Category Archives: Family

HOW OLD ARE YOU?

Lately my five-year-old grandson has become fascinated with numbers in general, and with my age specifically.

“How old are you, grandma?” begins most of our conversations. He knows the answer; he just thinks it’s amusing to keep asking. He has made the solemn observation that I’m pretty much the oldest person he knows.

The questions are getting more complicated. “How many years until you’re a hundred?” Together, we figure it out. The practical implications of me reaching that level of ancientness dawned on him a couple weeks ago. “What happens if you get to a hundred?” In his mind this is a very remote possibility, but we better talk about it.

“Then it’ll be your job to throw me a big party,” I told him. “I want a parade with a marching band and dancing elephants.” He’ll be well into adulthood by then, with children of his own who will regard him as impossibly old. I hope I’m around to see that.

Whether I’m still here for the dancing elephants or not, I’ve always operated under the assumption that my life will go on for a good long time to come. I’d say we all think that about ourselves. But my church congregation has experienced several unexpected deaths in the last few months, and the assumption of living to a ripe and healthy old age has been revealed for what it is – an admirable goal with no guarantees. It’s not wrong to aim for a long and healthy life, hopefully with body and intellect both functioning well. Life is a gift, and we’re expected to take care of it. But we are reminded that healthy people die, young people die, and that life and death are unpredictable.

We are shaken and grief stricken. Our God understands this and grieves with us. One of the most poignant moments in the life of Jesus is when he stands at the tomb of Lazarus and weeps. He experiences and sympathizes with the pain of losing a dearly loved family member and friend. Sin has unleashed the unnaturalness of death, and it’s heartbreaking.

Maybe “How old are you?” is the wrong question. A better question is “How Christlike are you?” Or “How full of faith are you?” Or “How committed to advancing God’s kingdom are you?” The number signifying your age doesn’t matter, only what you do with the days and weeks and years that are given to you by the sovereign God who holds life and death in his hands. The number is his business; the quality of joy and obedience is our business.

Dear grandson, your youth is a gift to me. I love your bright spirit, your endless (exhausting) curiosity, the way you skip along ahead of me when we walk at the lake. You’re in love with the world, filled with joy.

Guess what? I want to be like you, here and now, and for the rest of my life. However long that turns out to be.

Oh God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
Psalm 63:1-5

A GOOD FATHER

I grew up in a little Baptist church in North Dakota, where we faithfully had Communion, or the Lord’s Supper as we called it, once a month. Just like now. It must be a Baptist thing.

On communion Sundays, when the service was over and the grownups were standing around talking, we kids who were too young to participate in Communion would descend on the table holding the leftover elements. We helped ourselves to the soft, pillowy cubes of white bread, and tiny glasses of grape juice. It was lunch time and we were hungry.

Our parents treated this behavior with a mixture of slight discomfort and benevolent shrugging. On one hand, it seemed a bit scandalous. On the other hand, what was going to happen to the leftovers anyway?

I was reminded of this while reading the story of Jesus’ disciples walking through the grain fields on the Sabbath. They were hungry, Matthew says, and began eating the heads of grain. The Pharisees were outraged at this unlawful behavior. True, you weren’t supposed to spend the Sabbath day harvesting. You were supposed to plan ahead. But neither were you required to go hungry.

Unruffled, Jesus asks them if they know the Old Testament story of David and his friends entering the house of God, on the run and hungry, and eating the consecrated bread. Of course they did; they were Pharisees after all. They knew the Torah inside out. Mark tells us that Jesus defends the disciples by saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

In other words, resting on the Sabbath was for the benefit of God’s people, not the other way around. Far from being a burden, resting one day out of seven was a great mercy for people who had previously been slaves in Egypt, making bricks seven days a week. The motivation behind the Sabbath was to have a day off to worship and rest, not to be fearful that meeting a legitimate need like hunger would incur God’s wrath.

This tells me that God is a very good father. He sees our needs and takes care of us. Maybe you trip over the image of God as a father because you didn’t have a good human father. The thought of God delighting in you and defending you may not be on your radar. I’m so glad the gospel writers included this incident in their portraits of Jesus. It’s important to know that the God who created us is paying attention to our needs, just as a loving human parent wants to make sure his child has a water bottle to get her through the baseball game, or a doctor and medicine when he’s sick. God is delighted to care for his children.

These lyrics from “Big House” by Audio Adrenaline express this idea perfectly:

Come and go with me
to my Father’s house.
Come and go with me
to my Father’s house.
It’s a big big house
With lots and lots of rooms.
A big big table
With lots and lots of food.
A big big yard
Where we can play football.
A big big house
Is my Father’s house.


I love this, and I don’t even play football. Here is God, feeding his kids, letting them run around in the yard, and watching the whole thing with great love and affection. I think that when my friends and I ate the bread and drank the juice after church, God was smiling at us.

Because he’s a really good father and he delights in his kids.

LOST

Covid19 has caused tons of trouble, and a few weeks ago it made me lose my phone. Who knew a virus could be this nefarious? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

To be honest, I lose my phone an average of three times a week. Fortunately, I lose it in my house, so I know the search parameters. Even so, I can waste a good twenty minutes retracing my steps, and often find it in weird and obscure places. On top of the bookcase in the downstairs bedroom? I have no memory of being in this room. And why would I stick my phone up there anyway? Often my missing phone is discovered under a pile of magazines and books that seem to litter the family room. Or stuck between the couch cushions.

When my husband is at home, it’s simple. I use his phone to call my phone, holding it like a Geiger Counter as I search the house. When he’s out of the house, I’m sunk. Before we got rid of the landline, I’d use it to call myself. No more. I’ve considered reinstating the land line just to give myself more options, even though you can also lose a cordless phone. The original, corded phones were the best. You always knew where your phone was, right there on the wall, and it had a leash to keep you from wandering too far. Some days I just want to go back.

Why don’t I simply keep my phone in my pocket? There are three problems with this: 1) some of my clothes don’t have pockets; 2) ladies’ pockets are pretty small; 3) On the occasions I do use a back pocket, I fear my phone will take a dive into an unpleasant receptacle in the powder room.

The lost phone saga kicked up a notch when I was out shopping a few weeks ago. I got into my car to drive home, and realized my phone was missing. Full on panic engulfed me. I instinctively decided to call my husband for help and advice, then realized I couldn’t call him because I’d lost my phone.

After dashing into the two stores I’d just left, retracing my steps, asking if a lost phone had been turned in, and coming up empty, I drove to my husband’s office. He immediately began calling my phone, over and over. He kept calling it while we dashed home to inhale our lunch, literally. It took five minutes. We then drove to store #1 and perused the parking lot.

Where did you park, my husband wanted to know. You mean the exact spot, I asked, incredulous. Yes, that was what he meant, but I could only give the general area, as in here, in this parking lot. I waved my arms expansively to emphasize my point. He prowled around, dialing. No phone rang from the pavement. We went into the store, and I headed in the direction where I’d last been. As I got deeper into the store, I heard a phone, my phone, like a child calling for its mother. I followed the cry and found it exactly where I’d left it, a dark phone propped up on a shelf of folded dark sweaters, nearly invisible.

Here’s where I get to blame Covid19. In this store the dressing rooms are closed. Because apparently the virus will infect me if I use the dressing room, but not while I’m walking around the store touching the merchandise, picking things up and putting them back. In addition, the mirrors that used to be attached to the pillars in various places around the store have been removed. Even if you only want to try on outerwear, as I was doing, there’s no way to see how it looks on you. So I had very cleverly opened the camera app on my phone, turned it to selfie mode, propped it up on the sweater display and used it as a tiny mirror while I tried on jackets (which didn’t work very well; life-size me didn’t get any helpful information from tiny me) and then went merrily on my way.

The relief at recovering my phone was immense, followed by a sad realization of how dependent I am on it. My life stopped when I couldn’t find it, and bleakness ensued when I pondered the idea of starting a relationship with a new phone. But what do I expect when I carry with me a tiny machine that is phone, camera, calculator, calendar, metronome, dictionary, stopwatch, alarm and timer? Not to mention portal to email and the internet. What have I done to myself?

This is a deep philosophical question that deserves serious consideration. But there’s no time for that now, because once again I have misplaced my phone. I know it’s here somewhere…