It was a half mindless scroll the day I came across the posts of a friend, I have literally known her as far back as I can remember. She was our babysitter one summer; she drove a fancy blue trans am kind of car; her mama taught me every Bible song from childhood I know and made peanut butter cookies that might make the Pope use profanities. Susan, our babysitter introduced me to Prince and “Raspberry Beret.” Truth be told, back then I didn’t even know what a beret was, much less how you would make one from raspberries, but I knew you could get one like it from the second-hand-store. Susan was with me the time I was swinging and accidentally swallowed a wasp. My tongue swelled and I had a hefty antihistamine dose that caused me to wake up from a nap wondering if I had skipped the summer and already turned 8 years old.  

Through the gift of social media I can keep up with Susan now, and she had taken a trip across the world. Again in full disclosure I won’t lie. I was a tad jealous. Susan was checking one off on my very own bucket list, however, to my satisfaction she had and was posting magnificent pictures to the social media. My mindless scrolling had turned from pausing to stalking. I was enthralled with her pictures and then I came across one with a caption. It asked if anyone knew what the apparatus was located next to the toilet. I smiled to myself, I am somewhat cultured after all, and I have watched the 1988 film “Big Business” so many times I can quote lines verbatim whenever the mood strikes, which is precisely where I learned about just such an apparatus, and “It’s called a bidet.” I even said it in Bette Middler’s voice. 

Then I read the next line in the caption, “It’s not a toilet or a bidet, it’s a foot washing sink.” I stopped cold. I examined the picture, stretched my fingers across the screen so I could get a better look and then I remembered Susan was in the Middle East, the land of my King. 

I immediately translated the foot washing sink in my head into a “footwasher” and then I went backwards in my memory. It was Easter week some years or a year ago and again  I was mindlessly scrolling again and a picture or a text question with a graphic background asked the question: “If you had one day left to live what would you do?” I paused and began to hypothetically answer the question, and then I read the second half of the statement, “Jesus knew and He washed feet.” That statement hit me like a ton of bricks. Jesus on the last day he was to live gathered his people around Him and he washed their dusty, stinky, dirty, sand covered, aching feet. Jesus, fully man and fully God, sinless and perfect on the last day He lived got down on the floor and He was a footwasher. I came back to the present in my mind and I examined the modern day footwasher more closely. I reasoned that feet still get awful dusty and dirty in the middle east and out of modern convenience, placed next to the modern day commode was a footwasher. Low to the ground, humble, and waiting to be used and I realized My King really did come not to be served but to serve and He has called me to do the same, to be a footwasher. 

All’s Well

They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” Mark 7:37 NASB

I was weary from the week and to be honest I kept having to take baby steps to get to the next thing. When I was a child I used to play a game called “Mother May I?” The object of the game is to reach the mother and the finish line. Baby steps are advantageous to the mother but frustrating for the children, it takes so much longer to reach the finish line when one is shuffling along as opposed to giant steps that are a much wider gait.

 Baby steps these days were apart from the “Mother May I?” and they looked a bit more like,

“Get dressed for work.” 

 “Get to the car.” 

“Choose your radio station, pick the one with the Bible quiz every morning.”

“Okay now Swing by the McDonalds and grab a sweet tea with a lemon. Go to the one that gives you a tiny bag of individual lemons.” 

If it were a “giant step” morning it would be “Go to work.” 

I was baby stepping my way to work in the cold rain and had pulled over to the aforementioned McDonalds. I paused in the parking lot long enough to turn the radio back up and I could hear the radio host speaking. The host sounds like a pastor to me. His words are always measured and deliberate. He pauses when he asks a question and he is friendly and kind. The radio host’s unconfirmed pastor’s voice came through the speaker. It was calm and measured and I recognized he was praying. 

He does this every morning. He chooses a people group and he prays for them; he asks the audience to pray with him. I used to feel awkward praying with a person I have never met, but I don’t anymore. My tea purchase had caused me to miss for whom we were praying for today, and for what. 

Some days we have prayed for husbands; we have prayed for wives, for stay at home parents, for people in the entertainment industry. We have prayed for those who are in a job search and those in the clergy. I was unsure who we were praying for this wet dark morning but he made a statement that was sobering and shook me to my core. 

He prayed, “If I should die in the next hour, may my heart cry out forever ‘My God has done all things well. Amen”

As soon as the statement registered I felt the pang of conviction, I heard that still small voice of the Spirit speak and I knew without question that should I die in the next hour that would not be what my heart would cry out. There was no way it could, if I couldn’t honestly say it for one minute now, how could my heart cry for eternity possibly be “My God has done all things well”?

I was shook, shaken, flabbergasted, astonished, bewildered, stupefied, taken aback, and all other vocabulary-list-worthy words conveying shock. 

“My God has done all things well.” 

It was a statement and not an interrogative, but the realization in that moment as I sat frozen and fixed, was that I realized my heart cry is actually “My God has done all things well, question mark.” 

Seriously, all things? All the things? I mulled over in my mind. All things? I began to dialog directly with God. 

“All things? No Lord, not all things.”

“All things Amy.” 

“But Lord, not all things. What about this circumstance that resulted in that outcome that has left these consequences? Not these things?”

“All things Amy Elizabeth.”

But Lord, all things? Really? But Lord you know right now, this moment, this hurt and season of despondency I am feeling, this is done well?” 

“Yes. All things. Have you forgotten my very nature, that I am incapable of not doing all things well?”

When He asks me questions, He knows I am forced to think.

I had not forgotten. The realization was, I had not even considered that aspect of His perfect nature. I had somehow in my mind compartmentalized and separated His perfection with His doing all things well. I had relegated His doing things well to the first six days of creation when he saw it as good. 

Tears came to my eyes and before long my face resembled the windshield in front of me. I told the Lord I was sorry and asked Him for His forgiveness that He had long ago already given me, and I thanked Him for being kind and patient, for abounding in love and for showing me that true nature of my heart and of His. I asked Him to help me to remember to take baby steps each day remembering and living out, “If I should die in the next hour, may my heart cry for eternity be. ‘My God has done all things well.’”

“You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” Psalm 119:68 NIV 

Rhoda’s House

If You Know You Know.

Sometimes I think to myself, “Later on this is gonna be hammered out into a story.” That kind of prognostication doesn’t always happen in the moment as something is happening, but it does happen. 

The thought began with an advertisement of sorts a month or so prior to the actual event, but the beginning of the story goes back a ways and began with an advertisement as well.

The Story

I was younger and it was still the era of the radio. I would listen to the radio as I prepared for my day. Many times a commercial would air, it was for a fine jewelry store. The proprietor was named Rhoda and she owned and operated Levy’s Fine Jewelry. I had never stepped foot in Levy’s, but I knew Rhoda. Well, I didn’t actually know Rhoda, but I knew her voice. I would recognize it the moment she started giving out free advice to hopeless romantics seeking her help to win another’s love. “Desperate in Dora” might write in to Rhoda, and Rhoda would reply with something along the lives of,  “Come on down to Levy’s Fine Jewelry, and we’ll help you pick out the right big diamond for your gal and before you know it she’ll be covering your face with kisses.”  Rhoda was always more than generous during her Christmas time advice sessions.

I read last summer that Rhoda had passed away, I didn’t know her personally, obviously, but I knew I wouldn’t be hearing her on the radio any more. I honestly hadn’t thought much more of Rhoda until I ran across that add for an Estate Sale. It was Rhoda’s house and her collections of fine art and furnishings were up for sale. I am voyeuristic in nature so I clicked through those pictures with intrigue and curiosity. Rhoda had some very fine art and furnishings up for grabs but I knew just by looking at them they were way out of my league. I’d watched enough Antiques Roadshow to know that Hudson River School Art painting she had was worth more than what I had budgeted for just such an occasion. I also knew that apart from a museum I’d likely never see that much art in one place in my lifetime again. I also knew Rhoda was Jewish and she may potentially have something I’d been wanting, something that was within my budget. So I made a plan. I invited my sister and mama, who both declined the invitation to accompany me, but my husband agreed to go and we set out with a plan. 

We, along with what seemed like a thousand of our closest friends with a common goal in mind piled into Rhoda’s home. My mouth hung open most of the time and I distinctly remember three things that stood out to me.

1. Rhoda’s boudoir. She had a wall of closets. he first one I entered had drawers upon drawers and shelves on top of shelves. A large number of ten drawers had locks on them and I pointed them out to my husband. Locked drawers in a bedroom closet, I was puzzled only briefly, and then I conjectured they must’ve been for securing all that Levy’s fine jewelry she had.

2. A woman who stood at the foot of  Rhoda’s bed trying on Rhoda’s clothes. Modesty and meekness did not seem to fit this lady’s M.O. I was still processing the dressing lady when Number Three crossed my path, or I it rather.

3. Rhoda’s bathtub. About the time I said “Whoa!” and had not yet even begun to calculate what a tub like that might do to a monthly water bill. My husband who does not share my same line of sight said, “Hey you want Rhoda’s sunglasses?”

For a mere $5 I purchased Rhoda’s former UV eye protection. A quick internet search after I got home revealed to me I’d purchased Designer Sunglasses. I should’ve expected nothing less from Rhoda whose head was a wee bit smaller than my own. 

I don’t rightly know what my expectations were for that Estate Sale, nor the story it would yield but I know this: in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have bargained for what I got.

I left Rhoda’s with what I had come for, a Seder plate (and not just one but three), a pair of sunglasses, fodder for storytelling, and memories that won’t soon fade.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later the Rhoda’s House adventure came full circle and taught me a spiritual application as well.

I was working and a coworker was looking at a house for sale. She has looked at dozens of houses, she too has learned about my curious and voyeuristic tendencies and gets my attention when something is particularly interesting, tacky, or just plain weird.

I heard her make a comment about the closet of a particular house. I  looked and recognized immediately what I was looking at, the MLS listing was a place all too familiar to me,

“That’s Rhoda’s house,” I said to my coworker. She knew about my trip to Rhoda’s. I pointed at the drawers with the locks.

“Really? How do you know?”

“And you’re about to see a bathroom with a big giant blue tub that all five of us could fit in,” was my reply.

I motioned to those of us working together and sure enough a couple of mouse clicks later and there it was. The tub.

Because my time at Rhoda’s had been the adventure it had been, I was able to recognize it weeks later, completely empty, on a computer screen. I’ve since termed that sort of recognition as “A Rhoda’s House Experience.”

The Lesson

As I study the Word I want to be able to recognize Jesus anywhere and everywhere in scripture. I want to know Him so well. I want to know the distinct character of God so solidly that I am able to discern him immediately as I study. I am not a biblical scholar by any means, but I can know Him well enough that by the Holy Spirit’s revelation I can recognize Him immediately from Genesis to Revelation. I can seem Him in the Jewish Passover, the Israelite Exodus, I can see Jesus in the Manna in the Wilderness. I can know undoubtedly that Jesus is the Messiah from Isaiah’s depiction of Him. I can understand His character in the dry bones made to live again in Ezekiel, and I can be reminded again that He is trustworthy and true all the way through Scripture.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me?” John 14:9

The Thirsty Pup

There’s been a drought in the land.

Not literally obviously it has rained record amounts in the last few months. 

And it was raining again. 

The drought had been of a different type and as it happens with droughts the metaphorical land has been dry and left wanting. There is weariness and there are times that my parched soul feels like more than a drop of water at a time may threaten to drown me. 

In the days of late I have done what it is praying people do in times of drought, I have prayed for rain.

That morning as I sat, head in hands praying and asking God to end the drought. I told Him what He already knew, that I was indeed at risk to drown if He didn’t give me more than just a drop to drink at a time, but I knew any thirstier and I would most assuredly die of dehydration. 

Tears threatened to shove their way through my shut eyes and I recalled the droughts of before, ones that have sealed their place in my memory. One in 2016 and one in 2000. They were literal droughts and the two different occurrences have been embedded into my long term memory. I was forcing myself to remember droughts do not last forever, I was straining to hear the voice of the King. 

 I squeezed my eyes tighter, I would not cry, I halfway joked with the Creator of the universe, not that kind of water, I need, I want a pouring out of sorts. 

“Will you help me?” may have been my next thought-slash-prayer, but a sound to my left, an all too familiar sound, a bonafide racket jolted my eyes open. 

I knew the noise before I saw the source of it.

An empty water bowl lying on its side, next to it a double dapple doxie dog barked at me. Her name is Macy, we call her May for short. 

She looked at her bowl and looked at me. Her actions spoke to me the words she could not. 

“I am thirsty. My water bowl is empty. You alone can help me.”

My prayer, the one I had just been praying silently, was expressed by my innocent pup.

“Lord, I am thirsty, my bowl is empty, you alone can help me.”  As I stood to set the bowl upright and refill it, she immediately was at my heels, wagging her tail and jumping up. She was grateful I had heard her plea and had not delayed in responding. And in that very moment I heard the King say,

“The rain is on the way.” 

God “who does great things and unsearchable,
    marvelous things without number:
He gives rain on the earth
    and sends waters on the fields;
He sets on high those who are lowly,
    and those who mourn are lifted to safety.” Job 5:9-11

Dusty Feet

“Do you follow Jesus this closely?” 

I read the bumper sticker as the car whizzed by me. It was rush hour traffic and I was, as I often am, in a hurry. I laughed to myself at the implication. I hadn’t given the thought provoking bumper sticker much more attention, hadn’t spent any time pondering it until later the following day. It was Friday night, I was tired and weary from a broken world, difficult work week and issues at home that just couldn’t seem to go away. I was doing what I often do, pressing into Jesus and pressing on. The pressing was feeling more and more like crushing. Dinner time was fast approaching and while I wanted desperately to avoid cooking dinner, the gnawing in my stomach and the persistent pleas of my offspring pushed me into the kitchen. 

I began the task of preparing spaghetti sauce from a jar and making a salad. I moved about the kitchen and my shadow sat patiently beside me. When I moved, she moved, when I turned she turned, perhaps her motive was innocent and rooted in facts. 

I am a clumsy cook. Inevitably I would drop some morsel of something she would make into a snack. Perhaps that is why she sits so closely and so intently. Perhaps it is because she likes to be around me.

I am told when I am not home she looks for me and she will whine in her waiting. 

I began to stir the not-so-homemade sauce and I said to my Dapple Doxie Macy, “Are you trying to feel the dust from my feet?”

My feet were in desperate need of a pedicure, they were achy and my nails unpolished. My feet seemed to be a reflection of my very soul. I  was remembering something my friend Denise told me several years ago. A story of a rabbi. I can still, in my mind’s eye, see her sitting and recounting the story of the rabbi and his student. She looked like a rabbi herself, a teacher, patient and wise teaching her students.

Way back at the time of Jesus, if a Jewish man wanted to become a disciple of a rabbi (teacher) he was expected to leave his family and his way of life. His job was to follow his rabbi. The teacher and student would live together 24 hours a day—they would walk from place to place, teaching and learning, studying and working. They discussed and memorized the Scriptures and applied them to life.

It was the student’s calling, to “cover himself in the dust of [the rabbi’s] feet,” studying his teacher’s every word, watching his every move. When the rabbi moved, the student moved. When the rabbi stopped his student stopped. If a student followed his rabbi so closely he would “walk in his dust.” In doing so, he became like the rabbi, his master, his teacher.

That evening as dinner was finished up and I was about the business of being mom and wife I was reminded to follow so closely that I am covered by the dust of my own Rabbi, my Jesus. If I will do that, follow Him as closely as Macy follows me, I won’t be nearly as weary and worn, and the blessing of His presence alone would be encouragement and healing to my soul. 

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40

Read to Feed Myself

“It has goat’s milk in it.” 

I turned the package over in my hand and examined it albeit not very closely. It was a soap gift pack. 

“It is made with goat milk and it is supposed to be good for your skin. Makes it all luxurious!” She knows me well enough to know I like things that are a little homesteady. I appreciate a yard egg from a named yard Chicken far more than I do a generic container of eggs collected from a mass of unknown, unnamed chicks by an unnamed and unknown egg collector. I like to know that Happy the Chicken produced my brown egg on the 12th of last month as I am breaking it and about to scramble it.

I love walking barefoot in the grass far more than I do in a pair of designer shoes. I love dirt and the smell of rain. I find healing outside and I am a firm believer that my darkest days are often directly linked to the short days of winter.  I am a firm believer that the beauty of nature points to the Creator, and the skies themselves declare the glory of the Maker. 

An all natural homemade goat’s milk soap seemed right up my alley, and I wondered if she half had me in mind when she purchased the gift for the gift exchange game. It must not have come as a surprise when I stole the gift from another family member, she smiled and tacked on another pitch for the “goatsmilk soap” gift. “They said it’ll feel nice when you use it.”

I nodded in understanding and agreement as I tucked the gift away and carried on with the day It wasn’t until later that night that I looked at the soap gift pack again. I was excited to use my goat milk gift when I showered that night. I stood in my bathroom and began to examine my gift closer. The scent was gingerbread and written in large print on the packaging “Vegan Soap Gift.” I looked at the individual pieces, each one stated it was gingerbread but each item had printed in bold upon it the word “Vegan.” I laughed again recalling her explanation that the product was made of goat milk and the clearly stated declaration of vegan on it. 

The two terms are incongruent. She was convinced it was made from an animal product yet the item itself declared in fact it was not made with any animal products at all. I used the soap and despite it note being made of goat milk it is still nice and luxurious, I still feel pampered when I use it and I love it just the same as I would if it were made of goat milk and maybe even more because that non-goatsmilk soap has taught me a valuable lesson. 

There are times when we take the verbal word of another as truth, I assumed since she bought it the gift-giver would know exactly what she had purchased and chances are she genuinely thought she had purchased the goatmilk soap gift and verbally passed that along to me. I did not even question what she had said. In all likelihood I would not have even given it a second thought had I not actually seen the emboldened words myself. 

The Word is like that, sometimes I take what someone says as the truth because I presume they know more than I, they should know more, or they have walked with the Lord in such a way that I assume if they say “it is in the Bible” I do not even question it. I simply accept it. That soap reminded and encouraged me to commit to learn for myself, to read and study the word in such a way that I can know for myself what is Biblical truth and what is hearsay from the mouth of another. I have been given the ability to feed myself by reading God’s word for myself.

Bleak Midwinter

The first time I saw her picture I thought nothing of it. I had no thought that this woman would impact my life in any way. Her brothers were artists and they had captured her image and preserved it for posterity.

I was wrong.

In the winter of 2020 I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but things felt very bleak. By then the world was all in dealing with the Rona. My work days were tedious and tiresome. I’m convinced I have some low key PTSD as a result. Online, Zoom, and “in person” was now added to the lexicon of how events would be differentiated. In fact, not much really was in person, and Christmas was on its way. I received an electronic invitation to attend a Christmas program put on by a large church. By way of clicking “here” I accepted. 

It was a Sunday night, I was sitting at my kitchen table looking at the backlit screen of my phone when my world was impacted a bit more. 

A song began to play and the words via the closed captioning of my phone brought tears to my eyes. I just sat there alone at my table sobbing because it felt like someone had finally put words to the burden and the deep and cold despair that I had been feeling since April 2020 that was now magnified times a hundred at Christmas. 

The song I would learn was called ”In the Bleak Midwinter,” and to my recollection I had never heard it before. 

It quickly entered my list of preferred Christmas songs.  I learned the song was a poem originally and it was written by a woman, her name Christina Rossetti. She was an Italian exile living in London. There is a fair amount of information on the interwebs about her, but I found it interesting that she was born and would die in the midst of the cold and bleakest of days. 

The poem she wrote was about the King, and while I get it’s an allegory and all that, I can’t help but think the world was colder and bleaker and helpless until He came, and her poem-turned-simple-song captured that. 

Her birthday is on December 5th, and her death on the 29th of the same month. While I don’t know if the world will recognize it or not, I wanted to acknowledge that despite her not being here anymore and being almost – if not mostly – forgotten, I am thankful for her encouragement during those deep, dark, midwinter days when the world felt cold as iron and the blessing of a baby that first Christmas morn.

In the Bleak Midwinter – sung by Susan Boyle

In the bleak midwinter


In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.

In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,

Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;

Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,

The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,

Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;

But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,

Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Nativity Night

I saw the sign on the roadside a time or two. It advertised a live nativity two nights in a row, a few hours each. The sign made no promises and I neglected to research further the forthcoming nativity in live format. My expectations were not excessively high. We approached the address with the trepidation that accompanies the uncertainty of unknown situations. The Saturday night air was breezy and slightly chilly. As we made our way to the simple setup we were offered hot chocolate and cookies by smiling ladies underneath a tent. 

“Help yourself, be careful it’s hot.” My children have never said no to an offered treat. They reached for those cookies and molten chocolate like starved men in the arctic might.

We walked a few feet away from the refreshment tent to a place where there was a single street light and a few spotlights illuminating a manger with a Mary and a Joseph and real live baby. Mary seemed a bit geriatric compared to the OG Mary aged fourteen. There were some wise guys in fancy dress, a shepherd or two, all under the age of fifteen and more in line with the original Mary’s adolescent age. There were some sheep, a couple of goats, and a donkey. A miniature donkey to be exact. 

I love a donkey. I giggled when I saw him. 

“You can pet ‘em of you want.” A voice said from the darkness. The soft sound of “Away in a Manger” played in the background. 

My husband knows my affinity for a donkey and nudged me in its direction. I hesitated. I began to step forward and then I paused. I just wasn’t sure about petting one of the main players in the night’s nativity. He nudged me again, and whispered to me, “Go pet it, you know you have always wanted to.” I step forward and I remembered some of my favorite things I relate to donkeys. Like donkeys bear a cross in their backs because they once carried a King on a Sunday now known as Palm Sunday and legend says they were so marked by the moment the breed remains that way to this day. Donkeys have a reputation for being stubborn but in fact they are careful thinkers, and if they consider a situation unsafe they will avoid it. Donkeys can see all four of their feet at the same time. 

I reached for the donkey and petted him on the head. He hardly noticed, the burning of tears filled my eyes. I recalled my favorite quote pertaining to the donkey, the one that says, “Do you believe the donkey who carried Christ really thought all that cheering and excitement was for him?” When I heard that statement for the first time I made a mental note, a vow of sorts. I want to be like that donkey. I want to carry Christ wherever I go, and I truly desire for Him to be glorified as I do. 

They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. Matthew 21:7

Christmas Cave

Last year I clicked on an ad on the social media, it was asking for seasonal holiday help. The ad stated that a state park cave was looking for seasonal employees for their Christmas Cave. I am not unfamiliar with the cave, I have traversed it a time or two but it is the summertime swimming pool that typically has my attention. I am convinced that pool is the coldest in Alabama. Within the cave there is a lake, it is just barely visible from the walking path of the cave but where it goes, how big or deep it is, or where its water source come from no one knows. Attempts to demystify such things have all reportedly failed. The cave lake has a pump and with it every year the cave personnel pump water into the gigantic swimming pool on the surface, the water there is frigid. I can testify that when the Alabama summer is triple digit temperatures outside the water in that swimming pool is most refreshing to the wilted and weary body. 

Long about the fall they shut the pool down and for years that is where my relationship with the cave state park ended. That was until last winter when I happened across the ad. 

I saw the need for seasonal Christmas help and I was baffled. What on earth would or could a cave need help for Christmas? I read on, they were looking for help to work their Christmas Cave. I paused a bit and did some deductions. After some reading I realized that in the winter the cave is transformed into a light display. I marked seeing the Christmas cave down on my list of things I would like to see and do on my Christmas to do list. 

I love Christmas lights!

I love to look at those lights all aglow. I will literally ooh and ahh at a perfect stranger’s home when I see a display as I drive by. I will seek out “good” lights and I will take the long way home just to get a glimpse of those colored and clear beacons on a string.

My initial trip to the underground lights left me a bit speechless. While the tour is self guided, I had to be prodded along by my spouse who realized my attention was anywhere but on the rest of the light seeing world and the traffic jams I was causing. I was in awe. I kept trying to figure out why the lights seemed so dramatic, so illuminated, so bright and colorful and pleasing to my eyes. I looked closely at the lights, I could see nothing especially unique about them, they could be found at the Big Box or the General Dollar Store but those lights seemed to shine brighter. I rubbed my eyes, maybe it was me, the see-er that was making the difference. I struggle with crisp visual acuity at baseline and the one and only advantage of that diminished eyesight is how beautiful those bulbs appear sans corrective lenses. To my surprise it wasn’t me either. I couldn’t figure it out and it has taken me a year, several trips to the swimming pool, countless hours pondering pursuing, reflecting, remembering and a single bible study question later to figure it out. 

It was early fall, I was studying the plagues of Egypt. I have studied them before and I am fairly familiar with them. I am typically grossed out by the plagues and it is the tenth and final plague that typically holds my attention. Passover was instituted with it and it is the plague that I enjoy studying, it points directly to Jesus and I appreciate it most. That was until the question pertaining to the ninth plague. The question asked “What was the ninth plague?”

Easy, peasy I thought. “Darkness”

I wrote confidently in my book. I prepared to move on,

“When, if ever, have you experienced total darkness?” I stopped.

Immediately in my mind I thought backwards, it was a few summers before. It was July and as hot a blue blazes we had gone swimming in that state park swimming pool and had decided to take the cave tour to cool off even further. I was with several of my favorites that day when we were asked to take a seat on a low rock and turn off our electronic devices.  We were told we were in the “deepest part of the cave.”

The guide began talking about total darkness, how the earth only has two places where total darkness exists, in a cave and in the depths of the sea. I remembered the facts about total darkness and the verbal warning that the cave lights were about to be turned off, I remembered the feeling of heaviness and oppression that came over me as I sat for what seemed like half a day in the dark but in actuality was just a little while. Time seemed to stop in the absence of the light. I remembered that moment when I answered the question about total darkness and for the first time in my life I gave the ninth plague as much press time in my head as I had the tenth.

It wasn’t until this year’s trip to the underground winter wonderland that I figured out why those cave lights shine so bright. 

I was again standing, my mouth agape, neck stretched to its limits, causing a traffic jam, my husband’s hand on my elbow attempting to move me out of the way of oncoming cave light lookers,

“It has nowhere to go!”

My disjointed statement caught my husband off guard, he deduced I was talking about the traffic jam I had caused, he responded, “I know that’s why I keep trying to get you to move.” I said it again, this time adding pertinent details.

“The lights here, they are so much brighter because they have nowhere to go. Apart from them there is total and complete darkness so the lights, they’re brighter in here, more vibrant, more alive than they are outside where the light goes on and on and on until you can’t see it anymore!”

It was a Eureka moment, I knew the verse in John 1:5 that speaks of Jesus, the Light shining in the darkness and overcoming that darkness, I knew that one of the seven “I am” statements of Jesus in John 8:12 is “I am the Light of the World.” I knew it I just hadn’t really understood just what a Light that penetrates total darkness does. That Light does more than just make the way, that Light is the way, and He shines brilliant and beautiful and the darkness is incapable overtaking the Light. The Light has come and He has overtaken the darkness and we, His people are to shine brighter in such darkness, we are to be like Dollar General Store lights in a Christmas cave, beautiful, vibrant, illuminating, and brilliant.

Race Runners

“I crossed the finish line!” 

I had never met her before, but I love having a conversation with the hip-high part of the population, so I instinctively turned my head to her. 

She was by my estimation about four years old. She was just slightly pudgy wearing a pair of pink shorts that were riding up a tad in the middle. Her once pristine white shirt had a rainbow and a unicorn on it. Alongside some smudges of fudge icing from the doughnut she’d finished off were drips of red sports drink. She had a partial temporary tattoo on her arm, I think it had been a ribbon but I couldn’t rightly tell. She skipped as she walked and she smiled as she’d made her declaration about crossing the finish line. She thrust her congratulatory card my way.

I smiled in response, 

“I know I saw you!” 

I had been tasked with the job of onsite medical and had firmly planted myself, my baggie full of bandaids and cool washcloths at the start-finish line. I had a bucket of water in preparation for those runners who lose their breakfast or aforementioned hastily consumed doughnuts. I had an umbrella for rain, sanitizer for hands and salve for scrapes. 

My new friend was most proud of her accomplishment post one mile fun run. She had run alongside people of all ages and from all walks of life. A precious middle schooler who just shy of a year ago endured three nine hour back and leg surgeries in less than six months time. She walked that fun run (with a rod through her femur and rods, screws and bolts holding her spine together) with survivors of cancers and those walking in honor of those who had not survived. A former nurse, now a grandmother, pushed her elderly dachshund in a stroller. I had seen them all cross the finish line, I’d watched them all. For the ones I knew the story, and for the ones I did not, I cheered and clapped until my hands were raw and tingling. I’d cried tears of joy and ones that could not be defined, and I had done it for no reason in particular except that they had tried and had finished the race. They had indeed crossed the finish line. 

Second Timothy 4:7 says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I used to genuinely think that verse was about running and I am in no way a runner. I figured that verse in the King’s Book wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until I realized that those words were written to Timothy from his spiritual father Paul at the end of Paul’s life that I understood. These words were likely Paul’s last ones to his son of sorts, and he likened his life, his walk of faith, to a race. He didn’t say he had finished in first place or as best, but he had completed it. He described it as having crossed the finish line.

The four-year-old was certainly no first place winner or fastest participant, but she was a participant full of joy, and when she declared to me what I already knew, it challenged me to run my race of faith with joy and when the time comes for me to cross the finish line to do so knowing the Lord will say,

 “I know I saw you!” 

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

1 Timothy 4:7-8