Are you timid? I doubt many people would characterize me as timid, and I used to consider myself a bit of a Fearless Fosdick, but in truth I’m very timid around mechanical things. My sister’s husband used to tease that Annie couldn’t even be trusted to use a can opener; I’m in that league…always afraid of hurting something or breaking something, so if things don’t work with a very gentle touch, I stop and feel unsure about what to do next. It’s basically a lack of trust in the sturdiness of the object and a lack of confidence in my ability to interact successfully.
Case in point: My car was fine…just had a defective sensor, as Alan suspected. My car was repaired; I returned their lovely loaner and thanked them, but when I pulled up to the garage door in my own car to leave, expecting it to open as they’d told me it would, nothing happened. I looked for any type of switch on the wall that might open the door, but there was none. I waited, thinking someone might have to press a button for me to open it remotely. Still nothing. After a minute or two, I got out and asked a mechanic what I needed to do in order to open the door. “Oh, just drive just a little bit closer. You have to be within a foot or two of the door before it’ll open.”
Ah! I got in, drove gingerly forward, and voilà, the door opened as if by magic!
How about you? Is it possible you’ve got an ingenious mechanical brain and never fear to experiment with something until you can make it work…but feel timid about spiritual things? If so, come a little bit closer! If you think there might be a God, but he seems remote, and you’re not sure how to “get the door open”…to access him, “draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). You may lack trust in the character of God (blaming him for the evil in our world, which he allowed out of respect for our freedom to choose), or you may lack confidence in your ability to interact successfully with him (not understanding the infinite depth of his love for us), but he invites us to seek him with all our hearts, and he promises that—if we will—we will find him: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
With seven kids, mothers don’t usually have a car of their own and are happy to have access to a family car “whenever,” so it was an over-the-top gift when Alan pretty much forced me to get a beautiful, new (late model used, but new to us) car last summer. It rides like a dream, and so I was surprised and alarmed to see the “engine” light burning reddish-orange on my dash last week. Alan assured me it was probably just a sensor failure, and thankfully, the car is still under warranty, so I was able to take it to the dealer and have them fix it. They gave me a “loaner” car to use until it’s fixed…something I’ve never experienced before! The car they lent me was a brand new 2015 version of my car, but as I drove back home on the freeway, I kept seeing a very unsettling reddish light glowing off and on at the bottom corner of my rear-view mirror. At first it was frightening to me, and I wasn’t sure what it meant or if I was doing something wrong with this brand new car that didn’t even belong to me, but then I realized it was a warning light to indicate something was in my blind spot. Flat out ingenious!!
I don’t know about you, but I love being warned when there’s something coming up behind me that I can’t see but could prove deadly if I fail to notice and respond correctly. For me, this is one of the (many) wondrous things about the Bible. If you’re not used to it, you might find the Bible distracting, annoying, or frightening, but it’s full of wisdom and warnings. Meditating on the Word of God is like driving with a great rear-view mirror. If we keep checking and responding accordingly, we’ll avoid some tragic accidents as we travel through life.
“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
(James 1:25, NKJV)
Song of Solomon 4:11 “Honey and milk are under thy tongue.” The Hebrew word used here for honey is debas, and I’ve read that this term is commonly used for “palm honey” or “domesticated honey,” which was actually a syrup made from boiled-down grapes. The honey which was under her tongue was that which had been painstakingly produced by a process of boiling down and condensing many of the fruitful thoughts obtained by “abiding in the vine” until only the rich, well-preserved “palm honey” of wisdom remained.
“Honey and milk…” The land of Canaan is referred to dozens of times in Scripture as a land “flowing with milk and honey.” It was a land flowing with milk—fertile livestock producing abundant young; a land flowing with honey—lush plant life overflowing with God’s blessing of fruitfulness. This is the picture of the king’s wife! She is flourishing like a well watered land, fruitful and luscious.
“Honey and milk are under thy tongue“… not really gushing and manifest to all, but resident stores of goodness, considered, kept, and hidden away to be dispensed to those in need. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). Flowing out from the bride’s heart are honey and milk—honey to delight and milk to nourish. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26). What a contrast to Romans 3:13-14, where Paul gives this devastating appraisal or all men without God: “Their throat is an open sepulcher: with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
Wow! What is under our tongues??? Honey and milk, or cursing and bitterness?
There is a story told of an ancient gathering of orators who took turns speaking. Gradually all the people who were listening left, and by the time the last orator came to the platform, the only person remaining in the auditorium was Plato. Still, the last speaker delivered his oration with all the grandeur he possessed. Someone who heard about his speech asked him why he hadn’t just quit, but he replied, “Who would need more of an audience than Plato?”
Who needs more of an audience than God Himself? What if, for all our labors and careful preparations, we have no one to pour out our hearts to besides the Lord? Isn’t He enough? What if there is no one who wants to hear our thoughts? If we speak to God alone, it is enough! If we worship God alone, we worship aright! If we can offer only the inaudible groans of the Holy Spirit, it is a sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing to our Beloved! He is ever longing to hear us…ever listening…ever loving! To Him, our praises and prayers are honey and milk. I cannot drink this all in. It is too wonderful!
Christmas Eve morning I woke up feeling almost euphoric for no particular reason other than I had the most heavenly sense that Baby Samuel is going to make it. Of course, I’ve never considered myself a prophet, and so I’m speaking from my personal experience, not from 100% unshakable, irrefutable foreknowledge. But, I’m just sayin’…I feel a peace that everything will be okay. My daughter’s family was visiting, and she asked if the doctor has an estimated time for when Samuel might be stable and strong enough to leave the hospital. Brianna says the neonatologist won’t hazard a guess yet, since she’ll have to feel sure that Samuel will survive before she’ll try to make any predictions about such pleasant possibilities. So, there’s nothing official, just peace in my heart. But, WOW does peace feel good! (This picture is the most recent…just taken last night after a sponge bath.)When Samuel comes home, then I’ll know, but then it won’t be a matter of faith anymore. It will be fact. It occurs to me that this is generally true of faith. God asks us to trust Him, not because in this life we have 100% irrefutable proof that He exists or that there really is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun. I have a perfect sense of peace that the Bible is true and does show us the way to heaven through faith in Christ, but not because I can prove it…rather, because I experience his peace. The calm assurance of resting in Christ—of feeling his love and believing in his provision for my salvation—is a heavenly thing. Am I wrong about believing in Jesus? I don’t think so, but it won’t be until I close my eyes for the last time on this earth that I’ll be able to say I KNOW it’s all true…and then, it won’t be faith anymore, it will be sight!
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
PS—Thanks again for all the outpouring of love and the many of you who are praying daily (and some more) for Samuel. God hears and answers!! The last picture is of Samuel’s father, Daniel, when he first came home from the hospital. You can see that Sammy has a way to go yet before he becomes a nice, plump, full-grown newborn!)
This has been another wonderful year… full of ups and downs, but that’s just life, isn’t it? The bottom line for our family (at this moment) is that we’re doing well …at least as well as can be expected, given that our 13th grand child is a preemie living in a NICU. But, let me give you a little update on all of us: Alan and Kathi: We’ve enjoyed good health this year—which we now humbly appreciate as a great privilege rather than something to be taken for granted. Alan continues working very long hours and comes home with his “mind exploded” many days but finds his job fulfilling and fascinating. I’ve had a truly happy year of blogging and keeping up with family and friends. Aaron is still working for Facebook, and Carlie continues to home school their tribe of 4 busy boys. They take the kids on all sorts of far-flung adventures, but they’re really good about keeping connected with family too (lucky for us!). It is so fun to watch our kids being parents! Mike was promoted to major last summer. He’ll be finished paying back the army for his dental training next summer, but they don’t know the next step yet. In September, their 4th was born, Paladin, so they have 2 girls & 2 boys. Grace and Michael are using their love of the arts and Grace’s theatrical training to enhance home schooling their busy bevy. They live abroad, and we miss them! Jon and Linda continue to teach at Moody’s western campus, and they are also super busy. Jon is always up to his gills teaching, working on innovative teaching techniques via the web, writing books and working on his Aqueduct Project. Linda does the lion’s share of caring for their 2 delightful little girls, which keeps her on her toes! In fact, I am deeply grateful for all 5 of the dedicated moms in our family who sacrifice their own interests to love their kids and let their husbands “fly.”
Carl is still working full time heading the video and motion graphics department at NorthRidge and has also started his own company, Motion Parade, doing free-lance projects for (among others) the Food Network out of NYC. Kathy has her hands full with Iris and Oliver and writes in the nooks and crannies of life. Alan and I feel very blessed to have their family in state so we can see them relatively often. Daniel continues as a dentist at H.I.S.(Health Intervention Services, a Christian charity helping the uninsured), and Brianna is working as a nurse at DeVos Children’s Hospital in the NICU. They had two high school exchange students living with them last year but decided not to take in more students in the light of Brianna’s becoming pregnant. The baby was due on Alan and my anniversary (February 18), but Brianna developed pre-eclampia and Baby Samuel Azariah arrived via C-section at only 27.5 weeks…a tiny 12.5″ 1-pound, 9 oz. wonder. He’s had a bout with pneumonia and is still very fragile, so we’ve been praying night and day for him. Stephen and Joel both graduated with M.A. degrees (Stephen with 2) this spring. This year Stephen is working as the music director at his church, taking classes in 3 languages, presenting and publishing musicology papers, and applying for PhD programs for next fall. Joel is now working on his PhD in literature at Northeastern University and has 2 articles in print for 2015! He’s living in an “intentional Christian community” in Boston with 6 other graduate students, where he’s again the youngest of 7. 🙂 Joel and Stephen have continued to be super good friends, and they’ve been collaborating on writing a memoir about growing up at…somewhere… 🙂 In all, it’s been one of my happiest years in a long time, and I am so grateful to God for all these blessings! But, most of all, I’m thankful for Jesus, who came down from heaven’s glory to be born as a babe in a manger, live, die, and rise again for us, so that we can celebrate the joy of forgiveness for sins and fellowship with God. It is the birth of this perfect Savior that we celebrate at Christmas—Emmanuel—God is with us!
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us”
It’s Christmas Eve. It’s also a drizzly 39° outside with not a fleck of snow in sight or foresight. No chance of a white Christmas for us this year! Kathy’s family just left; Stephen and Joel are about to leave. As the music director of a church with 2 Christmas Eve services, Stephen will be gone from 4:30-11:30 tonight. Dan and Brianna are going to her folks for Christmas Eve, and they’re spending Christmas Day in the NICU with Samuel, their very preemie baby (our grand baby). And, that’s not even the worst of it! At least Alan and I still have each other…one of our dear friends lost his mate to cancer just a few days ago. Our kids may not be with us, but at least they’re all healthy and well. Tragically, one of our cousins lost her daughter this past week…she went to the hospital ill and just died. 😦 So, it’s beginning to look a lot like the Grinch is trying to steal our Christmas, and I was wondering if he might be trying to steal yours too. In the children’s book, it’s love that unites the villagers and brings Christmas, but what if you are without the warmth and comfort of loved ones this holiday? Many are without family and friends right now, you know, and if you’re one of them, I’d like to offer these insights that came to me as my puzzler was getting sore:
1. You aren’t alone in your aloneness. My West Coast kids who live too far away to come home have invited 5 students (who are also unable to go home) over for Christmas dinner. Reaching out to others is a great way to extinguish sorrow and multiple joy. Have you thought of reaching out to someone who’s also alone?
2. You aren’t unloved! Christ—whose birth we celebrate this Christmas season— loves you (and all of us) so much that He came to earth to die in our place so that we can experience forgiveness for all the sins and sorrows in our past and receive a special Christmas present from him: A totally new life—an eternal life that can start today and will last forever. Will you believe He loves you & accept his gift?
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).