Welcome the Stranger – Leviticus 19:34

We didn’t know anyone in our new community when we moved into our country home. Both my husband and I had lived in Eugene since elementary school, not realizing how deep our roots had grown—or how important they were.

We’d stayed in the same school district for decades, taking part in athletic competitions, after school clubs, community events, and church activities with our neighbors and peers, so it was astonishing when we found ourselves viewed with suspicion by so many.

We were overlooked

I approached the line in front of the neighborhood church with my children in tow, hoping to register them for the week-long Vacation Bible School.

Several glanced my way, sizing me up, but didn’t hold my gaze long. I encouraged and played with my kids, but we stood alone, not included in others’ conversations.

It was a rude awakening, but insightful. They behaved much like I did in the same situation. I place a higher value on relationships now, having a greater appreciation for the friendships I’ve already developed and being more willing to invest in new ones.

Love your neighbor as yourself

“But the stranger who resides with you shall be to you like someone native-born among you; and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34 AMP).

As the sun beat down on the top of my head, I noticed a woman making her way down the line greeting people. She managed to animate the crowd with her friendliness, laughter erupting wherever she stopped. She didn’t bypass me. Instead she introduced herself, asked questions about my family, listened intently.

In the next few weeks our sons became friends at school. I entertained the notion that Friendly Woman was my new best friend exclusively. Then I remembered it appeared she made everyone feel that way.

Let’s not forget how it feels to be unnoticed, or how the kindness of one person can make our day.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

God Shows His Delight in Us – Zephaniah 3:16-17

My grandchildren have great radar, and it’s not because I carry candy in my purse. They are genuinely delighted to see me when I walk into church. Nothing is sweeter than hearing them holler “Grandma!” and come running to wrap their arms around me.

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We should call out to God like that

Some people don’t have the kind of family relationships they desire. There may be geographic or emotional distance, or other things that cause them pain.

We know how that feels, too.

When I think of this, I remember the foster child who lives in my grandchildren’s home. He’s right there with them, calling “Grandma!” and holding on to me. Though traumatized and separated from his birth family, he joins in, knowing I’ll hear and embrace him.

“Yea, you’re here!”

“Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:16-17 NIV).

God doesn’t just care deeply, he is “greatly delighted” with us. He’s with us. There’s rejoicing and singing. Everything’s going to be OK.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

I Taught my Son to Worship a Dog – Psalm 25:4-5

Our new puppy Max was no god.

The shepherd mix was my 5-year-old’s favorite playmate when his brothers weren’t around. Seth’s early experiences with his friend, however, were painful. Max nipped at fingers, making Seth pull his hand back. My son soon came inside with a frown, sliding the glass door between him and his pet.

Dog Training 101

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I reminded Seth that Max was still a baby and didn’t understand that bites hurt. Then I gave him some pointers. “When he nips at you, stop playing, pat his nose and say no.”

It seemed to work for a while, then from my kitchen window I saw that repeated no’s only made Max more playful. Nose tapping became part of the game.

I called Seth in again, recognizing he needed a little more help with puppy training. “Sometimes you should tell him he’s doing a good job. You wouldn’t like to hear no all the time, right? When he does something right you should praise him.”

“OK, Mommy.”

A little later I checked up on them. I found Seth on his knees, bowing toward his attentive puppy, hands tightly clasped as if in prayer, saying “Praise you, praise you, praise you” —to the dog!

Max cocked his head, trying to figure out how to make this new game more fun, while I seriously questioned my ability to communicate.

A Better Teacher

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long . . . Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” (Psalm 25:4-5 and 8-9 ESV).

God patiently teaches us his ways, and for that I’m forever grateful. Where would we be if my kids had only experienced my not-always-great parenting skills?

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

My Family is a Mess – Luke 11:27-28

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We played at the park last weekend, after a memorial celebration honoring one of our family members who passed on. It wasn’t overly solemn, nor did the rifts between us show themselves much.

After enjoying the potluck meal, Jerry and I headed to the playground with our grandchildren and grand-nephews. Our son-the-father-of-several gave his dad an underdog on the swing, and for a few moments our aging bodies enjoyed giddy playfulness before aches and pains slowed us down.

My family doesn’t always experience such pleasant afternoons.

We’re not perfect

It’s not a shocker. My family has issues. Whose doesn’t, right? But did you realize God had the first dysfunctional family? The genealogy in Luke 3:38 says, ” . . . son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”

Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and their descendants carried it on, getting themselves into all kinds of trouble.

We still do.

I remember another verse from the book of Luke, where a woman calls out to Jesus publicly, saying that his mother surely is blessed to have a son such as he. His response was to turn her attention to the greater blessing, hearing God’s words and doing them. That means it doesn’t matter how perfect your children are, blessing comes from doing God’s will.

“Now while Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed (happy, favored by God) is the womb that gave birth to You and breasts at which You nursed!’ But He said, ‘On the contrary, blessed (happy, favored by God) are those who hear the word of God and continually observe it” (Luke 11:27-28 AMP).

Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of his Son. She was blessed because she heard God’s promises and believed them, which prepared her to receive the difficult assignment God gave her. Her cousin Elizabeth said, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45 NIV).

The reward will come

My assignment is to listen to God, believe what he says, and do as he directs. For Jerry and Kathy, that meant raising four children, lots of foster kids, and now loving our grandchildren. He may give others a completely different assignment as they walk through life. We’re not all called to raise his holy Son, after all. Thank you, God!

Raising children is a temporary job. Loving God, listening to him and doing his will, is forever!

How kind our Father is, rewarding us while we still walk on this planet and before we’ve fully overcome our sinful natures.

How kind, indeed.

“Behold, children are a heritage and a gift from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3 AMP).

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

Perfection, and Not – Ephesians 2:4-7

Real children don’t always behave well, not like the cherished doll that adorned my bed. Real children come to us bringing messes, noises, and cries of protest. Not Priscilla. I bought her at a church bazaar with my babysitting money, after years of yearning for one of Mrs. Dillon’s dolls. Priscilla’s job was to spend the day exactly as I’d arranged her, propped against my pillow; pleasant, quiet, and clean. I came home from school to find she’d performed these duties flawlessly.

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Real people

My son stopped by briefly with his wife and children yesterday. While he was talking with my husband, I leaned against the van door to chat with his wife, their three sons, and their foster son.

The kids were loud and a bit disobedient. They’d just come from a BBQ and wore remnants of a meal on their faces. I couldn’t resist their hugs and updates on their day. Even my new little foster grandson called me grandma, not resting till I’d grabbed his hand and given him my attention.

My doll never did that.

Priscilla’s disguise

I didn’t discover my doll’s ruse until this week, when I remembered she wasn’t actually what she appeared to be. Priscilla was fashioned to look like a rag doll, but she was actually handcrafted from new materials. No rags, or anything second-hand, was used in her creation.

She was also a false friend. Her lips were stitched into a pleasant smile, but she couldn’t truly care about me, not like the little boys who reached for me from the back seat.

Free to love and be loved

That Christmas, my Sunday School class volunteered to provide a neighborhood family with Christmas gifts, and I donated Priscilla. It was truly a sacrificial gift, and sometimes I wish I’d kept her. It was better, though, to give her up to fulfill her purpose, bringing joy to a child in need.

In some ways I’m much like Priscilla. I am loved, cherished and protected, yet working in disorderly, noisy, uncomfortable places in order to share God’s love.

“. . . because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7 NIV).

Some day I will see I’ve been sitting next to Jesus all along.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis