Contrails in the Sky

The Captain’s Corner

Last week, Brenda and I saw this spectacular display of contrails (short for “condensation trails”). Covering the winter-morning sky were several crisscrossing white vapor trails that extended great distances.

These “fingers in the sky” are formed when the water vapor from the jet engine exhaust of airplanes at high altitudes instantly freezes. These thin streams of vapor sometimes can extend for miles behind the airplane.

On a smaller scale, think of the visible water vapor formed by your breath on a cold day or from a car exhaust in cold weather. It’s a very similar concept.

As I saw these contrails, I was quickly reminded of God’s Word describing life as “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14, NASB). Additionally, Proverbs 27:1 (NKJV) states: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

I encourage you today to take your focus off of that which “vanishes away.” Instead, take a moment to pray the words of Psalm 90:12 (KJV): “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

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So This Is What Love Looks Like!

This post was first published on February 9, 2015, and it’s one of my personal favorites. What better day than this to re-post this important lesson on love!

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In the true spirit of transparency, I’ll admit it: I’m a hopeless romantic. Oh sure, in my heart I want to be—and try to be—the girl who says, “Oh, I don’t need flowers or chocolates or diamonds. You should give that money to the poor and help feed children around the world.” Really, I know that’s true, and that it’s the best use of funds, and that it’s what truly matters. But I must confess that if the truth were known, I’d have to admit that I want dozens of yellow roses, boxes and boxes of chocolates, and the biggest diamonds in all the land.

And I know I’m not the only one (though your favorite color of rose or flower may differ from mine)!

Maybe it’s just a girl thing—maybe it’s just me. But when I think of love, all too often I think of “romance.” Yes, true romance is a demonstration of the love two people have for one another, and it generally entails the positive, nice to gaze upon, easily framed picture of love. But love itself is so much more.

Oh, I’ve always known that my parents were hopelessly and wonderfully in love. They held hands constantly, and after washing and drying the supper dishes, they would kiss—right there in the kitchen for all the world to see! And they still did this after sixty-three years of marriage. It was sweet, genuine, and driven by the most precious love I’ve ever seen in action.

But in this past year, already in my fifties, I think I finally woke up and saw love from the front-row seat of reality, and I realized that its magnitude ran far deeper than the romantic outpourings of its touches, kisses, gifts, and caring words. With eyes wide open, I saw what love really looks like, and although on many levels, “it ain’t pretty,” at its core, it’s the most beautiful of all human gifts, as seen in the descriptive phrases from 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 (NIV wording).

Love is patient. When my father needed something, he would ring a bell if my mother or I were out of the room. While many of us (and by us I refer to myself) would be tempted to throw the bell into the nearest dumpster after multiple back-to-back rings, with each ring of the bell, my mother would walk in and ask in gentle, loving tones, “How may I help you, my sweetheart?”

Love is kind. I saw my mom not only respond in kindness to my father this past year, but in spite of probing questions from people who cared, I never heard her speak unkindly about my father.

It does not envy. On more than one occasion, I heard both of my parents say that they wouldn’t trade “this time” (meaning the time of Mom’s providing care and of Dad’s becoming more frail, but from within the walls of his own home) for anything. They didn’t envy the health of others or begrudge each other’s talents, gifts, or moments of attention.

It does not boast. The way I see it, boasting represents an outward show for outward praise. Mom could have told the world all that she was doing behind the scenes because of her love for Dad. But in the quietness of an average bedroom in an average house in an average town, my parents generously and privately gave each other the gift of true, enduring love.

It is not proud. Being a caregiver for a spouse who is gradually becoming more and more physically incapable requires a level of humility that suddenly makes the sparkle of a diamond grow very, very dim.

It does not dishonor others. To his very last day of speaking, my father honored my mother by his words and by his actions. She returned that honor at every given moment of every given day. This is indeed a rare gift. But it exists. I saw it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears, and I realized that honor most often shows up in words of gratitude.

It is not self-seeking. I will not ever forget seeing my eighty-three-year-old mother lying on the floor next to my father’s bed night after night so that, in spite of the difficulties that come from sleeping on a hard floor, she would be right there when he called out for help in the night. (We later insisted that she use an inflatable air mattress, and she was able to keep that right next to his bed as well.)

It is not easily angered. Love doesn’t make excuses for someone else, but it does allow you to see the explanations behind their actions. Excuses cover or try to preempt anger. Explanations provide the level of understanding that is the result of truly loving someone.

It keeps no record of wrongs. Next time you want to dredge up the list of things your spouse has done wrong or hasn’t done right in order to “win” an argument, gain control, or have your own way, I want you to remember that in my parents’ last days together, those things no longer mattered. Love not only threw away the list; it had never kept a list to begin with!

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It would be so easy to focus on death and dying when its certainty is inevitable, but my parents chose to focus on life. Yes, death was going to be gain, so it was talked about with the delight of seeing Jesus face to face rather than with the “woe is me” focus that would have taken everyone’s eyes off of the One who is the way, the truth, and the life.

It always protects. Sometimes protecting someone means loving that person enough to walk beside him or her through the hurts that you cannot prevent. I believe that Mom would have taken every symptom of Parkinson’s on herself, but instead, she protected my dad from going through them alone.

Always trusts. Trust is a powerful element of love. It provides both the impetus and the reward for giving all that you are with all that you have to the one you trust and to the one who is trusting you.

Always hopes. I thought long and hard about this one, because I do not want to misrepresent any of these illustrations of love. But I can say with sincerity that in the midst of this past year of “final days,” I never saw my parents lose hope. It is true: God’s faithfulness provides “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”

Always perseveres. The fact that I am able to post this list of ways in which I saw my parents live out genuine love for one another (and for God!) states in no uncertain terms that love endures far beyond the romance of touches, kisses, gifts, and caring words.

Love never fails. “In sickness and in health” is all-encompassing. And while my parents’ love endured and never failed, I would be remiss not to state here that God’s love is the perfect, unfailing, unconditional love that sets the standard.

So in the midst of this Valentine’s Day week, as you see outward displays of affection, which are all very nice indeed, remember to see what the Bible says about what it means to truly love someone. It is there that you will see what love really looks like!

 

 

Game-Changing Truth

I personally think Titus 1:2 is one of the most important Bible verses to know. In fact, we used it as the starting point for the first entry in our daily devotional book on the promises of God:

“In the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago” (Titus 1:2, NASB).

If God were to lie to you, your year would be bleak. If He promised that He would never leave or forsake you (which He promised you in Deuteronomy 31:6) but then left you without His help or His presence, you would have no foundation on which to stand.

But the powerful (and almost easy to pass over) truth of this verse—“who cannot lie”—means that every promise God makes to you is a promise that He will keep.

Every. Promise.

It does not say that He will not lie. To do so would imply that even though He won’t, He could.

It emphatically states: “who cannot lie.” Cannot—does not have the ability to. In other words, His holy character and nature make Him incapable of lying.

Oh, sweet faith-friend, this is a game-changing, life-changing truth! What a precious, solid vase of truth into which we may place our petals of promises today.

His promises are true, and He can be trusted!

God. Cannot. Lie.

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Today’s post is taken from Petals of Promises, “January 1.”

To learn more about the book and/or order your copy of our
365-day devotional book that focuses on the promises of God, click here.

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Watching the Air Space

The Captain’s Corner

Throughout my career with the airlines, I had many radio communications with the men and women of the air traffic control service. Each day these passionate professionals control thousands of flights with one goal: keeping two airplanes from being in the same air space at the same time! While the airline crew plans the flight’s route, altitude, and air speed, the air traffic controller accepts the flight plan into the big picture on his or her radar scope, which includes all the other flights operating within that air space. The air traffic controller has the authority to change the plane’s route, altitude, and air speed in order to separate the traffic of the multiple airplanes within that space.

Just as each person is a unique individual, each flight is assigned a four-digit code, which is entered into the on-board electronic equipment and that sends a unique symbol next to that plane on the radar scope. This gives the controller continuous, positive identification of the plane, including its altitude, speed, and destination. The air traffic controller is always watching his or her assigned flight(s).

In a similar way, our wonderful God is always watching over us and is aware of our situation. Even before our birth, God knew all about us:

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written,
the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:13–16, NKJV).

God also knows the way (or direction) that our lives take:

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NKJV).

You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:3, NKJV).

Additionally, God guides us today, just as He guided Isaiah in the Old Testament:

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand
or whenever you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21, NKJV).

Therefore, just as we and our entire flight crew trusted the air traffic controllers for a safe and clear air space, so also we as believers can trust a more infinitely wonderful God to watch over us and to guide our lives and our destiny.

“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death” (Psalm 48:14, KJV).

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The Traveling Picnic Basket

My parents taught me many fun ways to entertain—not just through their teaching on the subject, but by their example. My husband and I recently began to put one of these ideas into our entertaining “do-often” plans. It was such fun, that I had to share it here on the blog.

During the years that I lived with my parents to assist with my father’s care, I realized firsthand just how lonely it can be when you can’t get out of the house. I’m not just talking about being “stuck at home” for a few days. I’m talking about having trouble knowing what day it is, because every day is the same as the one that just ended. I’m referring to the feeling of knowing that the memories from the pictures on the walls will be your only “outside contact” that day. I’m recalling days on end, seeing my father know that even if he had the gumption to go somewhere, he would not physically be able to do so.

Those experiences made me more aware not only of my parents’ needs but of those currently around me who are what churches and others often call “shut-ins.” Well, I have determined that even though they are shut in their houses, that won’t shut me out of them! That’s where this fun “entertaining” idea comes in! [Thank you, Mom, for teaching by your joyful example!]

Recently, a friend of ours fell from the ladder leading into her attic, and she sustained a back injury. (Miraculously, she was not killed, as the doctors told her should have happened.) Through our church, Joe and I signed up to take our friend and her husband a meal, since cooking was tricky—at best!—for her. As we began to think about what to take, we also realized that setting the table, heating up the food, and washing the dishes were going to be no easier than if she had to prepare the meal from scratch.

Enter: the traveling picnic basket!

The day before the “event,” we called the meal recipients with three instructions/questions:

  1. Would it be okay if, when we dropped off the meal, we stayed and ate with them?
  2. They were NOT to set the table.
  3. They were NOT to do any extra cleaning or preparation. Everything was coming with us, and we would be in casual clothes.

The day of the event, we packed the following into our traveling picnic basket (and in a small, square laundry basket):

  1. Five of our glass dinner plates, bowls, glasses, cloth napkins, place mats, forks, knives, and spoons, as well as five dessert plates and dessert forks. (We had also asked permission the day before to bring along a guest—a mutual friend whose wife was recovering in the hospital following a stroke; therefore, there would be five of us.)
  2. We also packed a centerpiece (a small plant that would first sit on the center of the table and would remain behind after we left), the necessary serving dishes and utensils, crackers, soup, dinner rolls, butter, jelly, and a pumpkin pie!

When we arrived, Joe went into the living area to talk with the couple and our mutual friend. Meanwhile, I quickly set the table and put the food into the serving dishes. Joe helped fill water glasses (yes, we simply had water to drink) just before time to eat.

After a sweet time of fellowship around the table, I asked them to head into the living area for some after-dinner chat, and Joe helped me to quickly gather the dirty dishes, place mats, napkins, etc. and pack them back into the towel-lined picnic basket and laundry basket. In literally ten minutes, we were headed home, dirty dishes safely packed away in the trunk.

Before we left, we had prayer with our friends, and they each remarked as they passed the kitchen, “Wow, it looks just like it did when you came!”

For the record, in less than thirty minutes after we got home, everything was clean and put away!

So grab a laundry basket, picnic basket, or old box, pack up some dishes (they can be styrofoam if you want!), cook up a simple meal (or stop by a local restaurant for take-out…okay, fine…I confess…that’s what we did in the case I just told you about!), and don’t let the fact that someone is currently a shut-in shut you out of a wonderful visit and a unique opportunity to be a blessing!

“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people,

and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

Galatians 6:10, NASB

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Stay on Course

The Captain’s Corner

The last five years during my career as an airline pilot, I flew back and forth from Philadelphia to seven cities in Europe. International flying across the north Atlantic brought a different set of procedures and practices that were required to operate the plane safely and efficiently. It was critical that both the assigned navigation route and the course were maintained. This was accomplished through on-board computerized guidance systems. However, these systems were cross-checked every thirty to forty-five minutes by the cockpit crew to make sure that the plane was where it should be!

Similarly, God has not left us without His help. Look at Psalm 119:105 (NKJV): “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We need guidance for everyday living as well as future guidance for the path ahead. God has promised to instruct us in the way we should go (see Psalm 32:8).

Just as the crew in the cockpit continuously cross-checks the plane’s location in order to stay on course, you can go daily to God’s Word for His guidance as you seek His will for your life.

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Of Jewelry Boxes and Birthdays

Joe and I are continuing our focus on accumulating less and appreciating more. The very act of decluttering has become an element of not only the things in our home but also the mind-set that affects every area of our lives. When our minds are not scattered in every possible direction, we think more clearly. When we are not trying to accomplish eight different tasks because we think we have to say yes to everything, we do with a joyful sense of accomplishment the three things we’ve chosen to do. When we create of our home a haven in which our spirits are refreshed, we are prepared to serve, help, and encourage others. Experiences, not items, are the gifts that we want to have fill our home.

If you’re reading Petals of Promises (the 365-day devotional Joe and I co-authored), you may have seen that my birthday was this past Monday (since that day’s entry made mention of that fact). My dear husband is both generous and thoughtful, so I lovingly reminded him early on that in our “experiences, not items” gifting to each other, I did not want a birthday present this year.

Imagine my surprise when my husband walked in with a signature gift box from our favorite jeweler!

However, I must pause here to make a confession that most women will find unbelievable. I may even lose credibility with some of you…but I was honestly a little miffed that he had bought me jewelry. I don’t need jewelry; I’m a minimalist in my wearing of jewelry (after years of wearing lots of jewelry…and big jewelry, at that); and we are supposed to be focusing on experiences, not items. So in that “nth” of a second when I pulled open the satin bow, I mentally prepared myself to have a right reaction and also to come up with a gracious way to tell him to please return whatever it was I was opening. Yes, I’m serious.

However, as the process of unwrapping the outer cardboard box and opening the inner jewelry box continued, I lifted the final lid and literally squealed with delight, declaring, “Best gift EVER!” when I realized that the inner jewelry box was empty!

You see, we keep an empty jewelry box on the main floor so that when we take off our rings for any reason, we always know right where they are and don’t have to worry about losing them or accidentally washing them down the drain. Last month, the box broke, and it was one of those little, insignificant things that didn’t really matter in the big picture, so I let it go and determined that yes, I could walk upstairs to use the other box we keep handy up there, or I could even still use the broken box if needed.

But Joe knew it mattered to me. He listened. He cared. And he gifted me with the perfect birthday non-gift: an empty jewelry box!

There are so many spiritual illustrations that we can draw from this that I’m not sure which one to settle on. But I do know this: sometimes nothing is the greatest gift that God can give to us. He listens to our heart’s cry. He hears our innermost longings. He knows our sincere needs. And then God, Who loves us with an everlasting love, gives us what is best for us. Trust Him. Wait for Him. Learn to squeal with delight when the box is empty.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6, NKJV).

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This Is Your Captain Speaking….

The Captain’s Corner

Public address announcements (“PA”s) from the cockpit to the passenger cabin are both frequent and required in airline flying. As Brenda often says, “Informed people are happy people.” This is especially true when flights are delayed, diverted, or out of the normal routine. As a pilot, my practice was to make PAs true, simple, and clear. If the flight was delayed, I would apologize and would stress what we were doing to get back on schedule. Naturally, I expressed gratitude to the passengers for choosing to fly with us.

Think about God’s special announcements, as recorded in the Bible. For example: God told Adam the new conditions under which he must live, because he had sinned against God; His promise to Noah at the ark; God’s plan for Moses as revealed at the burning bush; His commission of Joshua to lead His people. In the New Testament, God made special announcements to Joseph and Mary; to the shepherds, regarding Christ’s birth; and to John, regarding Christ’s return.

Do we have any “announcements” from God today? Yes! It is His complete love letter to us via His Word, the Bible. Second Peter 1:3–4 (NKJV) states:

“As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

Proverbs 22:20 (KJV) further reminds us that He has: “written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge.”

Therefore, we can ask God to open our eyes, “so that [we] may behold wondrous things out of [His] law” (Psalm 119:18, KJV).

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Choosing (and Using) Wisdom in 2018

Words will play a vital role in 2018. You will hear them, read them, write them, speak them. You will use them to demonstrate love, concern, instruction, and even anger. You will utilize their power to help form and strengthen relationships. You will call upon them to encourage you and to help you encourage others.

Words matter.

Perhaps that’s one reason that for more years than I can count now, I have chosen a “Word of the Year” prior to the start of the calendar year. It’s a word that I draw from throughout the year to keep me on track, to help me make purposeful choices, and to cling to when the words around me are calling more loudly than the desires within me. Choosing a Bible verse to memorize and to embed in my heart helps to strengthen my resolve to live out and find strength from that year’s word. It reminds me that everything I do should draw me closer to the God Whose Word is a “lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105, NKJV).

Recent years have focused on words like deliberate, hope, and abundance. Last year, Joe joined me in this annual ritual, and we chose the word serve.

This year’s word? Wisdom.

This year’s verse? “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, KJV). (The photo in this post is one that I easily created on picmonkey.com and that I printed as a 20 x 30 photo and framed for our wall…for Joe’s Christmas present!)

We are asking God to help us remember that every day and every choice matter. Our desire is to use wisdom spiritually, emotionally, financially, physically, and socially in 2018.

We’d love to know what word you’ve chosen for 2018. Feel free to leave a comment (or send a reply if you’re a subscriber) and share it!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do my first daily reading from our new devotional book, Petals of Promises. (And yes, we are truly using this as our devotional book this year!)

Happy New Year from the Hendersons!

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Remembering My Friend

Two years ago today, our family friend Joe Henderson called my mom to let her know that his dear wife, our friend Betty, was no longer suffering because of her heart disease. She was now with her Lord. When Mom shared the news with me, I excused myself for a while and headed upstairs to my office to grieve in the way that I knew best—through my writing. Below is the original blog post that resulted and which I shared that day. Her pastor later read this as part of her Celebration of Life Service, which my mother and I were unable to attend due to poor weather conditions in our area but which we watched, amid tears, via livestream. Today, Joe and I remember Betty, together, with great love for her and with gratitude for her life.

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She had a bookshelf that held special treasures and favorite books, and she used it as a room divider in her small apartment, separating the sleeping area from the “living room.” As we sat on the floor and ate popcorn out of plastic bowls that evening, which also left an indelible impression on my young mind, she told me about her boyfriend, and I was enthralled with her stories of their long-distance romance. I was ten years old, and she, in her late twenties, was my babysitter for the evening. During her daytime hours, she served as my father’s secretary at the church.

That’s when it began: life touching life; mentoring by example; soft-spoken, powerful leadership; the Titus 2 relationship of an older woman teaching a younger woman.

I was an elementary-aged child, but she wrote personal greetings in the fronts of the books she gave me—notes that reminded me that she was thinking of me, had chosen this book specifically for me, and that always included a Scripture verse or a promise straight out of the Bible.

I was a pre-teen, yet she chose me—me!—to be one of the guestbook attendants for the wedding ceremony when she married the boyfriend she had let me giggle with her about since that “girls’ night” in her Indiana apartment.

I was a teen, but she wrote me postcards from the travels she enjoyed as she and her husband, an airline captain, saw sites I longed to someday see. She always signed her letters, her post cards, and her notes with, “Love, Betty.” And I knew she meant it. She lived that love by her actions, her words, and her encouragement through both.

I was a young adult with the sorrow of a lost love, and she wrote me a most precious letter, focusing my thoughts heavenward and reminding me that my amazing God loved me with an everlasting love.

I was a writer with a dream, and she sent me a book that she did not know I wanted but that she knew I would enjoy, and she wrote in the front, “I hope this will encourage you in your own writing…because you can!” And I believed her.

I was a Sunday school teacher for the women in my church, and she mailed me a copy of her brand-new, hot-off-the-press Bible study for women. And yes, she included a handwritten note in the front, thanking me for being her friend. How overcome I was with gratitude. And how overwhelmed I was that she thanked me. But then, she always turned the attention to the other person—always.

I was a woman in my fifties and suddenly unemployed, questioning what God wanted me to learn, and she sent me cards filled with His promises, truths about His unfailing love, and a check to help me over the rough spots.

I was grieving my father’s inevitable departure from this earth, and she sent me Facebook messages, cards, and loving notes with sweet memories that reminded me that a life lived for Christ leaves a thumbprint a mile wide. And in so doing, she shouldered my weary soul.

I was wiping away a tear at the dinner following my father’s funeral and burial, and as she honored me by allowing me to sit next to her at the table, she simply reached in her purse, handed me a clean tissue, and said, in her sweet middle-Indiana drawl, “We love you, honey.”

I was praying for her this morning to be healed from her ongoing medical struggles, and she was. She is now healed for eternity, with the Lord she loved, served, lived for, and died for.

My precious lifelong friend Betty Henderson left “forever lessons” in the hearts of hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years. She would have been the first to have said that she wasn’t special; she was just willing to say, “Whatever You want, Lord. I’ll do it.” And she did.

And I will miss her, but I will honor her by striving to honor our Lord as she did: with my desires, my words (written and spoken), and my life.