The Last Word

While “the last word” can describe a pushy eagerness to be the first and last to express an opinion, it can also be a message for another’s good, to communicate love. Sadly, the first example can be heard around us everywhere, physically and virtually.

Wyndham’s last words to me were “I love you.” Certainly, there were details of life we talked about earlier, but his last words expressed the heart of our relationship. These words are what mattered the most, to him and to me. I treasure those words. He used them daily when he could talk, but he had not been able to talk for months. So, when he somehow got these words out before he died, they were even more precious to me. While I remember so many details about his wisdom and passion for God…I remember these words the most. I carry our relationship of love with me always. His last gift to me was a diamond necklace, which he entrusted Sam to purchase. Even though he knew I am not a “jewelry person,” he wanted this remembrance so I would keep him close to my heart. And he is, always, close to my heart.

According to Jesus’ last words, He wants us to remember He loves us and will be with His sons and daughters. The fact that God’s first and last words were a blessing shows me once again the depth of His love. This moves and touches my heart.

What were Jesus’ last words? I had often thought His last words were the great commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20. But those were not His last words. His last recorded words were in the form of a blessing as He ascended to heaven.

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
(Luke 24:50-53)

Luke expounds on Jesus’ ascension in Acts as he quotes Jesus saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Was this the blessing Luke recorded? We don’t know. Jewish blessings usually invoke a gift or token of love, which the gift of His Spirit certainly is.

While we don’t know the exact words of the blessing as Jesus ascended, we know He raised His hands and blessed His disciples. We understand that they knew that He would somehow be with them through His Holy Spirit, though they did not yet understand how. And we know that they left His ascension rejoicing and praising God. That’s how God’s love affects us when we understand it.

Interestingly, the first recorded words from God to humankind were a blessing (Gen 1:22) and the last words from Jesus to humankind were a blessing. Learning from Jesus, I want my first and last words to communicate love. Because He loves, I can give love. I want my words to be a blessing to others. To communicate love.

This causes me to ask myself: What are my first words to others when I see them or greet them? What do they communicate?

What are my last words? What do they communicate?

Remembering that Jesus loves me and is with me brings me great comfort. His love allows me to show love to others.

A Jewish blessing is found in Numbers 6, describing God’s heart toward His people.

GOD spoke to Moses:

“Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the People of Israel. Say to them,
GOD bless you and keep you,
GOD smile on you and gift you,
GOD look you full in the face and make you prosper. (Numbers 6:22-26 MSG)

I love this blessing. I love the thought of God blessing me and keeping me. I thrill that He would smile on me and gift me, looking me full in the face. Amazing. God’s love touches my heart and gives me great joy. This blessing has been put to song, which has become a great encouragement to me. I pray as you listen, this encourages you as you remember God’s heart toward you.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Eggs

My hanging geranium plant has a guest.  A mama bird made a nest, moved in and laid five eggs. IMG_5075 The plant hangs on my front porch, and the anxious mama bird stays busy darting back and forth between an overhanging utility wire and her nest.  She flies back and forth whenever noise or movements startle her.   We go out the front door and drive up the driveway often, so she often comes and goes. According to my calculations, the eggs should hatch in the next couple of days, so I’ve been trying hard to provide her with as much peace and quiet as possible—which, on nights like last night—doesn’t always work so well.

I wasn’t quite sure how to make last evening’s hour-and-a-half impromptu fish fry with my kids, seven grandkids and four dogs—including a five-month-old labradoodle who was joyfully energetic after returning from his first ever grooming—quiet and peaceful.

Perhaps it was my neurotic concern for the bird, a picture of a snake I’d seen on Facebook, and an article about a near fatal accident that prompted my dream last night.  Or, maybe it happened to teach me a spiritual lesson.  Either way, it was one of those dreams that seems so realistic that you wake up exhausted from all the action.

The dream began with one of the grandkids putting the nest (complete with eggs) in his/her (can’t remember which one did this) mouth to see if that would make them hatch.  My daughter, concerned that it wasn’t best for her child to have a bird’s nest in his/her mouth, grabbed the nest and tried to put it back in its seemingly safe place.  However, she had forgotten that it belonged in the plant and instead put it in a crevice in the wall near the roof.  So, I attempted to relocate it back to its original position in the geranium.  As I reached in to grab the nest I realized it was encircled by a very large snake that had made its home in the crevice.  Terrified, I asked my daughter to distract the snake by playing drums on the side of the house.  It worked.  When the snake looked away I quickly (and bravely I might add) grabbed the nest and carried it back to the geranium—phwew—close call. 0604142111

All seemed to be well with the transition until the mother bird excitedly flew back toward her nest.  In her haste she flew into the porch ceiling, went limp and hit the floor with a thud.  I was devastated for the bird, and that after all the drama—this unfortunate series of events would end with a thud.   Of course, I did the only thing that could be done—performed CPR on the bird. It was a complete success as she got up and flew back to the plant and sat on her nest. What a relief!

Soon after waking up from this exhausting dream I went to check on the bird, fearing the worst.  She was there, still waiting and warming her eggs. I was relieved. As one who tends to be fearful and worry too often (hard to tell, I know)— I took this as a reminder of God’s loving care for me. I needed that.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:26-27  

 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31  

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Matthew 23:37

God has often rescued me out of the mouth of danger, lovingly lifted me to safe places, and performed spiritual CPR on me again and again. May I, as the scripture above states, always be willing to be gathered under his wings.

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 17:8  

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4





Entering the “Quiet Wilderness”

Have you ever searched for….. that still, quiet place of utter bliss? That place where you can gather your thoughts and  focus on what is most important, rather than all that is urgent?  That place where you can commune with your creator and leave refreshed and full of peace?  I needed to find this place, and was reminded (by a three year old) where to find it.

Life around here lately has been anything but quiet. (Thus, my hiatus from writing)  In February, our oldest daughter, son-in-law and their three children put their house on the market.  They need to move closer to the city in order to be closer to their ministry.  Their house sold immediately (good news) and the buyers wished to move in the following month (March.) Our kids had no place to live…so we invited them to move in with us while they searched for a house.

After a difficult search they found a place, however the sellers of their new place are not able to move out until the end of July.  Oh, did I mention our kids also have a dog named Reilley? (More to come on him in future posts.)  Seven humans, three dogs and one house make for a lively and loud place of abode.  One of the most “special” moments comes when one of the children cries.  Reilley, at the sound of a child in distress, howls at the top of his lungs.  This sparks our little dog to join in to make a duet…no, make that a trio (one crying child and two howling dogs.)  It is quite something to behold.  If I catch this moment on video it is sure to go viral.  I’ve never heard anything quite like it.  And Reilley barks… a lot.

Honestly, it has been fun and a true joy to spend this time together as extended family.  I love my family and am so grateful for all of them.   However, to be honest, I sometimes just long for quiet.

Now that it’s spring I can go outside.  But wait…. when I go outside things get even louder.  Our house is at the end of a dead end street, abutting a park.  Tennis courts and soccer fields are directly across the street from our front yard.   When we moved to this house years ago this was a quiet park.  Now, the whole town shows up here.  High school tennis matches (complete with big yellow busses parked in our front yard,) soccer meets, lacrosse games, softball games and accompanying practices happen here every day in the spring and fall. Sometimes, when I step outside, I feel like I’m arriving at a carnival.

I read (with new vigor) about a day in the life of Jesus as captured in the first few chapters of the gospel of Mark.  I stand in awe of Jesus’ compassionate, giving and selfless ways.  In this account, after being with people everywhere, he tried to get to a quiet place to pray only to be met with more people needing his healing touch.  He kept  his purpose in clear view…as he kept giving to people and preaching the good news.  I find his attitude and actions deeply convicting, yet utterly inspiring.  I long to react like him more often, and to be continually filled with his love ( which he promises to pour into my heart when I run out -thank you!)

    And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  Rom. 5:5

(read the verses before and after as well.  They are super helpful)

So, back to the lesson from a three year old.  Sunday afternoon my three year old grandson rode home with us from church.  While we were in traffic, he marveled at all of the “quiet wilderness” outside.  Amidst the traffic, he was looking at trees on the side of the rode.  This reminded me of a similar time I was with him last year.  We were amidst a group of people in someone’s yard and he stepped just a few steps away from the group, across the lawn into an adjacent vacant lot dotted with some trees. He called me over,  looked up at me and asked me to listen as he said, “Nana, sshhhhh….we are in the quiet wilderness.”  IMG_3838

I reflected on this lesson and how close the “quiet wilderness” can be to us even when we are in loud, crazy conditions. The “quiet wilderness” can be steps away and yet we can miss it.  (The “quiet wilderness” could have been a bathroom at work, a closet, the car…)  With that thought in mind, I went into my room closed my door to pray. Alas,  I came out to put barking Reilley in his crate….then went back to try to put into practice the scriptures:

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  Psalm 23:2

 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.   Psalm 46:10

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love….”  Zeph. 3:17

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Mark 6:31

    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Mt. 11:28-29

When I came out of my “quiet wilderness” I was finally able to quit feeling sorry for myself.  I was once again refreshed and at peace.   I’m thankful a little child reminded me to go to the “quiet wilderness” and that Jesus was waiting there for me.

Find Snappy

Snappy, though seemingly nowhere to be found, has become a celebrity of sorts throughout the suburbs of Boston.  She has her own Facebook page with over 2,000 followers.  Snappy is a four year old weimeraner (large grey dog.)   Her whereabouts are unknown since the day she disappeared (in my town) nearly three months ago.  Her owner is desperate to find her.  The owner has appeared on the news, commandeered concerned citizens to print and post posters all over the surrounding towns, initiated robocalls throughout nearby communities and employed a professional canine tracker flown in from Nebraska to help with the search.  

Within any given mile within a 20 mile radius you will likely encounter a poster entitled “Find Snappy.”  Feeding stations and video cameras have been placed along a route in the woods she is thought to be traveling.  During the time period that Snappy has been lost this part of the country has experienced an earthquake, a hurricane, a nor’easter and some cold temperatures.  If that is not challenging enough for her survival- coyotes are known to prowl around these same areas.  I’ve even seen one walking down our street.

Yet, Snappy’s owner has not given up the search for her.  She longs to bring her home.  Snappy’s faithful Facebook followers post daily comments of support to Snappy and her owner.  Some have told of specific daily prayer times where they pray for her safe return.  I confess that I know these things only because as a dog lover I was sucked in to Snappy’s plight and am also her “Facebook friend.”  Some have walked and driven many miles in search of the lost animal.  While I haven’t done that, I do stay on the lookout for her as I go about my daily activities.

Snappy’s drama has captivated the attention of many.  The owners have gone to a lot of time and expense to find their dog.  I am reminded from the seemingly trivial (in comparison) pursuit of Snappy – of God’s continual search for the lost.  I am deeply inspired and challenged.

Ezekiel 34:11-16

” ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. [12] As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. [13] I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. [14] I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. [15] I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. [16] I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

And Jesus, God in the flesh reiterates this message in the account of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. [2] A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. [3] He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. [4] So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

[5] When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” [6] So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

[7] All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ”

[8] But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

[9] Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. [10] For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (emphasis added)

 I am challenged by Snappy’s owner’s relentless pursuit of her well-loved dog.  I ask myself how much time, trouble, thought, prayer, perseverance and expense am I willing to give as I look at others through Jesus’ eyes.  He saw that they were harassed, and helpless like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).  I know that every individual’s world without God is a rough and dark place…much worse than the physical challenges of hurricanes, earthquakes and nor’easters…and Satan’s intense pursuit of mankind is compared to that of a lion instead of a coyote. So many people around me are without hope, forgiveness, direction and a purpose that counts and will last a hundred years from now. I am challenged to love others as Jesus loves as he commands me in John 13:34 and shows me in Matthew 18:12-14

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? [13] And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. [14] In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

Yes, I hope Snappy is found. However, more importantly I pray to speak and act toward other humans with more of the urgency and compassion found in Jesus’ heart.