Seize the Day

Job 38:8-11 Or who enclosed the sea with doors, when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb. When I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, And I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther, And here shall your proud waves stop’?

This week I went to the beach with my husband, daughter, and two grandchildren.

I brought along my sunshade tent since I burn easily. I intended to sit in the shade and watch my grandchildren play, talk to my daughter and maybe take a nap…but the waves beckoned.  

Lake Michigan was warmer than expected. What is usually too frigid to stay in for more than a couple minutes felt like bath water.

We made our way out onto a sandbar and positioned ourselves in front of the crashing waves.

The waves picked us up and pushed us back to shore. We could barely stand up before another came and pushed us even farther. Again and again we made our way out only to be carried unceremoniously back to where we had begun.

We laughed and laughed at our ungraceful, awkward body surfing. It was like we were playing with God.

Like he had arranged the waves just for us.

Like he had twisted the wind so the waves came at us not from one direction but from two.

Like he had warmed the water enough that we stayed in not a couple minutes, but a couple hours.

We dragged ourselves out of the water and sat winded, but oh so happy.

Then we went back and did it again.

Some of you might say that isn’t very dignified for a 63 year old woman who has had a stroke to participate in such an activity. You would want me to be more careful.

My daughter, Anna’s answer to the day was…”Carpe Diem” (Seize the Day).

Enjoy today. Quit worrying about how it looks. Tomorrow might not come. Waves like that might not be that warm again. Whatever it is you are afraid to do…do it.

Enjoy each day God has given you. Do the things that bring you joy, not because you are the best at it, but simply for the joy. There will be plenty of serious days when you do serious things. They too should be done with all your heart, but for today look for the joy. Look at the wonderful world God has made and enjoy each minute.

Ps. 104:24 -26 – O Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions. There is the sea, great and broad, in which are swarms without number, Animals both small and great. There the ships move along, And Leviathan, which you have formed to play in it.

My Father’s Arms

I can still remember sitting next to my dad and, without thought, resting my head on his shoulder. It was a safe and comfortable place to be. I was a shy child and there was nothing more comforting than to sit beside him and half hide my face behind his strong arm. Sometimes during a long sermon as my head would nod I would gratefully rest my head and drop off to sleep knowing he was there beside me.

Other times at a camp meeting or other large event I would stand beside him and grab his arm as he talked to people I didn’t know. I would not have dared be there by myself, but there was a quiet excitement to being with him. He would protect me. He would bring me safely home again.  

Yet again we would be walking through the park. As I got tired, my dad, grinning, would take my hand and we would walk/run the rest of the way. It was so much easier with his arm encouraging me on.

Those arms of his brought great comfort. It wasn’t what he said so much as the action of a simple hug or strong presence. I was heartbroken when he died just before I turned 30. I wasn’t as grown up as I let on, but because of the gaping hole left by his departure I learned to look to my heavenly Father more…to look for His strong arms to comfort and to give courage…knowing that whatever trouble I came across, He would be there to walk me through or possibly to take me home.

It reminds me of a song I learned when I was young. I can still hear my Father singing it with his strong Bass voice.

Are you leaning on these Everlasting Arms? If not, why not? Don’t delay. Decide before it is too late.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms – (E.A. Hoffman/A.J. Showalter)

What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms! What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, Leaning on the everlasting arms!

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms. Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way, leaning on the everlasting arms! Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day, Leaning on the everlasting arms! (Chorus)

What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms. (Chorus)

For further study:

Deuteronomy 33:26, 27

Luke 15:34

Never Alone

I have been blessed over the last weeks to have many people praying for me. I am grateful for those prayers and for those who helped in many other ways.

I also think back to the nights in the hospital and even the times I woke up in the middle of the night once I was home. Those were times of being reminded by God of his tender care of me. The verses he would bring to my mind or the fragment of a hymn.

“Jesus the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrow cease. ‘Tis music in the sinners ears. ‘Tis life and health and peace.”

Our world is in trouble right now. It is more than a physical sickness. It is a spiritual darkness that envelops many. We think especially of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, but there are many people hurting in many locations like Afghanistan and China. It seems hopeless, but we have a God who sees and hears. He still comforts those in trouble. He is at work even in the darkness. Our hope lies not in governments or leaders, but in the God who patiently waits for men to turn to Him. My prayer is that the current trouble causes such a turning.

My granddaughter, Arianna and I recorded this a couple of years ago. It was written by Emma and Stuart Townend. “I Am Here for You”.

For further study:

Deuteronomy 3:22 – “Do not fear them, for the LORD your God is the one fighting for you.”

Isaiah 31:1 – “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, And trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!”

Isaiah 41:10, 13b – “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” “…Do not fear, I will help you.”

Jeremiah 31:3 – “…I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

Matthew 28:20b – “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

John 16:33b – “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

I John 4:10 – “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Baabaa’s Story

This post is dedicated to my oldest granddaughter, Ashlee. Too quickly you have grown from the little girl in this story to a beautiful young lady.

I firmly believe God gives us children and grandchildren, not so we can teach them, but so they can teach us. Ashlee, you are still one of my favorite people. Love, Grandma.

(First published January 2, 2014)

I know a rabbit named Baabaa. She had downy white fur with soft pink on the inside of her ears. Her eyes were bright and sparkling. She had an orange scarf around her neck. There was a zipper on her underside that opened to a little pocket that carried a tiny baby bunny.

Baabaa came to live with a little girl with red hair when she was just a baby and became her constant companion. When the little girl is tired or afraid she pulls Baabaa close to her face and whispers in the soft pink ears.

The scarf was lost long ago. The eyes are dull and scratched. The zipper is broken, and the tiny baby bunny has been put away for safe keeping. She has been washed so many times that her permanent color is grey. Her coat is matted and worn. The ears which once were so lovely are her roughest part. She has been held and dragged and kissed and loved until she is misshapen, stained and unrecognizable as a rabbit.

There was one horrible episode where she was lost in a store and the little girl spent the night crying… and worrying about where she was… and would she ever see her again. She was retrieved the next morning by the girl’s mother and quickly kissed and hugged and cried over with much relief. From that point on the little girl was more careful with her. She held her tighter when they ventured out.

What is Baabaa worth? Sadly, she would not fetch even 25 cents at a garage sale. Most people would throw her away if they found her, but to one little girl, with red hair, Baabaa’s price is far above rubies. Baabaa would be a very foolish rabbit indeed if she was proud and bragged about how valuable she was. Her value lies only in being loved by a little girl named Ashlee. Without Ashlee her value is less than nothing. There is nothing good or valuable in her.

We are like Baabaa. We are worn and bedraggled and misshapen. We have no worth, but there is someone who loves us and in that is our value. We would be foolish people indeed to brag about how good and valuable we are. No, our only value is in being loved by a good and merciful God. A God who chooses to use broken and weak people to do amazing things.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” I Corinthians 1:26-31

When God is Unkind

(First published 12-17-13)

Even though Joseph was from a dysfunctional family he lived a life of integrity. Several times in scripture it mentions “the Lord was with him”. His life was anything but smooth sailing, but the Lord was with him.

The Lord was with him when he was thrown into a pit by his brothers.

The Lord was with him when his brothers sold him into slavery.

The Lord was with Him when He worked in Potiphar’s house.

The Lord was with him when he was falsely accused, by Potiphar’s wife.

The Lord was with him when he was in jail.

The Lord was with him when he interpreted dreams while in jail.

The Lord was with him when he was forgotten by men.

The Lord was with him when he worked for Pharaoh.

He did nothing to deserve trouble. Yet, God was kind to Joseph by being unkind.

God was kind to Joseph’s family by saving them from the famine, through Joseph.

God was kind to the Egyptians by saving them from starvation, through Joseph.

God was kind to Joseph by allowing him to be part of God’s plan to bring deliverance.

There is no mention of Joseph doubting God’s goodness. There is no hint of bitterness. After the death of his father Joseph reassures his brothers by telling them. “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

Sometimes trouble comes to my life or your life. I don’t know why most things happen, but…

I do know God is kind.

I do know that God is sovereign.

I do know that sometimes God is up to something I don’t understand.

I do know that God is with me.

That simply needs to be enough.

For Further Study:

Genesis 37:4, 18-20

Genesis 39:1-5, 19-23

Genesis 41:39-41

Genesis 50:15-20

Acts 7:9-14

Hebrews 11:22

Softball and Being Chosen

(Originally published 8-29-2013)

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Softball was my least favorite sport.

It had a lot to do with how the game started…choosing sides.

I was little and skinny and usually chosen last. As I grew my coordination became worse which made me even more undesirable as a teammate. The only time I wasn’t chosen last was if there was someone smaller and skinnier than I was. (It didn’t happen often.)

On rare occasions one of the captains happened to be my Dad. I can still hear him say,

“I choose Karen!”

Not with reluctance, but with love and confidence. He chose me, not because of my great athletic ability, but because he loved me and wanted me on his team.

That’s how it is with God. I Thessalonians 1:4 says

“knowing brethren beloved by God, His choice of you.”

God has picked me! I’m weak and sinful and mess up often, but He loves me and wants me on His team. How can I help but love and serve such a God?

For further study:

I Corinthians 1:27-28; Colossians 3:12; I Peter 2:9

Lessons from my Granddaughter

(Written November, 2011)

In early November I got out the Thanksgiving decorations box. I carefully unwrapped a ceramic pilgrim man and put him on the buffet. Our three year-old granddaughter, Arianna, gasped with wonder and said,… “Jesus!”

I had to tell her, “No, it’s a pilgrim.”

I unwrapped the matching pilgrim lady and again Arianna whispered, …”Jesus.”

“No,” I responded, “Another pilgrim.”

We hadn’t been talking about Jesus. We don’t have statues of him standing around our house and yet when something new and wonderful was taken out to be displayed she just assumed it had to be Jesus.

When the first snow came in November she squealed and said, “God sent the snow.”

“Yes, Arianna, God sent the snow.”

I smile at her simple happiness and wish I could rewind my life to a simpler time. My grown-up heart is cynical. I have lived in this broken world too long to be optimistic. The reality is, life is hard. It isn’t how God intended. We have each royally messed up.

…And so we have Christmas. Not to distract us from what is bad in our lives. Not to have a month of gift giving and parties. We have Christmas because God promised he would send a redeemer all those years ago when our first parents sinned.

Just as Adam and Eve chose sin over God, we have chosen our own selfish ways. Instead of turning our face to God we turn our faces inward. We turn them anywhere but toward God. And yet…

“God so loved the world… (God so loved me, you) that He gave…” He gave his son, not only to be born, but eventually to die for my lost condition. What a marvelous hope!

So I stay close to Arianna. As she delights in Christmas and wants to learn all about the baby and what God did, I feel my own heart melting. It is becoming a little more childlike. As I tell her about the great God who loves her, I am reminded of just how great He is.

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:76-79

My Grandmother’s Chair

I have two chairs that my grandparents received on their wedding day. They are tiny by today’s standards. I used them as thrones when I was a little girl. There was a matching loveseat that I spent hours sprawled out in reading the World Book Encyclopedia. The loveseat met an unfortunate end when it got in the way of a semi-truck, but that is another story.

The chairs came to me before my mother died. About 10 years ago one of the chairs was damaged while being used in a drama production. The front leg and part of the frame was shattered. I couldn’t bear to throw it away. How do you discard something that you have lived with all your life? It was the only thing I owned that had belonged to my grandmother…so it sat in my basement. The chair that wasn’t damaged sat with it. It seemed they should be together. I looked at it every once in a while and tried to see if I could fix it. It seemed impossible. There were just too many pieces. Still, I couldn’t throw it away.

A couple years ago I decided to buy some fabric and recover the good one. I bought enough for two chairs just in case. I started on the broken one first. I took out the old tacks, peeled back the old fabric, took out the stuffing and removed the webbing from the bottom. There it was looking worse than ever. The springs had come loose. The leg and frame looked hopeless. I carefully took the leg apart where it met the frame. I cleaned out the old glue. I fit the pieces back together with new glue in the joints. I added wood filler where the wood was damaged and splintered. I bound it up tight while the glue dried. I also put some braces up inside where they wouldn’t show. I sanded and covered up the scratches with stain.

Next I started putting new webbing on the bottom, retying the springs, layering the burlap, stuffing, cotton cloth, more stuffing, more cotton cloth and finally the finish fabric. The braid went on last to cover all the edges. I stepped back and looked it over. I was amazed. It was beautiful. It was also strong…stronger than it had ever been. I recovered the good chair too. I had to redo some of the stuffing, but I didn’t have to touch the springs or webbing. They were a matched set again. They looked the same, but one was much stronger. The one that had been broken, seemingly beyond usefulness, was now the stronger of the two.

My thoughts turned to people. Many are broken and shattered. As broken people we have two choices. We can hide in the basement and expect other people to stay there with us or we can give our broken and shattered pieces to the one who made us. It will hurt. He will have to take things apart, scrape off things that shouldn’t be there and dig out some rotten bits. But as we trust Him to work with our life He will make us beautiful and strong…stronger than we would have been if we had never been broken.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Karen Pickering

(Originally published July 18, 2013)

But God remembered Noah

Photo by Sourav Mishra on Pexels.com

Noah was 500 years old when God told him to build an ark. God saw that …

“the wickedness of man was great.” “Every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”. Genesis 6:5

(So much for thinking that following your heart is a good idea.)

“the LORD regretted that he had made man…and it grieved him to his heart.” vs. 6

God decides to destroy man, animals, every creeping thing, and birds, but in that cesspool of humanity…

“Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” vs. 8

Imagine Noah and his sons building the ark while the rest of mankind looked on and mocked. To preach for 100 years without any converts must have been devastating. Noah simply obeyed. Once they were all safely on board with the animals, God shut the door, and they waited.

They waited 7 days before the rains came.

Then the floodgates of the deep and the windows of heaven were opened. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights. There was so much water that even the mountains were covered up. Every living thing died that wasn’t on the ark. The flood waters surged for 150 days or 5 months.

“But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.” Genesis 8:1

They had not been forgotten. God stopped the rain and closed the floodgates. A little over two months later the water receded and the mountain tops could be seen again. Just over a year after the flood had begun it was finally dry enough for Noah and his passengers to leave the ark.

Sometimes when I struggle with a situation that never seems to end I think of Noah. He was given an overwhelming job while the rest of the world was being destroyed. There was no escape from his daily duties. Imagine being the only living island in a world of water. Yet, his faithful obedience saved his life and the life of his family.

Oh, that I would have such faith. To believe that God is doing something I am unable to understand.

Father, help me to trust you with my impossible situations, knowing that you have not forgotten me.

For further study:

Genesis 6:5 – 8:22

Matthew 24: 36-44

Hebrews 11:7

II Peter 2:5

Marbles & Paperweights

My son loved marbles. There is something fascinating about them, the color, the design… The thrill of sending them down the hall in quick succession.

My husband collects glass paperweights, which he keeps in a display case. Most of them were his grandmother’s. He has added a few to the collection over the years. Most of them are round. 

One day, to my horror, I found our son rolling the beloved paperweights down the hall in quick succession. I yelled, “That’s not what those are for! Those are paperweights!”

He knew they were paperweights. He had looked at them several times under our watchful eye with our explanations of what they were for. But he had a passion for marbles so he didn’t care what their intended purpose was. He wanted to use them as marbles. His wants outweighed what was best for the paperweights. His wants outweighed what the certain punishment for damaging them would be.

Sad to say, they didn’t roll well. They weren’t made for rolling. After being hurled down the hallway most of them had nicks and chips.

When something isn’t used for its intended purpose it doesn’t end well.

A hand painted silk scarf used to mop up the floor.

A Monet used as a dartboard.

An ancient tapestry used as a doormat.

A priceless violin used as a cricket bat.

A crystal vase used as a garbage can.

Each thing is demeaned as it is misused. The creator of each would be saddened to see the intended purpose being ignored for a baser one.

Our society is good at renaming or redefining things. I think of the phrase, “love is all you need”. Love is defined by the feelings of the people experiencing it.

Our bodies can be misused in the same way. God created each of us with a design and purpose. To use our bodies as he designed them is to honor Him. He has made it plain from creation. It wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, so He created a helper for him. This helper was made from his own rib. He was to love and care for her as his own body. God made them to fit perfectly together.

The laws that followed were very specific as to what was not allowed. It was because God knew what would bring the most happiness. What would be best for the people He had created. God created love (or sex) to be between one man and one woman in a committed marital relationship. It was a good gift. 

We have corrupted that gift to include: Sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage, sex with multiple partners, sex with prostitutes, sex with same sex partners, sex with children, sex with animals, sex with ourselves. The list is endless.

Now we even rename what gender we are to suit our own feelings. Men claim to be women. Women claim to be men. Some claim they are fluid, unwilling to pick a gender. Our very DNA tells us what gender we are, but in this case we are not willing to follow the science. We would rather turn our back on the creator God and follow our own passions.

None of us are sinless. We all need forgiveness and grace. But that comes at a cost. The cost is repentance of known sin and a turning back to God. Our society tells us to “follow our heart”. “Be your own person.” But our worth is not found in our deceitful heart or in our sinful person, but in belonging to God, to be used by Him.  Our only fulfillment and joy can be found in following Him.

For Further Study:

Genesis 1:27-31; 2:18-25 (Creation)

Genesis 19:1-15 (Soddom)

Leviticus 18:19-23 (Law)

Jeremiah 17:9 (deceitful heart)

Romans 1:21-27 (God gave them over)

I Corinthians 6:9-11 (danger)

I Timothy 1:8-11 (purpose of the law)

Romans 10:9-13; 12:1-2 (good news)

Jude 7 (final warning)