Super Bowl XXXV - 2001 - My lost little boy

Super Bowl time is electric.  Whether your favorite NFL team made it to to final two or not, there is excitement in the air.  Whether you even HAVE a favorite team or not... or even know what "2nd down and 3 to go" means, Super Bowl Day still offers anticipation... sometimes only for the unveiling of new, innovative commercials.

Our church jumped in with the fun and created an atmosphere of fellowship (I know that's such a church word.... best defined as time to enjoy good food, sit with friends, and make new friends while a game was on tv).  Our family looked so forward to this night, as Frank always helped with set-up and making our fellowship hall both welcoming and accommodating, including a separate "quiet" room complete with a single big-screen tv and snacks for the serious football fans.

Children become very familiar with the church they grow up in... and so do their parents.  Maybe it was because Clay was our fourth child... maybe it was because he is a boy... maybe it was because he seemed to be "sort of" the Super Bowl mascot... Everyone thought he was so cute and funny - he was 3 at the time.... :)

Regardless of the why, at some point during the evening, Frank and I touched base realizing that I mistakenly thought Frank has an eye on Clay, and Frank clearly assumed I had Clay on my radar.  Quickly we gathered our three girls, expecting to see Clay tagging along with one of them.
"Nope, haven't seen him."
"Not with me."
"You mean you lost Clay??"

We calmly checked restrooms, hallways, the game areas  - that lasted about five minutes, and then heart began to panic.  Realizing the favorite for our youth ministry was hiding somewhere in church, we knew there were so many nooks and crannies to be searched.  Most of the areas of the building were intentionally dark, so that all would be clearly directed to the Fellowship Hall.  Clay was afraid of the dark, so we began to assume worst case scenarios.  

Within seconds the noise of the game blurred, the cheering subsided from "Go, giants!", "Come on, Ravens!", to "Clay, where are you?", "Clay, can you hear me?"  "Clay! CLAY!  CLAAAAAAAAAY"

As more friends jumped into the search, questions peppered my ears:  
Did you check the bathrooms?  YES
Did you check the kitchen?  YES
Did you check the back hallway?  YES
Did you check the gym?  YES - but its pitch black in there; Clay is afraid of the dark.

Most all eyes, ears, attention, and concern turned to this 38-inch mischevious towhead who had seemingly vanished.  

As we continued screaming his name throughout the building, some had headed outside into the freezing cold with flashlights, and still others retraced steps already taken in other parts of the building.  One friend took another approach.  He went alone into the dark forsaken gym, and whispered, "Clay, are you in here?"

The soft giggle erupted.  "You found me, Mr. Hal!  Here I am."

As my fingers dialed 911, Clay was being carried, as quickly as possible, to Frank and me.  Of course, his little body could barely handle our embrace of joy.  

You see, he wanted to be found... he wasn't hiding to be lost.  He was thrilled to be sought - 

Reading through the Bible this year, I just read Exodus 33... and "just happens" that a group of ladies I study alongside began this week, a study called, God Seeker, based on... yes, of course, Exodus 33. 

Can I encourage your heart with what has encouraged mine this past week?  Friends, the Creator of this beautiful world wants to be in constant conversation with you.  He created you.  He chose you.  He loves you.

Throughout this chapter, God and Moses have an ongoing conversation.

"The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend." Ex. 33:11

"The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'" Ex. 33 14

"And the Lord said to Moses, 'I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.'" Ex. 33:17 

Do you need a friend?
Are you begging for rest?
Do you long for someone to know your name?

Take some time, take a moment, realize that God is not hidden... HE calls you by name.  Don't allow the noise of the crowd, the looming pressure of the day, the angst of the world rob you of HIS presence.  

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 
Jeremiah 29:13

I like straight lines...

Straight line... point A to point B.  Actually, if you remember fourth grade geometry, a line includes two points and continues infinitely in both directions.  A line segment is defined as a line that ends at a point on each side.

I did prefer straight lines.  When Frank and I first married, we lived in a small apartment in South Carolina.  Our apartment was in the back of a large complex and had just been built, so we were the first to live there.  I remember the weekend my parents were coming to visit - I wanted everything to be just perfect.  Frank came home from work that Friday a little early to help do whatever I still needed.  He marched in the front door of our apartment and was met with my somewhat hysterical scream ending in the word... SSSSTTTTOOOOPPPP! STOP right there!  He obediently froze with one foot still in the air wondering what could possibly be wrong...

Me:  "Don't step on the carpet!!!  The lines are straight - I just vacuumed."

Frank: "So how am I supposed to get to the kitchen?"

It was a good question to which I had the perfect answer...

Me:  "Just walk around the edges... stay close to the wall."

How silly, really... if you walked into my home right now... that "straight line" importance doesn't exist.

We used to say that when Clay was a toddler, he knew only a straight line... to move as quickly as possible from point A to point B... didn't matter AT ALL what obstacles blocked the path.  You know, the proverbial, bull in the china shop.  You get the picture.

 A ray would be our closest definition... a straight line beginning at one point continuing to infinity... or for those in Christ - eternity.  This journey of life is more of a zig zag... full of crooked lines, isn't it?

We ran into Kellie's Kindergarten teacher today... Her sweet voice hasn't changed a bit, and neither had her kind heart always concerned for others.  Kellie was in her class 22 years ago, so I couldn't help but spend a few minutes thinking about those 22 years in our families' life... some bumps, several curves, some repeats, a few circles, a couple of 180 degree turn arounds, and joys, challenges, and lessons along the way.

You've probably realized, I love Joseph's life story in the Old Testament.  As I study his life, I see so many bumps, so many curves, so many unexpected moments.

You remember...
Big bump: He was sold by his brothers into slavery.

Good curve:   He was fortunate enough to land in the house of Potiphar and work his way up to being "in charge" of Potiphar's house after gaining his respect.

Unexpected twist:  Potiphar's wife approached Joseph with inappropriate intentions.

Good decision:  He, rightly so, denied her advances.

Difficult results:  In her frustration/indignation, she falsely accused Joseph of coming after her.  The charges landed him in prison, unjustly so... remember, and there he sat.

Surprising positive turn:  He found favor in the eyes of the jailer, who put him in charge of the prisoners.  He met the Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker, who both experienced disturbing dreams.  Joseph correctly interpreted both dreams... with good news for the cup bearer who was restored to his position in the palace, and bad news for the baker whose life was ended in exactly the way Joseph described.

Another bump:  So, Joseph sat in prison as he waited for the cup bearer to "remember" him.

Long quiet stall:  Two years later Pharaoh had a dream, and the cup bearer remembered Joseph.

Bruised, yet encouraged:  Joseph interprets the dream, and, once again, is put in charge of Pharaoh's household.  He is placed in a position to determine all plans/processes for the coming 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine.

Full circle understanding:  Joseph has the opportunity to save his entire family and to bring them to live in Egypt.  Yes, those same brothers who originally sold him into slavery.

For each of the bold headings above, you (and I) could plug in our own twists, turns, bumps and precious moments of life.  What I have come to realize is that NOTHING... no twist, no turn, no bump, no time in our journey is wasted.  Our Heavenly Father promises that ALL things, ALL THINGS work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

Can I just encourage you - if you are walking through a seeming, never-ending bump... God is for you, and His plan is good.  He promises not to ever leave you.  So hold on to Him... knowing He is holding you.

Maybe straight lines aren't so great, anyway... it's okay, Frank... just walk straight through the middle of the den!  😊

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?
 As for you, you meant evil against me, 
but God meant it for good, 
to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Genesis 50:19-20

Write It Down... in 2017.

I've written before about my "priceless" love letter written by my Frank.  He had interviewed with a company in South Carolina and was offered his first real job after finishing college.  He had called me from a pay phone (Yes, you had to put money in the machine, then dial... then continue to put more money in... especially when calling long distance.  Long distance meant the person you were calling was in a different area code that the one you were calling from - it cost more. 😃)  I am feeling especially aged right now.

So, after celebrating the fact that Frank getting the job meant that we would set our wedding date immediately, I called my pastor.  August 25 (1984) was the only Saturday he had left that summer... so we snagged it!  Frank boarded the plane to head home and realized he had no paper on which to write to me.  So, he improvised and used the only available option... the vomit bag in the back of the seat in front of him.  To me, the bag is still priceless.

I love to write... so it is easy for me say... just write it down.  It has become a tradition for me during the last week of the year, to look back over my journal and remember through those entries.  Now, maybe it is my menopausal brain, but even from January, I am amazed (or disturbed 👵) at what I don't remember.  Events that took place, conversations that were had, concerns about those events and those people involved in the conversations...

Prayers offered...
scriptures recorded...
joys recounted...
tears remembered...
people loved...
unexpected path walked...
decisions made...
fears realized...
questions answered...
questions unanswered...
life lived...

And the thread running constant - God's grace, God's comfort, God's presence...

The Bible gives life-giving examples of... write it down.

In Exodus 34, God instructed Moses to write down the words the Lord spoke of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

In Deuteronomy 6, the Israelites were commanded to write the words of 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all our soul and with all your might' on their doorposts and their gates.

In Proverbs 3, we are encouraged to write love and faithfulness on the tablet of our heart...

Many of the prophets were told to write down what had already happened and what would happen (prophesy).

So often the writing was encouraged so that the people (present and future) would remember.... Remember the provision of God, the plan of God, the purpose of God, the character of God, the faithfulness of God, the sovereignty of God.

Can I challenge you to join me in writing this year?  One very tangible way is to join in with several thousand women to write down and memorize 2 scripture verses a month in the year 2017.  That is 24 verses - writing them down gives us a goal and an automatic accountability.  (I will be writing my verses here as well.)  Living Proof Ministries (Beth Moore) offers a great way to write it down using a Facebook link.  You can read about it by clicking the link below - a small spiral notebook works well, too.

If you've never used a journal before, just give it a try.  Don't put a ton of restrictions/rules on yourself, just let it be a place you start.  Mornings are best for me, just because it starts my day off - use your Bible, a devotional book (if desired).  Keep it simple - write down a verse or two... and simple begin:
Dear Father,
You are... (love, grace, faithful, peace...)
I'm sorry... (I sinned - He already knows... just tell Him.)
Thank you... (for everything, for specifics, for people, for salvation)
Help... (today, with whatever I know is coming... and with whatever I don't.)


So, here we go.... pick up your pen... join me.

Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.  Psalm 119:11