The Wedding Gift

The Wedding Gift

By Phillip Hix Woody

I know they aren’t diamonds – these boots

But if you’ll give them a chance

I think they’ll make a fine pair of roots

for your feet.

You see, I thought it would be romantic

To walk in the woods with you

To get away from the frantic routine

and be alone.

I wanted your feet to be protected

And if I had suspected you’d be upset

I’d have bought you a diamond instead.

Maybe someday.

Someday we’ll hike to the end of a trail

where we’ll find hidden treasure.

And these boots will take us there.

Phil recently came home and handed me this poem. I loved it. It touched me in many ways, not the least of which, it was totally unexpected. We are blessed to have been married 37 years today – and I am still surprised by things my husband does. For example – he went flying Sunday afternoon in a small airplane flown by our pastor, John Makinson. Phil has always said he hates flying! He enjoyed this flight over our home and on into a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, much to my surprise.

When Phil gave me hiking boots as a wedding present, I must be honest and say that I was a bit disappointed. Yet, I know that I have enjoyed hiking with Phil in many places that I never would have dreamed of visiting. The interesting fact is that I remember being disappointed by the hiking boots, but I can’t think now of one gift I would rather have received.

There is a lesson in this for me – thirty seven years later. I should receive gifts as tokens of the relationship I have with the giver. It really is NOT about the gift – it is about the one who gives. Phil gave me the hiking boots because he wanted us to hike together. His motive was to share together something he loved doing. What a meaningful expression of love – one that blesses me as I read his poem.

So, on this our anniversary, I will share a Scripture that I have prayed concerning Phil many times.

Philippians 1:3-8

3 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.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

May we have many more years of hiking together!

A Thankful Heart – Again!

Thanksgiving is today, and it is my favorite holiday. There are several reasons for this. I love the food that is traditional on Thanksgiving. I love getting together with family and friends and sharing food and fellowship. I also appreciate that Thanksgiving is about being something as opposed to giving and receiving.

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, and I am amazed and humbled when I think about all I have to be thankful for. Yet something that is brushed aside in our current culture is the object of our thankfulness – the One to whom thanks is due. I loved teaching about the first Thanksgiving when I was teaching elementary school, because it was an opportunity to talk about God, prayer, and sharing with others.

In 1782 the Continental Congress made a proclamation of which the following is a portion – (Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln made proclamations of their own in subsequent years)

I Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness.

I am blessed by the words – “Thanksgiving to God” and “gratitude to God”. It is not enough to be thankful, we must express our thankfulness to God. He alone is worthy of our gratitude for all that He has done, is doing, and will do to accomplish His will in our families and the world.

I am currently reading the book Defiant Joy, the Remarkable Life and Impact of G.K.Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte. The book recounts that during a period of utter despair, Chesterton “was  filled with both an enormous sense of thankfulness, and an enormous need for someone or something to thank.” (p. 218) This insight caused Chesterton to embrace Christianity. He went on to become a critic and writer that greatly influenced the lives of C.S.Lewis amoung countless others. “The test of all happiness” he wrote, “is gratitude; and I felt grateful.” (p. 221) The defining quality of his life as described by his contemporaries was JOY. Thankfulness leads to joy.

When we express to God our heartfelt thanks – it blesses Him. This attitude of gratitude is something we must intentionally cultivate in our children. One of the marks of the current culture is an attitude of entitlement which says  “I deserve this!” As sinful beings in a fallen world, we do NOT deserve the blessings we receive from God. It is His mercy and grace which enable us to call God “Abba, Father.” As a loving Father He desires to bless His children.

Psalm 145: 3-5

3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;     His greatness no one can fathom. 4 One generation commends your works to another;     they tell of your mighty acts. 5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—     and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

Here the Psalmist is saying that one generation must let the next know just how mighty, glorious, and splendid God is! As parents this is a challenge and a great opportunity. As we share with our children just how faithful God has been and how much He has done for us as His children, it will remind us of His work in our lives and at the same time, bless our Heavenly Father as we give Him the glory.

So, this Thanksgiving, let’s express thanks to God as this old hymn written in 1636.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us, With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us; And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed; And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given; The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven; The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore; For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Surprise!

I was sitting next to our daughter in her Sunday School class yesterday and I heard author Phillip Yancy say something on the video tape we were viewing that made me say “YES!”

Isn’t that exciting? Here I am, almost 61 years old (next month) 54 of those years as a Christian, and I am still learning from the treasure of God’s wisdom. That is one reason I still attend Church (Phil would be quick to remind us that the Church is the people – not the building). I fellowship with other Christians, attend Sunday School, and a Home Group all because I have learned “lo these many years” that God speaks to me through my fellow Christians.

Back to the “Yes!”…. Phillip Yancy was talking about the various ways God answers prayer. Now, “lo these many years” I have heard much about prayer. Many of you have as well. God’s ways are not our ways, His time table is not our time table, and most importantly, He is God.

What blessed me was a question Yancy asked, “Have you ever been surprised by an answer to prayer because it was answered in a way you never would have imagined, much less requested?”

“YES!”

In reflecting on my response, I realized that the surprise factor is part of what makes walking with God a meaningful journey. If I knew what was ahead, there would certainly be more potential for me to mess things up. I would try to avoid the very circumstances that have brought me some of my greatest joy. I would never have chosen to have four children in three and one half years. But, I shudder to think of what I would have missed!!!!

Our children have brought us much joy (and challenge) through every phase of their lives. Believe me, I clearly remember waking up and changing diapers on three little bottoms, feeding three breakfasts and breastfeeding the fourth, dressing or assisting in dressing all four. Then I would look at the clock to see how long it was until nap time. Not because I wanted my four little ones to nap – but because I wanted to nap! God was faithful through every phase of our children’s lives and continues to be. Yes! God has surprised me!

My relationship with God is vital and challenging because even as I face difficulties, I know God will be faithful to work on my behalf, even if I don’t know how He will accomplish His purpose.

Isaiah 55:8-1 (NIV)

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

God is faithful – I want to continue to be surprised by Him.

Hard of Hearing

Okay, at my next physical exam I will have my hearing tested. I’ll be 61 next month, which is NOT old, but it certainly is older than 30. I don’t want to be like two very wonderful and Godly men I have known that couldn’t hear well, but did not want to do anything about it. I am sure they had their reasons, but at the same time they were missing out on hearing some lovely aspects of our world. Whenever possible I want to wake to hear the birds singing, or tune into the highest and lowest notes of a choral rendition. This is especially true if it is my grandchildren are singing!

I find myself turning the volume up on the radio and yet the music students listen to is WAY too loud for me. (a certain sign that you are old – adolescents’ music is too loud! I remember my parents saying that about Peter, Paul, and Mary).  Paradoxically, I will hear comments and words my high school students say and when I call them to account, their common response is – “I didn’t think you could hear me.” So, my hearing is not totally deficient – yet.

God uses the term “hearing” to describe the ability of His children to understand what He wants to communicate with us.

Matthew 13:14-16

14 In them (meaning those who are hard of hearing)  is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”  16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

Jesus is talking to His disciples about the need for spiritual eyes, ears, and hearts that are open to Jesus’ teaching. Just as our ears can become “hard of hearing” physically, our spiritual ears can become “hard of hearing” in regards to what our Heavenly Father wants to say to us. Our children often display “selective hearing” in response to our direction or correction in their lives – so do we.

To be honest, I sometimes practice “selective hearing” with my Heavenly Father. When I hear Him say something I feel positive about – I am quick to obey. If I am less pleased with His direction, I may be slow to respond – maybe even act as though I didn’t hear anything to start with.

Our children do this as well. When we encourage them to listen and obey quickly, we are preparing them to listen to and respond to their Heavenly Father. I  want to be a mother, friend, and grandmother who has excellent hearing spiritually. Then I can be an example to those I love, and, like verse 16 says –  be blessed by my Heavenly Father.