God’s Pitch Does Not Change – He is Always the Same

pitch

“Mom!” he hollered. “You missed my bat again!”

I smiled at the small child who wanted desperately to make that ball and bat meet. Each swing brought another defeat. Either the ball was too high or too low. It was all my fault, of course.

Little matter that he was the one whose bat was too high or too low. To him, the problem was the pitcher, not the batter.

I (the mom and the pitcher) knew better. The problem wasn’t me. It was really the small pint-size batter. He wasn’t as big and tough as he tried to appear. Even when I sent the ball straight across home plate, his swing was too slow or too low.

Yet his reasoning was that if he could just blame it on the pitcher, then his weakness would not appear so great.

That’s when it hit me, like a line drive. How often I’ve tried to make God’s Word change to meet me where I’m swinging the bat.

I holler, “God, You’ve missed again!”

The ball is not intended to meet the bat. The bat (swung by the batter) is to be swung to meet the ball.

That’s the goal, the purpose of the pitch, the ball, and the batter.

‘Trouble is, we expect the ball to meet us where we want it to be.

God doesn’t do that. When others change, He changes not. When others let me down, His pitch remains the same.

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I’m really acknowledging that I want Him to change to suit my style and my preferences. I’m not about to make that bat/ball connection because my swing can’t meet His ball. Three strikes and I’ve stuck out. Again.

Yet God’s Word is the same. It always has been. Always will be.

When relationships flounder, when finances fluctuate, when health fails, He does not change. His promises stay the same. Every single day. Every single time.

Yesterday (first base).

Today (second base).

Tomorrow (third base)

Forever (grand-slam Home Run.)

He does not change.  He will not change. He cannot change because He is the great I AM.

His pitch does not change. Forever and always, it comes right across the home plate. He doesn’t miss, and He doesn’t change.

Forever and always, He is the great I AM.

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To listen to the song “Yesterday, Today, Forever, Jesus is the Same,” click on the link below.

Surprised by Grief

grief

Grief hits us sometimes when we least expect it.

There is no easy way to walk through that mountain of heartache and pain. Within a six-week span in 2010, Dave and I became orphans when I lost my mother and he lost his father. That first year, like a tsunami, the waves of grief came and went, leaving us surprised by grief.

This story tells a little bit about our journey in losing Pop Slabach – and what it’s like to experience the faithfulness of God. It was written eight months after we buried Pop. If you’re grieving, don’t be surprised at the grief that hits you from time to time. Like the waves of high tide, grief will hit you full force, knocking you down. Then, surprisingly, the waves will calm down and you will experience low tide again. A few days later, you’ll be knocked down again as more waves invade your soul. Each time, the waves won’t be quite as high or as strong. Each time, low tide will bring respite. In time, healing comes even though the empty ache is always there.

Surprised by Grief

grief

I have been surprised, again, by grief. 

Sometimes I am blind-sided because it is least expected.  Other times, I am more (somewhat) prepared. Like this past week. Prepared? I really thought I was. Surprised again?  Yes indeed. Again.

Three years ago this month, we moved into our new kitchen.  It was a six-month process from start to finish.  In late spring, Pop came from Ohio to help us get started.  Ever since we bought this house, Pop fussed about our upstairs steps. They were too narrow and too steep.  He was a contractor, and he would never have built steps like that.

Never mind that our house was built in the 1920s and other folks who lived in this house and raised their kids survived those stairs.  Never mind that those stairs never bothered me. They bothered Pop, even if he didn’t live here. Never mind that Dave said he wasn’t going to undertake such a project.  If no one else was going to do it, then Pop would, because somebody had to do it.  And he did.

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Tim came from Christiansburg for a week to work for his older brother and help his father. The kids thought climbing a ladder to get to the upstairs would be great fun for a few days. I slept downstairs for two nights because I was not going to climb a ladder to go to bed. Going up wouldn’t have been so bad, but coming down in the middle of the night in case of bathroom necessity was out of the question. Pop just smiled when he saw me come downstairs the morning of taking-out-the-stairs-day with my stash of clothes.

The three stooges ran into more than a few snags doing those steps. (Why am I not surprised?) Fortunately, we were going to lower the ten-foot dining room ceiling anyhow, so the steps could extend into the dining room. Other discussions took place, and once they pulled off the job and worked on something else for a while as they ruminated how to solve problems with those steps. You could see the wheels in Pop’s head just a-turning as he worked out the problem in his mind.

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Pop and Tim also took out the four windows in the east playroom and installed patio doors in their place.  Never mind that we didn’t have a deck and wouldn’t have one for another year; those doors were installed as plumb as possible considering the age of the house and the uneven floors and ceilings. Pop’s only regret that week was not having time to help take out the wall between the dining room and the playroom for the new kitchen.  Every time he came to visit, he had to come check the progress. Once I even told Dave that it seemed Pop came more to see the house than to see us!

grief

Born and raised Amish, Pop came from a culture where parents did not compliment their children verbally; to do so might instill pride in their offspring. Yet he’d tell other people about his kids and what they were doing, and we knew he was pleased. The first visit he made after we were (finally) in the new kitchen, he walked from wall to wall, ran his hands up door frames, opened and closed drawers and cabinets, checking for ease and making sure things were level. That carpenter-look was evident as he cocked his head, squinted his eyes, and eye-balled everything. While he never came out and said so, it was obvious he was impressed with the completed kitchen and the fact that his son had done the work — and done it well.

Eighteen months later, he came again — this time to inspect the deck Dave and the boys had built Thanksgiving weekend. Our sons followed him around as he ran his hands across the railing, pushed on boards with his shoes, and listened to them tell their version of helping to build the deck.

And always, there was the discussion about our next project: making a master bedroom and bath out of the upstairs sun porch. Some day.

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                                              Pop with his bucket truck.

This past February, Dave decided it was time. We moved everything off the sun porch (my attic) and they knocked off the outside walls and began building the floor. We talked about seeing if Pop could come to Virginia again and help with this project. We knew he would because he had as much as said so. Dave knew his father’s experience would be invaluable and he’d enjoy the work. It would take some engineering to build the floor so no support would be needed below since we were extending the addition.

Before Dave made that phone call to set a date, Pop had a massive stroke.  Nine days later, he went to Heaven.  You know the first thing I thought about when we knew that, barring a miracle, Pop would not get better?  That sun porch addition. How were we ever going to do that without Pop?!

We didn’t — for six months.  The “addition” sat there all summer, covered by a black tarp. We’d pull it up on sunny days and lower it when it rained. Like a massive curtain, we had to find our way through that tarp when we wanted to get inside in pouring rain. I confess I was getting pretty tired of that tarp slamming me in the face when I tried to find my way with bags of groceries in tow.

It helped when Dave and I talked about the reason for the tarp. Continuing the addition was too painful at the moment. Oh sure, Dave could have made himself complete it. Yet waiting allowed him time to process his pain. Dave’s grief was more important than any addition on our house, and I was more than willing to wait.  [It helped that cash flow was a little low at the moment as well. :-)]

I came to realize that the black tarp symbolized our grief. With the loss of Pop, we had lost a dream. Sure, we would miss him as the father, grandfather, and great-grandfather of the family.  For the immediate future, we missed his expertise. On “sunny” days, I’d didn’t think about it much and Dave didn’t mention losing Pop.  Then, like a stormy cloud, the grief surge would hit again.  I wondered — some days — if we’d ever get the addition finished when I observed another gale as it sent more grief waves. Yet I knew the question was not if, but when.

grief

And I asked my Father to help me remember to hide under His wings instead of fighting the storm.

A few months ago, that tarp was pulled up for the last time. Walls, windows, insulation, sheet rock, (most) electrical, and (some) plumbing are complete. Paint choices have been made and the floor has been ordered. The job is still not done, but we’re nearing completion.

grief

           The addition that Pop never helped build.

Last week, on October 27th, we remembered Paul (Pop’s middle son) on the 12th year anniversary of his arrival in Heaven. On the 28th, Pop celebrated his first birthday in Heaven. I watched the tsunami of grief hit Dave – and felt its aftermath in me — as my husband finished sheetrock alone.

I have been surprised, again, by grief. How can finishing sheetrock bring such pain?!

I have found that remembering brings healing. I have learned that acknowledging releases pain. I have experienced reprieve as I have hugged the Rock and basked—again—in the goodness of God, even in my grief.

Pop would say, “We go on.” And we do. It still hurts, but we go on. We go on, because the God we serve is a Shelter in any storm, a Haven for any heartache, and a Comfort in every care.

Dave reminded us yesterday that our grief and its aftermath of fear, dismay, and human weakness find a solution in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

On that promise, we walk through our grief even though we continue to be surprised by grief. We go on, and we are not alone.

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Ascension – Another Forty Days

40, forty

I have some favorite numbers, and 40 is one of those.

I rather think God liked the number 40 as well because it shows up over and over in the Bible. Do you have any idea how many occurrences there are in the Bible where the number forty comes into play? For that matter, there are plenty of events with other numbers – and it’s interesting to note that God has a pattern in this.

When our kids were small, we played a numbers game. When we were traveling or waiting in a restaurant for our food to arrive, we played this game. It kept our kids entertained as the miles passed or until the waiter brought our food. Sometimes we used this game as part of our family devotions. Only, in this case, our kids knew what the “number” would be that evening. Some of them took the time to go through a concordance to try to be the winner for the evening. It made for some interesting times!Forty, 40

If you were to play this game with me today, I’d give you the number “40”. There’s a reason I’d choose forty this month instead of another number.  Do you have any idea why?!

Ready? Let’s play.

What stories in the Bible do you know that include the number 40? GO!

Our kids racked their brains and came up with answers. For starters, even a small child can think of a few stories.

NOAH:

How many days and nights did it rain in the world-wide flood?

MOSES:

For that matter, how many years did Moses function as an Egyptian before fleeing to the wilderness?

How many years was Moses in the desert before God appeared to him in a burning bush?

How many days did Moses spend on the mountain with God – twice?

How many years did the children of Israel wander in the wilderness to get to the Promised Land?

MOSES & JOSHUA:

How many days did the spies spy out the promised land?

SAMSON: 

How many years did the Israelites serve the Philistines before Samson’s deliverance?

DAVID:

How many days (morning and evening) did Goliath, the Philistine, come to heckle Saul’s army before David took him down?

JONAH:

When Jonah was sent to Ninevah, what was the pronouncement of how many days until Ninevah would be destroyed?

ELIJAH:

How many days and nights did it take for Elijah to get to Mt. Horeb when he fled from Jezebel?

JESUS:

How many days did Jesus spend in the wilderness fasting before He was tempted by Satan?

How many days after the Ressurection was Jesus on earth before His ascension?

This year, Ascension Day falls on Thursday, May 25.

Ten days after that, we have Pentecost. (So if you are playing this game, remember Pentecost as occurring TEN days after Ascension. OR you could use Pentecost with a 50 because Pentecost occurred fifty days after the Resurrection.

Jesus spent those forty days after His resurrection getting His disciples ready for His departure to Heaven. He showed Himself to them on various and different occasions. They saw the prints in His hands, His feet, and the scar from the sword in His side. He passed through walls and doors.

He cooked fish by the sea and told the disciples which side of the boat to cast their nets for fish. He showed Himself to men, women, and children. He had conversations with His disciples, including a particular one with Peter about feeding His sheep. On one occasion, He was seen by over 500 people. No doubt about it, He was alive and real.

He was getting them ready, not only for His departure, but for His absence. At the same time, He promised that the Holy Spirit would come (and He did.)

His Ascension occurred exactly forty days after His resurrection. Why not 39 days or 41?

There’s a reason for God’s numerical decisions. He makes no mistakes and He does all things well. I don’t know the reasons, but whatever they are, they are good reasons because they are His reasoning.

I don’t know the answer why Jesus ascended forty days after the Resurrection. Most important is that Jesus died, rose again, and ascended back to the Father and that Jesus is now interceding at the right hand of God.

How do you plan to remember and celebrate Ascension day?!

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Do You Want to be Made Whole?

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There are reasons why we are not whole.

Sometimes the fault is not our own; sometimes our un-wholeness is a result of the choices of others. Sometimes we are dealt illness that cannot be cured; we are captive by diagnoses and that cannot be restored.

Sometimes?

Sometimes we are ill because it’s easier to be sick than to do what it takes to become whole.

There’s the story of the paralytic man who stayed by the pool of Bethesda. This pool was located in Jerusalem near a sheep market, and it had five porches. There’s not much description about that pool in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John. We know that every day people gathered there waiting for the moving of the water. At a certain season, an angel would come down and stir the water. Whoever stepped into that water first was healed. It didn’t matter what the disease was, there was instant healing.

I’ve never been one to want to stand in line for hours to be the first person in a store or an event. But I can guarantee you that if I had an incurable disease, I’d make certain I was as close to the pool as I could get to increase my chances for healing. I’d be as near to the front of the line as possible, that’s for sure.

So there is this man who had this infirmity for thirty-eight years. We don’t know how old he is; we just know he’s been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. He’s there by the pool, hoping for a chance to be the first to get into the pool.  He’s lying on his make-shift bed, waiting for the angel. ‘Problem is, he doesn’t have anybody to help him, so his chances of getting there first are slim to nothing. Then Jesus comes.

Because Jesus is God, He knows all about this man. He knows he’s been there a long time in this same situation.

Jesus simply asks, “Do you want to be made whole?”

Really?! What kind of question is that? If he didn’t want to be healed, he’d never have been there in the first place. Of course, I know Jesus knows that.

The question wasn’t so much for Jesus as it was for the man: Do you really want . . . ?

The man doesn’t really answer the question. Rather, he explains why he hasn’t been healed – yet. He doesn’t have anybody to help him get into the pool, and others always get there before he does. Is he whining?!  I don’t know, but I do know I’d probably be saying the same things if I were on his poolside bed.

Jesus gives him three things to do.  John 5:9 says that he was made whole immediately.  On the Sabbath, no less.

Imagine the disgruntlement of the Jews, who didn’t believe in working or healing on the Sabbath.  Imagine the amazement of the neighbors who had known this man and his illness for years.  Imagine their surprise to see him up, walking around. I’m sure there were quite a few people shaking and scratching their heads that day.

Jesus gave this paralyzed man three things to do. In the past, when I’ve been feeling despondent or think there’s no use in trying; when I figure I can never change; when I feel paralyzed emotionally or physically, I remember these three things.

I turn to that chapter in John and I ask myself, Do I really want to be made whole?

But of course, I want to be well.  I do want to be whole.

Then why, I ask myself, is it so hard to take the next step, to do the next thing?

Jesus simply says, “If you want to be made whole, then there is something you must do.”

Or, in today’s voice, He would say something like this: Okay then. If you really want to be whole, then this is what you’ve got to do:

Rise. (Get up). Don’t just lie there feeling sorry for yourself. Stop wallowing in the place you are. Get up and get moving. You’re not getting anywhere by just staying there. You’re not getting anywhere waiting for someone else to do it for you. Stop being despondent. Do something. Move in the right direction. Don’t keep lying there.

Take up your bed. Yeah. You simply can’t lie around there anymore. Pick up that bed, because you’re not going back to where you were. If you pick up your bed, then you won’t be camping there anymore. It’s time to change your station by changing your location as well as your focus.

Walk. Just like that. Take one step, and another step; then another step.  It was Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher who said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  It’s that thousand mile trek that seems daunting.  But taking one step at a time is the way to begin – and the way to continue. Easier said than done, I know.

Jesus says, “If you want to get there, you have to take that first step.”

Jesus healed that man because he obeyed. That paralytic man did those three things.

He got up, rolled up his bed, and walked. No physical therapy, no stretching and toning of those leg muscles; no massaging those legs to increase circulation. Just like that, he walked. It wasn’t any kind of magic potion or new concoction. It was a miracle.

I know Jesus still does miracles today.  He still heals. He still tells us what to do if we ask. He finds us where we are, and He speaks to us. If we listen, we will hear Him speak.  ‘Trouble is, (for me anyhow), I don’t always want to listen because I’m pretty sure I won’t want to do what He will ask of me.

Sometimes He speaks through His Word; sometimes He speaks through others. Sometimes He talks to us through songs. If we will listen, He will speak. He will tell us what to do. Then it’s up to us to do what He says we must do.

Sometimes I have prayed, “Lord Jesus, I do want to be made whole.  Show me what to do.”

You’d be surprised at some of the things He has told me to do. He’s asked me to do simple things: make a loaf of bread for someone who has wounded me; pray for someone and ask God to bless them when I’d rather He blessed me instead; speak well of someone when I don’t think they deserve it; give a hand in the name of Jesus to someone who continually drains me and never returns grace to me; praise the name of Jesus when I feel like pouting; say His name – Jesus– when I can’t muster out any other word. It’s hard. Oh, sometimes it is so very hard. Yet it’s the only choice I have if I want to become whole.

That’s all a part of getting up and rolling up my bed of fears, my hurts, and my woes.  I can’t wallow in it if I’ve rolled it up.whole

Yes, Jesus, I do want to be made whole.

I will get up.

I will roll up this bed.

I will walk!

When I do what You say, I will be healed and I will be made whole.

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