Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Pools, Predators and Protectors

Well, it seems this was the month to get several different family experiences on the books.

We visited my dad the end of May and took our two oldest grandsons along for the first time.  Such a GREAT experience.

Then early June brought the tea party of the ages.  Madison Riley turned 5 and needed a special event for such an important birthday.  We had wonderful time treating Madi and her cousins (Abby and Ava) to a high tea at "Franco's Tea Room."  They caught the humor immediately and loved it.

Franco's Tea Room

Celebrators and Papa (Madi @center)

Last weekend, we made a quick weekend trip to Orlando as a family.  Please remember when we say "family" we're talking about 17 people and that's just grandparents, parents and children.  We now officially qualify as a tribe, I think.

Yes, that's ALL one family

We went to the pool several times.  I can not explain to you how hot it was while we were there.  The humidity threatened to melt all our plans.  But this is a hardy lot.  We pressed on and the pool gave us the refreshing playtimes we needed.

I dare you to look at this picture and not smile
Ava and Noni

Our time at the local zoo was truly eye-opening.  The boys were a bit disappointed that there weren't any lions but the snake displays more than made up for it.  We kept finding our little ones pressed as close to the windows as possible.
Noah and Abigail

Spencer, Madi and the Snake

As we viewed all the different creatures, we reminded the children how creative God is.  "Look at how amazing this rhinoceros is with all his protective armor.  God created him with exactly what he needs for where he lives."

When we got to the exotic bird displays, one of the girls commented on all the different colors.  "God made them extra beautiful!"  All creation tells of the majesty of God.  You can definitely see His handiwork when you visit a zoo.

River Otter Show

I could go on with several stories within the weekend story but I wanted to save time to share the next great picture.  Abigail Grace Schreck turned 8 today which seems impossible.  She is such a natural nurturer and smart student that Noni and Papa can't help but be proud of her.

We took her for her birthday lunch and Spencer joined us because his was overdue.  They chose the restaurant and we had a great time laughing and hearing stories.  The waitresses even gathered around and sang Happy Birthday to her.  She blushed.

The best moment was when a group of young servicemen started to leave.  The children noticed them earlier so Papa had talked about how we should honor men and women willing to defend our country and protect our freedom.

As the young men started to pass our table, Frank spoke up thanking them all for their service.  That's when we got the surprise gift.  The first soldier asked whose birthday we were celebrating.  Abby piped up, "Me!"  He knelt beside her and peeled the flag badge off the shoulder of his uniform.  "Do you know why this seems to be backwards?" he asked.  "No, Sir."

He patiently explained that the flag would be flying that way if they were carrying it into battle.  "So, we wear them on our uniforms this way to remind ourselves that we always run toward the battle, never away from it."  He then produced a similar badge giving one to Abby and the other to Spencer. Later, when we got into the car, Abby Grace looked at her flag and said, "I will never forget this as long as I live."

New Friends

If it looks like the children are beaming, they are. When we asked for a picture, the sergeant quietly instructed the other men, "Surround them."  The simple directive brought tears to our eyes.  We know that these (and others like them) serve as protectors every day for those we love.

The picture reminds me of a favorite bit of scripture.  Psalm 125:2 says, "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever."

Now THAT'S a Gift!

How about you?  Do you have a favorite summertime memory from your childhood?  Has your family been able to find a creative way to gather in spite of the current restrictions?  We'd love to read your experiences in the comment section.....

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

It's Generational

Happy Father's Day to all the men who dare to follow Embrace the Grace!

I'm so very grateful for the male gender that perfectly offsets and compliments the female gender.  God certainly knew what He was doing, didn't He?!

I've adopted a great concept I read recently, "Men and women look at things differently.  Not wrong.  Not better.  Just Differently."  (Frank would like for me to keep rehearsing this concept.)

Last month, Frank and I attempted a new adventure.  We took a three day trip to visit my dad (not new) with our two oldest grandsons along (definitely new.) You may be wondering, "What's the big deal with that?  Our grandkids spend the night with us all the time."

Please remember with so many grands who are incredibly aware of fair treatment, it's a bit unusual for them to spend the night with Noni and Papa.  They come for the afternoon.  We enjoy all sorts of group activities.  But traveling with two of them and no parents was brand new territory.

Fortunately, they are just as perfect as we suspected! Spencer and Noah were great traveling buddies during the seven hours of drive time.  They are accustomed to much longer road trips having grandparents in New York and North Carolina.  So they thought seven hours was a piece of cake.

We arrived early in the afternoon and they were delighted by all the outdoor barns and equipment Papaw had open for exploration.  My dad maintains the home he and Mom shared her final years.  It's on property where he grew up as a boy and has access to the pond where he learned to fish.  A true country setting.

Learning about Papaw's boat.

At one point, I noticed Noah doing a little dance and asked if he needed to go potty.  "Umm, yes.  But I don't want to stop investigating."  Isn't that adorable?  I assured him everything would still be available for investigation once he came back outside.

There was the urgent need for a fishing trip.  So, off they went the next morning.

Waiting.  A.K.A. Fishing

I think this picture is one of my favorites.

Classic Summer Picture, Right?!

Frank told of all the loud yelling and running and rock throwing and fishing pole tangling that went into the day.  Not the best way to sneak up on fish.  But they managed to catch a few anyway.  (I think the Lord was gracious and knew my dad really HAD gone to catch fish.)

Noah was proud of his fish but didn't want to touch it.

Look at those smiles.

Final Product

I think the fishing trip may have re-sparked something in my dad because he made a change after our visit.  After years of talking about it, he finally called someone to come and build a proper dock on his part of the pond. You can't really see it but he's beaming in this picture.  I'm so happy for him to have a place to sit, relax and contemplate.  Oh, and to fish, of course.

Daddy has always been a patient teacher when someone expresses interest in learning to fish.  I'm glad he got a chance to fish with a couple of his great-grandsons.  Together, they made a memory that won't soon be forgotten.  And who knows but what they may have created a new tradition that will be generational in its passage. 

When we were young parents, Frank and I received good advice from our mentors, Bob and Martha.  They encouraged us that sharing our faith in Christ needed to be a natural part of life in order for our children to take it as their own. They said we needed to be intentional and patient if we wanted our children to love Christ the way we do.

Their wonderful advice was based on a scripture passage from Deuteronomy 6.  "Impress them [these commandments] on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  You can also talk about your own love for Jesus while fishing.

I'm so very grateful that the men of our family are all Christ followers.  They each came to a point in their journey where they chose to give Jesus priority.  Their choices tell me that generational relationship and instruction is indeed the best way to go.

Frank and our "Sons"

How about you?  Is fishing part of your family's traditions?  How did you mark Father's Day?  Please share with us in the comment section..... 

Friday, June 5, 2020

When Silence is NOT Golden

(Warning:  This is a post sharing my heartfelt emotions about a tragic issue.)

I am horrified by the murder of George Floyd.

Now please understand, I grew up in a culture that would urge me to not make such a statement.  From an early age it was drilled into my head.   "Silence is Golden."  "You shouldn't be so outspoken about things." "Children are to be seen and not heard." "Keep your opinion to yourself."  

But in this instance, I can not keep silent.

It's true that I do not know all the circumstances surrounding this murder.  I do not know the history of the men involved.  I know nothing about their life choices nor their character.  Those facts are irrelevant to what I have seen and read was acted out.

George Floyd was a human being killed by another human being who had pledged to protect life.  His life was ended while additional human beings looked on but did nothing to intervene.

This murder shocked and sickens me the same way I'm sickened by the 3,000 murders of unborn babies that will take place in America today.  [CDC estimate]  My heart breaks for the elderly human beings who will be marginalized and even considered better off if euthanized.  I grow weary praying for the thousands of women and young men trapped in sexual slavery in the U.S. and abroad. 

When did life become so cheap?  When did selfishness overtake self-sacrifice as an acceptable behavior?  When did we, as human beings, fall into this deep pit?

Actually, this level of depravity isn't the result of a slow decline.  It's not a new condition in our world.  We fell into the pit of sin when Adam and Eve chose self-satisfaction over self-denial, obedience and self-discipline.

Many like to believe we have evolved; we're now enlightened citizens living in the 21st century.  But every time we choose self over service to others, we once again sentence ourselves and our children to remaining in that nasty pit.

Only a heart filled with genuine compassion for others can equip us to see the way out.  Only a life trusting in the saving power of Christ can experience enough hope to keep pointing others toward freedom.

I am so very grateful for the countless men and women who faithfully serve on the front lines.  We benefit daily from those (unlike the four in MN) who put their lives on the line to protect, even when faced with rioting mobs.  We have all been thankful for the sacrifice of health professionals and first-responders during this unbelievable pandemic.  We can not overstate our gratitude for these public servants.

Frank and I sat with an African-American family this week talking honestly about this tragedy.  It was their son, a 20 year old college sophomore, who summed up the situation best.  "This isn't a matter of color, Pastor Frank."  He looked at us resolutely and said,"It's a matter of the heart!"

Amen and Amen!

This post is perhaps one of the most controversial I've ever written.  It certainly is uncomfortable, to say the least.  But I want to use my voice (and any platform I'm given) to declare this basic truth: Life is Precious!  Disregard for human life is WRONG.

I also want to be faithful to remind us all that our help and hope will never be found in other people.

We must acknowledge that no matter our color, culture, or current zip code, we (as human beings) are all broken and ALL in need of a Savior who can hear our cry for help.  This verse took on new significance for me this week.

"But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help.  He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears."  2 Samuel 22:7

Others are watching to see how you will respond to the wrongs of this world.  May I urge you, don't remain silent.  I want all these children to grow up knowing that their voice matters.

Future World Changers

Use your words to pour the contents of your broken heart into the loving hands of our Heavenly Father.  Ask the Spirit of God to align your perspective to His.  Then open your mouth and believe the promise found in 2 Samuel 23:3 "The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me, his words are upon my tongue."

Isn't that the kind of enlightenment we all need in this 21st century?

Thank you each one for taking time to read this post.  I invite your reflections (whether you agree or disagree) in the comment section below.  Dialogue helps direct our thinking.