The Sacrifice of a Father


This weekend we pause to pay tribute to our fathers. We remember them through the lens of our childhood and all the years after that. The lens may color those memories in all shades and colors because none of our dads were perfect. They were first of all men, born with a blend of each of their parents, seasoned with the family life they experienced, and mixed with their own skills, gifts, personalities, and interests.


Depending on how those things were stirred and combined throughout their lifetime, they became the dad we knew. We may have idealized them or berated them for the ways they disappointed us, wounded us, or abandoned us. We may never have even known them except through the stories and eyes of someone else.


Nevertheless, they became one who influenced our own selves and who we are today, whether good, bad, or somewhere in between.


My own father was born as the youngest of six children, one of only two boys. His older brother could have been his father since he was nineteen years older than he. In many ways, he became a model for my dad because his dad, my grandfather, died when my dad was only five years old. He was so young that he didn’t have any real memories of his dad.



He grew up on the farm where the family lived with a keen awareness of how hard his older brother, four older sisters, and mother had to work. He grew up with those values and that kind of work ethic. He also grew up with a considerable appetite for learning and education as well as a commitment to the Lord.


At age thirteen, something happened that changed the direction of his life forever. His older brother fell from the barn roof one day and was killed. With this tragedy came two very difficult things. My dad was needed at home to step into the role of his older brother to handle the farm and he would need to leave school and his love of formal education behind.


Since the farm he grew up on (as did I) was adjacent to farms of his uncles, they stepped in to help mentor him in the things he needed to learn for the survival of the farm and his family. His sharp mind and courageous heart soon became a hallmark of his character. Not only did his own family and extended family respect him, everyone in the community did as well.


His social life centered around his church and “the Grange”. I have more than a few memories of the stories he told about them and how he met my mother and postponed marriage until he could stop using his beloved team of horses to help him farm and purchase a tractor.


Even though loss had marked his life early, he never showed anger or embitterment. His gentle voice and quiet ways gave glimpses of the heart shaped by the Lord’s love for him who became the only father he would ever really know.


That heavenly Father would stand with him through the death of his first child a day after his birth. He would be there when his second son was born with several handicaps and disabilities. He would walk with him through job loss and the shame that clung to him as a result of never being able to finish high school.


Yet all these things he suffered forged his character and values that went deep into the soil worked up and fertilized by the Word he read daily. They created the unwavering commitment for me to be educated and go to college even when there was no evidence of the financial provision to do so.



His life was marked by his focus on his faith. His legacy is remembered as one of great integrity and considerable faith.


He was not a perfect man, but the One whom he trusted early in life paved the way for this fatherless boy. This One understood more than any of us can comprehend the meaning of the word “sacrifice”.


This Father’s Day I will remember his humor, the stories of an era long gone, the beauty of his singing voice as I stood beside him in church, and how he loved my mother. I will also remember the shape and feel of his hand when I held it and sought to memorize it as he lay dying more than twenty years ago.



It has been said that a true hero cannot be measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.


The strength of my father’s heart grew throughout his lifetime as the Lord he loved continued to put more and more of Himself into him. That will also always remind me of the sacrifice of the Father who is perfect and walks with and strengthens my own heart each day by sacrificing his own son for my sake.


“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.” John 3:16 The Message




Journey Into the Unknown




I confess to being a Star Wars fan. Our family has great memories of waiting in line to see the very first in the movie series, Episode IV-A Lost Hope that was released May 25, 1977. It was a given that we were looking forward to Episode VII-The Force Awakens when it was released December 18, 2015.


The series brings back images of westerns of an earlier time period where the battle between good and evil was somehow clearer than many movies today.


I think our hearts are captured by the conquest of the good and right standing against the evil. Perhaps it gives us hope in our own battles and conquests that ultimately good will win out over evil, light will prevail over darkness.


When Star Wars came on the scene it took us on journeys into the unknown. There were galaxies beyond our own to discover, bizarre and eerie characters to study, and sorting out the truth about “the Force” accompanied by a musical score that accentuated the story unfolding on the screen. That same musical score would be etched in our memories as high school bands learned it and used it as a highlight of their halftime shows at fall football games.


I wonder if we recognize movies about treks into space are not the only journeys into the unknown.


Each of our days is just such a journey. Yes, I make plans and think of seasons of life common to us all, but each day unfolds revealing how little control I have over its twists and turns. Somehow I can feel less excited about that than I might in a movie.



My journey into the unknown requires so much more of me than a space movie.


One of my favorite Bible stories of journeying into the unknown is found in Joshua. For as horrible as conditions in Egypt were for the children of Israel, it became clear soon enough after they crossed the Red Sea that the trek they were beginning would expose them to much they had never seen or experienced. The conditions would not be easy and we know how they faltered under the leadership of Moses and balked at times when Joshua took the lead.


The Israelites were stepping off into the unknown, but have we forgotten that it was not unknown to God?


God knew the destination and had planned for the route He desired them to take. He also knew it would birth a new level of faith and trust in the people He had called out of slavery in Egypt. The conditions they faced would not be comfortable, but that was less significant to God. He knew these conditions would be temporary, but the development of their faith and trust would endure forever.


The Israelites needed to learn God could be trusted.


So do we.


The Israelites needed to know the land the spies had described that was flowing with milk and honey was not to be the source of their faith. Their faith and trust needed to be in the One who had bequeathed the Promised Land to them.


Page by page in the book of Joshua we discover the challenge to grow in faith that God was good and was for their good as they wandered day by day extending into forty years of their lives. The children of Israel also needed to come to grips with the unexpected challenges they faced and the fears that sought to overtake them.


I wonder if the journey was less about gaining the Promised Land and more about believing that God could be trusted.



Isn’t His first and foremost desire to be in relationship with and for us to know Him as He truly is? To know He is good. To know He is trustworthy. To know that our unknown is not unknown to Him.


Consider this…


Is that what He also wants us to see on our own journey into the unknown?



The Subtlety of Discernment

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Dame’s Rocket

Along the roadsides in our area there are several beautiful flowers growing in abundance. They brighten my days as I travel up and down the roadways. They look inviting and I have been thinking of finding a time to stop and create a wildflower bouquet, but I really was interested in what their names were.


I knew exactly who would know.


I have a good friend whom I got to know when we were both tutoring in a local school some years ago. She was a biology major and had a keen eye and knowledge about nearly anything and everything in nature. I have fond memories of taking some hikes with her in nature areas near us, hearing her name nearly every tree, plant, and flower that we passed. Sadly, I don’t recall most of the names save one, Trillium, Ohio’s state wildflower, which brightens the woods and hillsides in the spring.


I connected with her to ask about these two lovely flowering plants I have seen such a plethora of. One had an abundance of purple, lavender and white blooms. I thought that one might be phlox. The other looked a bit like Queen Anne’s Lace, but the blooms were smaller and arranged differently on their stems.


Within a few minutes, she responded with the information, as I knew she would. The varieties of purple blooms were not phlox, but do look similar except for the number of petals on each flower. She told me that these known as Dame’s Rockets (hesperis matronalis) are what she called “invasive aliens”. They are a part of the mustard family.


The second flowering plant that looked like Queen Anne’s Lace was actually Poison Hemlock (conium maculatum), member of the parsley family.

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Poison Hemlock


Despite their lovely appearance, she warned me that the plant is toxic posing a health risk to anyone or anything that might have close contact with it. They are masters of disguise and appear like many other harmless plants. All parts of the plant are poisonous and should not be touched. They comprise the fourth most common cause of nationwide poisoning, more than 100,000 reports to poison control centers. Area farmers have great concern about the risk to livestock as the plants are multiplying rapidly.


I was so glad to learn the truth about both plants from someone with the knowledge and discernment to recognize each of them accurately for what they are. It reminded me of the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30.


Many times it can be very difficult to discern whether something we see is good or harmful.


 It is very important for us to learn and know the difference in not only things like plants, berries, trees, and the like, but also to recognize other choices that are good or harmful as well.


What gets in the way of our discernment is not simply whether or not we see that as one of our giftings.


We have a lot of information and experiences coming into our knowledge base. Some of it is accurate. Some of it is true. But not all of it is true or accurate.


All of these data points are swirling in our thoughts and reactions creating a logjam that hinders our power of discernment.


All these unfiltered data points affect our ideas, judgments, and responses. Never is this truer than in my relationships with others.


 Added together, these can create mistrust, fear, and suspicion creating false judgments and discernment causing our hearts to be harsh and sometimes fill with criticism, resentment, and bitterness. They distort our perception.


Since our perceptions have great influence on us, this can be dangerous or even deadly for us. They hinder our capacity to love and without love and peace in our hearts our judgments on others will be harsh and most often false.


I love what Francis Frangipane says about discernment:


Discernment comes from abounding love. What is abounding love? It is love that leaps out from us toward others. It is motivated by long-term commitment; it is anointed by sacrificial charity. True discernment is rooted deeply in love.”


 He also indicates that such false discernment has coldness to it that might on the surface appear to be packaged as love (cold love), but really comes from criticism.


So, how can we discern rightly?


First and foremost, we must seek the Lord, quieting our hearts so we can truly listen and focus on what He is saying to us. This is foundational to wise discernment and righteous judgments. It is also hard to accomplish. We can be so impatient and want to respond, defend, react, set right, or fix.


Secondly, we need to keep in mind that how we perceive life is always based on the condition of our hearts. If our hearts are not right, we must not assume we have accurate discernment with, toward, or about anyone.


When I wanted to learn about two plants, what they were and if they were good, I did not assume I knew. I went to someone who did.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.   Proverbs 3:5-6






A Few of My Favorite Things


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Evening sunset

Two things intersected this morning. The first was while I was reading in Philippians. This is one of my favorite letters of Paul’s and I found myself focusing especially on Phil. 4:8.


“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil. 4:8 NIV


 Often when I am focusing on a particular verse, I will read it in multiple versions. I did that again today. Let me share just one other translation.


“Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”     Phil. 4:8 Amplified


 The passage brought to mind a song. This second thing overlaid the passage with a fresh set of reflections. Most all of us have most of the words memorized from “A Few of My Favorite Things”. I am sure I don’t need to repeat them here. The Sound of Music gives us so many oft-remembered songs with lyrics full of meaning.


The scripture passage combined with the lyrics reminded me of some of my own favorite things that I have tried to capture in my photos. Each of them has given me a glimpse of something beautiful created by God that has brought praise to my heart and lips. In praise to Him and with the hope of blessing you in whatever state you may find yourself today, I wanted to share a few of the many I have taken.


Charlottesville, VA
Charlottesville, VA


Summer in Savannah
Summer in Savannah


Orchid room in greenhouse at the Biltmore, Asheville, NC


African violet, TN
African violet in Main House at Blackberry Farm, TN


Coffee in a favorite bookstore in Asheville, NC


Dock at Lake at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN


Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park


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Boom Lake, Alberta, Canada


Sweet Bay Magnolia Blossom, Ohio


Water Lilies, Frederick, MD


Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, TN


Stowe, Vermont

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”   Phil. 4:8  NASB

The Faith of a Child


Rocky Mts., Alberta, Canada
Rocky Mts., Alberta, Canada


I think it seems abundantly clear that of the many times we see Jesus showing value for someone that others in His day ignored, set aside, or disregarded, that Jesus loved and valued children.


I see it in Luke 18:17 when Jesus speaks about how a child receives the kingdom of God models how adults should as well. I see it again in Matthew 19:14 when His disciples appeared to be keeping the children from running to Him. Of course there are even more examples than two. In each case, His words convey value for children and also imply that children trust and believe far more easily than adults often do.


Perhaps it was also because children often seem to have an innate sense of whether a person is safe or trustworthy. I see how even an infant responds to someone who feels comfortable when holding him or her and those who do not. The infant cannot seem to relax if the person holding them is not sure of themselves and feeling ill at ease.


As I write this, I am seeing another story of the faith of a child unfold in front of my eyes.


Her name is Sydney and she is our 13-year-old granddaughter. If you would be in her presence for even a short time, you would discover her sharp wit, her no nonsense attitude and her great love for all animals, but especially birds. Song-bird


You would discover her skill playing the violin and her entrance into the world of karate to connect with her older brother, 19, on a new level since he has entered college and no longer lives at home nine months of the year. You would see her hijinks with her younger brother, Nathan, 11, as they invented new ways to challenge each other and stir up new ways to keep everyone on their toes. You might even see her with her older sister, 15, as they sorted out the new Jamberry nail wrap styles to adorn their fingers and toes.


Her grandpa would tell you to be careful if she challenges you to a checker game because she takes no prisoners and he rarely succeeds in beating her in a game.


I would tell you she loves to have her back scratched or rubbed and loves snuggling in bed before she goes to sleep while I tell her stories of when I was a young girl growing up.


All of these things and more would be true, but today I want to tell you about her faith and the testimony it has been to those of us around her.


A few months ago, she was diagnosed with a severe thoracic scoliosis curve that would require major spinal surgery. Doctors’ visits and consultations allowed her to hear the straight facts about what that would mean for her. She learned about the six-hour surgery, the pain, the spinal fusion, the limitations, and the long recovery period and more. She learned about bars, screws, and donating a pint of her own blood as well.


Each part of it gave her parents and her grandparents pause. Two of her siblings welled up in tears at the news out of the empathy they felt for her. As we were catching our breath with each detail, Sydney’s response grabbed our attention for the clear signal it gave for her faith.


Sydney was clear-sighted and confident in the Lord. She spoke of how other family members had been faced with big things, hard things, and challenges and then said, “If you want to see God DO big things, you have to have circumstances which require big things. Won’t it be great to see how God meets each big thing between now and the weeks following surgery.”


To this point, she has not expressed fear and seems to see that as completely illogical. “Why would I be afraid if God’s going to be there with me?”


This week she has started a series of seven appointments leading up to surgery on July 13. In each one, she will take in more information for procedures and experiences for which she has no frame of reference, but faces with an assurance in the Lord whom she trusts and follows, the One who lives in her heart.


We watch and listen, humbled by her confidence and assurance as we face our own anxious thoughts and plan for what she will need from each one of us as she goes through this process.


We also celebrate what we see of her sweet, but tough relationship with the Lord. How grateful we are for the response of her heart to His nudge.


I could easily talk about either of our children or our other five grandchildren and evidences of God’s grace and faith in them on their own walks with Him, but for this post I would give space to Sydney and ask that you pray for her as well as all of us as we reach out to the hem of the Lord’s garment seeking His healing during the weeks ahead.


“Now faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1   ESV