“I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”   Joshua 1:5

This bible verse is the one my son Jon picked for his confirmation verse.  His grandmother gave him a plague with this verse and its hanging in his room.  I don’t know how much thought went into selecting this verse, but I was glad he picked it and I had always liked that verse.

 When Jon was 5, his dad and I divorced.  Jon, his brother Bob and I moved into a new house.   The house was on Elm Street and it was new to us, but not new.  It had a lot of character, including some rooms that had been finished in cardboard rather than sheet rock.  Our new home.  For me it was a home, but I know for the boys it was one of two homes.  They had a new split sense of home.  I will probably never fully understand how that felt for them or the lasting affect it has had on their lives and their sense of home.

We lived in the house on Elm Street together for the next 12 years.  We named the house lil’ blue for its blue siding and the special place it held in our hearts.  It eventually became home to all of us and the place my kids grew into adults.  Twelve years later as we were preparing to move we had replaced all the cardboard with wallpaper, replaced all the carpet, painted all the walls – twice, remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms, put in new windows and fenced in the yard.  We left our mark on its wooden bones and gopher pocketed yard. 

When we said our good-byes to lil’ blue in 2007 we didn’t know then that we’d be moving again a year later in 2008.  Our sense of home became each other, our dogs and our favorite belongings that were moveable and easy to pack.  In the home we live in now, it again became my home faster than it did Jon’s.  He lived here, but he didn’t like it much and often talked about lil’ blue and how he missed her.

His high school graduation came in the summer of 2009,  a year and half after we settled into the house that was hard to like.  The best name I can think of for this house, the only name I can imagine coming from Jon’s mouth would be “the awkward grey-green box with the small rooms”.  As I prepared for Jon’s graduation party, it was hard for me to spend too much time thinking about the road I travelled with Jon during his school years.  I always ended up strolling down the path that had a big sign that read, “You let him down”.   Thoughts that reminded me that some of my choices had made his experiences difficult and disruptive.  Lately I felt that I had disturbed his life more than I had provided a restful peaceful home.

Early in the morning on the day of his party I stood in the kitchen and found myself staring at the posters of pictures I put together of Jon’s life.  Pictures of his first day of life and every other small and big moment, up to, and including, his graduation ceremony.  The pictures were beautiful and intriguing to me.  As I stared I realized that we were never really alone.  God had been with us the whole time.  He had been with Jon.  He had never left him, never forsaken him.  He was the constant source of love that held us all together, watched over Jon and bringing us all to this very day of celebration together.  Jon’s face, picture after picture was smiling.  He was surrounded by family and friends, laughter, birthday cakes, adventures and awkward stages.  The pictures told a story of a full-life.  A happy life. 


I dissolved into a puddle of tears – praising God for having been with us and for showing me that in such a loving way.  We aren’t promised an easy ride through our lives, but we are promised that we will not be alone.  We will not be forsaken by our Father in heaven who loves us just the way we are.


Eyes took another hit at our house last week.   Bob was accidentally shot in the eye with a bottle rocket while out of town with his friends.  Unsure if the eye itself was damaged or how severe his injury was, I brought him to my eye doctor on Monday. 




We were immediately frightened by the doctor’s reaction.  He was angry, reminding Bob that fireworks were illegal.  He began making phone calls, setting up additional appointments for Bob and a surgery for the very next day.  “You need to move fast to save what you can”, he tells us as he comes in and out of the office.  “The tear duct is torn making the tearing system inoperable.  The retina has blood behind it threatening its attachment to the eye.  This is a very serious injury, you need to act fast.”  He became part of the situation with us, pushing us, coaching us.  “Move!”  Twenty-four hours later Bobby was in surgery, in the hands of a specialist whose practice focuses on the delicate tear duct system. 


The night before the surgery my husband Bill and I went for a walk.  He led me to a ball field by our house and led us both into prayer for Bob’s eye.  We knelt on the grass surrounding the pitchers mound.  Bill picked this spot because it looked like a tear drop.  We prayed that Jesus would heal Bob’s eye and that he would guide our steps in a sure and precise way so that we would make the right decisions and take the right steps in what seemed to be an intensely time sensitive ordeal.  I asked Father God to show me where He was, I needed to see him.  I lay on my face, honoring my maker and asking him to act. 


I thought about the sermon from Sunday as my face was in the grass.  Our pastor talked about the moment we meet God.  How will we react?   Most of us will not pull out the list of questions we’ve all been waiting to ask him.  Instead, we will be overwhelmed by his Glory and love for us and we will be on our faces, stunned, amazed and finally seeing His majesty.  Our joy will be made complete in complete worship. 


With grass in my nose, I wonder, is this what heaven will be like?   Will I be so captivated that I can’t move?   That will be magnificent, all-consuming, amazing.  It will make situations like today just a speck.   It’s too much for my pea brain to piece together, I tell the Father.  I pledge my love for Him and rollover on my back.


Bill and I stared up into the sky, the top of our heads touching.  We marveled at the sky and its vastness.  I could see layering of color, black, red, blue, white.  We could both see what looked like a covering shield around us.  The clouds were white and thin.  They were stretched across the sky and moving so slowly they looked frozen in place.  I saw a large pinkish-orange cloud moving across the sky.  Bill could see it to.  We both ask each other “Do you see that?  Have you ever seen anything like that?”  No, we have never seen anything like it. 


The cloud kept moving across the sky, transforming itself in a dance-like motion.  An eagle, an angel, a butterfly until it dissipated and disappeared completely.  Wow.  Is that you God?  I sang praise songs to Him as He danced – watching the cloud move.  Maybe fifteen minutes pass.


My heart was left with several promises.  God’s perspective is so much bigger than ours.  He sees our whole lives.  He can see our beginnings and endings.  He is in control.  He can orchestrate anything.  He commands even the sky.  He knows every hair on our heads.  Our names are etched on his hand.  He shields us and protects us.  He is our maker.  He is our father.  He can dance across the sky to remind us of who he is and show his love for us and his complete majesty. (Isaiah 49:15-16; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalms 110:3; Psalms 139:13,16; Matthew 10:30) 


Be encouraged.  God is with you.  He will never leave you, nor forsake you.  (Duet. 31:8)


Bob’s surgery went as well as it could have possibly gone.  His tear duct system is healing, he is monitoring his vision and so far no significant change.  We are taking slower steps and bigger breaths. 


I had a song trailing me all week – Bob Marley’s, Three Little Birds ~ if God chose to, I think he could even talk to me through these lyrics:

When my son Bobby turned 5 my mom gave him a neon orange jacket.  I loved this jacket because as he roamed the woods that surrounded our house I could always find him from a far.  I’d see a little blob of bright orange moving between trees or even up in a tree and it would give me some comfort to have a visual on where he was.  


The day Bobby got his jacket - his 5th birthday.

The day Bobby got his jacket - his 5th birthday.


One year later in the leaves with Jon

One year later in the leaves with Jon


Our Father in heaven watches over us with the same loving care.  I love the verse in 2 Chronicles 16:9:  For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  I love the idea of our Father searching the globe for us with his eyes.  Tirelessly scanning the earth until he finds us. 


How does he find us?  How does he detect if we are fully committed to him?  Do we glow with a blaze orange color when our hearts are right with him?  The context of this verse is that God could not help Asa win over his enemies because Asa’s heart was not fully committed to him.  Although God had helped Asa overthrow other enemies, in this particular battle Asa turned to a pagan nation for help instead of going to God for help.


How many times have I taken matters into my own hands only to complicate a situation and end up buried in more troubles?  I have a steady impulse to act now rather than wait for God to direct me.  It’s hard to stand still and trust the right help will show up at the right time.  Even knowing full well that God makes a promise to help us.  With our eyes on him for help, committed to him, he will find us and strengthen us. 


There have been times that I have waited and he has shown me the right path.  Things didn’t move as fast as I thought I could make them move at times, but the end result was solid and true.  The path a little different then the one I would have taken.  He is a creative marvel.  Think of some of the ways he helped Gideon select his army, the battle of David and Goliath, what about Sampson’s incredible strength?  Who would think of crashing through a city’s walls by marching around it and shouting? 


I will keep trying to fix my eyes on the Father.  Trusting him and only him.  Waiting for him to find me when I am in trouble.  I pray my heart will stay blaze orange for him. 



No See Ums

Many years ago my brothers and I were sitting outside with our families, enjoying the Minnesota summer. We all had a healthy dose of “Off” insect repellant on so that we could actually sit outside. As we sat together, I read the back of the Off insect repellant can – it provided a list of bugs that are repelled by their spray. The list included the usual suspects; ticks, mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums. Thus began a Dunbar –rant titled, “what are no-see-ums?” We had a lot of fun with the discussion – making many things up. They are large bugs that sneak up behind you and bite you before you know they’re there. They’re bugs that are translucent and are only visible when they fill up with your blood. They are an imaginary bug made up – to scare you – so that you buy more cans of repellant, etc., etc…throughout the night. The dictionary describes the no-see-um as a fly, almost invisible to the naked eye that sucks the blood of animals and other insects, leaving painful itching welts. Fun. Something that bites you that you can’t see.

It begs the comparison, how many things are present in our daily lives that we can’t see? Things that can hurt us without our knowing it. Hidden secrets – our own – or the secrets our friends and family hide about their lives. Have you ever known someone with a secret life? Someone that presents themselves one way, but secretly acts another? A person that we are warned about in Matthew, 7:15 ““Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.”

Have you ever been bit by a wolf? I think we all have. I certainly have had my share of encounters. Some I saw sooner than others – some remained no-see-ums until they bit me. Do they make a repellant for this? Something we can spray ourselves with so that we won’t get unduly hurt by someone with false motives?

Jesus offers practical advise. He says, in Matthew, 7:16, You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act.” We’ve all heard the phrase, actions speak louder than words. This is tried and true advice, if we look. I have been duped by some that were really good at disguising themselves, always talking things up, making the impression that their talk was actually evidence of their action. Looking backward, after the bite, I can see that there was no actual fruit, no evidence of their claims. Something always seemed a little “off” between their words and practical evidence, but I did not always stop and inquire.

Over the years, I have tried to hone my fruit-finding skills. Looking for evidence of good work in others lives before I buy into their stories. I am a romantic at heart and I want to believe people.  Especially when they say things I want to hear.  Be a fruit detective. Try to tie words to deeds, if you can’t make a connection, proceed cautiously.


Galations 5:19-23

Wolf-like Fruit:  19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 Sheep-like Fruit:  22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control.


In 2007 – when I was in my 45th year – my two sons joined together and took away my bicycle-riding privileges.  I had had two falls on my bike within three months.  One resulted in a broken arm and the other in a double flip through the air.  With their eyes on my safety, they declared bike-riding “no longer safe” for me.  It was hard to hear a limitation presented to me from my sons.  But my bruises and the freshness of the experiences had me prepared to agree with them.  A year earlier, the partial sight loss I experienced in my left eye messed up my depth perception and my ability to balance – add this to a bicycle and the results can be – well – unpredictable.


As I put my bike in deep storage – I thought about the times both my boys learned to ride their bikes.  We were all so full of hope and anticipation – excited to see them learn a new skill to feel the freedom of being up on two wheels and moving across the pavement.  As a parent I had my eyes on them, watching them, holding them up, running behind them, letting go and cheering them on.  I did know that part of their learning would include falling.   Possibly a skinned knee or two.   I knew they had to fall a few times before they understood how to gain balance and move forward.


I think now about our Father in Heaven.  Our Papa.  How He keeps his eyes on us.  How eager He is to show us things and to watch us learn.  He knows that in order for us to gain experience, to gain strength, to truly understand balance, we have to move through many experiences.  He runs along side us, helping us and encouraging us – and at times watching us fall. 



There are times as well that He says “No” to us.  Preventing us from doing something that He knows is not safe for us.  He can shut and lock doors.  He can cause obstacles to be impossible for us to move past in order to keep us from something that will cause great harm to us.  Just like my kids when they declared my bike was “No-Longer Safe” – our Father can see the path in front of us and know which ways are not safe for us. 


I know now that I am in a season of learning.  Learning when to trust my eyesight, when to yield to another’s vantage point and ultimately how to see where it is that God has prepared a way for me. 

Psalms 34:15, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.” 


Psalm 91: 

9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
      if you make the Most High your shelter,
 10 no evil will conquer you;
      no plague will come near your home.
 11 For he will order his angels
      to protect you wherever you go.
 12 They will hold you up with their hands
      so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.