You Go First

Hawkins - 1st day of school - 2024

“I got to be the leader today, Nana. I was first in line.”

That was the highlight of two of our grandson’s week in school. They were so excited about being the leader and being the first in line in kindergarten. They told me this on the phone after I asked them, “How was school today?”

Now there is nothing wrong with being first. Someone has to be first. I found out soon after we started dating that Phil had a very different idea about being first in line – or being in front of ANYTHING.

I always like to sit in front. This is probably because I always sat near the front in school. My last name started with “B” – Barker – so when we were seated alphabetically, I was near the front. I was also placed near the front, sometimes SMACK up against the teacher’s desk because – can you believe it? – I TALKED TOO MUCH.

I know some of you are thinking – “she hasn’t changed in 53 years”. Others are thinking – “no wonder….”

Phil on the other hand had a last name that started with “W” – Woody – so he sat near the back. He liked sitting near the back and NEVER got in trouble for talking.

“Phillip is such a pleasure to have in class. He is a model student.” his report cards always said.

Gag….

So, we soon realized that we couldn’t sit together. I wanted to sit in the front – he wanted to sit in the back.

(Don’t worry – we have worked it out and we do sit together.)

Our culture celebrates being first. First place, first in line, first prize, first team all-stars, first edition, etc.

If someone cuts in front of us while driving and beats us to a light or an intersection, we fume about it and may even lay on the horn.

Recently Phil and I were driving somewhere and were running a tad late. I knew we would get there on time if we hurried. We were making good time until Phil slowed down and let someone pull out in front of us! Then, when a car next to us signaled that they wanted to move into our lane, he waved them in front of us!

I was irritated by each car that was ahead of us, seeing them as a obsticle to my progress. Truth be told, I was also irritated with Phil.

Phil saw these opportunities as a chance to be kind and thoughtful.

I started noticing his pattern while driving and I realized that he consistently lets people ahead of himself in line, lets others go first, and is not pushy nor aggressive. He just quietly waits his turn.

Jesus taught his disciples about being first

Mark 9:33-35 (NLT)

33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

What a great example to his disciples and to us.

Are we being that kind of example to our children and grandchildren? Do we let others go first? Do we make space for others in line or do we fuss and honk if others crowd in?

I need to be like Jesus and let others go first with the heart of a servant. Don’t you feel blessed when someone lets you pull into a line of cars?

Pass that kindness on to others.

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Home Making

Where is the food?

Where is the food?

My dear friend Carol’s mother-in-law recently passed away to her eternal home. She was a godly woman who poured out her life for her family. I read her obituary in the paper and I was so struck by the words that one of her sons wrote. (he is a writer and an editor at the Asheville Citizen-Times) I am quoting him, James Buchanan –

“A devoted homemaker known for her cooking and generous hospitality, she crafted a modest home into a focal point of happy memories that would be the envy of an opulent mansion, overseeing generations of gatherings of import for family and friends. These ranged from holiday celebrations, weddings, and funerals to more modest events such as the arrival of the season’s tomatoes from the garden the family tended for decades.”

How true this was! I benefitted from being a family friend who was graciously included in Brittie May Buchanan’s family celebrations from time to time. The food was delicious and there was always enough – even when growing teenagers were part of the mix. Brittie’s home was modest, but there was a wealth of love and genuine warmth that no decorating could compete with.

You always felt at home.

I was thinking about this Saturday as I was cleaning our home in preparation for a visit from some of Phil’s cousins. We have discussed the need to re-paint our den since it has several places where there are nicks in the paint and marks on the walls. Yet, there is not time to paint before the visit from these cousins.

Does it really matter?

No.

Now, I do need to clean and dust – we don’t want the attack dust bunnies to scare our guests away!  They are coming to see us – not our house. I need to be reminded of this occasionally because I am a visual person.

I would rather set the table with pretty napkins and matching place settings with a carefully arranged bouquet of flowers as a center piece than fix the food that will be served for the meal.

Oops.

They are coming to eat.

Do we spend hours on Pinterest looking for the perfect table setting before we are willing to have anyone over for a meal?

Brittie Buchanan cared about what really mattered – feeding people’s bodies and hearts. Pretty flowers don’t fill stomachs.

Her son went on to write:

“She was an unerringly kind woman who always put others before herself, their concerns before hers, a woman who practiced her Christianity with humility, foreign to the habits of looking down on others or speaking ill of anyone (including those who deserved it).”

Brittie Buchanan left a legacy of love. “She crafted a modest home into a focal point of  happy memories” – that is real love. Paul talks about what real love looks like in I Corinthians 13: 4-7

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I love decorating the dinner table and will certainly continue to do so. Yet I want my focus to be the love that is shared in my home that feeds the spirit and soul of those who come.

I want to a have a home that welcomes all who enter with God’s love and kindness, regardless of how it looks.

 

First Responder

Lincoln and candle

 

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

God bless Mommie and Daddy,

And Garry and Gayle and Gregg,

And keep us safe from the communists.”

 

and keep us safe from the communists?

 

I was a freshman in college and we were sitting around one night talking (as we often did) and the subject came up about memorized prayers. (those late night talk sessions covered a vast array of topics) Several of us started reciting our bedtime prayers from childhood and when I said the last line from my prayer, we all stated to laugh.

Where did “keep us safe from the communists” come from?

I had no idea. I hadn’t thought of that prayer in years. So I went to the source of all things childhood and asked my mother.

“It was the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion and your older brother was concerned about communists invading our country. I suggested he pray about it, so he did. Of course you and Gregg copied his prayer,” my mom informed me.

I have two thoughts about that prayer looking back –

  1. when global events concern us  – pray about them
  2. where is the communist threat now?

If we are paying any attention to global events right now – there is certainly cause for concern. There are threats to peace and security on every continent, some are the most brutal threats I can remember in my lifetime. There is little we can do as ordinary citizens about these concerns – there is even less a child can do.

This can bring fear into our lives and fear into the lives of our children and grandchildren.

We can pray.

Not only is that enough, that is the most important thing we can do. God is in control even when things appear to be in chaos. These awful situations are the result of sin. Mankind’s desire to be in control leads ultimately to death and destruction.

Prayer does change things, most of all it changes us. Prayer adjusts our focus from suffering to the Lord God who loves us and gives help in time of trouble.

Philippians 4: 6-7  (TLB)

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

I love these verses. God’s peace is FAR more wonderful than the human mind can understand! The peace comes from trusting  in Christ Jesus, not in our ability to fix things ourselves.

Our daughter’s pastor encouraged us to ask ourselves what our first response is to concerns we face. Do we worry, call a friend, get angry? Our FIRST response should be to pray.

It made me think about first responders to disasters like earthquakes, fires, or floods. Those are the people who arrive on the scene first, assess the situation, and then determine a plan of action.

I realized how much better my response to any concern would be if I prayed first – asking God what my plan of action should be. Prayer centers my vision on God and His will for me in every situation – big or small. Then I should determine my response.

I want to be a first responder when it comes to prayer – pray first – then act. I want to model that for my children and grandchildren as well.