When my sons were 3 and 4, we moved to Apple Valley. It was a very hard move for the boys, and soon after, my youngest son, Vinny, developed a very bad stutter. Sometimes, he stuttered so badly that I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say. Sometimes, Tony would have to interpret for me. I don’t know how Tony could understand his brother, but he could, and he would let me know what Vinny was trying to say. Sometimes, especially if Tony wasn’t around to interpret, Vinny would get so frustrated with his stuttering that he’d dissolve into tears and stop trying. It wasn’t that I wasn’t listening to him, it was just that I couldn’t understand what he was saying to me. Vinny would cry and retreat to his room and clean it, he’d put everything in perfect order in his closet and on his shelves. Gary and I knew that since he couldn’t control how words came from his lips, he wanted to control something, anything, so he put other areas of his little life in perfect, controlled order.
One day, after I put the boys down for their naps, I began to weep with frustration over not being able to help Vinny. I had tried everything, including speech therapy and oral desensitization, but that little guy still could not stop stuttering, and spent much of his time silently cleaning and ordering his room. Gary and I were beside ourselves with worry and a deep sadness.
On that particular day, Vinny was exhausted from trying to tell me something. He started crying in frustration, and was now sleeping soundly. Desperate for help and support, I went next door to my friend’s house. I poured my broken heart out to her, and she said, “Have you prayed?” I said “Of course I’ve prayed, Gary and I have been praying about this for months!” She said “I know you’re ‘praying’, but have you really prayed? Have you been talking to God the way you are talking to me? Have you poured your heart out to Him and asked Him to help your son?” I thought about it and realized that, no, I hadn’t.
How many times do we say “I’m praying about this or that” or “I’m praying for you!” to someone, but really, we just have positive or sympathetic thoughts for them, or about their situation. Then when we wonder why God didn’t answer our prayer, He wonders, “What prayer?”
I love to pray. That’s not to say I’m good at it or do it enough. It’s a discipline; it has to be something we decide to do, then do it. I often fall asleep praying, and I used to think that was terrible. Then I remembered that God is my Father, and He loves it when I fall asleep in His arms, and that’s OK. I certainly would not be offended if my child fell asleep in my arms while telling me about his joys and sorrows!
When I realized that I had not actually really prayed about Vinny’s stuttering problem, I was so surprised! I thought I had been praying for months! What I had been doing, though, was thinking, emoting, sharing my feelings, wringing my hands, and saying that I was praying. I would venture to say that most of my friends and family were doing the same, sincerely worrying about Vinny, and sincerely offering me their love and compassion and promises to pray. But did it end there? Too often, I think it does end there.
Not long ago, I was discouraged to the point of not wanting to share my prayer requests with my friends and family because I felt it went nowhere. It began with me sharing my heartfelt concern, followed by a heartfelt response and promise to pray, and then, sadly, that was the end.
Back at my neighbors, I confessed that I had not been praying as I should. I had been complaining, and worrying and carrying the burden of this problem without ever really seeking help from God! I’d been running around saying “Oh my burden’s so heavy, it’s so heavy, I can’t take it! My poor aching back carrying this heavy weight!” I was announcing to the world my heartfelt concern, but never actually took it to the Throne! I just talked about it!
I thanked my friend and told her that I needed to leave. It was time for me to pray, to make an appointment at the feet of Jesus and seek His help. That’s exactly what I did. I went home and checked on the boys, and they were still sleeping soundly. I got on my knees in my bedroom and I prayed like I had never prayed before!
God met me there, and I felt His presence, I felt Him wrap His arms around me and say “I’ve been wondering when you were going to talk to me about this! It blesses me when you trust me with your concerns! What concerns you, concerns me. What breaks your heart, breaks mine. What brings you joy, brings me joy! You underestimate my great love for you, and for Vinny.”
After that wonderful time with Jesus, I called Gary and told him what had happened, I told him about the terrible morning Vinny had and how he cried himself to sleep. I told him how I went next door and faced the truth of my “faux faith”, and how I thought I’d been praying, but in reality I’d only been thinking and worrying and wringing my hands. I told him how I came home and prayed for Vinny.
On the other end of the phone, I could hear Gary was emotional, and struggling to speak, he cleared his throat and said “I was sitting at my desk wringing my hands and worrying about Vinny this morning when God very clearly spoke to me and said “Why are you carrying this alone? Why have you not asked Me to help? Don’t you know I love Vinny even more than you do? Why are you leaving Me out of this? Ask Me.”
Gary locked his office door and got on his knees and starting praying to God at precisely the same moment that I was on my knees praying! Here we were, two broken-hearted parents in two different cities, on our knees separately together enjoying the full attention of the Maker of the Universe on behalf of our sleeping son.
I felt like I was floating around the kitchen as I baked cookies in preparation of Tony and Vinny waking up from their nap. A few minutes later, the dogs trotted through the kitchen – this meant their boys couldn’t be far behind them. Sure enough, there came Tony and Vinny, smiling and rubbing their sleepy eyes, each trying to be the first one to get a hug and a cookie from me. They sat at the counter with their milk and warm cookies, and my sweet Vinny looked at me, and without even a hint of a stutter, said “Mom, I had the best dream ever!”
I marveled as he, stutter free, told me his dream. He dreamed of jumping on the trampoline all the way up to heaven and there were angels and angel dogs and he was soaring through the clouds with them! Then mid story, he realized he wasn’t stuttering! He stopped telling me about his dream, and looked at me with his big blue surprised eyes open wide and said “Hear me? Hear me?”
So my friends, don’t just talk about praying, don’t just tell your friends and family that you will be praying for them.
JUST DO IT!
Spring cleaning started early this year at my house. When I pulled out a box of old photos (and by “old photos” I mean “slides”) from the attic, I found an old picture of me. I was at the top of a black diamond ski run at Badger Pass in Yosemite posing for a selfie with a sign that said “DANGER! DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT!” Finding that picture sure brought back some memories. . . . .
Standing on that mountaintop, I felt like I could conquer the world! I decided to disregard the sign, and go my own way. I skied beyond the sign with a grand plan of skiing down the backside of the mountain, then back around to the front. It didn’t quite turn out as I had planned.
The terrain was rugged. There were no carefully cleared and maintained runs on the backside of Badger Pass. It was wild — wild and scary and steep. About halfway down the mountain (head over heels half the time), I realized that it was a bad idea. I took off my skis and tried to hike back up. The snow was too deep and, without my skis on, I sunk nearly to my waist with every step. I had no choice but to put my skis back on and go down.
It began to snow. Soon it was a blizzard. The blizzard turned into a white-out. A white-out is when the ground and sky and everything in between are white. This terrible blizzard dropped 9 feet of snow. There was no shelter, nowhere to go, no “sign” to follow, no way out.
“A SIGN!” I said to myself, “Yes, that’s the answer; leave a sign for rescuers to see!” Laying my skis on the snow in the shape of an “X,” I hoped a rescue helicopter would see them and come help me. Within 2 minutes, my skis were buried. I stuck them in the snow so they formed a big standing “X,” but that too was overcome with snow and of no use. There was nothing more to do. Tired and freezing, I just wanted to sit down and go to sleep. I didn’t care if I died out there, I couldn’t go on, and it was getting dark fast. The white-out was turning into a black-out.
There was a huge fallen tree nearby that I thought could provide shelter. With frozen hands, I placed pine branches over the fallen tree to form a cave like lean-to and covered the branches with packed snow to make a solid shelter. I stood my skis up against the fallen tree in case someone was looking for me, and went inside my little shelter. Never had I felt so tired and lethargic, and my arms and legs felt like limbs of lead. Now settled in my snow cave, I became very warm and comfortable – too comfortable. I took off my jacket, my beanie, boots and gloves, and ate some snow. “Someone will find me,” I thought. “I just have to stay awake and listen for the search party.” Exhaustion, dehydration, and hypothermia set in, and soon I fell into a very deep and dangerous sleep.
“Was someone calling my name?” I tried to get up, but I couldn’t move my arms or legs. I heard it again — someone was calling my name! I tried to answer but my throat was too dry and I was so weak that I couldn’t produce much more than a croak. I kept trying to respond, croaking and coughing, and finally I heard the words I’ll never forget, “We hear you! Keep calling! We’re coming!”
Before long, I heard the rescue party digging and they pulled me out of the snow cave, which was now buried beneath nine feet of fresh snow. They wrapped me in blankets and gave me water and a Snickers Bar. They found me! They rescued me! When I came out of the snow cave I was surprised that the sky was full of bright shining stars and a full moon, and the snow had stopped falling! “Of course it stopped snowing,” I thought to myself. “All the snow in heaven’s store-house fell last night!”
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:1-4
How often I ask God to give me a sign, to direct my path and give me wisdom and guidance — a spiritual road map to help me find the way through a storm. How often I accuse God of not showing up when I need Him, of not answering my prayers, or not giving me a sign when I need it. Then I remember my night on Badger Pass, and the sign that I ignored. Then humbly I ask God to guide my steps, guard my heart, and lead me in the way He desires for me to go. In His loving way, He reminds me (again) that the roadblocks, signs, and detours are for my own good, and I need to trust Him, and obey Him. Those times when I think God didn’t show up, the reality is, I walked on without Him. I need to heed the signs, not take selfies with them!
Have you ever felt like you needed a sign from God? Have you ever pushed your way beyond the sign to go your own way? Have you ever taken a selfie as you walk right past God’s instruction? If so, you’re in good company, and we have a loving Shepherd who will pursue us when we fail to hear His voice. He will recognize our croaking voice when we call His name, and He will say, “I hear you! Keep calling! I’m coming!”
“But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand . . . ” John 10:26-28
Lord, forgive me for too often asking You to guide me and then going my own way. Thank you Father, for pursuing me even in my disobedience and disregard for You. Thank You for finding me! Thank You for rescuing me!
I used to raise peacocks. And, well, when you have peacocks, you have peacock poop. And when you have peacock poop, you have to clean up the peacock coop. And on this particular day, the poopy coop duty was mine. So I got my brand new big green rake, and went into the peacock coop to scoop the poop.
The coop was very large, about 900 square feet. There were a couple of nice creosote trees in there, some big rocks the birds liked to stand on, and a little pool for the peacocks to enjoy. There were 8 peacocks in there, including two who we named He-Pea and She-Pea who were the mommy and daddy of all the others. He-Pea ruled the roost, and She-Pea loved him and always stayed as close to him as she could. They were a match made in heaven. Until . . . . . the green rake came along.
My green rake was made of plastic, with a wooden handle. It was a very bright green and very wide at the bottom. When I raked with it, I could rake a large area. I was raking away, gathering the peacock poop into a pile when I noticed He-Pea was acting peculiar. He left She-Pea, and was walking very near my rake, even prancing a little. His little head was bobbing up and down and he was making a strange sound. He would square off toward the green rake and puff his chest out. Then suddenly, with a loud swoooooooosh he threw open his big tail into a beautiful, giant, colorful fan! His fanned tail was about 6 feet across at the widest point, and boasted of some of the most brilliant colors God created! Once He-Pea’s tail was up and fanned, he brought it down over his head almost like a hood, and then he began to shake it. The sound of his shaking tail was like the sound of the wind blowing through crisp, dead leaves in the trees, rattling until they find their way to the ground below. It was impressive to be sure, but why in the world was he acting this way toward my green rake? I’d only seen him behave that way toward his beloved She-Pea!
I glanced over to where She-Pea was, near the rocks. She looked unimpressed, even disgusted. I looked back at He-Pea, and saw him again puffing out his chest and, wait, was he flirting with my rake? He was! He-Pea was putting on a show trying to impress my green rake! He-Pea mistook the color and shape of the rake for another peacock, and he was doing his best to impress the new arrival!
I used my rake to try to push him away, but he just kept it up, dancing and prancing and showing off his grand tail! I have been known to talk to myself now and then, and I often talk to my pets, so I said to He-Pea, “What in the world do you think you’re doing? This rake has nothing for you! Do you really think this rake can make you happy? Do you think this rake can make you feel good? Do you think this rake will snuggle with you in your nest and take care of your babies? Are you out of your pea-brain?” Then I continued and told him, “Look at your beloved She-Pea watching you act like a bird-brain! With She-Pea you have the real deal, the love of your life, your beloved, your soul-pea, how foolish of you to take your eyes off of your beloved for even a moment to look at this green rake!”
Then it hit me. How often am I distracted by something appealing or tempting to me? How easily are my eyes drawn away from my beloved Jesus and focused on a green rake? Anything, and I mean anything, that takes your eyes off of Jesus is a lie! It cannot make you happy or fulfill you. Anything that takes your eyes of Jesus is nothing but a green rake. And we all know what my green rake was used for . . . . .
Lord Jesus, Thank you for making me your beloved! Help me to keep my eyes on You and You alone!
Have you ever heard of subwoofers? Subwoofers “enhance the sound system” according to Yahoo. Subwoofers help you hear the “boom boom boom”. Subwoofers help with volume, clarity and even background noise reduction.
Why would one need a subwoofer? Obviously, to enhance the sound that one is choosing to listen to. Kid’s sometimes put them in their trunk so everyone within a 5 mile radius can hear what they’re listening to while they’re driving.
On a spiritual level, a subwoofer would be the Holy Spirit, the one who comes along side us and gives us spiritual volume, clarity, and even background noise reduction. Or Jesus, the one who intercedes for us, who makes sense of our mumbling and presents it to God clearly and beautifully.
But why do we need someone to “come along side” or to “intercede” for us? We need that because in and of ourselves, we are inadequate. We need “enhancing”, we need someone who is able to give us clarity, understanding and spiritual volume; we need someone who can come along side us and drown out the background noise of the world, so we can more clearly hear God’s voice in our lives!
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I love that word “through”. Christ is the door “through” which we must walk in order to benefit from His enhancing. When we walk through that door, a transformation takes place and our ears are opened, the spiritual volume is turned up and we hear Jesus, and only Jesus. We walk through that door and we are plugged into the most powerful subwoofer of all time!
When I was the Dean of Students of a private school, we hosted exchange students from many different countries. Sometimes speaking to them was difficult because they couldn’t always comprehend what I was saying. English-speaking students frequently tended to think the exchange students were dumb because they didn’t understand. They were not dumb, they were probably smarter than some of us, they may have spoken 2 or 3 languages compared to my one, but they didn’t fully comprehend everything we said. They needed someone to come along side them, and translate for them.
I totally empathize with the exchange students. I have 85% hearing loss in one ear, and 55% in the other. I also have tinnitus. I sometimes feel like I don’t hear a thing. I have managed, by continually asking “Say that again?” or just smiling and nodding when I don’t have a clue what someone said. Sometimes, if I can’t hear someone speaking to me, I cup my ear, trying desperately to funnel their words into my ear. When all else fails, I read lips.
Sometimes, when someone is talking to me, I hear sounds, usually just a bunch of consonants, so I add my own vowels to try to make sense of the sounds. I probably have a 50% success rate with that, which means a 50% failure rate as well. My family laughed at me more than once when I responded to a comment or question the way I THOUGHT I heard it. For example, after we watched a movie one night, Gary looked at me and said “Why are we still up?” I answered “No, but there’s Diet Pepsi. Do you want me to get you some?” It’s humiliating and frustrating beyond words. It reminds me of that scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Meg Ryan sits next to a lady on the plane who says “I hate flying, don’t you?” and Meg says “Yes, and I just told the biggest one!”
Recently, I was fitted with my own personal little pea-sized subwoofers. When they were placed in my ears I heard clearly for the first time in many years. I was overwhelmed! I actually started sobbing, I couldn’t believe what I had been missing! The Doctor handed me a tissue and said “Welcome back!” And to top it off, now that I can hear, I am not so focused on the tinnitus, and barely notice it. Similarly, when our ears are opened spiritually we are not focused on the sounds of the world, we are focused on Jesus, and as we allow Him to turn up our spiritual volume, we hear Him say, “Welcome back!”
How’s your hearing, spiritually speaking? How’s your comprehension? Are you missing something? Do you need someone to come and turn up the volume? Are you reading lips and adding vowel sounds to the consonants to make up words? Do you need a subwoofer? I’d like to recommend a great subwoofer, His name is Jesus! And He loves you! He wants to come along side you and bring clarity and understanding to your life!
“Blessed are those who HEAR the word of God and keep it.” What a blessing! What an honor! What a responsibility!
We’ve all heard the statement “Ignorance is bliss.” It implies “If it ain’t said, it ain’t so.” It implies that what we don’t know won’t hurt us.
So, what is it that we don’t know? What don’t you know? What are you NOT worried about, because you don’t know about it? Is it that diagnosis? You could have some terrible cancer right now, but you don’t know about it, so you’re not worried about it, and ignorance is bliss! But once you receive the diagnosis, you have the knowledge of the disease, and that changes everything. Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge brings a healthy fear, and a call to action. Once you have knowledge, you can not continue to live in ignorance.
Recently, Honda recalled certain 2004 cars because of a faulty air bag. This is what the recall notice said:
THE DEFECT IN THIS VEHICLE COULD KILL OR INJURE YOU OR OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR VEHICLE. SPECIFICALLY, THE FRONT AIRBAG INFLATOR COULD PRODUCE EXCESSIVE INTERNAL PRESSURE UPON DEPLOYMENT. IF AN AFFECTED AIRBAG DEPLOYS, THE INCREASED INTERNAL PRESSURE MAY CAUSE THE INFLATOR TO RUPTURE (BREAK APART) AND DEPLOY ABNORMALLY. IN THE EVENT OF AN INFLATOR RUPTURE, METAL FRAGMENTS COULD PASS THROUGH THE AIRBAG CUSHION MATERIAL POSSIBLY CAUSING SERIOUS INJURY OR FATALITY TO YOU OR OTHERS IN THE VEHICLE. A PRIOR RUPTURE LIKE THIS RESULTED IN SERIOUS INJURY AND DEATH. HONDA SUGGESTS THAT YOU AVOID HAVING A PASSENGER SIT IN THE FRONT PASSENGER’S SEAT UNTIL THE RECALL REPAIR HAS BEEN PERFORMED.
HONDA WILL NOTIFY OWNERS, AND DEALERS WILL REPLACE THE AIRBAG INFLATOR, FREE OF CHARGE. IF A REPLACEMENT PART IS NOT AVAILABLE DEALERS WILL WORK WITH OWNERS TO ACCOMMODATE OWNER NEEDS. OWNERS MAY CONTACT HONDA’S AUTOMOBILE CUSTOMER SERVICE AT 1-888-234-2138. HONDA’S CAMPAIGN NUMBER FOR THIS RECALL IS JM0.
Thousands of people have been cluelessly driving around for years completely ignorant of the fact that if their air bag deploys, shrapnel could be projectiled into their face killing them instantly. The very device installed to save their lives, could take their lives. But ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know, won’t hurt you.
My mom drives a 2004 Honda CRV and when she heard about this recall, she immediately took her car to the Honda dealership. The dealership had been so inundated with recalls, that they didn’t have the part. They said to bring the car back in a couple of months when the part was in stock.
Do you think, after receiving the recall notice, and knowing what my mom knew about the danger, she was going to drive that car again without it being repaired? Of course not! After a little persuasive language from my dad, the Honda dealership kept Mom’s car and provided her with a rental car. They told her they wouldn’t have the part for a few months, but they would cover the cost of the rental until the problem was fixed.
One day my mom was telling us the story about her Honda and the recall. My son, Tony, said, “I drive a 2004 Honda Civic!” My heart sank! My son commutes from Carlsbad to Riverside and back at least 10 times per month! What if he’s in a fender bender and the airbag deploys propelling shards of murderous metal right into his beautiful face, killing him instantly?
The truth of the matter is, the possibility of Tony being killed in his car by a faulty airbag was a reality since he bought the used 2004 Honda several years ago. It didn’t happen, thank God, but when I knew it was a possibility, I pulled rank and played my Mama card on my adult son and insisted he take his car in immediately! Being the good boy that he is, he drove straight to a Honda dealership, and drove away in a shiny new rental car!
Ignorance is bliss, yes, but knowledge? Knowledge brings fear. A healthy fear. Fear of that airbag deploying sending virtual shards of death into your face. For years, my mom drove her 2004 Honda CRV with the exact same risk whether she knew it or not. The risk of her airbag killing her was just as real in 2004 as it was when she received the recall! Same with Tony, his airbag could have killed him years ago just as easily as it could have killed him the day he found out about the recall. Once they received the recall, however, they had knowledge, and knowledge brings fear. Fear that comes from knowledge is healthy, it’s a fear that is for our own good, for our well-being! It’s a fear that promises us a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) And Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge.”
When we fear (love, honor, respect, praise) the Lord, we are just beginning to tap the spring of knowledge He makes available to us. With knowledge, we can avoid a face full of shrapnel from a faulty airbag. In ignorance, we plod forward, not knowing or caring that we might have a face full of shrapnel in a second if the very thing whose purpose is to save us, betrays us. Ignorance is, indeed bliss. Bliss is not good. Knowledge is good, and wisdom is good. Fearing the Lord is good.
Proverbs 15:31 – 33 says: “Whoever heeds life-giving correction (pays attention to that recall notice) will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline (ignore the recall) despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord.” We are called to be wise, to be knowledgeable, not ignorant. When we have knowledge, when we are given to know a thing, it’s completely unacceptable to continue to behave the way we did in ignorance, because now we KNOW!
As believers, we have been made aware of the dangers of complacency, and ignorance. We are called, no, we are required to ACT on what we know, we are required to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.
Once we know Jesus, we receive a recall notice – for each of us it may be different. What is Jesus recalling in your life? Is it that relationship you shouldn’t be in? Is it pornography? Is it drugs, alcohol? Is there a secret sin in your life? What are you going to do with His recall in your life? Are you going to take action? Or are you going to risk getting hit in the face with shrapnel from Satan? Ignorance is bliss, but we are not ignorant anymore, we KNOW what He expects from us. And we are required to respond to that recall.
I don’t want to be ignorant. I want knowledge. I want to fear God and adhere to His recall notice in my life. He has overcome, and He has the power to recall whatever Satan sends my way.
May we go though life with all knowledge and wisdom from God, and a clear understanding of what lies in wait for us. Check your spiritual inbox daily for a recall notice from the Lord. Then act on it. Make the repairs. Only then can we defend ourselves from Satan’s shrapnel shower.