Author Archives: Gerry

Gerry

About Gerry

As a wife, mother and grandmother, I look to my faith, family, friends, and freedom for significance. Listening to the still small voice of God inspires and encourages me each day. My husband, children, and granddaughters provide love and meaning. Friends enrich and offer warmth in an often-unfriendly world. Freedom challenges me and demands my resolve.

Influencer

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.

2 Timothy 1:5 (NLT)

When I looked up the definition of influencer in Google, the first hit was: A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach. I’m not looking to make a splash on Instagram or Facebook. The audience I am thinking of is usually just one, maybe a few more. I prefer the more general definition of: one who exerts influence : a person who inspires or guides the actions of others.

I have been reading through the Bible and following the story of the children of Israel in the stories of the Old Testament. On the pages of 1 and 2 Chronicles, you encounter many lists, genealogies, and summaries of the entire story. Sometimes, I skim it to see if I recognize anyone in particular, an interesting tidbit about their vocation, or family members, any acts of heroism or defeat…the Bible is good to give both sides.

When Samuel anointed the first King, Saul, it began a long history of good and bad kings for the nations of Israel and Judah. Unfortunately, there were more bad than good. God had been very specific about following His instructions to ensure that His blessing would continue and the people would be secure in the land that He had given to them. But so many did not get the picture. It saddened me to read about the sons of good and godly fathers who took over the throne and seemed to compete as to who could be more evil. Was there any thread that would make some sense of this?

Yes, I found one…their mother.

Ahaziah followed the ways of Ahab’s family, because his mother encouraged him to do wrong. 2 Chronicles 22:3 (NCV)

Mothers have a huge impact on their sons. Those days of toddlerhood spent teaching the basics of life are the foundation for that boy. Kindness, good manners, and obedience are just a few of the lessons learned at a mother’s knee. And it’s not easy. It takes discipline, patience, perseverance, and love to instill these lessons into the heart of a son. Boys seem to naturally strain at the rules, be curious, boisterous, and find the best mud hole to play in. They are loud, single-minded, and mischievous. Naptime is a waste of time. Make sure the refrigerator has food…all the time. 

But mothers are often the ones that can listen, hug, make a favorite dessert, and ask them their spelling words. They can teach them to be gentle without losing their toughness.

If Mom is determined to teach her son the most evil and vile way to live, she has a lot of time to instill those ideas into his brain, heart, and character as she raises him..

However, Timothy is an example of a young man who grew up to be a godly young man, a personal aide to the Apostle Paul, and helpful in the ministry of the young churches

What was the difference? A godly mother and in his circumstance, a godly grandmother. One who was not silent about her faith in God. One who taught him the scriptures from an early age so that he would know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. 

For years, I worked in the political arena in an effort to make a difference. After one too many elections that upended all my work, I decided it was time to find something else to do. That was my beginning as a Mentor Mom for an organization called MOPS, Mothers of Preschoolers. I realized that, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” Mothers make a difference, a huge one. My time encouraging and loving on moms would have a much more lasting affect.

So, whether your son is four, fourteen, or forty-four, I encourage you, Mom, to leave a legacy of your faith in God, praying that it will pass down from generation to generation, changing hearts and lives for good.

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Be a Friend

Ahithophel was the royal adviser. Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend. Ahithophel was succeeded by Jehoiada son of Benaiah and by Abiathar. Joab was commander of the king’s army.

I Chronicles 27:33-34 (NLT)

I’ve been reading though the Bible this year using a YouVersion app on my iPad and this month has me slogging through I Chronicles. God must have decided that it was important that we have a list of everything and everyone who had been part of the story of the children of Israel. I’m tempted to just skip some of those chapters and then something catches my eye as I skim down the screen: 

Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend.

In the middle of all the warriors, leaders of clans, priests, and workers, Hushai is mentioned. He’s King David’s friend. 

Experience reminds me that friendship comes in various forms. It might begin as a shared interest in a hobby, children or grandchildren, or a vocation. With some, it is forged during moments of intense battle for a common cause. With others, it settles into a comfortable relationship without complication. You cannot hurry a friendship—it takes time to know the heart of a person. 

For a moment, consider defining friendship as a set of concentric circles. At the center, only two or three people really know the intimacies of our heart. Many more fall in the next ring and are part of our everyday lives in a more casual way. A few people live in another city but continue to impact us. And the final ring includes those folks we call acquaintances. 

Doug Weibe writes, “These gifts of friendship are scattered like ripe fruit in the gardens of our lives, waiting to be tasted and enjoyed. Each gift is given by a loving God, who knows what we need and who desires a friendship with every one of us. Therefore, while we may choose our friendships, we do not create the gift of friendship. We can work on our friendships, but we cannot change them into something they are not gifted to be. This is the pain and the joy, the poverty and the incredible freedom we experience on the journey to becoming friends.” 

I am on that journey and each time spent with a new “friend” offers hope and promise. I wonder which circle Hushai was in? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only  way to have a friend is to be one.” 

It’s easy to say we have a lot of Facebook friends, but what about those friends that you look in the eye, face to face, over a latte? You can’t read faces or hear voice inflections in a text or email. Make the time to give of yourself to your friends. As the years pass, that quality time will return as a true gift to your heart.

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Grace and Truth

Don’t mistreat any foreigners who live in your land.  Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:33-34 (CEV)

I don’t typically post about political subjects, even though I have a strong interest in what is going on in our country and have been very active in past years. And this post will not be political. But we are confronted daily on television, radio, social media, print media, and wherever you may get your news with what is going on at the border. Living in southern Arizona, just 76 miles from that border, we must deal with the consequences of the huge influx of legal and illegal immigrants daily.

From a Biblical perspective, borders have been encouraged from the beginning of civilization. God had given the children of Israel land that they conquered and inhabit to this day. Their neighbors regularly fought them to retake it which required wars, walls and maps to delineate to whom it belonged. All was necessary to preserve the sovereignty of the nation.

The Hebrew people also dealt with legal and illegal inhabitants. God was specific on their treatment. All were accorded the same measure of dignity as image bearers of God, however, they didn’t have the same privileges,

So what is the answer to this problem? Grace and truth. Jesus was the perfect example for us to follow:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 (ESV)

There is a tension between those words that challenge us as we develop policies and attitudes towards those who seek to come to America. Do we want legalism or grace to flow from the Christian community? The guard rail is the love of Jesus. If we ask the hard questions about what is right and how do the rules need to be applied, love is the salve that smooths the rough edges.

May our hearts be soft and our words generous even as we look to truth for the roadmap to solve this thorny issue.

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A Neighbor

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

1 Peter 3:8 (ESV)

I have wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) that requires monthly shots in both eyes. I’m sure you just closed and squinched up your eyes thinking about it. Fortunately, the nurse does a good job of numbing the eyes first. I normally drive myself to the appointment but this week I thought I’d try LYFT since dilation adds a bit more distress to my vision.

The young man who picked me up was on the phone when I got in the car. With all that’s going on in the world, I wanted to make sure I had the right car. Anthony turned back to me and introduced himself, apologizing for being preoccupied. He was talking to his disabled mom.

I asked how she was doing and a conversation began that lasted until he dropped me off. He’s only been in Tucson for seven months, moving from New Jersey. He thought he had two jobs lined up before he left, but neither one worked out. He’s nervous because he is a single dad in addition to being a caregiver for his mom. He’s lonely and frustrated.

Anthony is most concerned about his nine year old daughter, Gemma. He happily showed me her picture. We talked a little about what is most important in raising her and that fancy things and money is not as important as a happy dad. I asked if they went to church and he said no. He told me his local family were those “born again” types and would have nothing to do with him. They were not willing to help, even when there was no food in the house. I gather he was quite a hellraiser as a young man but has straightened up, quit drinking, and works hard so he can take care of his daughter.

So he drives LYFT. Some weeks are good, some not so much. He shook my hand and gave me a big smile as I stepped out of the car at the doctor. I’m hopeful he will think of the chatty grandmother who happily returned that smile. I pray that Anthony will remember that going to church may be a good option and that another rider will water the seed planted.

I didn’t realize until I checked in at the front desk that dilation was not scheduled for this appointment. I could have been irritated that I had spent the money for a ride but the only emotion I had was gratefulness that I could visit with Anthony and give him some encouragement. God had arranged this ride.

Our news is overwhelmed with pictures and editorial about the situation at the border. It’s heartrending and the options are not good. I don’t have a good solution for any of it but don’t forget we have strangers that cross our paths daily. If we can give a hearty handshake, a genuine smile, eye contact, show patience, and a willingness to listen to their heart, we have shown love. They are our neighbor.

And what greater calling.

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Two Days

So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus,he stayed where he was for the next two days.Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” John 11:5-7 (NLT) 

I had not given much thought to the fact that Jesus waited two days before he returned to the friends He loved in their hour of need. It appeared as if He didn’t care and arrived much too late to be of any help. The sisters were beside themselves because they knew He could have made all the difference. But now, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days and the odor of death was evident.

I’m sure their grief, and His own, overwhelmed Jesus and the Bible records the only reference to Jesus’ weeping. He DID feel their pain. But He also heard the whispers of the onlookers complaining that He could have done something, if He had only shown up sooner.

How many times have I pleaded or cried or begged God to do something for me? Silence. At least that’s what it seemed like to me. I felt like my prayer hit the ceiling and stopped. Those waiting rooms of life are the hardest of all to endure.

Yet, Mary and Martha learned that Jesus had a far greater purpose and mission for their story. He was on a timetable that transcended any single person or incident. When He showed His power and raised Lazarus from the dead, the stopwatch to the crucifixion and resurrection began to count down in earnest. It was part of the plan.

One thing I have learned about those times of waiting is that sometimes God allows me to see the “why” but, more often, He calls me to walk in faith and trust Him for the answer. He has my back. I don’t need to know what is going on in the heavenlies, only believe that His timing is right on time.

Ann Voskamp says it another way, “It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us…”

Two more days.

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Got Your Raincoat?

“Two are better off than one . . . If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him”

 Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (GNT)

In a recent post, Rick Warren wrote, “Relationships are a raincoat during the storms of life.” As I thought about that raincoat, I realized I don’t have one. And even if I did, I’d probably just run out to the car trying to dodge the raindrops. I might change my mind about even going anywhere. I’m sure I’d check the weather app on my phone to see when the rain would stop. But, if I would just put on my raincoat, I could venture out without getting soaked.

How do my relationships compare to that raincoat? I know that when the storms of life pour out on my life, I need friends to cover me with their love and care. They are a protection when I don’t have the strength or energy to continue. I don’t have to step out into the storm alone.

Are you tempted to say, “No, I’ll stand in the rain, thank you very much?” Our pride gets in the way of the help we so desperately need. Maybe, we don’t want to appear weak, unprepared, or out of control. We have been trained to suck it up, be strong, do it yourself, when what we really need to do is humble ourselves and ask for a little help.

Do you struggle with feelings of being “less than” or “not enough?” You might think it’s all your fault. These are lies of the enemy to take our focus off the One who gives us strength and those around us who are not looking for perfection but for honesty.

But how do you say thank you when you are feeling so vulnerable and indebted? How do you repay a friend for such kindness? You say, “Thank you.” That friend is not keeping score but loves you and only wants to help. Your part would be to pass it on to someone else in need.

I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:4, He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share this same comfort with others in trouble. We have the Holy Spirit living within us to show us when and how to share His comfort with others. Maybe we don’t show our compassions perfectly, but He can make all things turn out well.

So, grab that raincoat. Brave the storm. I’ll be right beside you.

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Post-truth

He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction. Malachi 4:6 (NIV)

Our church is starting a new sermon series entitled, “ALIENS: Helping Christians Navigate Todays World.” Today’s sermon focused on what is truth. 

Some years ago our small group watched the video series, The Truth Project, where we explored many of the areas that were discussed today. But the word post-truth was new to me. Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year. The dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

It’s not surprising that 2016 was the year it was chosen since the race for President was so contentious. I am part of the baby boomer generation and truth was never subjective but always objective: one truth that’s the same for all people. I am also a conservative Christian and the basis for all truth is the Bible. But that standard seems to be changing in this day and age.

I read with interest a post on Facebook this morning, “A Letter to our Conservative Parents.” It was challenging for me to read as my children are in the age group of the author. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hold similar beliefs. We talk all around the edges of these subjects when we get together…I know better than to ask directly. It’s not that I totally disagree, but rather I wonder if the changes have been helpful or hurtful to the Gospel. Sometimes it feels like we are speaking a different language, one that I thought we all knew. But now, I don’t know.

I do know that the church needs to change to meet the needs of those coming up — from style of worship, music, dress, commitment, and sermon presentation. We can readily find surveys of church attendance and it’s dismal. But who is going to stand in the gap of leadership and forge new ways to meet the very real needs of the next generations? I feel like I come from the horse and buggy days only to find the parking lot filled with Teslas. 

So what is my role in this new generation of church? The author of the letter ends it with: Please don’t quit on us! No, you can count on it. I have too much invested to walk away. I want you to succeed. I want Jesus to be the most important person in your life. I want your children and my grandchildren to grow up to be available for “such a time as this.” 

I will be in the cheering section. I can’t do the acrobatics that my granddaughter does at her football game. I don’t even really know the rules of the current game. But I love you. God loves you. And I hope you can make it work.

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Which Map?

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”
Isaiah 55:8

Sometimes it is better not to reinvent the wheel. 

It’s not always easy to trust God. When I see where God seems to be leading me, I can usually figure out a way to get there. But it’s seldom the path that God has chosen. My path is quick and easy. God’s path is full of unknowns. 

The children of Israel took the long way home. What could have taken only a couple of weeks, took forty years. Why? Because they wanted to do it their way rather than follow God’s directions.

I do the same thing. It’s difficult to “set down my map” and follow God. I like my path. Sure, there might be some struggles along the way, but it will get me from point A to point B in a short amount of time. 

Unfortunately, I won’t be happy, and I won’t have become all that God desires for me to be. I think I know the way to go, but only God really knows. I have to trust him and travel that road in faith.

Now is the time to come to Jesus and give Him your map. Let go of the need to know the way. He is the Way. Allow him to lead you, even if you can only see one step at a time. 

For his thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways aren’t our ways—they are better than we can ever imagine.

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Fall/Food/Faith

My health fails; my spirits droop, yet God remains! He is the strength of my heart; he is mine forever!

Psalm 73:26 (TLB)

The last couple of months have been a challenge for me. I fell last October when I was visiting my grandgirlies. It was so dumb! I was walking around the track to get into the bleachers, watching Tori as she was cheerleading at a football game and I missed seeing a cable stretched across the track. I went flying resulting in a scraped knee and arm. But, you know the first rule is, Do Not Fall! Two months later, pain started running down that leg joined by shoulder pain more recently. So now I’m in physical therapy. But to add insult to injury, I was diagnosed with silent acid reflux resulting in a lifestyle change about what and when I eat and drink. In a few words, none of the fun stuff.

I’ve been having my own personal pity party the last couple of days. I don’t know why I feel like I can complain when I have several friends who are suffering much more than I am. I spent a whole semester, studying the book of Job learning that God had plans for Job, who lost everything, that were for his good, not for ill. He had loss, I’ve had loss. But God revealed Himself to Job and reminded him who was in control. It wasn’t Job and it’s not me.

We are in the Lenten season and many family and friends have given up something for Lent. That practice was not part of my religious heritage but I have been forced, for the sake of my health, to give up some of my favorite foods and activities that I enjoy. My prayer is that I put my confidence and belief in the God who is in control and as part of this season to look to Him to remove the habits and attitudes that need to go. I want to grow during this time and I look forward to the good things He brings my way.

As I was walking Rusty this morning, I noticed so many plants beginning to bloom. Spring is on the way. In the same way, I know that God will bring new life to me as I inhale mercy and exhale grace.

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Love Your Neighbor

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 NLT

When we moved into our apartment last summer, I wasn’t sure if I would like apartment living. I thought it would be fun to get to know a variety of people, young and old, single and married, working and retired. Maybe there would be some young moms that I could mentor. Hopes and dreams… 

John, is my closest neighbor. I see his door when I open mine. He is single (divorced), lived in my old neighborhood before he moved here 5 years ago. He’s eccentric and persnickety. The day I found him scrubbing stains off the concrete in front of his door indicated that this man likes things neat and tidy. Over the months, I have taken over a plate or two of home-baked goodies in an effort to be neighborly. We had a passing, friendly, relationship.

Until two days ago.

I noticed a piece of paper stuck in the ground in front of our two apartments. He had written it notifying us that he was going to report anyone who did not clean up after their dog. It’s a $100 fine. I immediately knocked on his door to tell him that Rusty, our dog, uses that area and I always pick it up. Mark can’t do it due to his falling on the gravel so I go out later and take care of it. We usually let Rusty out in the late evening before bed or very early morning. I would later pick it up and dispose of it. Other times during the day, I take Rusty for a walk. That wasn’t good enough for him. I had to pick it up immediately regardless of freezing cold or dripping rain. 

The next morning, Mark let him out early and at 7 am the door bell rang and it was John glaring at me and complaining. I couldn’t believe it as Rusty had been outside just 15 minutes before. Later, I dropped a note by his door and asked for a little grace and promised to do my part. Nope. He wrote me a scathing note back. 

Enough of this writing business. I knocked on his door in an attempt to make peace. He would have none of it. There was no grace, only the letter of the law and he had contacted management to report it all. As I look back, I would call his comments harassing and threatening and by this time he was yelling at me that he would put the poop on my door and slammed his in my face, I WAS FURIOUS!

I fumed as I sat down and wrote to the manager about the horrible situation, wondering if we were going to have to move. Would anyone come to my defense? After hitting the send button, I returned to the living room to watch TV with Mark. As I sat there, I knew that I didn’t want this kind of thing to continue and how could I show the love of Jesus to this man. 

I had taken some homemade chocolate chip bars out of the freezer earlier. I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, “Take him some bars.” I got up (before I could argue with Him), and placed a couple on a plate. I couldn’t believe how calm I was feeling because I had been in internal mess a few minutes earlier. I rang his door bell and when he opened it, I just handed him the plate. At that point, he completely backed down. He was sorry, I was sorry. He agreed to compromise and drop the whole thing. I gave him a hug and started crying. We parted in peace.

Later I was scrolling through Pinterest and saw the picture posted above. The dictionary definition: Mercy – compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. Judgment – assume the right to judge someone, especially in a critical manner.

I always struggle to remember the difference between grace and mercy. My shorthand version is that with grace, we get more than we deserve. With mercy, we don’t get what we deserve. By the grace of God, I had shown John mercy. I had listened to His leading and a potentially broken relationship was restored. At some point, he may listen to me tell him about Jesus.

Tears dripped down my face as I related it all to Mark. I was so happy that this conflict had been resolved. I could go to bed praising God for His love and guidance.

Yes, mercy triumphed over judgment. 

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