The Joy of Coming Home – 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18

Do the emotional videos of soldiers returning from their deployments and greeting their children tug at your heart like they do mine? I’m a glutton for happy endings.

The little girl screams, “Daddy!” and in seconds she is launching into his arms. I have watched dozens of stories like this, wiping tears from my face in wonder at a family’s joy.

They make me think of the ultimate reunion we can experience for ourselves, when Jesus comes to take us home.

Many years ago I watched my Grandma Kocher rub a dot of hair dressing in her hands and spread it through her long, thin hair. She pressed the side combs in behind her ears, making her hair puff slightly. She proceeded to braid it all the way down to her elbows, wind it into a bun, and pin it at the back of her head.

I could never figure out how those skinny hairpins could make her braids stay put all day.

For as long as I can remember, she never wore her hair another way, except when she was working in the strawberry fields or stirring jam over a hot cookstove. That kind of labor warranted she cover it with a knotted scarf, tucking the corners at her forehead.

After enjoying Grandma’s steaming chicken and dumplings and a bowl of her home-canned peaches, and yes, warm jam on freshly baked bread, we patted our stomachs and moved to the living room. One of the stories I could anticipate hearing was about how she received comfort regarding the future of her children.

She started her story by explaining it was more real than a daydream, that it certainly had to have been a vision. She slid her glasses up the bridge of her nose, lowered her cheek into the palm of her hand, and looked past us to re-play what she’d seen.

Grandma had worked hard to support her family during Grandpa’s illness and death. Two of their sons were fighting in WWII, and there were still children at home to raise. She worried about them as they reached adulthood and left home, going their separate ways.

One day, while Grandma was praying, she saw herself leaving her mortal life and rising up to heaven. She felt incredible joy and anticipation about her coming arrival, but then remembered her children. She wasn’t sure they would all join her there.

She always stopped her story at this point to explain that she didn’t know if Jesus told her to look below her, or she just did it. Maybe she thought it remarkable that she could take her eyes off her incredible destination. At any rate, she felt compelled to look down.

With her eyes sparkling, she pointed to the floor around her feet and said, “. . . and there were my children all around me, going up with me.”

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 ESV

The person who posted the soldier reunion video warned that it was a tearjerker. I’d already watched it a couple times, but it touched me to the core again. All I could think of was how I will greet my heavenly Father when I see him in heaven. Like her, I just might let loose with an exuberant “Daddy!”

Kathy Sheldon Davis

Note: the artwork in this post is a commissioned piece created by my son, Joshua Davis, which depicts our family camping trips when you’ll find me in my old red jacket. I’m not planning to wear it when I meet Jesus, but, as Grandma would say, we shall see about that.

Love is . . . a Labor – 2 Samuel 24:21-24

We’re celebrating Dad’s birthday today.

I’m engaged in a labor of love, and I knew before I started that it would mean a lot of discomfort on my part. Since my vintage stand mixer retired itself because of its own age-related issues, I’m mixing the batter manually, taking lots of breaks to stretch the arthritic joints in my neck and low back.

I plod through the handwritten recipe. It has been more than a decade since I baked something from scratch. Well, except for a couple pans of cinnamon rolls which I’m not proud of.

Mom made this cake for many of Dad’s birthdays, likely as many as half, before she stopped baking. Her banana cake recipe was his favorite, and he especially appreciated the extra walnut bits she folded into the batter.

In the book of 2nd Samuel there’s a story about the king of Israel wanting a man’s threshing floor in order to build an altar to the Lord. However, the man, Araunah, tried to give it to him free of charge.

“Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the Lord your God accept you.”

But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

2 Samuel 24:21-24

Dad didn’t expect, or even request, a home-baked birthday cake today. I chose to make him one because I love him. I’m thankful God blessed me with an earthly father who held me in his arms as a newborn and played silly games with me as a child. Who worked extra jobs to provide us a good home, struggled through his frustration in parenting a teen, and mourned his loss as he walked me down the aisle on my wedding day.

Yes, he labored and suffered for me because of love. And today I’m working through my pain to bake him a cake.

Kathy Sheldon Davis

May your Christmas be filled with joy and gratitude for the sacrificial gift that our Father in heaven gave to us when he sent Jesus, his dearly loved Son. Merry Christmas!

How I Manage Myself on Social Media – Ephesians 5:15-17

I can handle it. I’m going to check my feed for five minutes because I need a break and I want to catch up on the news. And maybe see what’s going on with my friends . . .

photo by andre-mouton .unsplash

Yeah, you guessed it. I was still scrolling through photos and stories two hours later, proving I’m not in control as much as I thought.

My story isn’t new and neither are the excuses. You don’t need to hear all the details about my painful joints and the amount of time I spend lying down. I’ve learned to be productive, managing my daily tasks as I rest, and I’m delighted I can get so much done. But after work I check my feeds on Facebook and Twitter and too often there I go again, sliding into the void . . .

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV

There are so many opinions on the dangers of social media, my little brain can’t process it all. What concerns me, though, is how easily I’m drawn in – and kept there – by the distractions. Dare I use a stronger word and say seductions?

A few days ago my husband and I watched interviews of former executives and designers of the most popular social media platforms. It was alarming. At the end we asked ourselves what they were going to do to fix the problems they helped create.

But what they do is not my business. Instead, I should be concerned about how I’m managing me.

Where to start? I acknowledge that I’m a sheep. I follow other sheep because that’s what sheep do. No matter how convinced I am that I’m choosing my own path, I have to admit that my default is to take the easiest way without thinking things through or asking God for guidance.

Sheep can be startled by a loud noise and take off running away from safety instead of towards it, all because it seems like a smart move at the time. Yup, that’s me.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:6 ESV

Here’s what Jesus, who calls himself the good shepherd, said:

“. . . The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

John 10:3-5 ESV

How can I be sure it’s his voice I’m hearing in my head? For me, the answer lies in practicing. I start by asking for his help. I read the Bible to see how people in the past communicated with God and I talk to him like they did.

Immersing my mind in his words helps me detect faulty thinking that may crop up. I love those times when I recognize something seems off and I can say wait, that’s not right. God doesn’t talk like that.

Of course I make mistakes, that’s okay. He’s patient, and he knows I am a sheep. When I say or do something silly I shine my flashlight of faith on it and confess my error. And when I’m unsure of the direction I should take? That’s when I exercise my faith and say, “Correct me if I’m wrong, Lord. I really want to do your will.”

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

Isaiah 30:21 ESV

There’s a free 30-day Bible study course in progress now from Bible Gateway. It can help you get started on recognizing God’s voice. Though it started a couple weeks ago it’s not too late to join – I did and quickly caught up. I enjoyed the overview of the Bible its given me so far, and it covers a lot of ground in a short time.

After shopping around the internet for a photo to go along with this post, I darkened the screen, set my phone down, and pushed it out of my reach. I looked up and asked God how did I do? This time I was able to resist giving social media two hours of my attention. Instead I redirected my thoughts to the One I love most, and I trust that with practice I’ll do even better.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis