What Will Your Legacy Be?

Roy & Delight…Legacy Builders


As we wind our way through the Thanksgiving holiday  weekend, I am reminded of how often I hear someone speak of the lack of gratitude or appreciation they see in so many people and especially younger people.


As I consider this today, I think perhaps each of us needs to pause and consider that none of us come into this world with a gratefulness or thankfulness DNA genetic code built in. As a whole, each of us arrives focused on getting our needs met and from the very beginning we find some amazing ways to accomplish that.


If nothing interrupts that process, it continues and can become more and more ugly.


The truth is that gratefulness is learned. It doesn’t just happen.


The first place of learning for you as well as me was at home. It was there I was taught to say “please” and “thank you”. But beyond what I was taught, I was blessed to observe parents who modeled that daily in their own lives.


Neither of my parents was born into wealthy families. They both grew up on farms where hard work was needed and expected. Each of them experienced significant loss early in their lives. My father’s dad died when he was only five years old so he never grew up knowing him. A fire destroyed my mother’s home when she was a freshman in high school and her family spent a year living separately in different homes while a new home was built.


Perhaps those very difficulties were used by the Lord to nurture gratefulness versus bitterness and self-pity. Each of their families pulled together during those hard times instead of breaking apart as a result of their faith that was not dependent on circumstances or everything going well.


I was born into that legacy. Along with the model of gratefulness and thankfulness came another. They were generous with time, love, service, and limited income.


Each of my parents served in PTA, Sunday School, and a long list of other opportunities that church, school, and community provided. But there were other things I saw which were not visible to everyone.


One example that I watched was how they worked and tended a huge garden for the whole of their lives. They probably could have sold produce that we did not need to add to their income, but instead they offered what they did not need to others in the neighborhood or at church who had less. Their garden bore fruit beyond the produce they shared with others.


Our Thanksgiving table always included a patchwork of people who had no one to share the day. Sometimes these were widowed sisters or other relatives or people from our church who were alone. Anyone was welcome at their table. That included my friends and later friends of our children and even the families of friends.


Gratefulness was a way of life that was evident every day, not just on Thanksgiving.


My parents sowed seed not only in me, but also in our son and daughter, their grandchildren. Each of them is now married with children of their own. I see in them the fruit that began many years ago and I see it in their children, my grandchildren, their great grandchildren, as well.


My parents have been at home with the Lord for twenty-four years and no other celebration brings a greater sense of them than Thanksgiving. I am reminded again this year of what each of us can pass on to others, to the next generation. Two key principles stand out: 


Gratefulness is learned. It doesn’t just happen.


Gratefulness should be a way of life every day.



His Time…Not Ours

Photo by Jordan Benton from Pexels


Have you noticed how often we get upset about time?


It seems like we often complain about it. We can be running out of it or feel like it is making us wait too long. We (even those who are not rigid) tend to have some sort of schedule for our day more days than not. Sometimes there are set appointments and then there are the things we just hope to do (or not do) in a day.


Maybe it is predictability we desire or perhaps it is control that we wish for. Whatever our situation we are not very amenable to interruptions much of the time despite living with an assurance they will occur. Sometimes we can manage them fairly well, but if we are on a deadline or focused on a project it’s not something we will rejoice about.


It can be easy to forget that God is the author of time and always has been.



That doesn’t mean we take no responsibility for stewarding it, but that we develop a more realistic appraisal for how much of it we can manage. It is far too easy to make a commitment with a realistic expectation we can fulfill it and yet fail to include the possibilities that might impact that plan. It can be as routine as a car problem or a cold, a homework crisis we need to walk a child through or a senior relative who has a need we cannot ignore in the moment.


I am aware I have much to learn in this area. I see that over and over again as I read about the life of Christ. Page after page in the gospels show us one example after another where He is interrupted, and that interruption never seems to ruffle his mood or attitude. Invariably the interruption adds to our knowledge of Him and results in a miracle or two.


Jesus is teaching a group of teachers and religious leaders around Him who had traveled a great distance to hear Him. There are several men trying to help a man who was paralyzed laying on a bed get in to hear Him and maybe receive a miracle as He had done other places, but there is no way into the crowded room. They come up with a plan to open up the roof and carefully lower the man into the room where Jesus is teaching. Talk about an interruption! (Luke 5:17-39)


The teachers of the law and religious leaders are none too happy and Jesus knows exactly what they are thinking. He uses them as an example and in the midst of this interruption heals the man.


We see Jesus seeking solitude and going off to be alone and yet crowds follow Him over and over again. His disciples even interrupted Him while he was sleeping when a storm arose, and they were in fear on the sea.


Often Jesus is interrupted while He is traveling from one point to another. In one case Bartimaeus is healed of his blindness on the road to Jericho. At another point while He is on his way, He notices Zacchaeus up in a tree and that interruption results in salvation coming to Zacchaeus.


God uses interruptions to alert us to see something we did not notice.


If we pause, we might recognize why He wanted us to make note of what we were missing and how He might want to use it.


At another time Jesus was asked to come to the home of Jairus, a man of position, so that He can heal his daughter who is very ill. On his way there, a woman who is of low estate touches the edge of his robe. (She doesn’t even warrant a name in the scripture that tells the story.) Her desire is healing from an “issue of blood” she had for 12 years that would have meant she was labeled “unclean”.


Clearly Jesus is urgently needed in the household of Jairus to attend his ill daughter and Jairus is a man of importance, but when the woman touches the robe of Jesus He stops and asks her what she needs. Her answer brings his response back of a healing. And in the midst of this great thing, Jairus finds out his daughter has died. He might well wonder at the delay to care for this woman, this interruption could have made the difference. But Jesus tells him not to be concerned because his daughter will be okay.


How much I/we can all learn from these examples and others like them?


We can be on our way to something important, but an interruption may point to something the Lord sees we should attend to. If that is the case, He will surely help us with that very important thing that is delayed.


Read the wise words of C.S. Lewis:


“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely real life – the life God is sending one day by day.”





The Gift of the Best Question


I’m not sure how you feel about questions. When I sat in classrooms, I felt anxiety about being asked a question. I tended to fear I would not know the right answer or say something that sounded foolish. I tried to be small enough in my seat so the teacher might not see me and ask. Of course, that was not very successful.


Later, as a teacher, I got a great view of what I must have looked like to my teachers, as I would see similar behaviors in certain students. I understood their feelings of uncertainty, their lack of confidence, and their insecurity.


I began to look for ways to ask questions of my students that would be a “win” for them, to encourage them and build up their confidence. I looked for ways to respond to their answers so that even if they were not correct, they would still feel valued.


As a professional counselor, developing my understanding of how to ask questions that would encourage the person sitting in my office to share with me moved to another level. I wasn’t asking questions as simply a formality, but to begin to really discover who the person truly was so I could glimpse the gifts, skills, and abilities within them to serve as a foundation to bring them hope in the midst of their situation.


Over the course of my life, I have come to see the gift the best question can be for others as well as for me. You see, the best question allows me to know you.


I have also discovered it is an ability or gift or skill that many do not have.


The best question is one which opens the heart of the person I have asked it of or it opens mine if I was the one asked.


Why is that significant?


It is foundational to a healthy, growing, vibrant relationship that goes beyond the surface and provides me with someone who provokes me to consider what I am thinking and feeling, how I came to those conclusions, and how they line up with what I know about myself or know from the Word.


A question that opens my heart gives me the possibility and gift of being known.


Consequently, any person who asks such a question deposits a gift into my life that I value highly. To be known is risky, but without the risk I have no hope of discovering I can be loved and accepted just as I am at that moment.


I admit to having developed some biases where questions are concerned. I am not a fan of some of the most common ones:

  • How are you?
  • What’s up?
  • How have you been?


These questions are often asked as I bump into someone I haven’t seen for a while and even if the person is sincere, it doesn’t register that with me. Often we are in a store, standing in line for coffee, or in the lobby at church when such questions are asked. I am keenly aware of feeling I cannot really respond to the question because there is neither time nor an environment that allows for a conversation of any depth. I think that happens to most of us. Perhaps that is why the common answer we give is, “I’m fine” even if we are not.


We have relationships at many levels, but what I most value are a few deeper relationships where someone has sought and desired to know my heart. Those are the gifts that develop intimate connection.


No one asks better questions than Jesus.


There is not a thing about his questions that are superficial.


Each question is asked with purpose. Page after page of the gospels give us one example after another. Here are just a few:

  • Do you want to be well?
  • Who is it you’re looking for?
  • What do you think?
  • What do you want me to do for you?
  • Why are you so afraid?
  • Why did you doubt?
  • Why are you bothering this woman?


He seems to ask questions that should be obvious and yet have a power that unlocks the person’s heart, pulls them out of their hopelessness, lifts the cloud from their eyes, and puts them in touch with their heart and the desire that has died.


His questions break through the hard shell we have developed from too much disappointment, too much hopelessness, and too much pain.


His questions expose the truth that when our hope was deferred we not only became sick, but also desire died within us.


Jesus comes into our lives by awakening a desire for Him, a desire for what we lost in Eden or in the laws we tried to keep to find Him.


Those questions that awaken desire bring us fully alive spiritually. They shake us out of our lifeless routines, our religion of duties and obligations. They give us the gift by being the best questions.






No Catch…Really!




Ads bombard us from every direction and never more so than the weeks between now and the end of the year for all the Christmas shopping every merchant is counting that we will do. It can be more than a little tempting and I can yield at times as well, but I try to only do so when the item is something I would usually buy from a merchant where I always shop. (I actually did that today when a shirt I know one grandson loves was on sale and then had a markdown on top of that for one day only. It brought the item to half price.) Other ads that look fun from sources I have not known before or items that are new to me don’t usually pull me in. I have already been known to make those mistakes before.


You don’t need to be very old before you start to notice there is a catch in that promise far more often than we might wish or suspect. There is always the fine print that most of us can’t or don’t take time to read that tells us a little about that if we can decipher it.


It’s little wonder we can feel challenges about grace and whether it really is what we hear it is or read that it is. The gift of grace is so scandalous, so costly, that we can more easily believe what Philip Yancey calls “ungrace” then grace.


The promise of grace seems too good to be true.


Phillip Yancey describes it this way:


“We are accustomed to finding a catch in every promise, but Jesus’ stories of extravagant grace include no catch, no loopholes disqualifying us from God’s love. Each has at its core an ending too good to be true – or so good that it must be true.”


advertising-business-close-up-commerce-259092As I prepare to attend a workshop on the book of Exodus, I am reminded again that God is the ultimate promise keeper and He proves it over and over again from Genesis to Revelation. No, we haven’t seen all that He says will happen because some of those things are still in the future but reading carefully from cover to cover will show his utter consistency.


Consider the promise God gave Abraham, a covenant, that from him and Sarah would come a people as numerous as the stars, a good land, and future kings. He even tells him how they will temporarily live in a foreign land where they will be afflicted for 400 years before bringing judgment on their oppressors so they will be released to inherit from Him a Promised Land. (Gensis15)


The promise/covenant is sealed with a sacrifice and a meal and then just as He said, Moses is spared and called to be the one God uses to accomplish this very thing. And God affirms his covenant promises again on Mount Sinai with an outline of the provisions. The people ratify it and again there is a sacrifice, a blood sacrifice, and a meal. And then God keeps making good on his promises.


Once Israel is established and wants an earthly king like all the other nations around them, David replaces Saul on the throne, but a bigger promise is fulfilled when Jesus is born so many generations later that many will question if He is the one.


c-m-heart-embossed-on-three-208154Because our timetable is so limited in scope, we can be tempted to doubt or question whether the promises yet to be fulfilled will actually happen. That is understandable perhaps, but to do so is unwise since all the other promises have been accomplished just as He said.


So, at its core we wrangle with the promises and the Promise Keeper and the grace He offers to those who will believe.


Is it possible that one of our challenges is that grace is so personal?


Henri Nouwen puts it this way:


“God rejoices. Not because the problems of the world have been solved, not because all human pain and suffering have come to an end, not because thousands of people have been converted and are now praising him for his goodness. No, God rejoices because one of his children who was lost is found.”


And grace comes to us again and again once we believe in Him. He knows we will still keep messing up. Our performance will never be good enough. We need his perfect sacrifice.


A letter once written by Mutua Mahiaini, leader of The Navigators constituency in Kenya, Africa, and quoted in Jerry Bridges’ great book, The Discipline of Grace, says:


“Any moment when we bask in God’s mercy and grace is our highest moment, higher than when we feel snug in our decent performance and cannot think of anything we need to confess.”


What’s the catch?


We must believe to receive this gift, but once we do there is no catch.


Grace is that great a gift and his love is everlasting.





Lessons in the Desert


Most of us have faced one time in our lives (if not more) what we might call a “desert experience”. Such a time is easily remembered as a benchmark of sorts where we were stretched and challenged, a time where we struggled to hope. Some of you may be there now.


The dictionary describes a desert as “a dry, barren area of land, especially one covered with sand, that is characteristically desolate, waterless, and without vegetation”. Some of us might refer to the time as a “wilderness experience”.


I don’t think we arrive there as a destination of choice. But our lives shift, our circumstances change, our moorings let go, and whether spiritually, relationally, occupationally, or physically, we find ourselves there. We feel disoriented.


Being in this place seems to cause us to lose our bearings, at least for a time. Everything about the landscape is unfamiliar to us. We scan the horizon looking for which way to go, but the path is unclear and no landmarks point the way. Because we didn’t plan to be there, we often arrive unprepared and lacking in supplies.



The challenge of the desert is the uncertainty of how far it goes and how long we will be there.


We feel utterly alone, abandoned by those we thought would be there with us and sometimes we sense the Lord has left us as well. The sun scorches us by day and when darkness descends, cold etches itself deep within our bones.


We are weakened by the extreme conditions in which we find ourselves. We experience hunger, but especially thirst until a certain dullness relieves the ache and we become almost numb. It is then when we find the enemy most seductive, formidable, and unrelenting in his assault upon our minds and hearts. His whispers cloud the truth of who we are and whose we are.


Jesus too had a desert experience. It was a time when Satan came to taunt, tempt, and test Him in every conceivable way. The desert environment weakened Him too. He was tempted to call God’s care for Him into question.


In referencing the enemy’s devices, Ken Gire notes in Moments with the Savior that the temptation was “not to make Jesus doubt himself but to depend on himself”. At a time Jesus most needed to depend on his Father, Satan tried to persuade Him to depend on himself, to doubt his Father.



I think we can relate to that temptation as well.


We cry out for an answer, but the heavens appear silent so we are tempted to be unwilling to wait for an answer, a direction, and we launch out on our own. Any direction seems better to us than waiting here in the middle of nowhere with no one.


One day slides into another. We lose track of time. We have difficulty with focus. We are tempted to lie down and sleep, but also know that could be the end of us if we do not stay on the alert.


How we fare in the desert is impacted by a number of factors:

  • What was our condition before we arrived there? Had we been fed and nourished daily prior to this?
  • What skills and disciplines had we practiced routinely?
  • How well did we know the Lord’s voice? Had we spent regular time listening for Him, to Him, so we could distinguish it from other voices?


Each of these, if answered in the most positive way, will make our survival in the desert more likely.


Being equipped for the desert happens in the days, weeks, months, and years before we arrive there.


We must be armed with the truth. Jesus certainly demonstrated that to us. His knowledge of the Word was key when the enemy’s voice and devices were swirling around Him. He also knew his Father’s voice.


What was most crucial for Him in addition to this was whether or not He would be obedient to the Word, whether He would follow the path his Father directed.


As we all know, He would face the test again in Gethsemane and at the cross.


The issue of obedience is crucial for us as well and our response will be strengthened by our knowledge of His Word and His voice.


If we have knowledge of the truth and a clear sense of His voice through regular time with Him before we arrive in the desert, we will be more likely to trust Him, more likely to follow Him.


 We will also be strengthened, even as Jesus was, for the next desert experience.