Along for the Ride

Old Holly Cove Truck

When I was 10 years old my parents operated a campground in the summers for families camping in tents and trailers. It was located in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina and my brothers and I spent delightful summers working and playing alongside our family and friends. Dad had an old Ford truck and every time we children heard the engine crank, we ran to ask if we could go along for the ride. We would jump in the back of the truck, make sure our “bottoms were on the floor” and off we would go. Sometimes Dad would say, “Do you want to go with me?” since he knew we enjoyed feeling the air rush through our hair as it cooled us off on a hot summer day.

We never asked “Where are you going?” It didn’t matter. We were along for the ride. We didn’t care about the route or destination because the ride itself was exciting. Thinking about it now brings back a flood of pleasant memories. If my memory serves me rightly, the majority of the trips were to Sylva Coal and Lumber or Vance’s Hardware Store. Dad  would buy supplies for campground repairs, and we would return home, riding in the back of the truck with whatever he had purchased.

God wants us to respond to Him in much the same way my brothers and I responded to our father.  He has called us to follow Him – He often doesn’t tell us where we are going or why. We may not know where we are going, but we do know who we are going with. When God called Abraham ( Abram at that time) to a foreign land, He didn’t tell him much about the destination.  Abram knew God and trusted Him. The Bible is full of people who walked by faith. There are also numerous accounts of those who didn’t and the results aren’t pleasant.

I realize as I get older that it is the process of following God – or journey itself – that is important, not just the end result or the destination.

Matthew 16:24-25 (NIV)

 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. ”

Being an effective mother is losing our right to our own way, as we stated in an earlier post. Yet I know that too often I have focused on the “goal” ahead of me instead of  following God – whether the goal was getting the babies out of diapers, helping them learn to talk, walk, feed themselves, etc. Instead, I should see the day-to-day challenge of being a mother as significant.  If I could see each day as a “ride in the back of the truck” instead of a destination that must be reached I believe it would facilitate my desire to be a follower of God. As I relinquish my control over the destination – “losing my life” – God will take me where He wants me and I will “find my life” in Him.

Genetic Implications

Yesterday was Father’s Day and I am still blessed to have my father with us, in fact my parents live in our home. In thinking about the qualities that I most appreciate about my father, it is his faithful example of being a godly man that most stands out. He taught high school Biology for 40 years, 33 at Wheaton Central High School in Wheaton, Illinois, and after taking early retirement, he taught at a mission school in Taichung, Taiwan for 7 more years. He never lost his passion for teaching or his wonder at examining the uniqueness of God’s creation. My father was respected by his peers in education as well as his students. I know this because I attended the high school where my father taught. He has a natural ability to command respect in his quiet, but firm way.

When I was a junior in high school I tried out for the school musical, “Oklahoma.”  I was thrilled to get the part of Aunt Eller!  She was a feisty old lady, a part I could really get into! – until I read the script.  She cussed!  Those words jumped off the page at me and I knew deep down I couldn’t say them. I knew actresses are just ‘playing a part’ and that it wouldn’t be me saying those words but Aunt Eller; yet my overwhelming thought was ‘My father would be ashamed of me.’ I know he would see his daughter on stage, not some fictional character. I knew I had no choice. The next day I took the script to the director knowing that what I had to do might lose me the part. I showed the director, Mr. Schomas the page of dialogue and said “I can’t say those words.”  If I’d said anything more I would have cried. He looked at me and replied “I know your father. Just say something else that you feel is in character.”

My father’s conduct in and out of the classroom was consistent.  His fellow teachers saw that he lived what he preached and I was the beneficiary of that reputation. The thought of bringing shame to my father was of greater consequence to me then keeping a part in the play. Yet because he was respected, I was able to do both. The implications of the integrity of my father’s life continue to bless me to this day.

We know there are no spiritual grandchildren, yet I have inherited a rich treasure of spiritual ‘genes’ from my father. How much more our Heavenly Father wants us to be blessed by the spiritual treasures of our life as His children. He has SO MUCH to give us, yet we must be willing to receive from Him. Look at what Scripture says  –

1 John 3: 1,2

 1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Effectual Fervent Prayer

Some of my earliest memories are of praying. As a very young child, I remember praying as a family before meals, before bedtime, before long trips in the car. In reflecting on this I realized my parents modeled for me an attitude of dependence on God because we prayed before these events. Our family did not just pray when there was a crisis or an urgent need for help. We certainly did pray at those times, but not out of desperation. Prayer was a normal part of our life – in a real sense we had an ongoing conversation with God.

When we had children ourselves, we carried on this discipline of prayer. Prayer was a regular daily pattern and we prayed  together as a family before meals, before bedtime, and before trips. We also prayed before our children left for school in their younger grades. We specifically asked that God would guard their hearts and minds as they attended school. 

When we pray with our children, we are confessing before them our dependence and trust in God. We must model for our children the fact that God is God and we are not trying to change His mind or get Him to do what we want. Instead, we must reflect our faith in God’s faithfulness whatever the answer to our prayers.

A lesson God has been impressing on me lately is the reality that prayer adjusts my mind to God’s will, not praying so that God conforms to my will. I realize now that I wasted many prayers thinking that I knew what was best for our family. In  looking back I see that God had a very different plan.

When our children were young, I was challenged  to ask God how to pray for each one. God was faithful to my inexperienced yet sincere efforts as a mother and put on my heart a prayer for each of our 4 children. For years I prayed the same thing and in this ongoing conversation with God I saw Him fufill His purposes in ways I never would have expected. He still continues that work He began.

Phillipians 1:3-6  says ” I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Prayer should be a constant reminder to ourselves and our children that God is faithful! Now I am asking for a prayer for each of my grandchildren. What a blessing it is to see our Heavenly Father demonstrate His faithfulness from generation to generation.

It’s Never Your Turn

I got a phone call yesterday, Sunday afternoon, from one of our daughters. It has become somewhat of a pattern to talk to each of our daughters on Sunday afternoon and I look forward to it, even though I often talk to them three or so other times each week. This daughter told me about taking the ferry to Seattle to visit a friend from DC days. My daughter told about riding the ferry BY HERSELF, taking a book and actually reading for 40 minutes uninterrupted! She then ate with this friend, BY THEMSELVES, visited for a while and then returned on the late ferry, BY HERSELF, with a chance to read once more. When telling me about this opportunity, she sounded a bit apologetic, as though she really shouldn’t have done it, or at least not enjoyed it so much. “Yes, you should enjoy it!” I told her. “How nice of your husband to facilitate your chance to meet your friend for dinner.”

I did not say, “You deserve a chance to get away.”, or “You’re at home with those three little boys all the time, it was your turn to get away.” It’s never our turn. A precious young lady shared that bit of wisdom at a bridal shower I attended Saturday as a bit of advice for the bride-to-be. It sounds so old-fashioned, out of date, doesn’t it? Yet it is the key to contentment.

What is in our child’s heart when they feel they have missed their turn? They fuss, cry, or throw a fit. What is in MY heart when I feel I have been overlooked or left out? I feel hurt, angry, spiteful, all ugly words that describe ugly feelings. When something special happens and I don’t expect it or feel it’s my due, I am  pleased, blessed, happy – all nice words that describe pleasant feelings.

The Bible tells us in Philippians 2: 3-8

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 6 Who, being in very nature God,
   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
   by taking the very nature of a servant,
   being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
   he humbled himself
   by becoming obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!

Jesus is our example. If He humbled Himself, I must do likewise. I must not keep count and demand my turn. These verses say “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. ”

That does not mean we never get a night out, or a special time with other adults. When possible, a date night is especially nice. Yet these should not be events that are dictated by “turns”, but by a humble attitude of service. Then the enjoyment is a blessing to ourselves and an honor to God.