The Next Generation

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Watching children play on the beach is an uplifting experience. Even more so when you see the future before you in broad strokes and think about the gifts these kids are now and will be to others in the future. The potential they represent! The family of God! The heritage passed on to them by their believing parents.

One day this past spring, a friend shared a burden she had for the next generation. After several years out of her profession as a retired school principal, she returned to an interim position briefly and was surprised at the drastic change for the worse she saw in students, their parents and teachers. I found myself nodding in agreement as I had seen similar trends in recent years. Growing disrespect, tolerance of inappropriate language, divisiveness, and lack of discipline, to name a few. Yet…

Deut. 30:19 says, “…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” When we choose life, we do so knowing that God’s promises remain solid. This is for our children, too.  And for their children. God is true to His Word, and His gift of salvation was meant to breathe life into us anew and for eternity. And into our children. And, to sustain new life and its flourishing, even while we had and still have an inclination for death ever since the Fall.

God is still the Giver of new life and the gifts of marriage and family.  These were God’s designs for human flourishing from the very beginning. Have you ever wondered why our hearts melt when we see a newborn baby? Or even a newly born puppy, chick, or calf? Because we see great hope in the next generation perhaps? Great blessing for the future? In bearing God’s image, isn’t it one of our deepest desires to be part of the continuation of new life as part of God’s creation?

Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.” In my lifetime, I have come to appreciate that fertility is never to be taken lightly. And, that infertility is an agony of great grief and despair. Yet, I also appreciate that great miracles do happen and often occur when you have least expected them to come. And, only by God’s grace. I see God’s miracles in every one of my grandchildren.

In a summer Bible study that I am leading currently, we had a discussion of the meaning of the word “ramification” as part of a discussion of suffering in I Peter 4:12-19. We found that it is – “a subdivision of a complex structure or process perceived as comparable to a tree’s branches.” Another definition is “a branch or offshoot, the act of branching, a consequence, an outgrowth.” We listed out ways that so much of life resembles branches… The branching out of the circulatory system, plant life/root structures, actual trees, family trees, etc. Outcomes (or outgrowths) are varied based upon the direction of the branches – and they go in so many different directions.

Literally everything has an implication (or branch or ramification) for the future. So, we as believers have a real urgency to pray regarding the next generation. Our children are our branches. We have hope in and because of Jesus Christ. We have access to new life in Him. We know that a family built on authentic faith in Jesus Christ will have an inheritance that cannot spoil, fade or perish. A great ramification.

For these things we should continually pray. Inheritance that includes these family branches, these spiritual ramifications, to name a few:

  1. Singleness of heart and action, unity. Jeremiah 32:39 says, “I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear Me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them.”
  2. The Lord’s love and righteousness. Psalm 103:17 says, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children –.”
  3. A stronghold against enemies. Psalm 8:2 says, “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” Think about this kind of protection and covering that comes from children praising God.
  4. Great joy in a real home and a real dwelling for God’s Name. Nehemiah 12:43 says, As the Israelites were rebuilding the Jerusalem wall “…(They) offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.”

Our prayers, if built around ramifications for the future, will branch into prayers for our children and their children – to have a real home, and a real dwelling for God’s Name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Friend Leanne

Tribute to My Friend Leanne

Although Leanne stepped out of our lives way too early, she left a strong footprint on our hearts and I want to tell you how. Like Psalm 97:11 says, “Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.” Leanne’s footprint was the “joy of the Lord.” And it was shining on her and through her continuously.

The Lord’s joy was always radiant in Leanne. From the first time I met her, it was easy to sense. I knew Leanne since 1990 when she joined the staff of the Walnut Hills Baptist Church Learning Center as an extraordinary preschool teacher. Her great love for and effectiveness with little ones was magical! And, she served the children wholeheartedly out of a deep and contagious faith in Jesus Christ. She left her footprint in each little life she taught.

We continued to be friends by participating in various Bible studies at Walnut Hills Baptist Church. At first, we were a fairly informal group of friends until a certain discipleship training course crashed into our lives. It was called Master Life. It was transforming. And, it called us to become sisters with a deeper bond knitting us together. We studied together, memorized scripture together, prayed together, grieved together, and fostered joy together in Christ.

Years went by. We stayed in touch. Six of us were reunited in 2011 for a beach trip to the Outer Banks and afterwards, we continued to retreat together every 6 months. We didn’t know that this past May would be our last trip with our beloved Leanne. Early on, we referred to ourselves as the Masterlife Reunion group, but later shortened it to OBX girls.

Leanne and I were the earliest risers at the beach cottage. One of my favorite memories of Leanne is the morning coffee and conversation we shared on the front porch of the cottage before the other four girls awakened. She loved coffee – the stronger the better. We both shared a love of books – historical fiction, Christian autobiographies, and Oswald Chambers’ MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST devotionals. Each of us, with a Bible or devotional book in our laps, would get lost in conversations about the Lord and our families. That treasured footprint was found in the simplicity of talking over coffee, the pastime that unites many sisters in Christ.

In our porch conversations, we would always rest in the truth of Acts 2:28 which says, “You [Lord] have made known to me the paths of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence.”

God used Leanne’s wisdom, as the older and more seasoned sister, to breathe life-giving footprints of God’s presence into my heart. Times with Leanne were always a tremendous blessing. As well, she shared with all of us the grace of continuous joy for life’s journey. She shared very thoughtful devotionals at various mealtimes and trusted us with her tears whenever they came.

We felt like royalty at the beach cottage! Leanne’s gift of hospitality was another wonderful footprint pressed into our souls by this special companion who donned the ordinary kitchen table with beautiful fresh potted flowers, tablecloths, and novelty napkins on every trip. She would bake craisin-and-raisin oatmeal cookies without fail and would treat us with the tastiest homemade Brunswick Stew or lasagna. Up until a recent determination of mine to strictly reduce my calories, I would otherwise feast on these favorite cookies for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snacks – on every retreat to the beach prior to the May trip.

Leanne challenged us to enjoy strategy games and 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles while at the beach. I was the reluctant one, but she was the enthusiast who could encourage me to break down and participate. My heart would eventually melt into the fun and laughter playing games like Chicken Foot and Phase 10. This would always be after a long day of sitting, talking, reading, sleeping, and walking on the beach.

To stay in touch between trips, the OBX girls try to meet monthly for dinner at Rick’s Grill. I spoke to Leanne on the phone on Tuesday evening (July 9th) to remind her about the plan for the OBX girls to meet on July 11th at Rick’s at 6:00 pm. She was hoping to come, and we were all looking forward to seeing her then. But, God had another plan…

How grateful I was that God had given me the gift of this last phone conversation. If you knew Leanne, you would know that it would not be an email or text message conversation. She resisted the intrusions of technology and I respected that. Now, how grateful I am that I heard her voice, almost as clear as it would be in our front porch conversations at the beach. How grateful I am to have enjoyed Leanne, my sister in Christ, who has left me with her footprint of joy in the Lord. I can’t wait to see her again one day.

Mile High Journey

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This colorful glass sculpture is found in the Denver Botanic Gardens. I photographed this on a glorious day after seeing an overwhelming collection of flowers, herbs, bushes, trees, plants and other earth fare. It was a very special day in other ways, but that is a story for another day… The sculpture seems to reflect the gloriousness and fragility of life. Such was the contrast I experienced between a damaging hail storm in the Mile High City a couple nights prior to seeing varieties (not pictured) of lily pads thriving in these beautiful botanic gardens on a blue sky day! What a contrast!

Psalm 121 (NIV) says, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” When I lift up my eyes to the hills, I see His glory and I realize that He is the One who watches over the fragile. He’s the Only One who can.

This summer I’ve been leading a Bible study at my church, digging into the book of I Peter. I Peter has been a big part of my personal mile high spiritual journey (I encourage you to read it; it is only 5 brief chapters). In having lived through probably three-quarters of my life at this point, I am able to catch a glimpse of my life’s influence, who I have affected, and what my words have carried along. Particularly, in my family, this includes both good and bad influences, both glorious and fragile.

I Peter 3:8 reminds me that there are miles more to go to be “like-minded, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble” as the Lord watches over my coming and going and helps me to keep my eyes on Him. At the three-quarter mark, the threads and seasons of my family’s lifetimes have become more connected and visible to me, just like the shining glass. God purposely reveals more and more of the intricacies of His Sovereign story as I get older.

I am reminded of a rope that was thrown to me some years ago when I was a participant in a Bible study at church. A mother was the leader/teacher and her adult daughter, in town for a season, was also a participant. At the last class, book recommendations were suggested for further summer reading and some were even distributed around for borrowing. Picking up on a clear vibe between mother and daughter about some past troubled times, I took that as a nudge from God’s Spirit to read the book they both recommended heartily. And so I did. This life-changing story started me on a healing journey with one of my children. I am grateful for that moment, that I was attentive, that this mother and daughter affected me that day, that their words carried life into mine by God’s grace. The Maker of heaven and earth was seriously watching over my coming and going that day!

I Peter 1:18 (The Message) says, “Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God…” Seemingly trivial things (like book recommendations), woven into the fabric of life, are meaningful when there is abiding faith in God who provides, sustains, directs, controls, and saves. Regarding another more recent book recommendation, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (by Rosaria Butterfield), I continue to be blown away by God’s powerful ability to intersect with us and rescue us from darkness and lies. I am recommending this book to you now. It is a true “God’s amazing grace” autobiography. In her book Rosaria says, “The first rule of repentance: requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin.” The focus is knowing God. Nothing else.

Glorious and fragile is the mile high journey of a Christ-follower.