant. At a time in my life when I was so broken that I could not be anything but shattered, God gently showed me His love. He lifted up my weary head and showed my teary eyes the cross of Jesus Christ in a whole new light – “You matter.”

God is love. His love brings meaning, purpose, and even change into our lives.

Do Good – Pick a truth about love below. Meditate on it and ask God how He wants you to specifically change your thinking and behavior. Pray believing that you will learn to really love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

A diet soda and crispy chicken sandwich used to be my healthy alternative at a restaurant. Are you substituting empty, false human love for the real thing from God? I pray that we can all learn to love. With that, there will be no stopping us from being Up To Know Good!

God, thank You that You are love. Help us to believe and learn so we may change and help our hurting world.

*Myron’s Spectacular Salad
Finely sliced green onion
Sliced mushrooms
Craisins and/or raisins
Hard-boiled egg
Sunflower seeds
Freshly shredded Colby and/or Monterey Jack (or whatever cheese you love)
Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper
Favorite dressings: Paul Newman’s Vinaigrette or Annie’s Cowgirl Ranch

"What do you want me to do for you?"

Welcome to Up To Know Good
a weekly blog
Here we believe that when we Know Good, we want to Do Good, and that feels really good!
find out more at www.uptoknowgood.com

Every Wednesday in our weekly routine my daughters and I encounter the same man. He wears a black and red jacket with a cap bearing an unfamiliar insignia. He has tattoos on his face and usually carries a sign asking for money to help his children.

The first week, it was easy to give him a small donation. The second week, I only had a granola bar to offer. The third week, another contribution. But something happened as time went on. Week by week I gave a small food or money gift, but six weeks later, I got annoyed and didn’t give him anything.

As I accelerated past him through the familiar intersection, guilt overwhelmed me. Why was I annoyed? Because this seems to be his way of life? Because I wanted the money or snack for myself? No, I was irritated because of what he revealed in me: an unwillingness to ask.

Unlike me, scripture records another man on the side of the road who knew Who and how to ask.

One day, Jesus walked with a crowd into Jericho when a blind man yelled for His attention.
“Stop it and be quiet!” the crowd said to hush him up quickly, but the blind man persisted, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus asked them to bring the man to him. Jesus posed this simple question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man was face-to-face with One able to help him. He didn’t waste time explaining his life story, asking for a little food, or even begging for a blessing. “Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

Direct, bold, and effective, he spoke fearlessly and full of faith.

Seeing through his dirty, dusty exterior, Jesus immediately grants his request. “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

With nothing to offer Jesus but faith, the beggar stated his greatest need and desire – sight!

Do Good – Keep a few extra dollars or snacks in your car to hand out when you have the opportunity. Don’t judge; bless.

Back in 2010, the tattoo-faced stranger I met was thankfully in his usual spot the next Wednesday. Despite a rare green light, I slowed the car and got his attention. I don’t know his story, but I know he asks. My prayer is that he will be blessed, and he will ask Jesus to meet his deepest need – sight.

My prayer for myself is that I will ask. Blind, dirty, dusty and with nothing to offer, may I be fearless and faithful. When I can’t articulate my deepest need, I borrow the prayer from the blind beggar:

Lord, I want to see! Thank You for putting all I need in Your Word. I pray also that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which You have called us. You listen perfectly and heal completely. How I love You!

Live Carelessly

Years ago I habitually looked for the cheapest items on a restaurant menu. I checked prices first and food second and worried primarily about my wallet, not my stomach. At supper one night, my friend Brian realized what I was doing. He reached across the table and covered up the prices on my menu. He gazed at me and asked, “What are you hungry for?” His directness brought awareness – what was I hungry for? I hadn’t thought to ask myself that question.

Do Good – As you look at a menu or shop at the grocery store, consider what you really want to eat. If you already do this, take the next step and pay the bill for another table at a restaurant.

I will always be grateful to Brian for revealing my unhealthy, narrow thinking. Unconsciously I limited myself and just thought that cheapest was best. Thankfully now I can find balance between what I want and what I can afford. In this and many other ways God has shown me His tremendous ability to give me what I desire and need.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” Matthew 6:25. Read more.

God, it’s so easy for us to get caught up in worry. Today we choose to live carelessly and get caught up in thoughts of You instead. Thank You for all that You give us!