Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Dad 2011Treasures come in many forms, sometimes quite unexpected. But an old pack of cigarettes?

My father died a couple of months ago, and so I am spending time at his house sorting papers and cleaning out cupboards and drawers, in preparation for an estate sale. The process brings back many memories, as I unearth old photo albums, wall hangings I remember from childhood, and other memorabilia. It can be a bittersweet time.

Yesterday was another day of interesting finds as I began going through his desk. An envelope containing half a dozen two dollar bills. Hmm. Wonder what those are worth today? A drawer full of those address labels that charities send out, hoping you will donate. If Dad had lived another hundred years, he couldn’t have used all of the labels he had there.Galatians 5:1

Then I pulled out something different. An old pack of cigarettes that looked like someone had started to open it and then stopped. Odd. My dad used to smoke. He had tried many times to quit, but never quite succeeded. Until my mother died of lung cancer. Actually it was the kind of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure, rather than cigarettes, but there was some speculation that secondhand smoke could have played a part. I never saw my father with a cigarette after that.

Now here was this old, yellowed pack of cigarettes. But there was something different about this package. Securely taped to both sides of the pack were Bible verses. On one side: “Galatians 5:7: For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.” And on the other side: “John 8:32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:32This must have been the last pack of cigarettes my dad ever purchased. I could imagine him picking it up when he felt the urge to smoke, reading the verses, and then placing it back in the desk, gaining strength to resist one more time. How telling of my dad’s character that when he became determined to quit, he turned not to hypnosis or a patch, but to God. And he found what he needed to win the battle.

Treasures come in many forms, but I never expected to find one in an old pack of cigarettes.

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Late winter, and deciduous trees stand naked against the sky. In a month or so, buds will open and green leaves reach for the clouds. Pink and white blossoms will burst open on some of those trees, brightening rainy spring days. But now they stand stripped of decoration, bare branches spreading out.

With leaves gone, the form of the tree beneath can be seen. Some trees are pleasingly symmetrical with shapely limbs. My photographer’s eye relishes the beauty of their design. Others show ragged edges and broken branches; they have not weathered the storms as well. Each has a story to tell.

Life’s storms batter me, too. Most of the time I can hide my wounds under the leaves of activity, the blossoms of a smile. Nobody sees my pain, and I don’t see the hurts of those around me. We go about our lives with the breeze gently ruffling our days, appearing happy and fulfilled to anyone who glances our way.

But sometimes life strips away our defenses. A job is lost, a spouse dies, cancer strikes. We can no longer keep up the façade that all is well. Instead we find our innermost self exposed for all to see, our lives naked against the sky. When that happens, what pattern will I reveal? Will it be a broken form with stubby branches, or will people be inspired by the beauty that is within?

Lord, may my roots always be in You, so that my branches may grow strong.

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Beach Photos

As I walk down the beach, the roar of the ocean fills my ears, and its immenseness staggers my mind. I try to capture its grandeur with my camera, but no photograph can hold the vastness of the sea. So I concentrate on smaller chunks of beauty—a rock formation out in the water, gulls resting on the shore, piles of sea foam, a broken shell nestled in the sand. These tiny aspects of the ocean are merely small windows into something I can’t fully understand. But as I look at them later, they remind me of the wonder that is the sea.

Thus it is with God. When I try to grasp the idea of a being who created the entire universe and still cares about little me, my mind freezes up. It’s too much for me to comprehend. So I focus on the smaller pictures—lives changed by faith, experiences that are more than coincidence, a peace beyond understanding that comes in time of need. My finite mind can never grasp the totality of God, but perhaps it is enough to catch glimpses of glory and hold fast to His little finger.

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