The Only Correct Answer

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Ezekiel 37:1-3 NASB
When God asked the prophet Ezekiel “Can these bones live?” the prophet did not consult holy writings.
He did not say, “Well, you probably have done this in the past.”
He did not say, “Yes!” with great zeal.
He simply said “O Lord God, You know.”
When I was young in the Lord I would read that scripture and think the prophet’s answer was a cop-out.His answer frustrated me.I used to think he was too timid to say, “Yes God, you can make them live.”, that he hung back and had little faith.After all, wasn’t he a prophet?
Speak up man!I used to think when I read that passage, God, the One True and Holy God has asked you a question.Obviously He wants you to proclaim your faith in His works.He wants you to say yes with conviction!
But recently I saw it from another perspective.
Ezekiel was in such deep communication, fellowship, with God that the only correct answer was “O Lord God, You know.”
In other words, I’m listening, I’m waiting, I’m ready to do what you say, God. Tell me.
I’m waiting on Your Word and I will not hazard to guess what You are doing. I will not try to predict the future, not even based on Your past dealings with me.
I am a hungry child, waiting on Your every Word as if it were food, (as it truly is food for the soul) holding my breath until You speak.I will not move until you say so and I am at complete rest in doing that.I am not worried if the bones can live.I am not trying to drum up my own faith and proclaim it, because the King of Glory is standing right beside me, speaking to me.
When we are born again into God’s kingdom, somehow He has seen fit to allow us to participate in His works and He is going to tell us step by step what to do and say.
We only have to wait on His word.

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Image: The Vision of Ezekiel: the Valley of Dry Bones, by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope

What God Lost in the Garden

I’m on a business trip with my husband this week. It’s a luxury for me to unwind and focus on my writing without the daily necessities of planning dinner, chores, etc. I’m able to just sit and write, or ramble around the town and find inspiration for characters.
This morning I had one of those moments where it seems time freezes. I was standing in the lobby of the hotel, having just come from breakfast. To my left a group leader prowled around her group of listeners. They stood in a semi-circle and some yawned, some jerked their heads up as she entered their field of vision. It was early and I imagine not all the coffees had kicked in yet. She was extolling the virtues of whatever enterprise they were gathered there to discuss.
To my right, harried hotel clerks scrambled to help guests check out.
A drink dispenser repairman grumbled under his breath as he crawled on the floor, tools clanking on this and that part on the dusty machine he’d edged away from the wall.
I stood in silence in the middle of this moving, breathing microcosm of humanity.
And the thought hit me, how we must look to God, scrambling around, scratching for subsistence. Plunging ahead blindly in our own enterprises, with barely a thought of Him.
That was when it came to me in a flash, what God lost in the Garden of Eden.
I’d always focused on man’s estrangement from God. But this morning I realized the pain God must have felt at being stripped of the pleasure of walking and talking intimately with His creation.
“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:8-9
The Father, the Creator, calling to His child, “Where are you?”
He wants to commune with us, and it breaks His heart when we are not to be found.
Kathy Sprinkle posted Tuesday evening C.S. Lewis’ quote which summed it up:
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are too easily pleased.”

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The Cornerstone

Meet Evan. This sixth-grader is a 4’8” blond bundle of energy in horn-rimmed glasses. His hair is wavy and long enough to make us all wonder if his parents believe they have spawned this millennia’s Samson, and it is so unkempt that it is always in his face. (I have to wonder if his energy comes from his hair, actually.) His gait is such that an adult commented once that she cannot see how he gets anywhere because it is so comically wonky. His passion is food; his brain is randomness; his personality is pure happiness. His hobby is raiding his polar-opposite sister’s room in an attempt to get her to leave it and join life, because where Evan is, life is. On steroids.
Yes, Evan is ADHD. He will tell you himself if you give him a chance to finally ramble there. His physician dad apparently won’t allow anyone to medicate him, and I understand why. He can control himself in class. He does well in school in spite of the firings of his brain; as a matter of fact, the kid is brilliant. You just have to listen long enough to see it.
He had tried out for the academic team before middle school, but the elementary coach is a seasoned veteran of sixteen years, plus she had several years as a player. She was having no part of it. The kid couldn’t be quiet long enough to take instruction, let alone play! But new coaches don’t know such things, and this year, I was the new middle school coach. Eighteen kids tried out this year, and I took them all for fear of cutting a gem.
So when Evan came with his sister (this is her one activity), we started him on quick recall. That did not go so well because Evan can get answers, but he cannot SPOUT them. He elaborates. He also cannot organize his mind to follow procedures like quick recall follows. Infractions added up quickly. I moved Evan to Future Problem Solving. There his randomness could shine, and he didn’t have to remember so many procedures quickly; but there was still an issue: his randomness and ramblings distracted the other team members from the task, and they got annoyed. He was great at thinking out of the box—a trait we desperately need in that competition, but he couldn’t control his energy. I had two teams that I put him with, and each one had at least one kid who was about to do him bodily harm. Since that was the case, I designated Evan as our alternate. He would play if someone could not be there because four people had to be on the team. He came to nearly every practice, but when competition days came, Evan sat out. He never complained. He never asked why. He took his ousting in a way that crushed my heart.
I regretted Evan’s rejection so badly that I promised his parents that if we went to State competition, he would play. FPS is a tough competition, and it is grueling for the kids. It was my first year, and it was their first year as middle school students to compete in it. Our chances were slim and none to make it to State, but the promise comforted my guilty conscience.
I believe God laughed as He brought on the miracle that sent my FPS team to State, but He also sent another miracle: they would have a separate competition for those kids who, like Evan, practiced, but never played. They would put them in teams and let them compete as the regular teams competed.
Evan would get his chance. I signed him up. We took him to State. He played at State. His team of alternates placed third at State while my regular team did not even make it to a second round of scoring. The kid is still beaming through his long, wavy locks and under his oversized horn-rimmed glasses. And while I am ecstatic for him, I am still wondering, “What if…”
This whole scenario has played over in my mind, and while Evan is not Jesus, this Scripture pops up in the middle of it all:
“Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This came from the Lord
and is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit.”—Matt. 21:42-43
The Triumphal Entry. The praises of the masses. Jesus entering the temple complex, finally recognized for Who He is and finally allowing the masses to proclaim Him. As we read the Gospels, we wait for this moment. He was born King, the Son of the Highest, One of the Three-in-One, but for three years, He squelched those who knew Him because this moment had to be right. The right time had to be there. If it had happened before, something would not have been fulfilled in God’s plan, but NOW…
And while the masses acknowledged, the Pharisees and scribes had to find a way to get this uneducated carpenter out of the way before He destroyed all they had built.
The last week began. The week that would see the full rejection of the cornerstone, the casting aside of the very key all of Israel had to real life and hope, and not the traditions of their fathers; a week that would lead to the brutal killing of an innocent man, but Who was never murdered in the traditional sense. He gave His life in order to find it for Himself and for those He could not live without (… keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.—Heb. 12:2). In spite of the plotting of man, God’s Cornerstone was set into place. This was never in man’s hands.
I rejected a little boy. I felt guilty, but I felt I was doing the best I could for the team. Maybe I was wrong. One of the little girls on the team even came to me after their loss and said, “Mrs. Reid, I think we needed Evan.” I agreed, and I said, “But I thought you might do him bodily harm if I put him in.” She pondered a moment. “Well…yeah.” That little girl regretted losing, but nothing major happened in the universe because we lost. Losing happens.
I am becoming more and more aware of those who reject the Cornerstone of God because there is something major attached to that. I see them rejecting Him for similar reasons the nation of Israel did: He is weak; He hasn’t overthrown the tyrants; pain, illness, and loss still exist; He wants us to love whom?; He expects too much, and gives too little; I am fine going to church every Sunday and putting in my offering and judging those who do not follow the way of the Scriptures.
I pray that in my broken life, He can shine through. I pray for many in my company who may do all the right things, but do not have the Cornerstone as a foundation for what they do. I pray for those who are frustrated and fearful because God didn’t live up to their expectations—that they see that that is because their expectations are far too low, no matter what the hurt is from the disappointment. And my ultimate prayer for those colleagues, those kids, those parents, is that someone who knows Jesus hears from each of them a variation of what that little girl said to me when the smoke of loss cleared: “I think needJesus.”Reprinted by permission, Carolyn Reid, 2015

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Have You Lost Your Mind (Yet?)

This is a post from a devotion for a group in which I am a member.
To set the stage, In Mark 3 Jesus had just healed a man on the Sabbath, a man with a withered hand. Jesus was being watched closely, and after that fateful healing, “the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”(Mark 3:6) We are seeing the convergence of two events, like two mighty rivers flowing into one another. As people are being healed, the wrath of the Pharisees is increasing.Jesus’ time on this earth is growing short.
The crowds, having heard how people were being healed, came to Jesus from all over the region. He was forced to climb into a little boat and pull away from the shore so they would not crowd him.
Later he went up on a mountainside with his followers and appointed the twelve “that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”(Mark 3:14-15)
It was just after this when he entered a home. Evidently word spread he was there. A crowd gathered, so large that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. Can you hear the crowd outside the house? Donkeys braying, feet crushing undergrowth, people jostling each other, trying to push in the front door? The harried home-owner, trying to give Jesus and the disciples a meal. Maybe yelling at his friends, “Keep the door shut, at least let them eat!”
In the middle of all this, the Son of God, healing, teaching, mentoring the twelve men who were to follow him, in the middle of this come Jesus’ family members. We are not told which ones, but here they are. Are they coming to join him? Are they coming to say, “Wow, we are hearing of all these healings, you must be who you say you are!”
No.
The NIV says “They went out to take charge of him.”(Mark 3:21)
The NASB says “they went out to take custody of Him.”
Someone appointed an intervention committee for our Lord.
“When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said,
“He is out of his mind.”
(Mark 3:21)NIV
 I am flabbergasted.
Read this verse slowly.
Let the words sink in.
Someone called our Lord crazy. Not just someone, the people he had grown up with.
 
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!
26 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”Matthew 10:24-28NASB
Do not fear them. Go out there and live crazy for God!
“So go out and live real good and I promise you’ll get beat up real bad. But, in a little while after you’re dead, you’ll be rotted away anyway. It’s not gonna matter if you have a few scars. It will matter if you didn’t live.”
Mark 3: 20-21 NASB
“And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. 21 When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.”
Mark 3:20-21 NIV
“20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered,so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
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The Smell of Fire

Daniel 3:24-27
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and (walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. 27 The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.
Two nights ago I grilled dinner. It was a windy day and smoke billowed up from the coals. No matter which way I turned, the smoke found me.
Later that night, I crawled between clean sheets and  just as I was drifting off I was startled awake by an acrid odor. It smelled as if something was burning. I got up and checked the heating unit to make sure it was not in trouble. I walked the house, trying to discern the origin of the smell.
I finally gave up and crawled back in bed, and just as I lowered the covers again a rush of air brought the scent of smoke to my nose again. I realized remnants of my outdoor cooking scented my hair.
It seems no matter how well we clean up; we change our image, we even move to a different location, remnants of our past cling to us like pungent reminders of tragic times in our lives.
It could be the death of a loved one, a lost job, a failed relationship, a missed opportunity, that clings to us like ashes.
I remembered Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were in a pretty tight spot. They followed every leading of God they knew to follow. They had been righteous and fasted and prayed.They were good men. And then the fire. The furnace was so hot it killed the men who threw our heroes into the flames.
And then, oh then! What was it like to see Him? To feel the ropes fall away, but not feel the flames?
What did they discuss as they walked that day?It didn’t seem like they were in a hurry to leave Him. They had to be called out by King Nebuchadnezzar.
And the smell of fire had not even come upon them.
 
God took away even the remnants of their tragic experience. It was as if He were saying, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
 
Years ago there was a horrific event I went through, and like the friends of Daniel I had done nothing to bring the trouble upon me. I walked about some mornings in a daze, wondering what course to take. A very important part of my life was stripped from me and I stumbled around like I was in a smoke filled room. I cried out to Him and the most wondrous thing happened. Each morning I would awaken to His presence. It was like He had been waiting for me all night, hovering over me tenderly waiting for my eyes to open. Each day I felt as if I were not alone, in seemingly the most lonely time of my life.
It took awhile, but the smell of that trouble left me, and it has never returned. In its place I have joy.
 
Revelation 21:1-5 NASB
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw )the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
(italics and bold are mine)
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There’s a Hole in the World Tonight

“There’s a hole in the world tonight
There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow
There’s a hole in the world tonight
Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow.
Oh they tell me there’s a place over yonder,
Cool water running through the burning sand.
Until we learn to love one another
We will never reach the promised land.” Hole in The World, The Eagles
I can’t get this song out of my head tonight.I am sure the heart of God is broken over our world. I have to limit my news consumption. I take in enough, the essentials, then I pray.
Don Henley explained in the liner notes for The Very Best Of The Eagles compilation that he penned Hole in the World on the darkest day in American history: September 11, 2001. “I sat down at the piano in my home studio and started putting some chords with the phrase ‘hole in the world,'” he said.
Bear with me while I pull some themes together for you. It seems sometimes the hole is so deep that we can’t claw our way out of it. That is where the second part of my theme comes in…
“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”
― Corrie ten Boom, survivor of Nazi concentration camps, beloved evangelist and writer. I’m sure many of you have read Corrie’s writings, if you haven’t had the pleasure please look her up. She was an amazing woman of God who stood strong in one of the darkest times on our planet.
Don Henley pinpointed the problem, yes, the hole. It’s in our hearts and he says the “place over yonder…the promised land” can be reached when we learn to love one another. I have to go one step further Don. Yes, we learn to love one another, but it is only when this happens:
“…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”Romans 5:5-6NASB
God answers the darkness with light. He fills in the holes in our world with the willing voices of His children! We are many, we are made strong by the blood of the Lamb.
(Tattoo courtesy of Eric Wilson, author of Fireproof and many other best selling Christian books. Thank you Eric for permission to use this.)
https://www.facebook.com/EricWilsonNovelistTattoo

My Race, My Pace

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Ecclesiastes 9:10-11Living Bible (TLB)

“10 Whatever you do, do well, for in death, where you are going, there is no working or planning, or knowing, or understanding.11 Again I looked throughout the earth and saw that the swiftest person does not always win the race…” (Italics mine)

There is a wonderful work-out group I am honored to be part of online. Their motto is My Race, My Pace. We are all using Fitbit devices to monitor our steps each day. It is a low-pressure environment where whatever we do, we try to “do well.”  I was thinking about this group today and the scripture popped into my head that “The swiftest person does not always win the race.” When I was young I was a sprinter in the game of life. I pushed myself until I was exhausted and then berated myself to do more. Whether it was volunteer activities or cleaning my house, I judged myself harshly and my efforts were never good enough. Lately I have been slowed down against my will by pain. I am forced many days to be still. In this stillness I see the value of being quiet and listening for God’s voice. I see how God in His mercy does not measure us by our list of accomplishments, but He wants us to choose “the good part.”

Luke 10:40-42 NASB

“But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

The part of that scripture that wraps around me like a comforting blanket is “which shall not be taken away from her.”When I choose Him, nothing can take Him away from me, not illness, not war, not pain, not circumstance. He is the only thing that robbers cannot break in and steal, even those who would wish to take my life cannot take Him from me.

Matthew 6:19-21New American Standard Bible (NASB)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

My personal motto would really be My Race, God’s Pace.

Hebrews 1:1-3 NASB

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Don’t grow weary precious ones. Don’t lose heart. He loves you so much, He is there in the middle of everything you are going through right now, right this minute and if you listen to His voice, He will set the pace.

Thursday’s Child

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I am Thursday’s child on Reflections Along the Way, a devotional page on Facebook. I have the supreme enjoyment of writing for the Thursday slot on that page.Each writer was asked to post a short bio and their devotional for the day and following is my contribution this week.Thursday’s child, according to the old poem, has far to go, and I have travelled quite a way from the city of my birth, Richmond Virginia. The middle child of five, I found escape from the summer heat in the local bookmobile that parked at the end of our street each week. There I was introduced to characters that drew me in like a secret passageway to other worlds. I’d check out books and then hide away under the ballooning Forsythia bush in the corner of our yard with a quilt pulled from my bed. Escape was essential, as our father was greatly troubled by his best friend, alcohol. The two of them managed to keep our home in turmoil and it was always a relief when our father went away on a guard weekend.
I stopped running from God one Sunday in Mobile Alabama when I was 20. I was living away from home working on my clinical for college. My student loan check had been stolen from my mailbox and I was down to twenty-five cents and a quarter tank of gas. I flipped open my Bible and it fell to Matthew 6:25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink…”
It was the first time I knew God had spoken specifically to me and I was overwhelmed by His love. He has been with me for many years now, and as my former pastor used to ask me, “Has He failed you yet?” and I can still answer no, He has never failed me.

Lately I have been writing about an exercise to ground you in tense emotional circumstances and I think it would even work in catastrophic events. It’s very simple, you can remember it by threes…
Three questions
Three motions
Three responses
It’s called LIT-M, and is an idea re-worked. Living In The Moment.

When you are in a tense emotional situation you ask yourself:

1.First Question: Exactly where am I right this minute? (Geographically, time wise, etc)
1.First motion: Look down at your feet.
1. First response:(example, I’m in my kitchen)
This focuses you on the immediate. You are not allowed to worry about where you just came from or where you are headed, you are only allowed to focus on your current situation.
2.Second Question: Ask yourself, “What does God have to say about where I am, emotionally, etc.” If you have your Bible or an App, search some scriptures pertinent to your emotional situation. Ask God.
2.Second Motion: Look up, at the ceiling if you are inside, at the sky if you are outside.
2. Pray for a response, pray for illumination through the scriptures.

3. Third Question: “God, what do you want me to do in this moment and this circumstance?”
3.Third Motion: Look around you.
3.Third Response, you again pray, search the scriptures and listen for God’s leading.

You are not allowed to wallow in the past, or second guess yourself. You are not allowed to fret about the future, not even the next moment, it is all about living and breathing exactly in that moment, because God is there with you.
The motions are down, up, and around.

Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.Psalm 139:12

To Serve and to Protect

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I am posting this today to stand with my fellow police wives. Most of us give up Christmas mornings so our husbands can be on their patrols. Did you know that? It’s OK, most people go about their holidays and don’t think about it. But we do. We get our children in their pajamas Christmas Eve and say a prayer that some kind guy on our husband’s shift will bow out of his day off and let our children’s daddy come home so he can see them open their presents. Most Christmases my husband stood by in full uniform, radio squawking, gun belt creaking, watching our little girls tear into packages and have the thirty minutes of his break that we could with him. Then he was off, to take care of someone’s domestic problems, or work a wreck, or a business break-in, or I always prayed not, a shooting.We don’t want your sympathy. We like it that we are married to super-heroes. That’s what drew us to them in the first place. What we do want is for you to let us live our lives. Stop the ambushes and executions. Our husbands give the same protection to someone who could turn around thirty minutes later and shoot them. That’s just the way they are. So please stop with all the “bad cop” talk. Movie portrayals of crooked cops make great drama, but have little truth.Who wants to go see a movie about a great guy who is there when your dad draws his last breath? Where is the drama in a cop who administers CPR to an already cold little body, just so the parents can be assured that every means was tried?(My husband did that, by the way.) If you want to really see what police do every day, sign up for a ride-along. Most cities have them. For the price of a signature waiver you get a front row seat to what reality is like. Then say a prayer for the police officer you are riding with. His name could be in the paper one day as another casualty of the job, and he knows it, and he goes out every day and does his job anyway. Why? Because he believes in the promise that is on the side of his patrol car.

Candy Canes, Paws, and Socks

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We picked Brandy out from a litter of squirming black Lab pups, battling over a dented metal pan of dog food. Right away she was different from the others. Instead of fighting over kibble, she wandered to the enclosure to see my husband, and I knew she was the one for us. Lyrics from the song “Brandy” went through my mind.

The sailors say “Brandy, you’re a fine girl”
“What a good wife you would be”
“Yeah your eyes could steal a sailor from the sea”
Brandy had Ghirardelli Chocolate eyes filled with trust. Indeed, she was a fine girl.
Early on we discovered Christmas was Brandy’s favorite time of year. Every year we hung unwrapped candy canes on our tree as part of our decorations. One evening we found Brandy circling the tree, alert, nose snuffling loudly. She searched the branches until she spotted a candy cane, gently pulled it off the tree and crunched away with pleasure. It became our Christmas ritual. The first day we decorated the tree we hid Brandy in another room. When the candy was hung on the tree we’d spring the door open and Brandy would bound joyfully into the room and head straight to the tree. She knew where we hid the good stuff.
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Last Christmas there was no candy cane hunting. Brandy passed away from cancer the day after Thanksgiving. She hunted canes for fourteen years.
The day she died my husband and I wandered the aisles of our local Target store.Bright Christmas lights seemed out of place. The aisles were clogged with happy shoppers and Christmas tunes played over the speakers, but in my heart I was looking for that black wagging tail and goofy Lab grin. What I spotted instead was a box of candy canes. My chest tightened and sobs burned their way up my throat. I had to do something, anything to make something good come from the loss of our sweet puppy.
That was when I remembered a conversation I’d had with my sister. She’s a nurse for a juvenile detention center. She loves those girls like they are her own. We had been discussing how many of “her” girls had never experienced Christmas. Their holiday memories were full of physical and emotional abuse. What better way to give meaning to Brandy’s death than to honor her on her favorite holiday?
I got on the phone with my sister and between the two of us figured out one gift the girls would be permitted by the institution would be socks. My husband and I immediately headed to a Christmas bin overflowing with multicolored socks. Sadness turned to joy as we dug through piles of socks, trying to find the prettiest patterns, wondering if the girls would like them. Thirty pair of reindeer socks, dotted socks and red and green ornament socks later, our shopping cart was filled.
By this time the cloud lifted. I could almost feel Brandy’s slobbery kiss of approval.
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Along with her pair of socks, each girl received a card stamped with the message: “You are Inscribed on the palm of his hand… Isaiah 49:16”
Brandy signed each card with a paw-print stamp.
When the socks arrived my sister gathered the girls together and told them Brandy’s story.
She said when something bad happened in your life, one way to defeat sad thoughts was to go out and do something good.
Weeks later we received many thank you cards from the girls.
The first card said: “Thank you for the socks. I’m gonna start doing what you do when I do something wrong I do something good. I did something wrong so when I get out I like to do something good so thank you for teaching me a good way to help people and get the guilt away. Samantha”
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The second card I opened said “Thank you for the sock and I hope you feel good and I’m sorry about your dog. Love Alexis”
When I was reading the thank you cards my sister called. Before she distributed the packages that day, she told a short story about Christ and how He was the ultimate gift. One girl in particular hung back, did not want to participate. When the gifts were finally  handed out, she waited until the crowd thinned, then handed her socks to my sister. “I don’t need socks, but can I keep this card?”
The message in the card meant more to her than a new pair of socks.
You see, these girls have experienced the most raw parts of life, they have seen and heard things that no young woman should see or experience. Some of them are cutters, mutilating themselves to try to get some relief from the pain of their lives. That is why when the greatest gift ever given, God who came down as a baby, says He has them inscribed on the palms of His hands, well, they know exactly how that could be. They know He took their pain upon Himself.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…” Isaiah 49:15-16
This Advent Season let’s celebrate the greatest Gift of all, from the One who knows us, even from the womb.
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