Dandelion Love

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My three-year-old granddaughter loves dandelions. It is her mission in life to pick every dandelion she sees. She thinks they are beautiful and highly prized. With great pride, she presents her bright yellow bouquets to her mother, who is instructed to put them in water to keep them pretty. In her world, the only thing better than a blooming dandelion is a dandelion that has gone to seed. The seed-filled puff balls are picked and the seeds blown, sometimes with a few sticking to her little lips. Dandelions bring her joy.

Driving to church yesterday, my husband pointed out a field covered in dandelions. He sort of groaned, but I commented how happy our granddaughter would be in that field. That got me thinking how different our perspectives can be. To some, dandelions are just a nuisance, a weed to be eradicated from an otherwise pristine lawn. But to others, they are beautiful and even desirable. I’m okay with dandelions. To me they herald spring, which I am always happy to welcome.

I heard a radio commercial this year asking people to allow dandelions to bloom because they are one of the first and most vital nectar sources for pollination. They serve a very important purpose. Without them, we might not have other plant species we love or foods we enjoy. We can take a lesson from the lowly dandelion.

Sometimes I see myself as that dandelion that others dread seeing and would like to get rid of. I know I can be annoying. And I feel sometimes that I am not contributing anything of value to others’ lives. But then I remember my granddaughter and her perspective on dandelions. That is how God sees me. To him I am not a nuisance. I am his beautiful creation. And he has given me purpose and equipped me to serve others in my own unique way, that I may be a blessing to them and bring joy to him.

My worth doesn’t come from who or what I am, but from him. He made me. He gave me life. He died for me. He desires to have a relationship with me. So, like the dandelions in my front yard, I’ll keep growing, reaching toward heaven, doing my part to glorify the God who made me and loves me as I am. I will trust him to use me in my little sphere of influence to do the works he has prepared for me to do.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

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“I am so excited to see that Lisa is allowing God to use her difficult experiences to reach out to others.

I have been involved with the Seeing Eye, where they train dogs to guide blind people, and as a graduate of the The Seeing Eye have on many occasions shared the podium or stage with Lisa. She was always engaging, clear, often utilizing humor to keep the interest and focus of the audience.
I know that she will be used by our Lord to help others to come to grips with any similar or shared experiences. Lisa will be able to show how God can heal, comfort, and rebuild broken lives, no matter what the experience.
Perhaps, most importantly, how the Holy Spirit can bring real forgiveness into the lives of victims and abusers, tuff as that is to envision.
My humble prayers and best wishes go with Lisa, and to all that she may encounter, and that the healing will be real!”
John D. Hollenbach, Mayor
Perkasie Borough, PA

“We at Pinebrook Bible Conference recommend Lisa Radcliff as a speaker for a Bible Retreat type of speaking engagement. She has spoken during at least one of our Ladies’ Retreats in the past and was well received by the guests and received great feedback for the personal experiences and teaching she shared. We give her a great recommendation to be used at any future retreats at Pinebrook Bible Conference & Retreat Center and any other gathering of the Retreat speaking kind anywhere she is asked.
Thanks for considering this recommendation.”
Charlie Bomgardner
Director of Marketing
Pinebrook Bible Conference & Retreat Center

Quality of Life

“So, what you’re looking for is quality of life.” That was the response I got last week from a doctor. I had just explained my current physical condition—that the pain in my damaged tendons was making daily tasks difficult, sometimes impossible. This doctor was someone I thought may have some ideas previous doctors did not. He did have some suggestions, but that phrase, ‘quality of life,’ jarred me.

Quality of life is something you’re supposed to talk about with super-elderly people or someone with late-stage cancer, not a fifty-eight-year-old with no disease. Yet, here we were, talking quality of life.

What did it mean? It meant, what can I do to make my daily life a little easier, a bit less painful, and maybe even slightly more enjoyable? What it doesn’t mean is that I am at the end of my life. Of course, with my condition, I could be nearing the end of my earthly life, but we don’t know that. So, we will focus on quality of life—getting the most out of the life I have been given for as long as it lasts.

The phrase kept circulating through my mind. The more I thought about it, the more I thought, isn’t quality of life something we should always be striving for, not just at the end of our lives? Shouldn’t I make every day the very best quality I possibly can, regardless of my medical condition? Then my devotional reading from In All Things: a nine-week study on Unshakeable Joy by Melissa Kruger had this quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

If ever the world needed the witness and testimony of Christian people, it is at this present time. The world is unhappy, it is distracted and frightened, and what it needs is to see stars shining out of the heavens in the midst of the darkness, attracting the world by rebuking that darkness, and by giving it light, showing how it too can live that quality of life.

I don’t know when Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote that, but it couldn’t be more timely. Our world is definitely unhappy, distracted, frightened, and overcome by darkness. But we have the light of Christ within us, shining through us as we live life abundantly (John 10:10). The darkness doesn’t have a chance because to God even darkness is as light, the night as bright as the day (Psalm 139) That quality of life – the kind of life that resembles starlight rebuking darkness – that’s the kind of quality of life I want and one I will strive for.

Where do you rate your quality of life? Does it depend on your circumstances or physical condition or job or the outcome of your favorite team (mine won this week, just sayin)? If it does, you’ll never experience the highest quality of life available to you, the kind that shines out of the heavens, rebuking the darkness.

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5 NKJV

Yes, He’s a Retriever…and a Chewer

It finally happened. Doug caved in, which translates: Seeing Eye puppy #25 arrived two weeks ago. He’s adorable. He’s soft and cuddly. He has puppy breath. And he chews on everything. Mornings are the worst. He is so full of energy, anything that gets near his mouth goes in it.

I realized right away that he prefers soft toys over bones or rubber toys. So, Amazon to the rescue. Practically before I hit the “place order” button, two boxes of soft toys were on my doorstep, awaiting Mr. Alligator Mouth. He loves the toys, but when the sun comes up, he’s right back to chewing my slippers, throw rugs, boxes, baskets, the sofa—really anything in front of him. And he becomes a vacuum cleaner too, picking up everything on the floor, most of which I didn’t know was there. I retrieved a paper clip and a dime from this Retriever’s mouth just this morning.

Frustrated, I ask him, “Why? You have all these great toys that you love.” He doesn’t answer, just cocks his head in that adorable way puppies do, which is why they get away with so much. Not in my house. I will not be taken in by the cuteness. Some of these things could seriously hurt him. I caught him chomping down on a light cord. That could be shockingly awful. As for the things he swallows, let’s face it, no one wants to search through poop to make sure all the loose change is accounted for. Every time he’s chewing on an inappropriate item, I replace it with one of his toys, and he’s happy for the exchange, at least for a few minutes.

This weekend, he went along with us to a workshop called Safe Tech. I know I need to know more than I do about technology and using it safely. But the presenter really challenged me in ways I didn’t expect. He said God has told us in his Word what we are to think about. “…whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8 paraphrased from ESV). That immediately cuts out a lot of screen time.

God has set up boundaries for us for our own good. And he gives us blessings like peace, joy, love, and contentment when we live within those boundaries. But I find myself pushing outside the boundaries and reaping discontentment, greed, envy, even hatred (social media can do that pretty easily).

Unlike my new puppy, I know the dangers and pitfalls, yet I still make bad choices for my life. God has given us all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1 ESV), if I would only take hold of the gifts he offers—like the great toys I offer my puppy. Peter’s letter goes on to say that we should add to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, and love. If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful. Since my goal is to be as fruitful for God’s kingdom as possible, I really need to honestly evaluate how I’m spending my time and what I’m allowing into my mind and heart.

I welcome this new challenge to evaluate my choices based on God’s Word and keeping my new puppy from making choices that could cause him harm. Right now, I have to go because the puppy just ran by with a glove in his mouth. Where did he find that?

For more information on Safe Tech, go to

50 Years Through 8-year-old Eyes

Fifty years. That’s a long time. Is there something you have been doing for fifty years? Should you still be doing it? Just kidding. For me, this summer marked fifty years of summer adventures in Maine. Their motto says it all, The Way Life Should Be.

Fifty years ago, the camp was a little red log cabin with the most amazing lake view but no electricity and a stinky outhouse with buckshot holes in the door. In 1974, the new camp was built, almost doubling the size to 400 square feet. It has a fancy composter outhouse now with a shower. The 1990’s brought electricity, complete with a tiny flat-screen TV. It only gets three channels on good days, when the wind isn’t blowing, but we occasionally can catch Wheel of Fortune, a cooking show, news, and weather. Those are important things when on vacation. Ah, modern conveniences.

The view hasn’t changed. The huge, granite rocks still line the lake’s perimeter. The woods are just as dense, although there has been a natural shift of old trees coming down and young ones springing up. The road is still dirt, but wider and without rocks and holes that could demolish a small car. Water is still pumped from the lake to the kitchen sink, thanks to a new pump we installed this year. And by “we,” I mean my husband. I did nothing. The little red squirrels still angrily chirp at us when the bird feeders are empty, and the chipmunks still appreciate peanuts being set out on a rock or may even take them from your hand.

I was eight years old my first time at camp. It was special to me to be at camp this summer with my eight-year-old granddaughter, Emma. There are still plenty of vivid memories of my eight-year-old self at camp. But how much more vivid they were watching Emma. She loves to do all the things I loved: catching frogs, swimming, climbing rocks, playing games, feeding fish, hiking through the woods, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, stargazing, making a lot of noise. All of it. It was heartwarming to see camp through the eyes of an eight-year-old again. And five-year-old Sam brought back memories too—falling off the dock, slipping on the rocks and cutting up toes, and swimming to the beach on a boogie board (in my case, a rubber boat). We even taught Emma our favorite camp card game, and she beat us.

I am thankful for fifty years of fun, frogs, and campfires. As I’ve gotten older, camp has become a place of rest, relaxation, and refreshment. It’s my place to disconnect from the world and be immersed in God’s handiwork allowing me to more deeply connect with him. Jesus told his disciples to do the same thing, “Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32 NIV) I think of that verse every time I’m paddling my kayak on a mirror-like lake that is reflecting the rich oranges and purples of a Maine sunset. Whether eight or eighty, our little camp will always be a special place and, of course, the way life should be.

Stepping Stones or Crushing Stones

Are you content in your circumstances? If your current circumstance involves smooth sailing and no worries, then you probably are. But you can count on that changing. When we rely on our circumstances for our contentment, we will be disappointed on a regular basis. So, if our circumstances are always changing—sometimes bright and sunny, sometimes dark and gloomy—how can we be content consistently?

Obviously, contentment cannot be founded on things that can change. That would be like building a contentment castle in the sand at low tide. It can’t last. There are tides, an ebb and flow, that will surely wash it away. Tides are something you can count on, twice a day, every day. Contentment must be built on something that never changes. The only thing that never changes is God himself. So, he needs to be our source of contentment.

When we realize that our circumstances are given by God for our good, we can be content in any circumstance. That doesn’t mean we won’t feel sad or angry or confused at times. Having emotions and being content can coexist. Contentment has more to do with trust—trusting God in our circumstances and our emotions. The ladies of our church have been studying contentment. One of them said something brilliant, just off the top of her head. When I say things off the top of my head, they may be  funny or sarcastic but rarely brilliant. So, I told her I would be stealing it. And here it is: our circumstances can either be stepping stones or crushing stones. See, I told you it was brilliant.

Our circumstances should be stepping stones, to move us from one place to another. The circumstance becomes our classroom where we learn something that moves us forward. And each time we allow our circumstance to teach us, we find it easier to be content and trust God even more. But when we focus on the circumstance itself and not on God, it often becomes a crushing stone, our spirits being crushed under its weight until there is no hope.

The apostle Paul was very familiar with difficult circumstances. One of those circumstances was actual stoning, talk about crushing stones! But he allowed his circumstances to be stepping stones, to learn from them and allow them to build in him what was lacking. He tells us in Philippians 4:11b-13 (ESV) “…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

The “secret” Paul learned is contentment. That is how God strengthened him to be able to do all things, including facing and enduring any circumstance, to be content. Will your next difficult circumstance be a stepping stone or a crushing stone? Be content and trust God to strengthen you for your next step.

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Tissues, Tennis, & Time

Sniffle, sniffle, AAACHOOOO! Seasonal allergies (and buying tissues in bulk) have descended on our household. My three-year-old granddaughter, sniffling and coughing, said, “Daddy, can I have more medicine?”

“No, you just had some. You’ll have to wait a while to have more.”

“But, Daddy, it’s not in my mouth anymore.” Her enormous green eyes grew hopeful. Daddy wasn’t taken in by them. He did his best to explain that it takes a while for the medicine to get from her mouth to the parts of her body that need it. She didn’t look particularly satisfied with his explanation but accepted it and skipped off to see what mischief she could get into.

Her words stuck with me. There are so many times in my life I want immediate results. I did the thing I was supposed to do, so why has nothing happened? I didn’t eat any candy today, why haven’t I lost ten pounds? I read my Bible today, why do I still do wrong things? I prayed about a problem, why hasn’t God answered? Why did I come in this room—oops, that’s different.

I’ve been watching Wimbledon this week—that’s the oldest tennis tournament in the world which takes place in Wimbledon, England, for those who don’t follow tennis. I saw some great tennis this week from the best players in the world. Not just anyone is able to play at this level. It takes practice, training, coaching, learning, and time. After beating an outstanding young player, the winning, veteran player said, “You’re going to win championships.” These two men battled, each winning two sets before the final set was played to determine the outcome of the match. The hours spent on Center Court pushed the young player in every way. He grew today and moved closer to being a champion.

The same principles apply to my daily, non-professional-athlete life. I need to keep studying my Bible to increase my knowledge and grow in my faith and move closer to being more like Jesus. Learning and applying God’s Word will challenge me but will achieve the results I want my life to reflect. And I’ll keep praying, trusting that God’s timing and answers are better than my own. My patience and trust may be tested, but I will persevere in prayer. And I hope to learn to be content in whatever circumstance comes my way. I’ll even keep eating a healthy diet, trying to care for my body the best I can. As far as forgetting why I entered a certain room…not likely that’s going to improve. Some things you just have to accept.

Like the young tennis player, I will fall short of my goals at times. But each time, there is something I will learn which will make me better. And I will keep striving to win the prize, no matter how long it takes. And like my little granddaughter, I’ll just go off and find some mischief to get into while waiting.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

Prayers & Clarinets

The day started out like an ordinary school day. But after lunch our fourth-grade class remained in the cafeteria for a special presentation. The school’s band director had set up all the various band instruments. We curiously gathered around them and took our seats on the floor.

He moved from one to another, playing a tune on each. And then he said we could choose to play an instrument and be in the school band. I was particularly drawn to the flute and its pretty, lilting tones. But after the demonstration, my best friend, Andrea, said she was going to play the clarinet. Meanwhile, the class mean girl, Robin, had chosen the flute. My decision was made.

Racing home, I burst through the front door and ran straight to the kitchen, where my mom was busy with dinner prep. As I told her all about the band demonstration, and that for only $150 I could have my own clarinet, she shook her head. It wasn’t going to happen. Harold Hill I was not. One hundred fifty dollars was two months of mortgage payments (remember, I’m old). But all hope was not lost. She said I could ask my father. If he would give the money, she would sign the permission slip.

With renewed hope, I hopped on my gold sting ray and pedaled as fast as I could to his house. It was only a couple of blocks away, giving me little time to work out my sales pitch.

Ditching my bike in the front yard, I darted up the porch steps. As my dad opened the door, I launched into my three-point pitch in favor of the clarinet. He let me tell him the whole story with a big smile across his face. He asked a few questions. Of course, I had all the answers. Then his smile grew even bigger as he said, “Yes, I’ll give you the money for a clarinet.” I was so excited! I could hardly wait to tell Andrea. My prayers had been answered.

Unbeknownst to me, my mother had called my father and warned him of my imminent arrival and what I was going to ask. So, before I even asked him, he knew why I coming to him. He also knew he was going to say yes. But he let me go ahead and ask, and then with great joy, he granted my request.

That true story is not far off from how our heavenly Father answers our prayers. God always knows what’s on our hearts before we tell him. And he is ready to act. It boggles my mind that the God of the universe, who can do whatever he wants whenever he wants to, waits for his children ask him. Then I picture him with great joy granting our requests.

But our prayers don’t need to be a sales pitch. Even when we don’t know how to pray, his Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26). It gives him great joy to answer our prayers because he is a loving Father who only gives good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11) What a relief that I can run to him anytime with my requests, and he is ready to answer.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8 ESV)

Waiving Axes

An axe tumbled through the air and hit its target with a thud before clattering to the ground. Oops. So began an evening of axe throwing, a birthday celebration for a friend. It didn’t actually start there. Before axes could fly, we had to sign a waiver releasing the business of any liability—good idea, considering whose hands they were putting axes into.

I had to read the waiver out loud because my husband didn’t bring his glasses. Glasses certainly aren’t necessary to throw axes but are needed for reading the small print of a two-page waiver. The public reading of the waiver was so entertaining, even the employees were listening and laughing. Perhaps they had never read it themselves. I asked them if I could keep a copy—knowing immediately it was blog-worthy material. So here we are.

I will focus on just one paragraph and break it down for you. It starts: “I acknowledge that risks and dangers exist in my use of axe throwing equipment and my participation in axe throwing activities.” I knew this before we even arrived, which is why I had told the organizer of the activity that I would come but wouldn’t be throwing axes. I know my limitations. My friend, Nedra, who also shouldn’t be given an axe to throw, and I would be the cheerleaders for the evening.

“My participation in such activities and/or use of such equipment may result in my injury or illness or the injury or illness of my family, heirs, executors, administrators, and friends,” Hold on. I believe I could injure myself and maybe those with me (or worst-case scenario, the axe throwers in the adjoining cage), but my “family, heirs, executors, administrators, and friends?” My heirs? I hate to think about how that could be possible, but I’m afraid I might know what they are saying. If that’s not enough to make you walk out the door, I don’t know what is. I don’t even know who my administrators are, so I don’t see how my axe throwing can be responsible for injuries to them.

Then they get more specific about how my axe throwing could impact myself and everyone else, “including but not limited to bodily injury, disease from viruses, bacteria, parasites, fractures, partial and/or total paralysis, eye injury, blindness, heat stroke, heart attack, death or other ailments that could cause serious or permanent disability” I’d like to think that there would have to be a major incident or maybe a combination of axe catastrophes for these perils to come about. But when we’re talking about me, it could happen leaning over to pick up the axe. Let’s face it, I’m a mess.

“and may cause severe social or economic losses due to not only my own actions, inaction, or negligence, but also to the action, inaction, or negligence of others or conditions of the premises or of any equipment used.” Apparently, my axe throwing could result in lawsuits. No kidding. As I already stated, no worries, because I wasn’t going to be touching an axe. Nedra made pom-poms and cheers for us to do at a safe distance from the axes. There would be no attempt at cartwheels or lifts, so we were safe, along with our heirs, executors, and administrators.

That concludes one of fourteen paragraphs of all that could go wrong and releasing the business of any liability, even if death occurs. All of that for just a few hours of innocent fun.

Life is full of dangers. There are no waivers to sign, even though not one of us will be able to avoid death. It’s the only way out of this life. No matter how death comes about, even a crazy axe throwing incident, it’s not a waiver that will save me, but faith in the one who holds the keys to life and death. Because Jesus has already died in my place, I do not fear death. It will just be the first day of life without pain, without fighting sin, without tears, without worry, without illness, including diseases, parasites, blindness, heat stroke, paralysis, or heart attack, and without dodging axes. I hope my family, heirs, executors, administrators, and friends will join me there.

“but it [grace] has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10 NIV). 

Bullseye! sort of.
Birthday girl with her cheerleaders


Friends. When you have great ones, like I do, they make a huge difference in your life. True friends will laugh with you, cry with you, question your choices, hold you accountable, stick with you through thick and thin. Sometimes quite literally as you diet together and encourage each other’s healthy habits or sabotage them when you can’t resist sharing a six-scoop brownie explosion.

I can talk to my closest friends about anything and know they will love me. My friends have carried me through some very difficult times. There has never been a time I worried they would end our friendship because of something going on in my life. I can count on them. It only takes a text or phone call, and they drop what they are doing to help me. I know how blessed I am.

Last week I was reading in 1 Chronicles 27 and came across an interesting portion of verse 33. The chapter lists the names of King David’s officials and counselors, all very important men in his kingdom. Then, between Ahithophel, the king’s counselor, and Joab, the commander of the king’s army, we read, “Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend.” That was unexpected. The name of his friend, squished between the king’s counselor and army commander. Hmm. It seems to me that would make his position of “friend” something special.

It made me smile. If someone was going to make a list of all the very important people in my life, it would definitely include my friends. But, believe it or not, I don’t have counselors, commanders, or even a guy in charge of my supply of olive oil (David had Joash for that). Maybe I should have someone in charge of my supply of olive oil. I am very picky about it and hate to run out. Although I know if one of my friends was going to my favorite olive oil store, they would ask if I needed anything. So maybe I do have someone for that. But I digress.

The bottom line is David had a friend, and he was important to him. Like my friends, I believe David’s friend was someone he could rely on in any circumstance. We have insight into David’s friendships because of the record of his friendship with Jonathan. We are told their hearts were knit together. They protected each other. They trusted each other. They loved each other. They cried when they were forced to separate. That sounds a lot like my friendships. Even though David had a number of counselors, he also had at least one close friend after Jonathan’s death. I find that comforting.

We all need a friend or a few friends to help us through life. They are there when we ugly cry. They call out our bad attitudes. They pray with and for us. They talk through tough decisions. They speak truth when we most need to hear it. They make us smile even when our hearts are breaking. In my case, they also make me laugh till I leak, which is one of their specialties. Friends help carry our burdens and make life a little sweeter. What a blessing it is to be knit together in friendship.

I’m glad God decided to list David’s friend as an important person. It reminded me how special true friendships are. I love all my friends, but especially Nedra, LouAnn, Susan, Terri, & Gerri. There, I listed them. (There are plenty more, but these ladies know too much about me not to be included here.)

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17 ESV)

Joy in Living Your Whole Life

My mom would turn 90 years old today, “if she had lived her whole life.” She coined that infamous phrase when talking about another relative who died young, and it continues to outlive us all.

I am remembering Mom today and all the funny moments we shared. The day she said, “Auntie Alma would still be taking that medication, if she had lived her whole life,” I had to pull the car to the side of the road, since I couldn’t see with my eyes squinted shut and tears of laughter running down my face. It wasn’t the first time, nor the last, we laughed together like that.

One of the things I am remembering is that she so easily laughed at herself. It took me quite a while to learn that valuable skill. But I’m right there with her now—mostly because I share her physical struggles, hearing loss, and questionable memory. She always said to me, “Wait until you’re my age.” Well, I’m there, and she was right. I’m in trouble.

I am remembering the times we giggled ourselves silly because she repeated what she thought I said, which wasn’t even close. Her good-natured yelling for help because she couldn’t open a jar with her atrophied hands. There were times she would start to ask me something and couldn’t get it out before collapsing in laughter. I’d squeak out, “Come on, Mom, stop it,” while grabbing my laugh-strained obliques. Most of the time, she had just forgotten what she was going to ask me, which tickled her. She did wonders for my core muscles. I’m going to try to remember her laughing as my own disabilities grow.

I want her joy, the kind of joy that laughs at the future (as in Proverbs 31:25 NASB). So, I have been praying for more joy. We pray for the all the other fruits of the Spirit: love, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, and so on. But I think sometimes we feel guilty asking for increased joy. Why? Joy is one of the evidences and outcomes of the Christian life. I think it should be one of the most-used words when describing a Christian.

And I’m not talking about peace or contentment, although they have their part in joy. Biblical joy, the way it is used most-often in the Bible, includes loud instruments, shouting, dancing, singing, and praising. There is almost always some sort of loud noise associated with joy. Nehemiah 12:43 says, “…for God made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.” 1 Kings tells us that their joy shook the earth. Do you picture the faces of people experiencing that kind of joy with dower countenances, stoically declaring their joy? No, there had to be smiles, laughing, and dare I say it, happy faces. That’s the kind of joy I want—not dependent on my circumstances but on how great a God I serve.

So, I’m going to let the lesson of my mom’s laughter fill my soul today. I have already been out sledding with my grandchildren today. After all, you never know when you’ve lived your whole life.

Advent – The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Today’s the day! The wait has been excruciating. I have marked off the days as my anticipation grew to almost unbearable proportions. Like that old Heinz ketchup commercial, the anticipation will be “worth the wait.” For what am I waiting (not so patiently)? Our California kids and grands are coming to celebrate Christmas with us. We pick them up at the airport tonight. I’ll be anxiously waiting in the cell phone lot, keeping a close eye on the digital sign that announces the flights as they land.

Anticipation is what the advent season is all about—a time of eagerly waiting for the Messiah to be born. I love this season. I love the sense of anticipation. I love singing the carols, shopping for just the right gifts, making the special foods, trimming the tree, wrapping the presents, seeing the lights—all of it. I love all the Christmas concerts and live nativities and sappy Christmas movies. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, the weeks in between are my favorite time of year. For me, the anticipation reaches its crescendo, not on Christmas morning, but on Christmas Eve. The candlelight service is a beautiful time of remembering Jesus’ birth, that God sent His only Son to save His people from sin.

It’s a season of love, from exchanging gifts with those we love to seeing God’s love in giving the greatest gift of all. You might think the anticipation of Jesus coming to earth would end after all the presents are opened, the feast devoured, and the decorations put away. But this season of advent continues as we await Jesus’ second coming. Just as God promised the Messiah would come as a baby, he also promised Jesus would come again as Lord of all.

It could happen at any time. We don’t know exactly when. There’s no virgin waiting to give birth. There is no star over the place he will appear. There are no angels announcing his coming. There’s not even a digital sign to check his status every few minutes. One day, he will just appear in the clouds. Unlike his quiet, humble birth, his next coming will be with power and authority and a trumpet blast. There won’t be a smattering of shepherds and wise men who will bow before him, but every knee will bow when he comes as king of kings.

The preparations of this second advent are important and should be made with equal enthusiasm as his first—telling others of the good news of salvation, living out his Word, praying for his church and his return, and growing in love. And there are things reminiscent of the first advent season—singing songs of praise, gathering together as a family, sharing our gifts, and eagerly anticipating His coming.

So I ask myself, am I as anxious for his coming as I am for my grands coming? Does my heart flutter when I see one more sign that he will come soon, like it does when I see the sweet faces of my granddaughters sitting on a plane, ready for takeoff? Am I busy making preparations for his return? I can honestly say I am excited and eagerly anticipating Jesus’ coming. And I’m really thrilled it won’t be a short, holiday visit, but a trip that will last for eternity.

“At that time, people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send his angels and gather his elect…Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Mark 13:26-27a & Revelation 22:20b NIV)