It was time for bed and the little boy had brushed his teeth and put on his pajamas. He settled into his comfy bed and looked up at his grandmother. For as long as he could remember, when he stayed overnight at her house, she insisted that he say a night-time prayer at bedtime.
“Why do I need to say a prayer, Nana?” he asked.
“Because it’s a good way to end your day and let God know how thankful you are for all the gifts He gives to you” she said. “It never hurts to ask Him to protect you through the night while you are sleeping.”
The little boy thought for a minute and then asked her what she meant by gifts. He had not received any special packages that day.
Nana told him, “Every day brings special things to you, like a bright sunny day so you can play outside or ride your bike. Or having a special friend visit who likes to play video games with you. How about how happy our doggie was to see you today when she jumped up and licked your face? That made you giggle. Sometimes our most special gifts never come in a fancy box but are there around us every day.”
His grandmother tucked the bed covers around him, and then made sure his motorcycle night light was turned on. She knew he did not like to wake up in the night in the dark.
“Nana, does God hear me when I pray? How come when I ask him sometimes for things, I don’t get them?” He had a puzzled look on his face. He had asked God for a new action figure and was still waiting for God to give it to him.
His grandmother chuckled softly. “Sometimes God gives you what you need, not what you want.”
The little boy shook his head and said he didn’t understand what she meant. “I really need that action figure, Nana!”
It is so hard to explain some things to a child to help them comprehend the difference between “need” and “want” when it comes to asking God for things. Of course, after all the years she had lived, Nana knew how important it was to ask for simple needs – like health, love, comfort when sad – even sunny days filled with peace and laughter.
“You know,” she told the little boy, “I think God just smiles when we ask for things like new toys, or a new car, and thinks to Himself that those are things we should buy for ourselves. But I think it makes His heart happy and full of joy when we ask for His help to feel better, be happier, or have a good day. Sometimes we have a hard time trying to do those things for ourselves. We need Him to remind us those are special gifts that He wants to give to us.”
The little boy lay quietly in his bed for a bit. Nana thought that he had fallen asleep. She tiptoed to the bedroom door and was ready to walk out when she heard his tiny voice saying, “Thank you, God, for my family and all of my friends. Please keep us safe through the night. And God, do you think you could help me find a way to earn some money so I can buy the action figure myself? Amen.”
Matthew 18: 1-7 asks the question, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus answered by calling a child to come to Him and said, “I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child. And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me. If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea.”
In verse 10 of Matthew 18, Jesus tells his disciples, “See that you don’t despise any of these little ones. Their angels in heaven, I tell you, are always in the presence of my Father in heaven.”
In Matthew 19: 13-15, we learn that people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them, but the disciples scolded the people. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” He placed his hands on them and then went away.
How wonderful to know that Jesus valued little children so very much. They were never in His way and were loved so very much by Him. Sometimes we tend to push children aside instead of realizing what a special joy they can bring to our lives and should be treasured for the gift that they are. They stay little only such a short time but when they are young and curious, especially when it comes to learning about God, the questions they ask brings new opportunity for each of us to bear witness to them. How can they learn if we don’t take the time to teach them what they need to know about their heavenly Father?
Recent changes in the life of my youngest grandson has made him want to know more about God and why it is so important to worship Him. He is in need of something to believe in, to count on, and someone to be there to listen whenever he needs to talk about how he is feeling.
I, as his doting grandmother, taught him from an early age to say the night time prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep….”. We always finished by asking God to bless family and friends. Sometimes he would say it all so quickly, that I would think it was not having quite the effect that I wanted it to mean to him. But I now realize that those times laid a foundation for him that has become very important to him. No matter where he is, he never fails to pray to God as he is going to bed, and has even begun to say prayers other times of the day when he is troubled about his life.
What a blessing God is becoming in his young life, especially at a time when things have been so difficult for him. He knows that I will always be there to guide him and help him build his faith for as long as I am able, and I am so grateful that he is in my life as well. When I taught Sunday School, I was given the following, “A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove….but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child. Thank you, God, for little children.
PRAY WITH ME: Father, help us to remember how it felt to be a very young child of yours. Let us find new joy in the presence of children and their innocence. Help each of us to be patient with them and ready to answer any of their questions about why they are so important to You. Let us help them grow in faith and be thankful that they are your children. AMEN.
The Night of the Blue Dress
That day so long ago that I rushed home from school to ask my mother for the blue dress. I knew that I would sell my brothers and sisters to the Russians just to own it. There was going to be a special program at church Saturday night, and Dan the Dreamboat was taking me. I wanted to look as beautiful on the outside as I felt on the inside when he looked at me. I was convinced I needed that special dress to bring out how beautiful the real me was.
I talked to my mother. “I won’t collect my allowance for the next year. I’ll scrub floors and do dishes for six months without complaining. I’ll make all of the beds.”
My mother looked worried.. “Couldn’t you get a baby sitting job for tonight or tomorrow night?” she asked. “We can’t afford a new dress just now.’
I ran to my bedroom and threw myself on the bed. It was too late to get a baby sitting job. I knew that nice, decent, mature teenage girls shouldn’t feel soppingly sorry for themselves, but I couldn’t help it. I wanted that blue dress so badly that I could feel its soft blue folds gliding over my hips and the spidery white lace prickling my neck and wrists.
The next night after school, I walked into my bedroom and there, spread out on the bed, was THE BLUE dress. It was a soft blue with a contrasting deeper navy skirt and a wide white collar and white cuffs that were so stylish then.
I ran out to the kitchen and hugged my Mom. “I don’t know how you did it, but thank you – a million times! On Saturday afternoon I began getting ready, and by the time evening came there was a line of six brothers and sisters outside the bathroom door, pacing the floor and demanding to be let in. I didn’t care. I was having a long, leisurely soak, polishing my nails, and curling my hair. After all, Dan was coming at 7 and it was 5:30 already. Instant beauty takes time!
I had to take extra pains with my beauty routine because Dan’s sister Gail and her date were coming with us, and she was known in our gang as a very sharp dresser. Finally, my overhaul was finished, and I swept into the living room. Dad was reading the paper and Mom was watching T.V. “How do I look?” I asked. I knew the answer, but I wanted proof.
“You look beautiful,” my Dad said.
“You look very nice,” Mom said. Her eyes lingered on my dress and I thought I saw a frown pucker her forehead.
The doorbell rang, and like a princess I eased it open, the cheers of my invisible subjects ringing in my ears. Dan stared at me with a dazzled look in his eyes. Behind him were Gail and her date. I invited them inside.
“That’s a pretty dress,” Dan said.
“I used to like it,” Gail said.
“What do you mean?” I asked her.
“I mean that I put that dress and lots of other things in the church “Clothes Tree.” You know, where everyone puts clothes that they don’t need anymore and the church gives them away or sells them cheap.”
My mind groped for someone to blame. I hated Gail. I hated Dan because I wanted to look beautiful for him, but most of all I hated my Mom. How could she buy a dress from the church “Clothes Tree,” for me, especially this particular dress?
Gail’s smirk told me she’d never forget that my dress had been her dress. Then Mom hurried up to me. She thrust a small, beaded purse in my hands that had belonged to my grandmother. “Here, you forgot your purse,” she said.
I gulped. This was her most prized purse; the one she saved for special occasions. The bitter words and the resentment melted away. “Thanks for everything, Mom,” I said, managing a wobbly smile.
I held my head high, swept over to Dan, and put my arm through his. “Let’s go,” I said, as my imaginary subjects gave me a standing ovation and God spoke to me about real beauty.
Winter Galoshes with Silver Latches
When I was seven, the pieces of my life fitted together in jigsaw precision. I’d ask God for what I need, I’d receive it, and I’d live happily ever after. So it seemed logical to me that when I fell madly in love with my brother Tom’s shiny, black galoshes and asked God to let me wear them, I knew that He would answer my prayer.
These special galoshes reached Tom’s knees, so I was positive that they would extend at least as far as my hips. I especially loved their intricate silver latches that he to be snapped together just right or the galoshes would flop around on my feet like a fish did on my fishing pole when I fished with Tom.
Every chance I got I practiced walking in Tom’s galoshes. He didn’t notice when I snaked them from his closet, because it was summer and he was always out playing baseball. It was as easy as sticking out my tongue at the ump to sneak the galoshes down to the basement while Mom was vacuuming and Tom pitching. In the basement, I practiced clumping back and forth and turning the corner by the clothes chute.
By the time winter arrived, I could walk as gracefully in those galoshes as a fashion model on high heels. They were my seven-league boots, my entry into a world of imagination and dreams that I’d never before explored. One day I imagined I was a princes fleeing a fire-breathing dragon in my magic boots. The next day, my fairy godmother granted me ten wishes as soon as I pulled on the galoshes.
One day I came up with the idea that changed my world. Since I loved those galoshes so much, I decided to wear them to school. I knew that the other kids would crowd around me making envious noises and rush home as soon as possible to badger their mothers into buying them a pair. My first illegal act was sneaking the galoshes from Tom’s closet. My conscience prodded me, because Mom preached about not taking things that didn’t belong to me, and I knew that God surely didn’t want me to steal Tom’s galoshes. Eventually I decided that confession could come after my popularity with my peers. Then Mom and Tom would be certain to forgive me.
I hid the galoshes under my bed and prayed for the first snow. It finally came one day in the middle of December. As I pressed my nose against the frosty window pane, I knew that this would be happiest day of my life. Breakfast went by in a blur. While Mom served Tom pancakes in the kitchen, I stashed the galoshes under my coat.
Si x blocks safely away from the house, I slipped on the galoshes and stood admiring them for a few minutes. Everything was going according to plan – another jigsaw piece fitted. As I hurried to school, the galoshes made clump, clumping sounds and the silver latches jingled. I skipped faster, anticipating the compliments I would collect.
Janie Graham spotted me first. She doubled over laughing and her voice sounded high enough to shatter crystal in the frosty air. It shattered my heart. “Look what she’s got on!” Janie hooted.
Suddenly I hated those ugly black galoshes. I made up a story about Mom forcing me to wear Tom’s galoshes because she had given my boots away to a starving orphan. Eventually the galoshes incident blew over, replaced my fresher scandals.
Every year when winter blusters into town, I don’t yearn for fancy modern boots. In my secret heart of hearts, I still love black galoshes with silver latches. Whenever I see a pair, I finger those silver latches and smile.
God is still teaching me the lessons of the galoshes with the silver latches. These lessons include the fact that silver latches tarnish but loving care can polish them to a lustrous sheen and the lesson that different latches can together close the same pair of galoshes. God is still teaching me that softly falling snow signifies rest and hope and that He transforms the bitter cold and depths of winter despair into daffodil spring.
God and Big Red
Often I flip the family album page to the picture of Big Red, the red Labrador retriever who nudged my daughter and I further along on the path to acceptance and healing. I smile and pull the pair of shredded slippers that he left me out of the closet and hug them to my heart. God doesn’t always work through slippers and a red Labrador retriever, but He did in our case.
Like his red and green Christmas ball, Big Red bounced into my daughter’s life and mine when a very important person refused to reenter it. Her father had deposited us as unnecessary cargo in a small town in Washington State and driven off to pursue his dreams. We boarded a train to a civilized city where I could get a job and life creaked forward. I missed him and she did too. Even though she had just passed her second birthday she would ask, “Where’s daddy? When is he coming back?”
“Soon, I hope,” I would say, holding her close and kissing her hair.
We both missed our dog that was not a red retriever, but a brown spotted beagle that my husband had named Dawg. Hoping that my husband would come for us and desperately trying to hold on to the connection, I kept in touch with his mother who lived not too far away from us. Through her he knew where we were, but he just didn’t come for us.
God sent Big Red to us instead. Big Red wasn’t the name on his papers, but we called him that because of his size and the immensity of his spirit. He came from a much more distinguished pedigree than we did, but his generosity of spirit did not allow him to act the part of a snob for even a bark or two. Instead, he loved everyone and even when people didn’t love him back he loved them anyway. Big Red’s love can be compared favorably with God’s love.
Although Big Red had an owner who took care of his physical needs and loved him, he knew that he owned the world and belonged to everyone, His owner loaned him for many weekends to a couple who also substituted as grandparents for my daughter. We visited them often and soon Big Red had scampered his way into our hearts as well. He admired the bedroom slippers that I had gotten for Christmas and one day when I wasn’t guarding them he snatched them, flipped them in the air and chewed off the toes. Big Red went camping with my daughter and her substitute grandparents and their grandchildren and he didn’t play favorites. At the lake he splashed everyone equally and he deposited sticks to throw in everyone’s lap regardless of gender, age, or willingness to throw them. Yet, he had time for quiet moments and secret hugs when my heart was too full of hurt to be with other people.
When Big Red developed arthritis and bone trouble as the veterinarian told us that dogs of his pedigree often did, I dreaded what I knew would eventually happen to him. “God always takes the people and things I love,” I fumed to myself in self pity and despair. I worried about my daughter as well. She had had so much loss in her life. How would she take it when Big Red died or had to be put to sleep?
I felt like we were living on the edge of a cliff with Big Red standing guard over us. When he toppled over the edge, we would too. One day when he whimpered in pain I hugged him and got the slippers he loved so much out of the closet. I dangled them in front of his nose and whispered, “I wish you didn’t have to suffer. You are such a wonderful friend.”
I looked into Big Red’s soft brown eyes and I didn’t see fear or resentment or even pain. I saw love and trust and even a playful gleam when he saw the slippers. I knew that my hand on his head gave Big Red hope. I knew that God’s hand on my life and my daughter’s would hold us steady. It has. When this certainty fades with time and dreams that don’t come true – my husband never returned- I pull out the slippers as Big Red’s gentle reminder to me.
Dear God, When Will I be An Adult?
There is so much child left in me that sometimes I feel like I’m masquerading as an adult.
Some days are so discouraging that I could wring the angst and depression from them like the sopping wet dishtowel that I swipe over my kitchen counters. When I was a child I snapped open my eyes, somersaulted out of bed and hugged each day as hard as I could. When bad things happened, I would cry as quickly as a summer thunderstorm and slide down the rainbows that always appeared afterward. Now that I am an adult, I consider, cry, calculate, and reconsider. Isn’t that is what adulthood is all about- responsibility, reconsidering and reality?
Now that I am an adult, I have a laundry list litany of the reality and responsibility of being adult. The adult me works, raises my family, seeks, finds, and enjoys meaningful activities. Now that I’m an adult, I spend my days striving to be positive, productive, and proactive. Some days I want to pull the covers over my head and be a cave troll all day. Some days I just want to figuratively and literally play the flute. Some days I just want to wallow in bouquets of accomplishment and adulation and not have to distribute and dispose of them. Other days, the good things of life crowd around me and I feel mature, responsible, and able to hurdle lightning bolts.
Some days I feel adult enough to play the “what if” game. What if the world were really a good place for everyone, not just a select few? Isn’t peering out of the tunnels of ourselves and our pocketbooks and wanting good things for others part of adulthood? What if I could turn down the volume of my emotions enough to hear the still, small voice of others and hear Your still, small voice? When I was a child, I heard the grass growing. Dandelion seeds whispered stories of world travel to me, and chipmunks told funny jokes every morning at the bird feeder.
Now that I am an adult, the voices I usually hear implore me to water or feed them or tell me the latest atrocities that the neighborhood skunks have committed. Is being an adult hearing different stories from the small voices? Should my adult hearing be more selective through necessity or more expansive through understanding? Should I repress the acute hearing of my childhood?
Every adult has to blaze a careful trail through a forest of relationships and feelings. When I was child I wore my feelings wrapped around me like the red plaid cape that I loved so much I wore it to school when the temperature dipped below 80 degrees. Almost every day I used my full repertoire of emotions and then tucked them away safely behind “Now I lay me down to sleep,” ready for the next day. Now, I should be a self controlled, non-dramatic adult. Every day, I snap the adult facade into place, but people, places, and things chip away at it like rain, sometimes acid rain, and I seep through. Often, after watching a tie-dye sunset on the beach or hearing an “I love you, mom” my uncontrolled emotions burst through!
“Don’t be so sensitive,” my mother often admonished me when I was a child. I couldn’t help it, because the world teemed with sensitivity. The old couple next door helping each other down the stairs, the boy down the block with the beautiful brown eyes, my best friend three houses down and our weekly sleepovers- these were sensitivities. Other sensitivities were not so good. The smell of my grandfather’s many beers, my grandmother’s crying, my girlfriend the next street over with a dark secret-these, too, were sensitivities. Now that I am an adult, I try not to be “so sensitive,” but sometimes events poke and prick that sensitivity. The murder of a child, the murder of anyone, hunger, disease, people suffering, global warming, indifference to others- the list of sensitivities is as circular as the world. Should adults heed more selective sensitivities, but still heed them?
There is so much child left in me that sometimes I feel like I’m masquerading as an adult. Thank You for adulthood, but I don’t ever want to grow up enough to lose my trust, wonder, and worship of You and the world filled with childhood and adult opportunities that You have given us.
by Beverly Newbold
A few years ago, my neighbor received a large orange cat from a friend who thought the cat would be a good companion for him. Unfortunately, the friend did not take into consideration that a cranky black and white dog named Connie lived with him, and thought cats were doggie treats!
Try as my neighbor might to win over the cat, the feline who looked like the star of the cat food commercials refused to stay at his house. Every morning, the cat would be laying on my deck, sunning himself and acting as though he belonged there.
If you have ever had a cat of your own, you know that cats have a very fickle nature and usually choose to have one owner. It appeared that the cat had chosen me, but I could never pet him! When I tried, he would move to another area on the deck.
My neighbor complained that the cat was always at my house and said I must be feeding him, which I denied. My neighbor said, “Well it looks like you’ve got a new buddy!”, and that became the cat’s name.
Eventually I won Buddy over and he moved indoors with me. No one else could pet him. He tripped over his four legs just getting away from someone’s outstretched hand.
Buddy and I spend a lot of time together, and every night he curls up on the bed at my feet. Each morning I feed him and let him outside. He never goes too far. He likes to come inside in the afternoon for a nice, long nap. Later he will eat his supper and beg to go back outside for a bit. As the day is fading, Buddy is waiting to come back inside to go to bed. His routine does not change much unless there is a thunderstorm and lightning, or fireworks! Then he hides under the bed and refuses to come out. Maybe Boomer would have been a good name for him!
A week ago, Buddy went outside after his breakfast and he never came back – not for his afternoon nap, his supper, bedtime. At first I thought he was just roaming more than usual but then, people around us started setting off fireworks. That should have brought him home in a flash. No Buddy!
The next morning and all that day, I searched for him. Bedtime came and I was quite worried about him. It was unlike him to be gone so many hours. The next morning arrived and Buddy had still not returned. I was certain something had happened to him. Maybe a critter out back had tested him and he had lost the battle.
I looked around for him, calling his name over and over. Finally I gave up and decided that a little prayer might be helpful. So I asked God to help Buddy find his way home if he could. A short time later, I glanced out the patio door, and there stood Buddy, looking quite bedraggled and limping on his left front leg. But he was home!
I gathered Buddy up in my arms and hugged him, and told him how much I loved him while he meowed back at me letting me know he was glad to be home. And I thanked God for listening.
Jesus tells a story of a man who owned one hundred sheep and one of them became lost. The man left his flock to go out and search for that one sheep. When he found it, he rejoiced and celebrated. Jesus wants us to know one lost soul found is a joy to celebrate. We are all like the lost sheep if we do not know the Lord who loves us so, and wants us to find our way home to Him. When we are lost, we wander aimlessly and without direction. Only God can show us the true way home.
PRAY WITH ME:
Lord, when I am lost and struggling, help me remember that You are with me, waiting with outstretched arms to welcome me home. I can always find my way when I put my faith and trust in You, and Your loving Son, Jesus. AMEN.