2

AMBER ALERT FOR YOUR SOUL

amberalertMy hand shook and my head spun in every direction as I picked up the phone receiver and dialed my neighbor friend.

“I can’t find her; she’s gone. I’ve looked everywhere. Call everyone now!”

“Calm down so I can understand what’s happened. Who is gone, your dog?”

“God no,” I shouted with irritation. It’s Jamie. She was taking a nap and when I checked on her, she wasn’t there.”

“I’m on it! I’ll contact the neighborhood troops.”

In the early 1980s I belonged to a neighborhood watch block club. I was a young mom living alone in the city with a preschool aged child. The network of neighbors and foot patrol police officer that walked the area provided a sense of security.

That summer afternoon was like so many others. Water splashed in backyard wading pools, dogs barked while kids pedaled bikes down the sidewalks and the giant maple trees that lined the city streets brought an occasional cool breeze though open windows.  But the neighbors congregated on my front lawn reminded me this wasn’t just an ordinary summer day; they were there to organize a neighborhood search for my missing four-year-old daughter, Jamie

The foot patrol officer’s walkie-talkie crackled in the background as he walked the rooms of my house. His search was unproductive and I feared the worst; someone had entered through the front door and taken my little girl while I was mowing in the back yard.

The search begins.

The block club divided into groups to canvas the area with the hope that Jamie had wandered out the front door and would be found playing in a neighbor’s yard. As I waited on the front porch for updates, the repeated shouts of her name were heard in every direction.

An hour went by and reports from the search teams were all negative. My four-year-old daughter was nowhere to be found and I was inconsolable. Jamie was lost. I sat on the step of the front porch, clasped my arms around my knees and sobbed uncontrollably.

The search ends.

It was the soft whimper of a child’s voice that caused me to turn my head. Pressed against the screen door was the face of a blonde haired, blue eyed four-year-old. With silky blanket in hand and a thumb in her mouth, she quietly spoke, “Hi Mommy.” Within seconds my mourning turned to joy as I ran to cradle her in my arms.

Where were you?”  I asked, as I smothered her with kisses. “I couldn’t find you.”

“I was ‘snuck’ mommy.”

“Where were you stuck, show mommy?”

We walked to her bedroom where she pointed to a space between the wall and bed.

“I was ‘snuck’ in there.”

Jamie had rolled off the bed during her nap and had become wedged between the wall and base of the bed. Because of the built-in drawers beneath the bed, we were unable to see she had fallen between the cracks. The search parties were rounded up and alerted of the good news.

It remains a mystery why Jamie never heard an entire neighborhood repeatedly shout her name. It wasn’t until she opened her eyes and found herself alone, frightened and ‘snuck’ that she sought to find comfort in the arms of someone who loved her.

The search that is ongoing.

Maybe that’s how Jesus feels when He continually calls out our name and we don’t answer. When we don’t respond, He summons the neighborhood of Heaven to search, find and rescue His missing child. Jesus never gives up and when we finally awake and open our eyes to the light, He is there to take our hand and keep us from falling into places we shouldn’t be.

“Faithful is the One calling you, who also will perform it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24 LITV)

God is eternally committed to fulfill all the good things He has in mind for us if we will only hear His call. He will never recall the search party for your soul.

0

PERFECTION PITY PARTY

Perfection Pity PartyI walked down the hallway to my office and called out, “What are you doing Olivia? We are supposed to be reviewing your spelling words.”

“I know, NeeNee, but I’m looking for the new box of pencils you bought last week.”

“Why do you need a new pencil? You have one in your backpack, just use that one.”

She responded, “I can’t use a pencil that has bite marks on it and missing half of the eraser. I need a new pencil so my spelling words will be perfect.”

With no time to analyze her logic, I sharpened a new pencil. I just wanted to move on with the practice spelling words so we could have dinner and get to Wednesday night Awana classes. Olivia positioned herself at my office desk with her newly sharpened pencil and a lined notepad.

“I’m ready, NeeNee; and just so you know, it’s OK if you mix up the spelling words.” With a flip of her hair, she numbered her lined paper. “I’ll let you know when I’m ready for the next word.”

It started well as I complimented her neat penmanship and correct spelling. That soon changed when I asked to spell the word ‘birds’. On Olivia’s first attempt she printed ‘brides’, then ‘berdes’ and the third and final attempt was ‘brdes’. The new pencil failed to produce a list of perfectly spelled words; instead, it revealed more practice was needed. My suggestion to re-write the misspelled word 5 times for practice was received with anger and frustration.

The next spelling word was ‘egg’. As I pronounced it, Olivia wrote the first few letters and then forced the tip of the pencil into the paper. The lead spiraled downward as a visible protest of frustration; in defiance, she threw the pencil to the floor and stomped out of the room.  The error of her misspelled word and desire for perfection immobilized her and sent her into a ‘perfection pity party’.

God isn’t interested in a perfection driven life.

Our Heavenly Father looks at life situations differently than we do.  Bite marks, missing erasers and broken lead tips are signs of effort to God.  Being the sharpest pencil in the box doesn’t earn us a passing grade in the eyes of God. It is our continual effort to practice the Words of Life that gets His attention.

I encourage you to think twice before you toss the instrument you have been given to pen your life story.  Those erasure marks that blacken our pages, those misspelled words that cause us to stumble and those bite marks of frustration are what enable us to see how a PERFECT God works through IMPERFECT people to fulfill His PERFECT purpose.

0

HIDDEN PICTURES

IMG_8595

Every month a new Hidden Pictures Highlight magazine arrives in the mail for my five-year old grandson, Fischer. He has a special blue bag from Highlights to store each new magazine. There is no need to mention when a new issue arrives because the bag is checked every time he visits.

Fischer has clearly defined the blue bag rules to his older siblings,

“This is my special bag so don’t touch it! Olivia, don’t even think about coloring any of the pages or you will be in big trouble; Carson I can find the hidden things by myself, you don’t need to show me.”

Tonight, when Fischer arrives, the blue bag will be removed from the hook behind the grandkid’s bedroom door. The newest issue will be spread out on the kitchen island where he will circle the hidden objects with the pencil won at the school carnival. He will first flip to favorite pages that have a sheet of colorful stickers to apply to the hidden objects.

As Fischer moves on to more difficult pages he experiences moments of frustration and shouts, “This is too hard; I can’t find it.” At that point, he skips ahead to the next page, closes the magazine or calls out for help.

We all encounter hidden objects in the pages of our life, some are easier to find than others. However, like Fischer, there are those moments when we cry out, “God, this is too hard! I can’t find what is needed to turn the next page of my life.”

Has your life become a hidden picture?

So many things can blind our vision and keep us from identifying the hidden objects in our life; those times when we need a second set of eyes to help identify and place a check mark next to those things that keep us stuck on the same page of life. I call them the eyes of Jesus.

When you subscribe to a new life in Jesus, eternal subscriptions are free of charge as long as you seek to find the hidden objects (sins) on the pages of your life. Only then, will you find mercy and the next issue of Heavenly Highlights in your mailbox.

   “But anyone who admits his sins and gives them up finds mercy.” Proverbs 28: 13

0

WIN a FREE BOOK with FREE Shipping

IMG_8594ENTER TO WIN A FREE BOOK (I pay shipping within the USA):

My story, Managing With Mom, appears on page 71 of the new Chicken Soup for the ‘Soul book, Living With Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias’. The book (retail value of $14.95) will be released April 22, 2014 in major book stores and online at Amazon.com.
HOW TO ENTER:

Message me  on FB with your full name, email address and USA mailing address. All entries will be placed in a random drawing to take place on April 5, 2014. The winner will be notified by email. Enter today, you have nothing to lose.

You can also enter via the contact page on this blog. DeniseMarksBlog.com

4

HOPSCOTCH TO HEAVEN

IMG_0207I watched from the porch as the grandkids opened a container of sidewalk chalk. They wrapped their little fingers around the jumbo chalk sticks and began to draw misshapen squares and triangles on the blacktop for a game of hopscotch. Several of the numbers inside the shapes were written backwards, but they never noticed; they only cared about hopping their way to the finish line.

Occasionally someone would stumble and lose their balance; they would brush the dirt from their hands and start again. Every failed attempt only increased the grandkids’ determination to reach the square box that read ‘FINISH’.

There were no excuses or blame games if they missed the mark and no one shouted not fair, I quit or refused to try again. With every throw of the stone, they mentored each other with loving support and words that encouraged.

While I listened to the kids’ chatter, a scripture came to mind that summed up the simplicity of the gospel of Christ and the hopscotch path we each take to reach the finish line of salvation.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

Later that afternoon it rained. When the sun finally poked through the clouds, the grandkids ran outside and found their hopscotch course had been washed away; the blacktop had become a clean slate. Without hesitation they grabbed the bucket of chalk and began to redraw the shapes. They had another chance to start all over again; another chance to reach the finish line.

When we can’t quite hit the mark and the finish line is out of our reach, Jesus rains down mercy and forgiveness. He wipes away our failed attempts in the game of life and lets us start anew.

If the stone in your hopscotch game of life has fallen outside the boundary lines, don’t give up. Pick it up and start again. God stands ready to guide us (the stone) in the direction of His eternal finish line.

0

ARE GOOD INTENTIONS ENOUGH?

intentionIt was late and my husband had gone to bed hours earlier, but I couldn’t sleep. There were things on my mind that I needed to sort through before shutting my eyes. Stretched out on the sofa with a lap quilt, I began a quiet, one-way conversation with God.

I’ve haven’t experienced super-natural moments or literally heard the voice of God. I’m a little envious of those who have experienced the reality of God’s powerful force in their life, but for me, it has always been a walk by faith. There are no thunderous proclamations, no burning bush moments or prophetic visions. It’s just me and my faith in someone and something I can’t see.

I chatted with God about my many good intentions and whether they mattered to Him. As I sat in the darkness, I considered the intent of my intentions and questioned whether they were motivated by self or by God.

God weighs the motives behind our good intentions and the scale He uses is our commitment.  I have great intentions to lose weight or exercise regularly, but I lack the motivation and commitment to make it happen. Are my good intentions enough when I haven’t made myself accountable to anyone or anything to see results? I believe the answer is no.

“Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans (intentions) will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

We can have the best motives and plans in our life but without a great commitment our good intentions are never realized.

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord”. Proverbs 16:2

My chat with God ended with this prayer:

Father God, may all my intentions be pure and free from self-serving. Search my heart and navigate my motives and plans in the direction of your will for my life. I ask that your Holy Spirit inspire me to commit all my plans to you as I walk in faith. Oh, and one more thing Lord. Thank you for always listening. Amen  

0

God Wants Our Attention

hearingGod

My daughter and I decided to scout out some year-end sales at a local department store. Intent on finding a bargain, we made a beeline to the clearance sections at the back of the store. I don’t shop in stores often, and when I do, I am on a mission; oblivious to anything or anyone but the rack or shelf in front of me.

I pilfered through the clothing racks looking for items tagged with a 50% off red sticker, or better yet, a 75% off yellow sticker. My daughter combed the children’s section a few yards away. She is what I call a ‘multi-task shopper’ with the ability to focus on more than one sales rack at a time; unlike me, whose focus is limited to one item.

So when she called out MOM several times and I didn’t respond, she resorted to MOTHER. When I still didn’t respond, she shouted out DENISE!  She finally had my attention. When I turned toward her she let out a deep sigh and asked,

 “Are you really that self-absorbed or do I need to get you a hearing aid?”

Certainly God has asked the same question as He calls out to us.

There are times in our life when God can’t get our attention. He gently calls out to us, MY CHILD with no response. He tries again; My SON or My DAUGHTER and our ears still remain closed to His call. But God doesn’t give up. He shouts to us and calls us by name in an effort to redirect our focus.

God longs to reach out and deliver us from our self-absorbed ways. His ears are always open and we don’t have to shout out to God to get his attention; we only need to speak his name. Let us open our ears to hear God’s call.

“Look, the LORD’s hand is not too weak to deliver you; his ear is not too deaf to hear you.”  Isaiah 59:1