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!

From Judgment to Grace – Changing a Family Story – Romans 14:4

I know we’re not supposed to judge, but I do it all the time. It’s so easy, especially when the person in mind is someone I’ve never met and who died in 1925. Years ago I heard things about him that made it clear his poor choices affected his family for generations after him. He was clearly guilty.

He was my great-grandfather, Robert Stowe, a married father of four who worked as an insurance salesman and music teacher in Elkhart, Indiana. His failing was that his addiction to alcohol ate up their resources and caused his family to live in poverty. His daughter remembered how the wind blew up through cracks in the floor. His wife took their children to church and taught them good values, but Robert’s was only a sad, depressing story.

That was the narrative I believed all my life, until a few months ago.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Romans 14:4 ESV

My Robert Stowe story changed shortly before my mother died, when she gave me more details about his life. She told me about his love for his children, how he taught music at their school, singing with Beneta, my grandmother, in his rich tenor voice.

His wife was musical too, singing soprano and playing her guitar. In their poverty they enjoyed making music. I hadn’t known they shared good times together. Instead I based my opinion of him on a repeated story, that single story, which in my mind marked him for life.

I felt no affection for Robert Stowe, however, until Mom told me about how his church held the belief that when it came to drinking alcohol you were doomed. Even if you believed in Jesus as your Savior, struggling with drink was equal to moral failure. You were labeled “backslidden” and no longer welcome in God’s presence—or theirs.

Robert Stowe would repent and get sober, attend church with his family for a time, then backslide again. Can you imagine how hard it would be to face your friends again and again, and have them reject you because of your struggles? And how heartbreaking it would be for a little girl to think her daddy wouldn’t go to heaven?

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.

1 John 3:7-9 ESV

Robert Stowe practiced a righteous life, humbling himself to admit his struggle with staying sober. He failed miserably, but the 1 John 3 scripture doesn’t say there’s a limit to how many falls we can experience. It does mention practicing, though.

I have three photos of my great-grandfather. In all of them he appears stern. Maybe he was hard on himself, a perfectionist that could never measure up. I can’t find any clues about his childhood or what happened to him. What I do know is that my heart changed. I understand him a little better now, and I have compassion for him.

I also know the graciousness of God and the truth that we all need a Savior. None of us come to God with a perfect record. And none of us are better people, or worse sinners, than another. God’s grace is enough.

Now I can easily imagine my great-grandfather performing the most requested song by his daughter’s classmates, Nita Juanita, and singing it with her name, “Nita” Beneta. If they share the love of laughter and the sparkle I’ve seen in his daughter’s blue eyes, it’s not a reach to imagine them enjoying a playful moment in heaven—free not only from his addictions, but from others’ judgments as well.

I can’t wait to meet him.

Kathy Sheldon Davis

From Foster Child to Greatness – Exodus 2:6-10

When I began fostering children it didn’t occur to me that Moses, the great leader of Israel, was raised in a foster home. I only understood that his mother relinquished him to save his life.

Jochebed hid her baby as long as she dared, knowing her neighbors lost their infant sons to drowning whenever they were discovered. Finally, weaving a reed basket, she plotted her baby’s escape.

Her heart must have been breaking, yet she hoped God would protect his life. How did she manage to hold herself together as she wrapped her boy in his blanket one last time, placed his napping form in the basket, and launched him into the river?

When she (Pharaoh’s daughter) opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” 

Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?”  And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother.  And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.”

So the woman took the child and nursed him.  When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Exodus 2:6-10 ESV

Her little one rescued from the river, Jochebed was given a few additional years to nurse him, sing to him, enjoy him–all while receiving wages as though she were merely a nursemaid. This boggles my mind.

Imagine how you would pray in Jochebed’s situation. Her son would be taught to serve the gods of Egypt, spurning her people and her God. He might even become an oppressor like the ones who tried to wipe out all her nephews.

As she mothered him a little longer, she prepared for the day she’d send him away again. Do you think she whispered in his ear to remind him she was his true mother? When she put her son into his foster mom’s arms, did she hear his new mother change her boy’s name–and maintain her peace anyway?

Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.

Numbers 12:6-8 ESV

PRAYER:

Lord, I don’t know all your plans for my children and my foster children, but like Jochebed, I put them in your hands. I trust you. I pray you will teach them your ways and guide their paths in preparation for the tasks you have for them. May they surpass me in their knowledge of you, walk humbly before you, and serve you faithfully all their days. Thank you for hearing the prayers of a mother’s heart.

Kathy Sheldon Davis