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Tuesday, April 27, 2010


My Dad drove us in the 1941 red Ford to see Uncle Jake and Aunt Marie in Fairview, Oklahoma. As he turned corner after corner in the middle of the countryside, he said, "Suzy (my nickname), pay attention to the road, because you are going to drive home." I paid attention. On the way home, I confidently turned at one corner, and Dad asked, "How do you know to turn here?" I replied the classic lines that became the family joke, "I saw two black crows flying over here."

To this day, I can become confused and don't really trust maps. How do I REALLY know that this is the way and I will arrive where I planned? When I drew a map for my parents to come visit our new home in the country, I dotted the map with silos, houses and barns, but never a road sign. At least there wasn't a black crow flying over. Mapquest and I are good friends now, and even Mapquest can be in error. I need signposts in this life. I need to know where I am going.

There is one destination I do not want to miss. And that is Heaven and there are signposts for Heaven. I love the verses from Psalm 19:1-3 -
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Verses 3 & 4 of Psalm 19 in the Message says - Their words aren't heard, their voices aren't recorded,
But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

No wonder that the office is not complete without a window, or a prisoner covets the sunshine from the tiny barred window, or the farmer revels in God's creation all about him. He trusts in God for his livelihood.

My parents grew up on farms, and continued to spend hours in their vegetable and flower gardens during their life together. I didn't always understand their exclamations of delight at each bloom, each green stalk and each green bean. In the midst of summer's harvest, our meals were punctuated with cries of thanksgiving - "Our own potatoes, our own lettuce, our own tomatoes..." The first ripe strawberries created a sense of celebration as they were shared equally! Then came the ritual of preservation of the garden's crops. The Siemens cellar had many jars of the harvest of fruits and vegetables to carry us through the winter.

Recently, at a Ladies' Retreat, we were instructed to retrieve the mirrors from below our seats and peer into the mirror to see
ourselves as God sees us. We saw the imperfections as we see with finite eyes. Immediately we checked our hair and our makeup and giggled in embarrassment. We looked at the outward appearance.

I Samuel 16:7 - But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

What a tremendous challenge it is to see those about us by looking not at outward appearance, but at the heart as our Lord does. Recently, while shopping, I looked at those around me. I tried to see their hearts, and yet their appearance kept obliterating the heart-view.

On the Lord's Day we sang songs, and I wondered if I could see the heart of God. As we sang Yahweh , Holy is your Name! repeatedly, and Your Grace is Enough.... I had to stop singing...for the immensity of God's heart overwhelmed me. I listened to the words and focused on the heart of God.

Crazy Love's author's words arrested me on the first page - "The wise man comes to God without saying a word, and stands in awe of Him." The love-thoughts are heart-to-heart without words. Romans 1:20 - For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Why do we long to be outside? Why do we, at great expense, travel to places of incredible scapes of mountains and the sea created by our Creator? It is our longing to see the heart of God, the Creator of the world about us. The first time I stood ankle deep in the Newport Beach ocean, I felt the mighty pull of the waves that spoke to me of the mighty power of God. I heard in the thunder of the waves the voice of God.

The signposts are all around us, if we take the time to see with our hearts the holiness of our Yahweh. He is life, He is Love eternal. He is our joy, our shepherd, our guide, the One and Only.

Blessing and honor glory and power
Unto the Lord be praise
Sing with the chorus resounding before us
Holy is Your Name.

From Exalted.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hands..... dedicated to my Aunt Irene Suderman Seibel, in all love.

My Aunt Irene is the 'little' sister of my Mom. To be in her presence brings back memories of childhood through her voice, through her faith in God, and her serving hands that are never idle. Last week she wrote (in l
ong hand) that if she were to write a blog, it would be about hands. God looks at the heart, and yet, if one looks at the hands, they see the heart of a person that God sees. Aunt Irene looks at the hands of a person first. How unusual, I thought. Since then I have studied hands. When Aunt Irene was a child, she visited a neighbor lady o borrow something. The neighbor held Aunt Irene's hands and showed her the dimples and then compared her own knuckles. Aunt Irene was surprised at the difference. Years later Aunt Irene's oldest son looked at her hands and said, "I always liked to feel Grandma's wrinkles in her hands and those blue veins. Now your hands look like that."

Aunt Irene related the story of her last sister-in-law who recently died. As Aunt Irene viewed her in death, gray hair combed just right and wearing the green lace 50th wedding anniversary dress. As Aunt Irene's eyes searched for her sister-in-law's hands, she saw that they were covered by green lace. She wondered, "Why?"

This letter began a series of thoughts about hands. Yesterday I visited a 92 year old lady. I looked at her hands, and commented how beautiful they are. Hands tell a story. Hands are a testimony of one's heart and life. Hands can be used for devious deeds or for acts of kindness. Hands can dishonor our God or glorify His Name. It is our choice.

There is nothing as enchanting as watching a baby explore his hands. He seems so delighted and fascinated his hands. He learns to grasp his mother's finger, and then learns to feed himself. The tiny hands learn to hold a writing tool. First he learns to write his name and then to communicate thoughts that reveal his heart. I reme
mber the hands of my granddaughter lifted up to me, wanting my attention. Did I
turn away? No, I pulled her to me. Her tiny hands conveyed her need to be loved to me. (Even as our raised arms convey to God, our need for His Love!)

All through our lives to the moment of death, we long for the touch of someone's hand. We long to be loved, comforted by a hug and the nearness of a human. Is it because we are made in the image of God and we long for the nearness of Him who created us? It is a deep hunger of love that deforms us inside when it is denied.

The image of the hands of my parents flashes into my mind. I see the work-roughened stubby hands of my Dad - that extended discipline and love equally with tears and laughter. I see the serving hands of Mom. I hear her playing and teaching piano, planting a vegetable/flower garden with Dad, choosing a bouquet and arranging it for a sick friend. Writing poem after article after story after song with much prayer. I see her sitting at the treadle Singer Sewing machine with little ones beside her, sewing clothing for her own and others. I see her painting pictures and murals, canning and baking bread. I remember her cool, calming and gentle hand on my forehead when I was feverish and building wooden beds, desks and once a plane for a play. Dad and Mom knew how to 'make-do' using what they had to create something new.

Why is it that in a wedding, hands are joined to symbolize love and unity? Why is it that at the beginning of a new life, the thrill of holding the baby in your hands is indescribable? Why is it that in death, holding the hand of the dying loved one fills both with comfort? Why is it that encouragement, comfort, kindness, love, gentleness (fruit of the spirit) is expressed eloquently without words, with just a touch?

When I gave a piano lesson to a teen recently, we compared hands. Hers were smooth and soft. Mine show the blue veins and the bones through the thin skin of old age. A 4 year old friend and I compared hands. Ben Riley's hands are soft and dimpled. He delights in pinching the skin on the back of my hand to see it stay 'pinched' for a bit and trues to do the same with his hand. So long ago, my GrosMom Siemens taught me the same thing with her hands. Then Ben Riley asked why I had brown spots on my hand. I replied that older people get these. In all seriousness Ben Riley commented, "Old people die." God gave me the answer - "Yes, and isn't it great? I'll soon be moving in with Jesus!" (John 14)

My thoughts then spotlighted the ministry of Jesus - through His Hands. His hands exemplified love and sacrifice. His hands served others, healed, gave hope and encouragement, comforted while here on earth. His final gift from his hands was to be nailed to the cross. The heart of Jesus was broken by our sins - of all mankind - through all ages - and His hands held the marks of His sacrifice from His heart when He talked to Thomas.

Mark 8:25 - Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Mark 10:16 - And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Luke 13:13 - Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

I look again at my hands and weep when I am reminded of the times my heart held anger or sinful thoughts that were transmitted by my hands. I pray for forgiveness and renew my walk with my Lord each day. May my hands be used for Him, and show His heart of love and sacrifice. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. Psalm 28:2


Tuesday, April 13, 2010


As we prepared for our grandchildren’s visit, I pondered the BEFORE and the AFTER of an Event. The excitement, anticipation and love made the preparation easy. During the visit there would be laughter and joy and sharing the pictures of their parents when they were young and the re-telling of ‘do-you-remembers’ in our relationship as grandparents and grandchildren. The sharing of food, finding out what their favorite foods now. And there was much more, learning what productive citizens they had become in their adult life. We have a window in what their life is and will be – their dreams and goals for the future.

Suddenly the time is gone and it is the AFTER. After our prayer circle, final goodbyes and hugs, we watched our grandchildren pack their cars, climb in and leave. It was the AFTER. We held hands and waved until our grandchildren were beyond our sight. The AFTER was accompanied by the familiar lump in the throat and tears that threatened to escape our eyes.

We looked at each other wordlessly and walked into the quiet house. Every where we looked, we saw signs of the visit. Our next few days would be AFTER with laundry and left-overs and “I should have sent the bananas with Demian.”

Then I realized that every event has a before and an AFTER. The AFTER is the reality of this life, where we truly live. The events in our lives are a roller coaster of highs and lows. Getting a driver’s license, dating, graduation, going to college, marriage, the first job, the new car or buying a house or going on a vacation are events with a BEFORE and an AFTER. Watch a senior in high school chaff at the slow passage of time before graduation with so much homework to finish. An expectant mother’s last month seems to wait forever to hold the anticipated tiny baby. Observe a new bride count down the days and the tasks she must complete before the happy day, to live happily ever AFTER.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, anniversaries and birthdays involve the BEFORE of preparation. Sharing a celebration of an event makes it an event. The AFTER is easier when shared as well.

Education, resumes and interviews preface the exhilarating moment before the words, “You are hired!”

I remember my first teaching job. I would have paid my employer to hire me. It is an exhilarating sense to have a job. Then the AFTER comes. The responsibility, the planning, the duties of a teacher, the interaction with a room of students and with their parents.

Sometimes the AFTER in our lives creates discouragement and we begin to doubt ourselves. When the event is acquiring a new possession, the AFTER comes more quickly. For possessions become an opiate, always wanting more to recreate the exhilaration of ownership or ‘keeping up with the Joneses, the Smiths and the Browns..

Every AFTER has new responsibilities and new things to learn.

Does this circular life seem useless or redundant? Perhaps it does. If so, we agree with King Solomon who said said long ago, "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! 
 Everything is meaningless." Ecclesiastes 1:2

However, there is one BEFORE that lasts a lifetime. There is an AFTER that lasts for an eternity – where there is life, love and joy eternal.

Accepting Jesus, and living for and with Him in this life is a preparation for the greatest event everlasting. There is no let-down in the AFTER of life, there are no tears or sadness of parting. We can never stop preparation of praising and serving Jesus in the BEFORE of the AFTER of eternal life with Jesus.

Why choose Jesus? Why spend a life time being His?

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12.

What is the AFTER?

Can you imagine a place where the fruit of the spirit abounds?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Can you imagine a place where is no power outage?

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. Revelations 21:23

Can you imagine a place where there is no death or tears?

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelations 21:4

Can you imagine a place where there is need for forgiveness?

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

Can you imagine a place where praise is the communication?

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. I Timothy 1:17

Can we imagine Heaven? No, for our minds are finite. I accept God and live for Him in the BEFORE. It is enough for me to know that there are no earthly AFTERS in Heaven!

I can only imagine what it will be like,

When I walk by Your side.

I can only imagine hat my eyes will see,

When Your face is before me:

I can only imagine.

I Can Only Imagine – Jeff Carlson