So You Don’t Like Going to Church Anymore?

Have you drifted away from being involved in a church? If so, I would love to hear your “why” and if there is anything you can think of that would make the Church so appealing to you that you would want to go again.

My grandchildren keeping busy during a message at church

I am thankful all my kids are involved in church communities, but it almost seems like this is now unusual rather than the norm for those between twenty and fifty. When I was a young mom, I very much admired a woman whose husband had been the pastor of our church. They had eight grown children who were all involved in churches, but in very different denominations. I thought that was really strange and wondered how the children of a minister could possibly end up going to such diverse churches. A generation later, I am no longer amazed. In fact, I’m sort of like that pastor’s wife!

Alan and I always attended very conservative evangelical Baptist/Bible/Brethren churches, and I assumed our children would follow in our footsteps. Totally not so! Now, I will say that I’ve attended almost all the churches where my kids fellowship (except our military kids, who moved to Belgium last summer), and I almost always feel blessed and instructed by what I hear, but a few of them have found church homes quite different from those in which they grew up.

What happens? Well, for one thing, as we mature, we have to decide for ourselves what we believe and what we’re going to prioritize in life. We aren’t born with spiritual life, we are born again into spiritual life. We may grow up in a Christian home, but we aren’t born with faith in God. We may be taught about God (as in the case of my children), or we may become curious about whether or not there is a God (as in my case, who did not grow up in a church). Either way, as we grow up, we have to evaluate what we believe about God, the Bible, and spiritual life.

For most of us, spiritual life is largely explored and lived out in community, and the “community” God has given us is the local church. If you want to learn more about God, read your Bible and pray, but also get involved in a church family. Like coals of fire, we burn brighter and longer when sharing the heat with other coals in the fireplace! Embers that explode and fall off the grate usually burn out very quickly.

Some of our kids visiting Calvary Church with us in Grand Rapids

That being said, as we approach the beginning of a new school year, I hope you make being part of a local church one of you priorities. If you live in the Grand Rapids area and don’t have a church home, I would like to invite you to visit my church, Calvary Church (on the East Beltline). We have a fabulous Sunday school class called Heirs Together that is really helpful for ages 55-75, but there are excellent classes for all ages. Please consider visiting our class if you’re in town and around that age!

This past Sunday our pastor, Jim Samra, just began a new series on the Book of Titus. It’s the first of a series of topical messages that will find their roots in Titus but cover a plethora of very practical topics, such as “What is Godliness?” The first message can be found here:

If for any reason you are disabled, have to work on Sundays, live in a country where there is no local church, or are otherwise unable to attend church in person, this sermon series will be online each week. (The new message is downloaded each Tuesday morning.) If you’re looking for a prayer group, I am part of a weekly “Zoom” prayer group that you are welcome to join. Just email me at kathrynwarmstrong@gmail.com and I will connect you. Nurturing your spirit is every bit as important as nurturing your body (and I would say— “Even more so!”).

Hope to see you or hear from you soon—either at church, on Zoom, or in the comment box below with suggestions for how to make church a more spiritually nurturing environment for you and members of your generation! Thanks, and may God bless you in your spiritual journey!

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3).

Billy Graham on the diversity of our children and the fact that you can’t inherit faith; it must be a personal decision: https://www.facebook.com/BillyGrahamEvangelisticAssociation/videos/449200715806760/

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (43): “Bless You” . . . Even Them That Curse You??

“Bless you,” or “God bless you!” are almost as common around Grand Rapids (where I live) as “Thank you!” Would you agree? I’ve heard people complain that “God bless you” has become meaningless and trite—and therefore should not be said. Really? To me, it’s like saying “I love you.” Of course, if we don’t love someone, we shouldn’t say “I love you.” That would be a lie. But, if we really do love someone, can we ever tell them too often?

Similarly, can we ever ask God to bless someone we love too often? Ah, but what about someone who is our enemy? Do we really want to ask God to bless them? What if what they are doing is evil? Shouldn’t we ask God to curse them? I’ve just been meditating on Psalm 58, where David prays for God to foil the plans of the wicked and vindicate the righteous. Can we ask for God to judge the wicked and in the same breath ask God to “bless” them??

I think the answer is “yes,” but hopefully out of a heart motivated by love. When we love someone, we long for evil to end but are also keenly aware that sinful behavior is harmful for the perpetrator as well as those being hurt. There’s a clue in James 3:8-11, where poison tongues are roundly condemned: “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?

There is a mystery in the Scripture that we humans constantly experience as the tension between hating sin and loving the person who has sinned. When we’re praying for those we love most dearly, we ask for mercy and compassion from God. Like Paul begging God to save the Jewish people or David lamenting for his son Absalom, our hearts are broken, and we wish somehow we could take on the penalty for our loved one’s sins, even when they are hurting us. In both these cases, Paul and David were praying for “beloved enemies.”

But what about our TRUE enemies? Can’t we ask God to judge the wicked, like David did? I think the answer is “yes.” We can ask God to judge the wicked and vindicate the righteous, but that is totally different from asking God to curse the wicked.

Every time we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are asking God to eliminate sin and bring to earth God’s reign of peace and goodness. However, we need to remember with humility that we are not without sin ourselves. I have been struck by David’s plea in Psalm 58. He is addressing his prayer to God on behalf of the “congregation,” which presumably is the assembled group of believing Israelites who have come to worship God. The title includes “Al-taschith” which has been translated, “Destroy Not.” In the Psalm, we see that even the assembled group of worshipers are not pure. We have all sinned. We have all lied. We are all deserving of punishment, but still David intercedes and asks that God not destroy us!

Can we do this for those who are our TRUE enemies? Can we learn to love those who hurt us and return blessing for their curses? I love to repeat this amazing insight from David in Psalm 18:35, “Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.” It is almost like a blessing, and I remind God of this verse when I pray for those who have fallen into great traps of sin. If you’re ever looking for a blessing for your “enemies” (beloved or not yet beloved), try asking God—through gentleness—to save them . . . to give them the shield of salvation, to hold them up (so that they can walk uprightly), and to make them great in the best sense—in becoming like our great God!

Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:10-18).

Texts for this meditation: Matthew 5:44, “Bless them that curse you” and again in Luke 6:27, “Bless them that curse you.”

Reproduction of the painting by Yongsung Kim used by permission. Website: Havenlight.com

Thoughts on the Value of Giving

Having just spent four beautiful weeks enjoying our children and grandchildren (including our youngest grand child’s first birthday, which was yesterday), I want to add just a few more miscellaneous thoughts on the joy of giving and the rewards that come to us for sharing what we have with others:

“Those who are happiest and those who do the most for others” (Booker T. Washington).

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” (Winston Churchill).

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” (Jim Elliot).

“It is in giving that we receive” (St. Francis of Assisi).

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others” (Mahatma Gandhi).

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it” (Albert Einstein)

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give” (Ben Carson).

“No one has ever become poor by giving” (Anne Frank).

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another” (Charles Dickens).

“If we want to know our God-given gits, we must know the giver” (Eric Samuel Timm).

“You can’t celebrate gifts without celebrating the giver of all gifts, so I want to celebrate Jesus” (Lecrae).

“Every day is a gift from God. Learn to focus on the Giver and enjoy the gift!” (Joyce Meyer).

Giving isn’t just a duty; it’s a privilege!

The greatest joy in life is finding God’s love and sharing it with others!

Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you” (Good News Translation of the Bible).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (39): To Resist or Not to Resist

The real problem with meditating on the commands of Christ is that many of them seem (and are) totally contrary to our human nature and therefore very confusing. It’s as if we’re on a hurdles course, and each new hurdle is higher or harder than the last in some respect. Last week, we learned about the need for a heart transplant, but at least we can rest in the knowledge that God, as our Great Physician, is standing by, ready to perform the surgery that only He can perform: Birthing within us a new spiritual heart that lives and breathes the pure, eternal life of Christ.

That is mystery and miracle enough, but what about today’s texts?!:

*Matthew 5:39 “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

*Luke 6:29, “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

Wait a minute! This makes no sense at all, and I can prove it with a lot of other texts:

*James 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

*1 Peter 5:8-10 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

*Hebrews 12:3-4 “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

Well, these verses clearly teach us to resist the Evil One and sin, but I guess they don’t really tell us to resist any and everybody who might be trying to take advantage of us. In fact, the New Testament teaches, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). Some scholars believe that Jesus’ commands to withstand the abuses mentioned regard submitting to unjust authorities, since it was possible for a Roman soldier to demand a civilian to give the soldier his coat or carry the soldier’s burdens for a mile (or so I’ve heard).

As unpleasant and unpopular as it is, God wants us to submit to those who are over us in authority, such as wives to husbands (Oh, no!!! Oh, yes: Colossians 3:18), those who are younger to their elders (1 Peter 5:5), servants to their masters (and not just those employers who are kind and fair, 1 Peter 2:18: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward“), all of us to the man-made ordinances of government (1 Peter 2:13), and all of us out of deferential love for one another “in the fear of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:21).

Wow! That’s a long list of high hurdles God expects us to jump! I understand that God will take care of those who rest in Him when we are obedient but cornered: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day” (Exodus 14:13), but are their limits to how much abuse we’re supposed to take, and are we just supposed to become “doormats” for evil people to walk all over?

And, what about in the Old Testament? What about Joshua and David, and all the kings of Israel who fought against the surrounding tribes and conquered Canaan? Is it wrong to go to war against evil and oppression? Some people quote Romans 13:3-5 to say NO:For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” So, it appears to be reasonable, under the authority of your country, to defend “liberty and justice for all.”

I think the bottom line of Jesus’ command for us to “resist not evil” refers not to random acts of violence, but to authorized acts of unfairness . . . even EVIL ones, like the government “smiting us on the mouth” through an unjust ruling in court or demanding more of our money in taxes than we deem fair. Even on the personal level, we are told, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). This is a little easier to understand and work out, because it gives us an action point: Overcome evil with good. Seems a little easier than to “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (Psalm 4:4). However, both are implicit in Jesus’ teaching. Sometimes we have to “take it” and sometimes we’re asked to “give it,” but always to give back good, even if we’ve been given evil.

Truly, I don’t think this is possible apart from the grace of God! In my flesh, I resist evil—especially directed against me—with every fiber of my being. But, there are times when God wants us to submit rather than resist, and I think only his Holy Spirit can give us the wisdom to know when to submit and when to resist, and then to provide the grace to do so.

Lest we become weary in well doing, God does give some promises along the way to encourage us: “Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him . . . Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:3,5). He will hear us. He will rescue us (1 Peter 8:10).

Finally, look back up at the verses listed above (and the passage listed below) on resisting. Each hurdle comes with a promise. If we “resist not evil” but submit first to God and then respond with patience and kindness, we will find that:

*The devil will flee from us.
*God will make us mature, establish, strengthen, and settle us.
*We will become partakers of his holiness and bear the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Sound like what you’ve always wanted? No? Well, it wasn’t really on my bucket list either, but nobody said being a disciple of Christ would be easy or natural. It’s the way of the cross, but it’s the right way, and God wants us to walk in it! Maybe we can pray for each other as we practice trying to jump these high hurdles! God is watching, cheering us on!!

If you’re interested in the real-life struggles of two missionaries trying to grapple with this command, I highly recommend In The Presence of My Enemies, a heart-rending book about a couple who were abducted in the Philippines. I heard Gracia speak at a ladies’ conference a few years ago . . . amazing story of the power of God to transform us! Our heavenly Father is the Great Physician . . .but he is also the Final Head Master! Yes, the Force of All Good is with God alone, but it’s the greatest Force in the Universe!! May this Force be with us!!

Hebrews 12:3-15 “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”

Texts for this Meditation: Matthew 5:39 “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” Luke 6:29, “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

666,666 and The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

This isn’t really some horrible warning about the end times, but it is the celebration of a personal mile-marker in my blogging journey: passing the 666,666 view mark and finding inspiration in The Boys in the Boat. It all started (Summer Setting) back in 2008, and it took four years before my posts had been viewed 100,000 times. In the next two years, by the end of 2014, Summer Setting had been viewed over 250,000 times. Over the next three years, that number doubled to over 500,000 times. About then, life seemed to speed up rather than slow down, and instead of posting daily, I found it maximally challenging to prepare just five times a week. The lesser output definitely affected the number of visitors, but this past weekend, I passed the 666,666 mile mark: two-thirds of a million views of my blog!

This number does not reflect those people who are “followers” and get my posts sent directly to their email inbox address, so it may be that Summer Setting has been viewed more than a million times already, but somewhere deep in my heart I keep feeling the desire to keep posting, at least until I’ve reached a million views. (I’d like to say “reached a million people,” but I have no way of figuring out how many “discreet” [different, unique] visitors are viewing Summer Setting.) That may take me until I’m 75, or it may take until I’m 90, or I may die before I ever reach that goal, but however long it takes, I will definitely keep trying until I become incapable or I believe the Lord wants me to do something else.

Boys rowing in preparation for the 1936 Olympics

Please don’t be critical of me for being a “numbers” person. Life is not about numbers, it’s about loving God and loving others. It’s about serving God and trying to reach out to others with the love of God in whatever way we can. Dreams and goals are only worth pursuing if they are God-inspired, for his glory and our good . . . or at least, that’s what I believe. Nevertheless, I think dreams and goals can be good for us. They challenge us to keep going when we’re just tired enough to want to quit, and they help us focus when the ubiquitous attractions and distractions all around us might otherwise derail us. (Or, should I say deboat us? 🙂 )

One perfect example of this is found in a book I just finished, The Boys in the Boat, which is a fabulous non-fiction account of the young men from Washington State who set their hearts on winning a gold metal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The book is powerful and inspirational. A movie version is in production right now, with Kenneth Branaugh directing, and I can hardly wait for it to come out!

The story was especially thrilling to me, because it is a story from my parents’ generation! In fact, my mother and uncle spent their summers working to help build the Hoover Dam during the same year several of these young men were there! (Well, my mother worked as a waitress, serving food to the guys who were hanging over the side of the cliff chipping away at granite with jack hammers.) It’s also a story of gut-wrenching difficulty to overcome human limitations in order to reach a worthy goal. My mom lived on skim milk and bread at times in order to survive college during the Great Depression. Goals are good. Hard work is good. Survival is good. Success is profoundly satisfying!

Have you heard about the Olympic runner, Eric Liddell (who won a gold metal at the 1924 summer Olympics in Paris)? God infuses us with abilities and gives us purpose. He also wants us to give everything we can muster to achieve “my utmost for His highest” (as Oswald Chambers wrote).

So, whatever abilities God has given us—whether it’s writing or rowing or running or something else—let’s use those gifts and give it everything we’ve got to accomplish whatever goal God puts in our hearts! Ready to race?!

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

It’s a Wonderful Life for Tony and Shellie

It’s a Wonderful Life is still a beloved classic more than 75 years after its release, and I think this is because it honors the life experience of those noble “unsung heroes” who sacrificed their personal ambitions for the sake of love and family, and today I want to share the true story of a couple who’ve lived out the best of It’s a Wonderful Life right here in Grand Rapids, Michigan! (We share grandchildren! 🙂 )

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), IMDb 8.6 rating after 358,517 reviews!

For those of you who are under 50 or didn’t grow up in America, in a nutshell, It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of a young man who had dreams of travel, adventure, and seeking his fortune far away from his home town!

However, as life would have it, he ended up returning home, marrying a wonderful woman, rearing a family, and being an honorable and caring member of his community despite the fact that he never became rich or famous.

He was the epitome of the All-American Boy that everybody wants to be, although most Americans suffer under the delusion that there might be something more out there and struggle to find contentment with their normal, happy lives.

Except for that last part (about struggling to find contentment), Tony and Shellie’s story is very much the same. Tony was drafted as soon as he graduated from college. He ranked #2 out of 1,000 young men in boot camp and was offered a position at West Point, but he turned it down so that he would only have to serve two (rather than four) years in the army.

So, instead of pursuing a bright career in the military, he became an X-ray tech, (although during his service at Fort Sam Houston, he X-rayed Lyndon B. Johnson, so he had some pretty interesting opportunities at any rate! 🙂 ).

After his stint in the military, he began pursuing graduate school and won a Fulbright scholarship to study in Austria. However, just when he was supposed to leave, his mother needed major gall bladder surgery. Because Tony’s father had passed away when Tony was only nine, he felt a special responsibility for his mother, so he sacrificed his prestigious and exciting opportunity abroad in order to return home and care for her during her long, difficult recovery.

Tony had trained to be a teacher, but there were no teaching jobs available in Grand Rapids at that time, so he found a job as an X-ray tech at the local hospital where he could earn money to care for his mother. This month, he retired after over 50 years as an X-ray tech, and during those years, he took X-rays on more than 250,000 patients!

Tony married a wonderful girl and settled down in a lovely little house, where they have lived for their entire marriage. They both wanted a large family, and Tony wanted lively conversations around the table.

Family Christmas Photo 2017

They have ten beautiful sons and daughters, and all but four of them are married so far. They have over a dozen grandchildren with several more on the way. Shellie’s mother had 12 children and 71 grand children (36 of whom were adopted). I can imagine that Tony and Shellie may have a similar number some day!! 🙂

And yes, they have very lively conversations around the their table!

However, there’s one huge difference between their story and that of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life! Whereas George became suicidal on Christmas Eve because he felt like his life hadn’t made enough of a difference in this world, Tony and Shellie have the sweet presence of Jesus in their lives, filling them with faith, hope, peace, and joy.

Tony became an ordained minister, and they have served the Lord together for many years. Among other things, both of them teach Sunday school, and Tony is on the elder board. All their children love the Lord and walk with Him.

They may not be rich and famous in the eyes of the world, but they are incredibly blessed, and they know it!

They don’t need a vision from an angel to teach them about true values! Tony’s favorite song is “Be Thou My Vision,” and Shellie’s is “Give Me Jesus.”

Family Christmas Photo 2019

If you’re struggling to find meaning and purpose in life, sure—watch It’s a Wonderful Life. According to Wikipedia, it’s “one of the greatest movies of all time,” is considered “one of the best American films ever made,” and is listed as #1 on “the most inspirational American films of all time.”

But the real secret to contentment is to give your life to Jesus and live your life for Jesus. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

“Give Me Jesus”
(—Jeremy Camp)

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

When I am alone
When I am alone
When I am alone, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

When I come to die
When I come to die
When I come to die, give me Jesus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFJGsBApIuk

Growing Pains

This pretty much sums up my natural sentiment toward change. I’m a resistor. The whole problem must be never getting a good dose of Thomas Edison’s bright idea: “Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” 🙂

In fact, had not our 30-year-old wooden walkway become so rotten that it was a slipping hazard during every rain . . . and the cedar siding so rotten that both the birds and the bees were nesting in it (no joke) . . . well, maybe I could have protested that the status quo was quite comfy and good enough for me. But, it was not, and even I knew something had to be done. So, Silvio (who has pretty much remade our home at this point) ripped off the front porch, and the Big Dig began.

After lots of lively debate (which I tend to lose), there was considerable “vision creep” (as my husband calls it), and instead of a new porch, Alan thought a new sun room would be even nicer.

I can’t explain all the reasoning behind the decisions, but apparently for structural soundness, it made sense to put a basement underneath the sun room, and Silvio thought it might be a good idea to have more room to store our junk anyway.

Now, even I wasn’t dumb enough to fall for that idea, but it did occur to me that I would love more space for our kids and grandchildren (who now number 29 and often come to visit), and so with the carrot of a little guest apartment somewhere down the road, I gave in. That was over a year ago.

Renovation is always full of surprises. One of the first was learning that the old foundation for the porch was not just made from posts but out of huge concrete abutments that had to be broken off.

Every day I marveled at the powerful machinery and massive amount of work that had to take place. There wasn’t one chance in a million I would have had the know-how or muscle to do all the work.

Thankfully, we have a great builder whom I pretty much trust with my life at this point, but I’m sure he had many a headache trying to figure out everything and coordinate all the men and machinery.

There were constant setbacks over the months, and lots of “oops” moments, like the time all the draping in the basement (hung to keep concrete mud spray from showering our music gear and library) fell down while the men were working. That day, the main room in our basement was filled with something that reminded me of the volcanic ash spewing from Mt. St. Helen when it erupted back in 1980. Close friends who lived in Portland, Oregon (70 miles from the eruption) said their rain gutters became clogged with volcanic ash that turned to concrete when it rained. That’s just about the way I felt!!

Well, I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say, it was a long,

long,

long,

long,

painstaking process!

I’ve had a lot of time over the months to think about the impossibility of my ever being able to do what this huge team of guys did, and to think about my own life, which needs renovation too.

I am thankful for God (the master builder in my life), and his huge team (the Church) who work together helping me with the renovations I need. In a million years, I wouldn’t have the know-how or spiritual power to perfect myself. Would you? Do you resist change the way I do? Although I trust God with my life, I still find myself fussing and disagreeing from time to time. I wonder if I give Jesus headaches the way Silvio has had headaches from trying to get everything “just right.” 😦 🙂

At any rate, we’re far from done, and the grass is just beginning to grow,

but the sun room is finally finished, just in time for Alan’s birthday (today), so he’ll be able to sit in his new room tonight!

(Which, BTW, is a whole lot bigger than our cozy little living room!)

I can’t exactly tell you what Tanglewood Cottage will look like when all the renovations are done, but I can tell you—by faith—that it will be wonderful . . . just like I will be when I’m all finished (in heaven).

“End of Construction—Thank you for your patience.”

Like Billy Graham’s wife, I have every confidence that someday all the rotten boards and siding in my life will be replaced, and all the renovations will be complete. I will be like Jesus! If you give God your life, He’ll do the same for you! You might not turn out exactly like you were planning, but the net effect will be better than you could have imagined!

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 5:15).