Here’s your sign

*Today’s post is written by my friend and regular contributor, Debra Dickey. Thanks for sharing your insights with us, Debra!*

I agree with Moses.  “God, if You are not coming with me, don’t make me go!”  …but if have to, then please, please, please give me a sign!!   [Moses actually says, “If Your Presence will not go, do not carry us up from here.”  Exodus 33:15]

With each edict near or far, or for every crises, small or large, my dread-o-meter amps to warp-speed – what emotional expense, how much psychological toll, what mental, physical, or financial price am I looking at?    All the panic and fear of the unknown and my own very appreciable inabilities come crashing over me, landing with a thud in the pit of my stomach.  How will I ever be able to . . . . ?

Bowing #2In similar fashion to the conversation that God had with Moses regarding the arduous journey in front him, God has been having a long talk with me and the responsibilities He tasks me with also.  I truly believe in God with my whole being.  My continuing challenge is the part that gets me past the human need or desire to validate His power with my physical eyes!  But ‘might and power’ express human strength of every description – physical, mental, moral. (Biblestudytools.com)   What God tells us is:  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.’  (Zach. 4:6)  Oh!  Wow.   ‘Let Your Presence go with us.’

Yet we are always looking for a sign, aren’t we?  Actually, God does provide signs for us. Granted, they aren’t like road signs, directional signs, billboards, or a writing in the sky, but when we walk with Him, they are all around us.  Interestingly, God never wrote Moses a message in the sky. He never laid a blueprint down.  Neither did He send a tweet or a text.   He did something better.  This was the better thing that God offered Moses –God promised Moses His presence.  [lifeway.com]

The certainty, the solid that I am being encouraged to learn from this very personal interaction is the deep-seated root of discipleship I so distinctly and unmistakably need to grasp, and that is:  He’s got this!

Each time I pray about a situation, a resolution, for a loved one, or for guidance, strength, and Providence, His Presence is all that is necessary to perform these miracles.  I know fully when I offer that prayer, that the Perfect outcome is in His Hands and already in motion!  (Do not be deceived, I’m frailly human.  Days and nights in ceaseless prayer, I still tend to fret and worry without end anyway!  How does one embrace such unconditional power??)  He even further promises, “. . .I will give you rest.” (33:14b)  Did I hear that right?   ‘A benefit of living in God’s presence is that we can snuggle up close to our Heavenly Father, knowing that we can rest confident, secure, and victorious.’ (lifeway.com)   Moses plainly, yet meaningfully, presented his heartfelt appeal, and God assured Moses, “I will do the very thing that you ask….” (33:17a)

I am slowly, not always surely yet, but bit by bit, investing faithful confidence, and asking God to “show me (His) Ways, so that I might find Favor in His Sight” (33:13), to trust God’s omnipotent capacity, then be rewarded with the beautiful, exquisite, and touching evidence that has been there all along.  It is most assuredly not a sign that I can see with my eyes.  It is better.  Described by Elijah in I Kings 19:12, it is the sheer Presence of God.  Just His Presence.   Not the wind, not the earthquake, not the fire.  God.  A palpable, cognitive, manifest Presence!  His essence being Divinely and lovingly written into every fiber of my life, day after day, concern after concern, prayer after prayer, miracle after miracle after miracle.  His Presence revealed in all that is.  It seems that my mistaken effort to equate earthly affirmations with heavenly confirmations is the very shortcoming standing between me and God’s Promises!

And finally Moses did something even more extraordinary!  He said to God, “Show me Your Glory, I pray.” (Exodus 33:18)  You know, I understand that part!  Probably not in the same parameters as offered there, but my take-away is almost the same.  After humbly approaching my Heavenly Father in prayer, presenting my appeal, seeking His Will, asking for Guidance and Help, then listening for His Assurance, there’s only one desire left: “Show me Your Glory, I pray!”  So with breathless expectance and a reverent flourish, I bow —–“You got this, God?” … “I’ve got this.” —–  then step back and watch His mighty Miracles to Perform!

For sure, I initially thought that my ‘word’ for this year should be strength (I SO need it!), but now I know that Presence encompasses that endangered sliver plus so much more:  strength, wisdom, ability, guidance, resources, help, protection, sustenance!  So I choose Presence as my word, because not only do I long for God’s Presence, His Presence shall be the path to all His mighty, mighty MIRACLES.

So…there it is.  That’s my sign!  The only one I ever have need of.  Stop looking . . . it’s already here.

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What I learned from my parents

This piece was written by my former professor, who I like to consider one of my writing mentors, Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy, as a tribute to her parents. They will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this month. Happy anniversary to a couple who obviously understand what it takes to love others well.

My parents outside their first apartment in Long Beach, California

My parents outside their first apartment in Long Beach, California

My parents were both teachers, so there were lessons galore at our house.  I’ve written the following two stories to illustrate what I learned from each parent before I even “formally” started school.

From My Father

My sister, Liz, and I were tucked in our warm bed when the pre-dawn stillness of our house was rattled by the sound of a ringing phone.  I lay awake, listening to my dad’s voice as he took the call, paying close attention for clues as to the identity of the caller.  Then I heard the sounds of my dad’s footsteps coming into the room Liz and I shared.

“Teresa,” my dad said.  “I’ve got to drive the bus this morning.  Do you want to go with me?”

Did I ever!  I sprang out of bed and into my clothes.  The caller had been the superintendent of the school where my dad taught, informing him that one of the bus drivers was ill, asking if he could take that driver’s morning route.  In those days, there were no requirements for school bus drivers to have a commercial license.  They just had to have enough nerve to navigate the twists and turns of rural Arkansas back roads while ferrying a group of school kids.  I knew driving the bus was an unwelcome chore for my dad, but I was always thrilled when he got the call because there was a chance that I would get to ride with him.

I followed my dad out to his car, and we took off through the streets of our small town.  Lights in the houses along the road that led to the school flickered on as their inhabitants woke up and prepared for the day ahead.  The school building where my dad taught was not yet illuminated when we arrived at the space out front where he parked his car. Together, we walked to the area where the buses were kept and then we were off.

I could barely contain my excitement as I slid into the seat behind my dad.  To me, this was as good as a carnival ride, particularly the moment we left the familiar streets of our town, and the bus lurched onto the gravel road where most of the kids on the route lived.  Sometimes, we stopped for a single kid standing in front of a house tucked far back into the woods.  Other times, we collected a whole family of kids, often having to wait a few extra minutes while one of them, struggling into his or her coat, ran across the yard having perhaps overslept or lingered too long at the breakfast table.  Always, when my dad gave the silver handle a yank, and the bus doors whooshed open, the kids’ voices registered both surprise and delight to see “Mr. Burns” at the wheel of their bus.  As they made their way to their seats, some of the kids even spoke to me, and I basked in the glow of these older kids’ attention.

Those bus rides added texture to my mostly monotonous days.  Since I wasn’t yet old enough to attend school, my dad had to drive me back home when the bus ride was over.  In retrospect, I’m sure it would have been much easier for him to have tiptoed quietly out of our house, leaving me in my bed, garnering a few moments of peace and quiet before embarking on his task of driving the bus.  But he didn’t.  He invited me to go along on the journey, and I am all the richer for it – gaining in those few hours a glimpse of my dad’s world beyond the confines of our home.

From My Mother

The year I turned four, my sister, Liz, turned six.  That fall, she not only got to go to first grade, she also got to move out of the nursery at church and into a regular Sunday school class.  I knew there was no way I could go to school with her.  There were laws against that; but, I felt I had a good chance of joining her Sunday school class.  After all, this was church where you weren’t supposed to be a respecter of persons.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that my mother was going to be teaching Liz’s class.

I was sick of staying in the nursery with a bunch of babies and coloring those Bible story sheets using broken crayons worn down to a dull rounded shape, most of them with their paper wrappers peeled completely off.  Some of the crayons were even pocked with teeth marks where either the babies or nervous preschoolers had chewed on them.  I just didn’t think I could take another year of coloring with those gross crayons or pushing thread through those silly little sewing cards and being lumped in with a bunch of drooling, bawling babies while Liz joined the big kids in a class where they’d have actual lessons.  While my mother was no push-over, I felt it was worth a shot to begin my begging campaign to join her class.

“Pleeeeease,” I pleaded.  “Please, let me move up to Liz’s Sunday school class.”

I’m sure my mother finally grew tired of hearing my pitiful appeals because she reluctantly said, “Okay, but only on one condition.  You have to do the work that the older kids do.”

Even though I wasn’t at all sure I could meet that demand, the vision of myself spending another year in that nursery propelled me to promise my mother that I would do everything the older kids did.

I was beyond excited that first Sunday morning when I got to walk right past the nursery and into the first grade Sunday school classroom.  The other kids eyed me suspiciously, but they didn’t say anything for fear of making a bad impression on my mother.  When my mother announced that our first lesson was to learn the books of the Old Testament, my crisp enthusiasm wilted.  I was hoping we’d learn some Bible verses, preferably short ones like, “Jesus wept,” or even the books of the New Testament.  At least I could actually pronounce those names.  I wanted to whine, but I knew a complaint would send me straight back to the nursery, so I kept my mouth shut and focused on the assignment.

All week, I pestered my mother to go over the names of the books of the Old Testament with me.  This would have been going the extra mile for any mother, but my mother was completing her B.A. in English at Arkansas (now Lyon) College.  So in addition to dealing with regular motherly things – like preparing meals, doing laundry, and refereeing fights between Liz and me, she had tons of homework to do.  Still, she listened night after night as I stammered over all those names until I could say them without missing a single one.

I could barely sit still in my chair the next Sunday morning.  When my mother asked if anybody could say the books of the Old Testament, I shot my pudgy hand in the air.  My mother looked from face to face, but no one else moved except to narrow their eyes at me.

Finally, my mother said, “Okay, Teresa.”

To my amazement, I said them all from Genesis to Malachi, and then I held out my hand.  My mother’s pledge to pay fifty cents to the students who could reel off all those Old Testament books just sweetened the deal.  She smiled as she plopped the two quarters into my open palm, while the older kids looked on with what I’m sure were unchristian thoughts roiling through their brains.

Who cared what they thought?  With my mother’s help, I had learned that tenacity plus hard work could equal success even for an underdog like me.

From Both My Parents

Both of my parents took the time to teach me many other lessons, and they continue to teach me lessons even now.  Some of these lessons have been easy to learn.  Others, well, let’s just say I’m still working on them.  Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from them is the lesson of commitment.  Throughout our lives, my parents have remained committed to my brother, Rob, to my sister, Liz, and to me.  And, they have remained committed to each other for many, many years.  This month, my parents will celebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversary.  The symbol for that year is a diamond.  This hardest of gemstones was known to the ancient Greeks as adamas, the same word they used for anything that was indestructible or unmovable. My parents’ love for their family and for each other has been both enduring and constant, and that has been the most important lesson of all.

Untied shoelaces and lost gloves

Today’s post is written by my great friend, Debra Dickey. Thanks for the great reminder, Debra, that God is always faithful to me in the small things, too.

Glove #2I have had the honor of an unconventional amount of both during this past year.  At first, the phenomenon was a bit of a nuisance, but by allowing it to be so, soon it became a point of inter-communication, an inside joke if you will, an almost secret wink between me and the One Who watches over me, causing me to raise an eyebrow at the humor, as He reminded me to not be annoyed, but to be grateful and to take those moments to praise and thank Him.

Although I cannot begin to count how many times my shoelace has come untied, I can count how many times, at the moment when I needed to stop what I was doing, stoop down and bow my head to retie it, that I took that moment just to say ‘Praise God’… EVERY time.  Thank you. Simple, yet powerful.

I do know how many times I have lost that one glove from last winter to this one.  Three!!  Each time, I would get back to the house from walking Maddie, realize the glove was missing, and begin the back-tracking process in hopes that I would be able to locate it, in the snow, in the mud, or who knows wherever I had dropped it during the lengthy and meandering trek we had taken.  And every time, sooner or later, I was able to find it!  A glove?  Easily replaceable, you say.  Not a big deal, right.  But it was, to me anyway.  So I uttered hallelujahs and praises when I saw it, and gratefully said ‘THANK YOU!’

Oh but yes.  Someone is trying to get my attention.  In a comical way, huh?  So much the better!  Someone is trying to tell me that little things do matter.  “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much . . . . .” [Luke 16:10]  (‘He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much’ . . . . as spoken in the King James version.)

Although this parable from Luke was meant as a guideline for how God, and we, should try to identify a trustworthy approach to the world and its peoples, there is a converse maxim to that as well, a truism that Someone is trying to instill in me:  That He is faithful to me in the little things, therefore He will be faithful to me in the bigger ones.  In other words, if I can depend on Him to help me find a lost glove (and I do!!), He lovingly reminds me that I can surely trust Him in the “much” of my life too.  Ordainment and Promise of Perfect Comfort, Absolute and Supreme; I only need to own it.

With certainty I always ‘know’ this in my heart/ my spirit being:   “But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” [II Tim. 1:12]  It’s my human existence that struggles with the essence of that kind of power, strength and ability.  So for my benefit, He cares enough to take that precious moment to kindly remind me, in the smallest of ways, even with a lost glove or an untied shoestring, to acknowledge His Omnipotence, not only to myself, but to Him.  He is able.  And my faithfulness to Him is nothing compared to His faithfulness to me.   Simple, yet completely overwhelming.

‘Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us’ [I John 3:1] because we are His.