Nature or Nurture?

“What do you think is causing the rise in drug use among teenagers?”

This was the question posed by a politician to a group of high school students in 1987. He was ostensibly trying to get a teen perspective on teen issues. It is more likely he was trying to build his voter base for a future run for President.

The kids made a few stabs at trying to answer the question. Things like:

  • Both parents at work, leaving kids home alone
  • Boredom
  • Poor parental role models

My son was not patient enough to endure any more. He stood, identified himself and addressed the speaker, who, by the way, had attended divinity school as a young man.

“Senator,” he began, “the problem is the condition of the human heart. The cause is sin.”

He then gave the politician a concise presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He explained that until the heart is surrendered to Christ and comes into obedience to the Master, evil will abound. The students cheered. The politician was speechless.

Several years later a young woman approached me at my office in the church. She had just started working in the day care and came in to introduce herself.

“I went to school with your son,” she said. Then she told me the story of that day at the high school.

“We were so proud of him,” she disclosed. “We thought he was great!

“There were lots of us who had been Christians for years, but we were silent. When we saw how bold he was, it made us want to speak up, too. I mean, he wasn’t afraid. It gave us the courage to start standing up for Jesus. It changed us.”

“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel …” — Ephesians 6:19 (KJV)

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Killer Mom

In the days before health food was chic, I did my very best to feed my children healthy food. This required a lot of extra work on my part, but it was my joy to provide for them.

“Mom, I’m thirsty. What can I have to drink?”

“Oh, there’s a drink machine in the kitchen. Why don’t you try it out?

“Where? I don’t see any drink machine.”

“It’s the shiny, silver thing at the kitchen sink.”

“Mom, that’s just the water faucet.”

“Bingo!”

My big thing, though, was fresh vegetables. We had broccoli, cauliflower, squash, celery, carrots, cucumbers and on and on. It seems like I was always preparing plastic bags of chopped, diced and sliced veggies for their school lunches.

Years later I was sharing with the children how much I appreciated the way they always listened to me and were respectful of the things I had to say. That’s when my older son told me the ugly truth.

“Mom, you were always in the kitchen, and you always had a knife in your hand. That’s why we showed you respect!”

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” — Proverbs 1:8

.10

I was using the envelope system before it was cool. As a matter of fact, I thought I invented it, although noted financial counselors would disagree. Whoever came up with the idea isn’t important. The fact that it worked effectively in my family is. It helped to give me a visual on exactly how much money I had and how I could shape it, sort it and stretch it to meet our needs without having to “rob Peter to pay Paul.”

I would like to interject a word here about tithing.

TITHE!

Once you do it, you will wonder why you ever hesitated. It is a biblical directive. It increases your income and decreases your outgo. It makes no sense to the worldly checkbook. It is a biblical directive. And did I mention that it is a biblical directive? It honors God.

Tithing will set you free financially. That doesn’t mean the water heater won’t break down, or the car, or the air conditioning. It does mean that God is aware of all these things. Trust Him to meet your every need … and a lot of your wants. We entrust Him with our souls for all eternity. Why should it be so difficult to trust Him for the house payment?

My envelope system would never have been as successful as it was if I had not first committed it, and the first fruits of my increase, to God. It combined basic financial principles with a willingness to sacrifice and a willingness to show some restraint. Being a bit creative, I tweaked mine, of course.

Getting started was easy because I already had a box of envelopes. I made out a list of everything I paid the year before, assigned categories and specifics, divided by 12 and started stuffing.

My children outgrew, blew out, or mangled a pair of tennis shoes every three months. Let’s see … 3 kids times 1 pair of shoes times 4 quarters in the year times $30.00 for sneakers (they were cheaper in 1985) equals $30 in the shoe replacement envelope each month. Here is where the creativity came into play.

I decided to stagger the start of the first buying cycle so we would always have money in the sneaker pipeline. That way we could take advantage of sales, close-outs or other discounts. Of course, this meant that I became the shoe judge. I had to determine whose shoes were in the worst shape, how much super glue to apply to the flapping soles and toes, and how to camouflage the stains and holes.

This process was made a whole lot easier because the children were involved in it, too. They liked the idea of the envelope system. As an added bonus they agreed to let me be the shoe judge or jeans judge or whatever was needed.

Once the envelopes were in place, I didn’t have nearly as many surprises or crises. Every month I stuffed enough in to cover that month plus a little. Quarterly insurance premiums were planned for on a monthly basis. The same strategy was applied to yearly registration fees. I even had an entertainment envelope.

This was a luxury for us, but I insisted on it. One month I added $20, the next $15, the next $10; then I restarted the cycle. We started off the first three months with free entertainment so that we had a reserve to draw on. Each of us participated in selecting the entertainment. Usually it was a meal after church or ordering in pizza.

One of my favorite things to do was to dine out. “Dining” connotes linen tablecloths, floral vases, soft music, attentive servers and food prepared by a chef who is steeped in the culinary arts. For us that translated into Red Lobster. Close enough.

I used these elegant nights out to teach my children which fork to use, how to order, what to order (for instance, you cannot drink a shrimp cocktail) and how to behave. The boys learned to be gentlemen by opening doors, helping my daughter and me with our chairs, summoning the waiter for more water, and paying the bill. Learning a few social graces helped them to be more comfortable in formal settings in the years to come.

Since so many of our expenses were fixed, I improvised in the areas where I could. The big one, of course, was groceries. My kids still tell their friends they were raised on Spam. I guess they forgot about the fried bologna and the hamburger. Did you know you can stretch hamburger by adding oatmeal and stretch chili by adding spaghetti?  In truth, we did count meat. They were allowed so many slices of bacon, so many pork chops, one hamburger, two hot dogs. This quickly turned my growing sons into hoverers. They hovered over the plate of their younger sister who was a much daintier eater.

“Are you gonna eat that? Can I have it?”

“You don’t want the rest of those fries, do you? I’ll just put ‘em on my plate.”

My next financial innovation was coupons. We learned to coupon as a family. This was not just an exercise in comparison shopping. The children learned math, the layout of the grocery store, and how to carry heavy bags.

It went something like this: I made out the list and clipped the coupons. I divided the list four ways and divvied up the corresponding coupons. Armed with coupons and a mental calculator, they flew around the store to find the best bargains. They sorted through generic brands, name brands, add-ons (you know, if you buy this ham, you will receive a five-pound bag of potatoes for a penny). They climbed shelves, asked questions, priced and compared, then proudly returned to the shopping cart with their treasures.

This was in the era of double and triple coupon days, so we racked up on the savings. One time we purchased enough groceries to last us for two weeks for less than $10. The store almost had to pay us! We had a whole lot of fun and learned a little bit as well. It wasn’t just another day at the grocery store. It was an adventure!

The other area of savings was clothes. One year in late spring I realized there was no money for summer clothes for the children. Exploring every avenue led to a lot of dead end avenues. I decided to trust God instead. That was the summer my older son didn’t change sizes, so he wore clothes from the summer before. His brother, who was three years younger, got his brother’s hand-me downs. My daughter received her wardrobe from an exchange with the girls of our church. This practice became quite a tradition. The girls were always excited to see their last year’s dresses being worn by one of the younger girls on Easter Sunday. They really looked forward to getting new/old clothes.

As our financial situation brightened, I used the envelopes less and less. It’s a lot easier to manage money when you have some. But sometimes I miss it.

“What do you want to do this weekend?”

“I don’t know. Let’s see how much money we have left in the entertainment envelope. Wow! There’s enough for Cracker Barrel if we share the sampler plate.”

“Yeah, I get it. And if we drink water with our meal, we’ll have enough left over to get dessert.”

“Let’s go!”

 

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

“I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.” — Malachi 3:8-12 

I Ran

While I was washing dishes at the kitchen sink, my son strolled in and asked me a question.

“Mom, I know if you’re Christian, you’re not supposed to sin. But what if you do? What do you do then?”

“1 John 1:9 tells us, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ ”

I love that scripture. It reminds me of my mother when I was little. She gave me a dollar, which was like $20 back then, and sent me to the grocery store across the street.

“Don’t run,” she admonished.

So proud that she trusted me on this important mission, I was anxious to get started. So I ran. I ran, and I fell … right in the middle of the street. Our street was actually a highway, so this was no small matter.

Crying, limping, bleeding and remorseful, I hobbled back to the house and sobbed, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“Oh, my!” my mother exclaimed. “Did you fall?”

“Uh-huh. In the streeeeeeeeeeeeet! I’m sorry.”

“Come here. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

The cleansing of the wound was not without pain, but the dressing of it eased the pain considerably. Then came the hard part. As my mother held me and wiped away my tears, I held up the dollar bill. It was ripped neatly in half. I waited for the worst lecture and/or spanking of my life.

“That’s OK. Don’t worry about the money. I’m just glad you’re safe,” she cooed and held me even tighter. I determined right then and there NEVER to run across the street again.

That tender scene from my childhood perfectly describes 1 John 1:9 for me.

“OK, I understand the verse,” my son continued, “But, say you did that, and then you do it again. Then what?”

“ ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ ”

“And the third time?”

“Same thing.”

“So you can do that, that sin thing, over and over and God will just continue to forgive you?”

“Well, son, the Bible says that there is a time when the Spirit of God will no longer wrestle with the spirit of man and will let man have his way. That’s not good.

“And the apostle Paul said, ‘God forbid!’ that we should keep on sinning just because we are under grace and not the law.

“So I think it’s better to get at the root of the sin and stop it.”

He looked at me quizzically, shook his head and walked slowly out of the room. A lot to think about, I guess.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” — 1 Timothy 4:12

Wisdom Teeth

“They have to come out,” Dr. Reynolds informed us. “I’ll give you the name of a good oral surgeon.”

Two boys, eight wisdom teeth.

We met with the oral surgeon and scheduled the procedures. They would go to the hospital to have the teeth extracted under anesthesia. I don’t think they do that so much anymore, but that’s how they did it then.

Brave boys, 14 and 17, both over six feet tall, and ready to face whatever it was they had to face.

The first indication we had that this was going to be another adventure was while my daughter and I were observing the anesthetist.

Keep in mind that these were big boys, and not very knockout-able.

“Can you feel it?” the doctor asked. He was from India and had a definite accent.

“Can you feel it? Can you feel it now?”

“Can you feel it? Can you feel it yet?”

He continued to increase the anesthesia after each question. These boys were not giving up.

“Can you feel it now? Can you feel it?”

My older son finally started to drift off, but the younger one persisted.

“Can you feel it yet?”

“Nope.” Then he immediately conked out.

“I guess he felt it,” I remarked to my daughter.

They wheeled them into the Operating Room. In a little while, they wheeled them back out. We waited until they were awake enough to walk, then we put them in the car and headed for home.

I decided to set up their recovery room in the den on a queen-sized sleeper sofa. That way my daughter and I could keep a close eye on them. Oh, they were pitiful as they lay there side by side.

The nurses had wrapped them up in ice bags which wound under their chins, around their swollen jaws and tied neatly on the tops of their heads. They looked like cartoon characters!

We took pictures to capture the moment for posterity. They were not pleased. But you simply could not look at them without laughing.

For the most part things went well, and they healed from their surgeries, but then came the day when I stopped laughing.

I was opening the mail and received two bills (two boys, two bills) from the anesthesiologist. I was visibly aggrieved.

“What’s wrong?” my daughter asked.

“I can feel it. I can feel it now.”

“My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.”  — Psalm 49:3                          

                                                                                                                                                            

                            

Refrigerator

Wouldn’t you know it? It was Sunday afternoon, and the refrigerator stopped working. Rattle-rumble-gurgle-splut! It was gone.

“Now what, Lord? Help!!” I pleaded.

“Call Janice,” the Lord whispered in my heart.

So I called Janice.

“So glad you called,” Janice remarked after I explained our latest plight. “We have an extra refrigerator in our garage. We were wondering what to do with it. If you can get some guys to load it, you can get it today.”

I did, they did, and the party was on. After church we invited people over for an “All-You-Can-Eat-Whatever-Thawed-Out” supper. There were a few hot dogs, a couple of hamburger patties, homemade soups, assorted vegetables and bread. Quite a feast from a broken-down refrigerator!

“Form your purpose by asking for counsel, then carry it out using all the help you can get. ”   — Proverbs 20:18 (The Message)

The Third Commandment

I was recently reunited with a dear childhood friend. We e-chatted back and forth with treasured memories. I soon learned that her remember-er is different from mine.

For instance, I remember getting in trouble for crossing the highway to play with a friend. She remembers getting in trouble for crossing the highway to throw rocks at that little boy, whose name she says was Lars. I say it was Sven.

Play with the boy, stone the boy; Lars, Sven. Things get lost in Memoryland after 58 years, but one memory remains unshakeable. My friend Anne shared the word of God with me, and it left an indelible impression on my life.

We were sitting on the floor in her bedroom playing something and listening to a red vinyl record of the marches of John Phillip Sousa.

I do not remember exactly what I said, but all of a sudden my diminutive friend, who couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, exclaimed, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain!”

Where did that come from? I had never heard anyone use the Word of God in a regular conversation before. At first I was offended (I think the Word of God does that), and I felt upbraided. Then I felt conviction (I think the Word of God does that, too) and a sense of having done something really wrong. But I didn’t want to run away and hide under the bed or anything.

Then I was curious. How did she know that, and how did she know how to use it in the right context? Not even my mother had ever said anything like that to me. How could a kid do that? It was direct and powerful, and it was right.

When I recovered from the shock of what had just happened, I think I replied something like, “Oh, OK.” But I pondered it for years. It had depth of impact. It was simple, but profoundly complex.

It was obviously something that required extensive and detailed study or knowledge, but it came from the mouth of a babe. It was emotionally intense, pointing the way to a place remote from me and inaccessible.

I’m telling you. I pondered it for years. And then I decided to test it.

I was thirteen and defiant. I was the master of my fate. I was thirteen and scared to death. But with typical teenage bravado, I decided to challenge Anne’s admonition and let fly with some sort of sacrilegious verbiage. Then I waited.

It was not long before I felt the effects of that outburst. Sparing you the gory details, I will say that I fell into a cycle of sin and sadness that lasted for years. And I knew it had begun when I shook my rebellious tongue at the Almighty.

Not satisfied with two proofs of purchase, I challenged God and His Word yet again as a young married woman — again on purpose — with the same sad and sinful result.

Finally I began to catch His drift. Taking His name in vain was a thing not to be done. God is real. God’s Word is real. There are consequences for breaking the commandments.

Later I learned that if you have broken one of the commandments, you have broken them all. That’s when I knew I was in BIG trouble. I started looking for that remote and inaccessible place, and He drew me closer and closer. It was not so remote after all and was easily accessible. You just had to say the right words.

“Lord, forgive me.”

Thank you, Anne. You can remember our growing up years any way you want to, but this is how I remember you.

“But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” — Matthew 21:15-16 NIV)

Let Freedom Ring!

“Come on, Mom,” my son-in-law urged. “I won’t burn anything down.”

“You say that now,” I countered, “but I’m not so sure. Besides, isn’t it illegal to shoot off fireworks in the city?”

“Mom, it will be fine. I know what I’m doing. Do you have one of those flame throwers?”

This otherwise sane young man had a thing about fireworks. Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, birth of a child, sunshine on a Saturday – it didn’t matter. A great excuse or no excuse at all – it was always a great night for fireworks!

We had the optimum site for it – high on a hill with a large asphalt area free of things that could catch on fire. So the rest of us set up the lawn chairs while he set up the show. I grabbed a bucket and sat next to the outside spigot, water hose in hand, just in case.

He was right. It was beautiful. People saw the display and drove up the ridge to join us. It was quite festive. When it was all over, it was still not all over. He dragged out the sparklers to delight and terrify small children and grandmas. We got through it with no injuries and even had a bit of fun.

It’s not all about the fireworks, you know. The Fourth of July has great significance for Americans. Men and women pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor that we might live in a free society. But before the birth of a nation, there was a re-birth in the spirit of man.

During the Great Awakening of the mid-eighteenth century hearts were changed. The young Patrick Henry and many in his family received Jesus. Rich and poor, young and old, slave and free, master and servant – stood together in the freedom of Christ Jesus. People were born again. As a result, there was a clear break from government-mandated religiosity. Perhaps the next logical step was a clear break from a tyrannical king.

I saw a living history re-enactment of the reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Capitol in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was thrilling to re-live that special moment in time, to sense the excitement and the danger and the great sacrifice that our founding fathers must have experienced. The battlefield at Yorktown reminds us of the tragedy turned to triumph when Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington in 1781, cementing the freedom of our young nation.

My son-in-law was right. Fireworks offer just the right setting to capture the excitement, the danger, and the sacrifice of 1776. There is great cause for elaborate, loud, and light-up-the-sky celebration.

Now that he is in a foreign country, I miss his zeal for the pyrotechnics. But wouldn’t you know it? (Well, God did.) The country where he and my daughter are living today is noted for its grand fireworks celebrations – YEAR ‘ROUND!!!!

 “ … and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” — 2 Corinthians 3:17b (KJV)

Consuelo Lopez

He lifted his paws and placed them pleadingly on the glass door of the church. He was very handsome and very hungry – a gray and white kitten with no tags and a compelling cry. How could I deny him?

When I took him home, my son said, “Can we call him Guillermo?”

“Guillermo. Yes, that’s perfect,” I agreed.

Guillermo wasn’t long for our household. He had other worlds to conquer. He ran away, returned, ran away, returned and finally ran away. Adios, el gato!

Wait a minute. Is that Guillermo? No, it couldn’t be! If it is, he hasn’t grown. I sat at my desk in the church office watching a very handsome and very hungry gray and white kitten with no tags paw at the glass door.

A friend of mine was there encouraging me to go get the pretty kitty and take him home with me. Even if it wasn’t Guillermo, it might be a cousin. I hemmed and hawed for a bit before deciding to adopt him.

When we got home, my children noticed right away that Guillermo was not a boy. I prefer male pets. They seem to be less trouble. I don’t remember ever having a female pet before. I had two black and white kittens once, Pearl and MOP (Mother of Pearl), but they turned out to be boys. Mildred, the black cat, was actually Milton. We had dogs: Moose, Boots, Hesse, Virginia Wolf (also a boy and part wolf), Gerd von Birkelbach, Jonathan Swift and a few more.

My granny always had boy dogs on the farm. They were always collies, and she always named them “Boy.” That simplified things. “Here, Boy!” We never knew if she got a new dog. There was always a collie, and it was always named Boy, but not necessarily the same Boy.

Now we had a girl cat. I named her (no, not “Girl”). This was a special cat. She needed a special name.

She was as friendly as an aloof animal can be. Her coat was beautiful – sleek, but with just the right amount of fluff. Her carriage was stately, elegant. She had incomparably precise white markings, distinctively adorning her paws and forehead. She had no bad habits — like unexpectedly rubbing against your legs and giving you the creeps, or clawing furniture, or using the indoors instead of the outdoors for her “necessaries.” She had no cry. I thought she might be mute, but I never really questioned it because I liked her silence. It added to her mystery. As cats go, she was an odd bird. I named her Consuelo Lopez.

For you TV trivia people, you are correct! Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that was the name of the nurse on Marcus Welby, M.D.

Conseulo Lopez.

She was a tramp, you know. Not the nurse, the cat. Oh, yes. She would leap onto the sill of the picture window and adopt an artful pose as the “toms” gathered on the front porch to screech her name.

“Consueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelo! We loooooooooooooooooove you!”

In her best Mae West impression, she answered with a slight upward move of her chin and an inaudible, but resoundingly welcoming, “Hello, boys.”

Night after night after night.

Her first litter came forth with the help of my younger son, her birthing coach. He tried to get her to imitate his breathing/hissing through the teeth method, “Hee! Hoo! Hee! Hoo! Push! Push!”

Her mouth open wide, teeth bared, she offered only silent screams. It was the most moving thing I had ever witnessed.

Five healthy kittens later, she cleaned them up, as well as the entire “delivery room,” and was content to rest and nurse her newborns. She left them only for food and necessaries.

As they grew, we tried to contain them. You are familiar with the term “herding cats.” Well, that was our impossible assignment, although our first attempts were not only successful, but entertaining.

Using cardboard boxes, we built a cat condo. It had upstairs and downstairs, peek-a-boo windows, and wall-to-wall newspaper carpet. As the kittens grew, so did the condo. We added rooms and redecorated, but never in time to keep up with their growing demands.

When my older son came home from college, he exclaimed, “They’re demon cats! Mom, they’re hanging from the drapes, and they poop everywhere!”

It was time to clean house. We turned them out, reclaimed our den, and began to watch the miracle of motherhood at its best.

Consuelo was the consummate cat mother. Her skills at training her progeny were unmatched. The kittens and I watched as she hid behind the planter on my deck, paws anxious with expectancy, eyeing her victim, waiting until just the right moment. Then she would spring from her hiding place and pounce on the prey with proficiency.
“Prrrrrrr, pfffttt!” she commanded (which is cat-speak for, “OK, kids, it’s your turn. Go out there and catch a bug for Mama!”).

Consuelo was no longer silent. She had something worthwhile to say to worthwhile creatures (humans obviously didn’t qualify), and she was saying it.

After the hunting lesson, she would bark another command, “Meow! Click-click!” and the kittens would line up behind her in single file. They followed her like General George Patton into the War Room for more instructions.

After a few weeks she implored me to help with the feeding. (She had a way of letting you know what she wanted.) It was time for the troops to start eating solid food. So I complied. She would finish up their meal with a “glass” of mother’s milk.

Eventually, they were weaned. That meant I had to find a new home for them. My daughter and I packed up the adorable fivesome and headed for Foodmax. They were the hit of the day for shoppers who gladly adopted Crusader, Sebastian, Simogne, Priscilla and the calico.

When we came home, Consuelo was distraught. She went to every room of the house calling for her kittens. She ran outside and called them for hours. It was absolutely heart-wrenching. She mourned for days. She was inconsolable.

But it was only a few short weeks until she had another litter. Then another.

When we moved to another city, I was the designated driver for Consuelo and her latest cache of kittens. Nobody else would ride with her.

She was a little tense … panting and hissing things like, “I cannot believe you are dragging me and these little babies halfway across the state. Can you not see that I am stressed out here?!? And what am I supposed to do all day while you go to your new job? Stay at home and take care of these brats? I have a life, too, you know. I’m not just another pretty face. I have a mind, and a darn good one. But, no, it’s always about you. You never think about my needs …”

She really gave me an earful … silently.

One of the first things we did in our new town was to look up a service for spaying cats. My courageous son said he would hold her in the car.

“Get a bath towel to wrap her in,” I cautioned.

“Mom, I think I can control a little cat for two miles,” he said condescendingly.

“OK. No skin off my nose.”

A few seconds out of the driveway, he was begging me for the towel.

Consuelo never took to life without kittens. She caught birds, chased squirrels and tangled with ‘possums and raccoons, but it wasn’t the same. At night when I called her to come in, she never answered me, just dangled a lone paw over the doorway from her perch in the rain gutter. Her zip was gone.

But she continued to mother. She mothered me.

I had lingering pain from a frozen shoulder, and I felt it most at night. Consuelo always knew just the right time to leap onto my bed, walk up my tired arm and rest her head on my shoulder. She would place a paw, with claws open the tiniest little bit, on my cheek as if to say, “If you move, I will dig in. Be still. We both need our beauty sleep.”

The warmth of her little body on my shoulder was better than drugs or a heating pad. She comforted me to sleep with her silent lullaby.

 
 “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
 “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”  — Psalm 32:7-8 (KJV)

Manning Up

He always got a tie. And a shirt. And a big meal. That was Father’s Day at my house when I was growing up.

My daddy loved a party – whether it was for him or somebody else – he loved a party. And he loved his children. He loved being a father and was really good at it. We tested him often – kind of a performance evaluation. He always passed, usually with an “A.”

Now I enjoy the day with all the fathers in our church. The pastor preaches a rousing sermon calling on the men to be the “priests” of their homes – taking the lead in the spiritual lives of their families. They are given special gifts – inspirational books, pocket knives, coffee mugs, or other manly tokens of appreciation. Then we pray for them.

We beseech all of heaven on their behalf, understanding only a portion of the heavy burdens they bear. Usually a son or a father comes forward to offer his testimony of the love of a father. There is something special about seeing all the men standing together at the altar, thanking God for the blessings afforded them and asking for His guidance and instruction for the things that lie ahead.

Individually these are just guys.

“Hey! Thanks for looking at my car last week. It’s been running great
ever since you did whatever it was you did.”

“Hey! Can you get about four guys and set up tables and chairs in the Fellowship Hall for about fifty people – before service is over?”

“Hey! Debbie said for you to wait here in the foyer. Here! Take this.
She wants you to hang onto her purse until she gets back.”

“Hey! Would you look in the Men’s Room and see if little Justin is
still in there? Ask him if he needs some help.”

“Hey! Sister Wallace needs somebody to carry these things to her car.
Can you guys help her? Oh, and she might need one of you to keep
her from falling in the parking lot. It’s icy out there.”

“Hey, guys! Did you cook all this BBQ? Smells great!”

See? Just guys.

But collectively, well, that’s another thing. They are not just smelly, sweaty, talented, helpful guys. They are men, and they man up. It is a wonderful thing to observe as they gather in unity to behold the Maker of heaven and earth. As they seek the Master of the universe for wisdom and knowledge. As they offer themselves completely, willingly and wholeheartedly as servants of the Most High God.

They love the parties, the gifts, the food, and they love to be appreciated. Remember to tell them how much they mean to the family of God. And remember to pray for them. They have a lot on their shoulders. Being a father is a big job.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ” — Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)