Seven miles from Jerusalem, they walked along the road with Jesus, and they didn't even recognize Him (Luke 24).
Oh, we are so guilty. Are we not?
Yesterday, our 5th grade Sunday school lesson was over the Emmaus walk. It's such a sweet story. It'll tingle excitement through your every nerve.
As I sat there at that table, with a precious 5th grader next to me, reading through the Word, I asked myself—why? Not only the question of why did they not recognize Him as they walked along, but they were able to recognize Him at the table, as He broke the bread? But also ... why did Jesus do that? Why did He keep them from recognizing Him for a bit? What was His purpose?
Lord, why did you do this?
I thought of the difference of walking vs. sitting. Could this somehow be a clue?
Walking offers distractions. We look at our own path, our own feet, trying not to stumble through our own strengths, and we often neglect to look into the face of Jesus—the very one walking alongside us.
When we come to the table, it's personal. We are invited. We can see the person in front of us—Jesus. If we reach across the table, we can touch his nail scarred hands. If we lean back in our chair just a tad, we can see his precious nail scarred feet and touch them with our own.
We can touch and see. We can taste and see.
We dine with Him, and He with us.
And I was doubly baffled by Luke 24:41, "... they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement ...." What? Why would joy and amazement keep them from believing? This is all scratching my threadbare comprehension, while the 5th grader next to me is scratching her head over her word search.
The question was asked to the kiddos, "Why? Why do you think Jesus did this?"
God's omniscience and omnipotence instantly flooded my mind.
I raised both my hands in utter enthusiasm, like a child ... "I know! I know the answer!"
I know—I either scared those 5th graders half to death or inadvertently passed on contagious love of Jesus into the very marrow of their bones. I pray it was the latter.
I was called on to answer by my fellow teacher ...
"I wrote this a while back in a response to a blog post, and the answer couldn't be more simpler than this," I said—
harden a heart? Will He part the sea? To move His people where they need to be? Oh, yes, He will. For He is ... I am. He knows our hearts—He knows when they need hardening and when they need softening—and knows what it takes to ensure His Word is still being discussed today as we come to the table ... with the elderly, with the babies, with 5th graders, with Him. Glory!
Father, help us recognize you. Open our minds. Bring us to the table.
But the parallel parking strained to trip us up. We had been going to the Department of Public Safety every single day and practicing parallel parking on their poles. A good 30 minute drive from my home. And my girl ... she was parking so good. We'd drive right up to that pole, getting as close to it as possible, lining it up with the far end of the back seat door, and she nailed the parking every time.
But then ... someone moved the poles. What? The poles were our marker, our indicator. How could they be moved? Why would they be moved? They were still there but in a new position. I got a little upset. Because we were counting on those poles. Yeah, I had to eat a little crow. And I did so graciously.
But the lesson learned? We had to find an indicator that was immoveable. And we had to use the right side mirror. Using the immoveable indicator and using the mirror, there was no way to go wrong. She'd back up, using that mirror ... and I'd say, I think you can back up a bit more, but she'd say, "I don't want to risk it, Mom." She didn't want to risk hitting the curb and failing.
In life, we can't count on external, moveable factors to dictate our place in this world/life.
spouse children beauty wealth health
They can all be moved. They can all be lost.
God has shown me that I need to keep my eyes steadily on Him because He's immoveable, and He will always give me an accurate reflection.
We must count on God.
Setting our sites on anything else is a prescription for disappointment, failure.
Setting our sites on any other indicator is a risk we can't afford to take. "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does." —James 1:23-25
Year after year, I hover disappointedly over the stovetop, grasping the silver handle and peering into my non-stick saucepan with bewilderment. What is my problem with Easter eggs? Why do they faithfully crack when I boil them? And why am I always shy of vinegar?
A few days ago, I asked my 15 year old daughter if she wants to color eggs again this year. Just for the fun. I was sort of hoping she'd say no, but with a beautiful smile, she said yes. For old times sake. I think I may have cringed a tiny bit in secret.
Because you wouldn't believe how often I resort to my Betty Crocker cookbook, on simply how to boil the perfect egg. And you wouldn't believe how many eggs I juggle, trying to manage a crate full of unbroken boiled eggs. All for an unbroken Easter egg hunt.
I suppose the water is too hot, and the cracks appear. I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing wrong.
Sometimes I resort to plastic eggs. Mix in a little plastic with the real.
And when I finally give up, I realize that even a slightly cracked egg looks pretty with a little color. The fracture lines take on a darker shade, a different hue, giving beautiful diversity to the egg. And like a fingerprint or snowflake, it's different from all the rest. And add a little sticker to it, and you have something that can be used. Something worth keeping. Something that can be hidden and found.
I used to be ashamed of the fractures in my life. I wanted to hide them, hide them from others. I wanted to appear perfect. Add a little plastic to the real, and maybe no one would notice.
But here's the beautiful deal ... God uses the real.
God refines us intentionally. What good are we if we remain the same? Those fractures are living proof of change and a great source of ministry. They make us unique like a fingerprint or snowflake.
The plastic is artificial. But the real is nourishment.
Do I wish I could erase some of those life's fractures? Oh, you bet I do. But choices are choices; and consequences are consequences; and circumstances are circumstances. But those are the very things God can take and make good. Because He promised He would.
The nail scarred hands and feet prove this—
The broken uses the broken. The fractured uses the fractured.
If we simply give up, come out of hiding, to be found. Remove the plastic. To be real. To be used.
When my grandmother taught me to drive on her old country county road—that old one lane asphalt road ... the road that if you met an oncoming car, as a courteous driver, you had to pull completely off the road to let others pass—well, let's just say that automobiles were different then.
My grandmother had a Buick with a bench seat in front. Three people could ride up front. When she first began teaching me to drive, I sat in her lap. When I got old and tall enough to start really practicing and she sat me in the driver's seat—when my feet could reach the pedals—she sat right next to me, in the middle of the bench. She was the most patient teacher. Because if I made the least wrong move, her foot could be on that brake pedal in a flash.
Well, I've been helping teach my daughter to drive. There is a center console between us. My hands can reach the steering wheel, but let me assure you, if I need the brake, I'm dreadfully out of luck. My brake access is blocked by a console for drinks and change, of all things, and a little thing called an automatic gear shift. And when you have a beginner driver, that's a scary position to be in. I am totally helpless. And the threat of death feels too imminent. Though my baby girl's a good driver, I'll admit that I've done a heap of praying from that passenger seat.
And I've had to help teach her to parallel park. Yes, let the girl who failed parallel parking, in her first car without power steering, teach you. The best uncle in the world was gracious to step in to help advise. Even I can parallel park now. Glory hallelujah!
But some things never change. Walking this life with the Lord in the driver's seat can be daunting. It'll bring you to pray. And as confusing as it might be for some to understand, it's the only way to make it safely to our destination. It's the only way to be accomplished. When you wonder — Lord, how can you take me there? Lord, how can we get there? Lord, why would you take me there? Lord, when will we get there? Lord, are you sure you don't need me to take over? Lord, are you sure you don't need the brake? Lord, are you sure you don't need to speed up? Lord, what are you doing?
We lean back against the trusty car in our trusty jeans and trusty T-shirts and trusty tennis shoes, with folded arms, and try to direct. Because we think we know best. We think we know where we should be going, how we should be going, why we should be going, and exactly when.
And we press our imaginary brake over and over. We wish we could reach that gas pedal. And we impolitely reach for the wheel, because bottom line, we don't trust Him. And He says, "No. I know the way. Because I am the truth and the life, but I'll use your assistance."
It's interesting that we learn at an early age to drive well, but we also need to learn at an early age to ride well.
We must learn to sit back, pray, and enjoy the journey at His pace, at His direction. Roll down the window on this ride of life, breathe in the fresh spring air, and admire the blooming irises.
Making a tent in the living room with my sister and our good friend caused a major disaster. We three elementary grade school girls took a bedding sheet and used everything possible within the movable boundaries of the living room to maintain our tent. The coffee tables and end tables came into play. We even used my mom's ceramic wash bowl. The weight would surely hold the sheet in place.
The tent was wondrous until it shifted, and the wash bowl shattered. In quick and fast recovery mode, we knew what had to be done. In spite of my sister's leg bleeding from the broken pottery, we took Elmer's glue and pieced the vase back together. Surely my mother would never notice. She would never notice the traces of transparent, coupled with traces of white, glue that had seeped and dried through the cracks of the olive green pottery.
Of course, she noticed.
When my girls were tiny, and they'd get injured, I'd scoop them up and immediately rush them outside. There was something about the fresh air that dried their tears. I'd kiss them. They'd see the dog, and we'd playfully run after the dog. Anything to make those baby girls laugh.
I would sit down on the porch swing with the injured one in my lap, and I'd sing over her.
No more tears. A smile had emerged.
We just celebrated my daughter's 15th birthday.
Looking back in remembrance, our lives are like one broken vase all pieced back together. After experiencing the pains of infertility, the uncertainties of adoption, the frightening experience of our baby girl being diagnosed with a kidney tumor at only 13 months old ... we are the broken vase.
The Lord picked this broken child up, rocked me, and sang over me. The Lord—the one who rules brokenness—was the glue that pieced me and continues to piece me and the continually falling pieces back together.
If you've been broken and pieced back together, it's noticeable. The scars show through certain shirts, through certain night clothes, through certain bathing suits ...
The temptation settles in to hide in shame.
And we remind ourselves that those scars prove the miracle that we are. We were near death, and God mended our lives.
Others will notice. Others need to notice. Don't hide the scars. Smile. Because others are broken, too.
"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." —Zephaniah 3:17 What have you experienced? Abandonment, pain, fear? The scars prove the miracle that you are.
My grandmother rested in her grand poster bed sandwiched between my sister and me, in that home up on the hill in Texas, bordered in brick, with the windows raised high, the breeze blowing in, unafraid.
Pink and blue hydrangeas bordered the front of her home, and the cows and baby calves grazed the pasture borders, while her Border Collie, Rex, slept on the porch and my Pa-Paw snored the roof off in the bordering room.
The giggles subsided.
A hush fell over the room.
"But this little pig built his house of brick.
And the big bad wolf came. He knocked on the door and said, 'Little pig, little pig, let me come in.'
'No, no, not by the hair on my chinny chin chin.'
'Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in.'
And the wolf huffed and puffed but could not blow his house down."
The end. Sigh.
I'd pull the patchwork quilt, hand stitched by my grandmother, up under my chin with my tiny ivory hands and smile. She taught me to love stories. She taught me to love Jesus. I went to sleep knowing the one who built their house with brick, on a solid foundation, could rest in peace. No matter what comes.
When the big bad wolf comes ... the one who says, "You don't believe like me, so you die. The one who says, "You don't look like me, so you die." The one who says, "You don't dress like me, so you die." The one who lines up rows of Christians, or Israelites, or anyone different and beheads them, making a statement to the world, "You aren't like me, so you die."
What can we do? We can sadly watch those who built their houses of straw and wood fall prey. Eternal prey. We can watch those choose to place shackles on their feet. Eternal shackles. And we can pray for them.
But how can we withstand? By knowing and trusting that sometimes the standing is in the bending of the knee. And sometimes the standing is in the falling.But most importantly ... 1. Know your enemy.
We can watch the enemy continually try to imitate Jesus, saying, "I am the only way, the only truth, and the only way that you will live." And we can be the wiser.
The only mistake the enemy makes in his masquerade is that he forces his way. And that's how we know the enemy. That's what makes him recognizable.
2. Know your hero. "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"—John 14:6
Jesus, our hero, never forces His way ... He's a gentleman and, since the Garden of Eden, has always given us a choice. Free will. He will not hold a gun or a knife to our heads and force His way upon us.
But how can we build our house of brick?
We choose to believe ...
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."—John 3:16
And we remember ...
"The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."—1 John 4:4
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."—Philippians 1:21
When I was a child, I ran to the front living room window to watch my daddy drive away. The drive away would be forever. I was only about eight years old. I stood at the window, watching him leave, and crying my heart out.
"My daddy, my daddy, I love you."
It's hard to look out a set of glass doors without being reminded of the event.
But the Lord had just replaced my shaky foundation with His solid foundation, and He saw me through. Though it took years, God truly used the situation to reveal to me that "He" was all I needed. He was my true love.
When life seems bad, when life is tough, when life hurts, what will we see? What will we choose to see? We can't often change the view, but we can adjust our view.
Sometimes, we look out the window to only see the bitter cold.
Sometimes, we look out the window to only see rain.
But it's nice to come to some place in time where we can look out the window to only see and rest in God's mercy and grace. The Son.
With all the hype of 50 Shades, I just left the theatre from finally watching American Sniper. I'm totally disturbed and need to be. Those are young men, giving their lives and sacrificing. True story. I sat through the movie, shaking my head the entire time. At the end, my heart was pounding. Everyone left the theatre in silence.
On Christian radio, music for Easter is already playing. I'm so grateful. It places my heart where it needs to be, heart pounding, hand raising, head shaking.
Do you see that Easter basket? As a child, I'd have about 50 shades of colors in my basket on any given Easter.
Do you see that car below? As a child, my fingers were nearly flattened in the car door. I cried my heart out.
Do you see that tree? As a child, I stepped on a piece of glass and there, I cut my foot. I cried.
Do you see that bike? That was my sister's first bike. As a child, I didn't get one when she did, and my heart hurt a tiny bit ... because I wanted one, too. I probably cried.
Do you see that puppy? Her name was Happy. As a child, when my parents divorced, I never saw her again and never got to say goodbye to her. I cried my heart out.
We don't always have a choice of the shades that get added to our life's basket, do we? But many shades ... we do choose.
What will we let slip into the marrow of our souls?
We must be careful what we let slip into the marrow of our souls.
I will be careful what I let slip into the marrow of my soul.
I'm thankful the sacrificial service of our countrymen slipped into the marrow of my soul. I'm on bended knee. More than 50 shades of sacrificial love.
My heart hurts to see The Passion of the Christ ... to see what it must have been like for Jesus to be beaten and hung on the cross. But He did it to save us, to break our chains of bondage. He did it for love. Sacrificial love, more than 50 shades of sacrificial love. On bended knee, I will let that truth slip into the marrow of my soul.
Slipping into the marrow of my soul, God says true love is this—"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." —1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
**With love to Christine Dorman for "50 shades of love."
This winter has been so hard on me. I'm supposing it's from my surgery back in March. Am I still in recovering mode? Surely not. That's almost been a year ago. Maybe it's all part of the aging process. Maybe my blood is thinning. But I will say that after almost a year, my stomach is finally healing. Foods aren't hurting like before. Maybe I'll be able to shed the medicine soon.
Can you see me smiling? This last week has brought beautiful temperatures here in Texas. I could walk outside without being in pain. I could walk the trail again. I could give the sheep more than five quick minutes of my time. And it's the funniest thing because the sheep can hear me inside the house. They hear me cough, and they stand up. They wait like puppy dogs at the fence, in hopes of seeing a glimpse of me (and the rest of the family, too, but I'm guilty of spoiling them a tad bit).
It's a relief to be pain free from the brutal cold. I'm so ready for spring. Are you?
We can also endure cold snaps in our lives. I feel like I've been living through the longest cold snap of my life. And I see spring, and I can't wait to get there and shed the blankets that have wrapped me. I want to be free from the cold.
My dad's birthday is this week, and I didn't send anything to him. It's too late. I'll call him. But I feel like a total failure. He's been going through a definite cold snap. His wife of many years has left him.
A dear friend in Spokane, WA, will be enduring surgery on February 18th. Please pray for Denise W. There is a tumor behind her eye. The doctors think it's benign. But her hair will be shaved, incisions, scars, black eye, blurry vision ... pain is in her future. And I love this lady.
I spent an evening with my beautiful cousin this last week. Her mother, my aunt, is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Yet, she blessed me so. I laughed so hard all evening. I thought I might need a paper sack to breathe into. I needed that. I needed her.
This post probably makes not a lick of sense. I'll share with you that I'm working on a new manuscript, and it's taking all my sense and sensibility. And we just returned from a trip to Disney World. It's probably our last trip there for some time because our girls are nearly grown and we're looking at college and cars. But I want to show you a few things that bring warmth to my life.
We call this the "Yeti" ... it's actually Expedition Everest. It's a fun roller coaster. You go mostly backwards. It's a blast.
This is the Rockin' Roller Coaster. It's my very favorite because it's indoors, in the dark, with rock 'n roll playing, and bright lights flashing. You go through loops--upside down. I feel like I'm flying, like I'm totally free. And it's the most amazing experience. I imagine Heaven giving me a feeling like this.
This is the Tower of Terror. It's not scary, but you drop FLOORS while sitting in an elevator. You come at least five inches off your seat. You go way up and see a shred of light from outside in the park; you go way down. Have mercy! I have never liked the feeling of my stomach being taken, so I laugh and scream through this whole ride. And I'm sure I leave imprints of where my fingers were holding on to dear life. I hope Heaven doesn't give me a feeling like this.
But the feeling of my stomach being taken reminds me of my dad ... he'd fly over the old roads that led to my grandmother's house ... and I'd leave my stomach on each hill. And that makes me smile.
This is one of my favorite restaurants at Disney, The Crystal Palace, because all the Winnie the Pooh characters come around and hug you. I feel like a little child here. And I leave with a Pooh belly.
Here I am at a tiny bookstore in Mobile, Alabama. I look ragged, but the ragged books are beautiful.
This is taken from the Renaissance Hotel in Mobile, Alabama. Out there is the USS Alabama. I love this place. I sleep looking out the window at the water and lights. I watch the ships. I wake up through the night to it. This is where the conclusion of my new work takes place. Makes my heart smile.
And down there, is a beautiful city park. And it's always filled with the homeless. Some are sleeping. They are all hidden away in the bushes. If I hadn't been warned, I'd never know. They are going through definite cold snaps. Heart-breaking.
"Girls loaded into van. All doors securely closed. Arriving at the nursing home and raring to go, we girls piled out of the van, hymnals in hand. Walking inside, we met 2 precious women at the dining table. 'May we sing for you?'
One eagerly smiled. The other voiced, 'I have a headache. No.' "
The Christmas I received my first Bible is very special. It was a Blue leather Bible, with my name engraved in gold—Shelli Ann Fomby. My father presented it to me. I adored it. I still have it.
A good friend highlighted in her Bible, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. I must have been seven or eight. I thought it looked pretty, so I began highlighting. Not special verses ... just verses. Any verse, just to add color. And I used pink, blue, orange, yellow highlighters. I wanted it to be pretty.
I'm not the quickest learner. After a while, I noticed that the highlighter had bled through my Bible's thin, satiny pages. The colors were too bright, too dark. The Scripture it had bled over to on the following page wasn't marked neatly. I had ruined my Bible.
I remember sitting in church by my friend.
"Turn to chapter so and so, verse so and so," the pastor would say.
I'd barely crack open my Bible, so afraid that someone would see how stu ... I won't use the "S" word. But I had been it. Covered with shame and embarrassment, I didn't want anyone to see.
My church gave me a Bible when I accepted Christ. My mother made the sweet cover.
I came to love this Bible. It's funny looking at it now, because it has pictures of teenagers in it. They're all hippies. Bell bottoms.That'll date me. But this Bible was great because at the back, it contained a collection of directions. Spiritual directions.
"When you're feeling lonely, left out: Luke 6." "When you've said something you shouldn't: James 3." "When you're struggling to do right, and can't quite make it: Romans 7-8." "When you want to find out what true love is: 1 Corinthians 13."
And I loved that new Bible because it covered my mistakes. No one could see my mistakes. The new covered the old.
Y'all, I made some costly mistakes as a teen—definitely not the highlight of my life—that bled over into many other areas of my life. I felt so ugly. I thought I had ruined my life. I don't go into detail, I'm a concealer, because I might possibly shatter if I did. But I have no doubt God will have me sharing it one day ... because I know Him and well, because He knows me. And well, because He knows we're at our best when we've been completely shattered, completely broken.
As I grew closer to God, I realized that I hadn't ruined my life.
I also realized that I hadn't ruined my Bible. God's Word is still there. Jesus' words in red are still there. It's just different.
Areas of my life had simply been highlighted, turned more colorful, changed ... for the sole purpose of ministry. It's a testimony.
No, sin is not good. But God is. And He delivers Romans 8:28, just as He promises.
The Bible I use today, why, it's nearly thirty years old.
When someone sits near me, I shamefully turn the Bible over to hide the front cover. My name wasn't engraved properly. And I don't want people to think I spell my name with a "y" instead of an "i." They'll think they've been spelling my name wrong, all along.
But that Bible is so torn up, y'all. Pages are worn. Maps falling out. And I wouldn't have it any other way. It's a testimony of the tearing of my life, the falling apart, the rebuilding, the begging, the clinging, the seeking, the tears, the laughter. All my Bibles boast it. It's not vanity, it's sentimentality.
How I ruined my life and my Bible led me to the highlight of my life—this amazing journey with God. And He bleeds over into every area of life, making me new.
And I have to ask—how on earth could I have it any other way?
"Did you get Rolos?" Asked He who will not be named.
"Oh, I don't want the girls to eat junk. So I better be good."
From that day on, everywhere I looked, it seemed, there was a package of Rolos.
In my toothpaste drawer.
In my nightstand drawer.
There on the window ledge, behind my choice book of the week.
After having already unraveled and inhaled at least two packages singlehandedly, I didn't quite long for a Rolo fix.
"Are you getting filled up on Rolos?" Asked He who will not be named.
"Yeah, a bit. I don't think I'll need anymore for a bit." I chuckled.
"Oh, man. I bought a whole case."
A giving heart sees a need and ensures there is plenty. To fill the need up so full, the need no longer exists.
I had the honor of speaking to the most adorable, beautiful group of women this week. They were older than me and had been through much harder times than me. Being the youngest in the room, I'll admit, I didn't have much to give. What could I offer?
But I felt the Lord say to my heart—
You can offer encouragement. And there birthed my first words to them. "I'm simply here to encourage you on this journey."
And from their precious comments ... loss of husband, a spouse dying of cancer, one dealing with surgery after surgery and pain ... I knew God placed me there for that very reason.
When we realize another's need, it's a wise one to unravel what we have and pass it along. Even if we don't have much. Share our hearts and lives with others—lessons, love, language, longings—whatever we've been given from God.
It's a challenge.
Will we unravel lessons, love, language, longings and allow them to roll over to a friend? To one in need?
And pass them along until the need is filled and overflowing?