2 Timothy 2:13: The Ultimate Life Jacket by Paula Anderson

This birthday was a special, momentous occasion.  Usually, my activity choice included the whole family, something they would enjoy as I enjoyed them.  Past birthdays have included deep-sea fishing, baseball games, or test driving sporty cars. However, this year I gave myself permission to ask for what I wanted even if some family members could not participate. So, it was white water rafting with my youngest son.  My goal was adventure, but I came home with a bigger prize — humility and love.

Jacob’s senior project was “white water kayaking,” so he was quite comfortable with the prospect, even though we were doing the challenge trip with class IV and V rapids. During the initial part of our trip, my son reached over to tighten the straps of my life jacket as our guide informed us how important that was for our safety. He was right. Though my life jacket was tight enough to make breathing difficult,  it was so much easier for a person to hoist me out of the water onto the raft after I was dumped out.

We never surfed the rapids like everyone else. We were launched out of our raft as soon as we entered the Class IV/V rapids. The first time, we floated on top of the river with six consecutive waves crashing into us. I tried to find refuge on the side, only to have rocks graze my backside. I gratefully welcomed a boat which appeared out of nowhere and hauled us inside. Again, on our run down the class V rapids we were catapulted as the right side of our boat rose at a ninety degree angle, despite my son’s admonition to our river guide that it was his job to keep his momma in the boat; after all, it was her birthday.  This time we were sucked under, and just as the current lightened to a pea green color, we were suctioned down again.

My life jacket prevented panic. I knew I would come back up. Plus, my past experience with childhood asthma taught me to relax when I couldn’t breathe, even when I started to become apoxic. I relaxed… and waited. My best efforts had landed me in rough water, but God had equipped me to get through, by providing me with a tight-fitting life jacket and previous experience that taught me to be calm and wait instead of responding with hysteria. Finally, I had a silver lining to having asthma!

Jacob, although not fearing for his own safety, feared for mine. He said he has never prayed harder in three hours in his whole life. He also stated emphatically, that he was taking me home, putting me in front of the television and surrounding me with pillows. He hugged me easily a dozen times, three times coming down the stairs after he had turned in for the night. I was so blessed by Jacob’s declaration of love for me, yet very aware that God loves me more.

God has me covered. Regardless of how many times in life I have been launched from the boat into rough waters, He has seen me through. He has not allowed the seemingly overwhelming circumstances to engulf me, but has consistently brought me through safely.

We lost our child, and God provided another. My husband Jim was diagnosed with sarcoid, and we endured the uncertainty of how it would manifest in his body. Yet, when Jim had a stroke while driving, God provided for his safety.  I found him immovable on the side of the road with the car in “Drive,” his foot off the brake, and steep descents on three sides of the car. My husband lost his job and didn’t have a steady income for a year. Yet, God provided dog-walking jobs and stretched our savings.

In every circumstance, God was faithful. He was fully God. He pulled down the straps and made us aware of His presence even though it was difficult to breathe. I do not know if I am going down the White Water Challenge anytime soon.   According to Jacob: “Absolutely not, and not parachuting out of a plane either.” But I am grateful that when life crashes me, though I will eventually succumb, I will have my life jacket on, pulled tight.  I am covered. He is faithful….

2 Timothy 2:13: If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny himself.  

 

Romans 12:20-21: A “Frenemy”

One of my best-kept secrets has been that I minored in physical education in college. I’m not particularly athletic and certainly not very competitive (unless it is a card game called “Nertz.”) I was inspired, however, by a very cool physical education teacher at St. Johns College in Winfield, Kansas. I asked her once if someone had to be really good at sports to be a P.E. teacher, and she replied that it was not necessary to excel personally. What mattered was an ability to pass on concepts in a caring way. My P.E. classes were a foil to the heavier academic ones, and I enjoyed gymnastics, track and field, folk dancing, and whatever else I signed up for. Just not swimming.

When I was seven or eight in Wichita, Kansas, my parents signed me up for beginning swimming at the local pool. I biked over with swimsuit and towel, got in the pool, and tried to follow directions to blow bubbles in the water, but I panicked! So I biked back home. The next summer, they signed me up again, and again I flunked “Blowing Bubbles.” My experience after that was sporadic and in the shallower end of the pool. However, with a P.E. minor, I had to take swimming. Al and I married our fourth year of college and lived in the freshmen men’s dorm as “counselors” in return for free housing. We both took swimming during January — in Nebraska — at 7:30 in the morning. Walking home in the frigid air with wet hair was….memorable. But I did not drown and finally passed.

My other athletic nemesis was softball. My elementary school had one physical education program — everyone played softball. How I hated and dreaded that game! I prayed to draw outfield, that no one would hit one my direction, and that maybe this time I might not strike out.  I guess I was living through a sanctifying season rather than a victorious one.

Fast forward to our last summer in college before leaving for our first teaching jobs in New York City. I  always had a work-study job on campus, but what they really needed that summer was someone to help coach a softball team. The main coach needed help, so needing the money desperately, I said yes. Taking small steps and following directions, I lobbed balls to the girls to catch, and I actually began to improve my own ball-handling skills, but not to the level these girls appreciated. And then it happened — the main coach dropped out, and I was left in charge. One girl, “Cindy,” became very sarcastic and negative toward me. Her little posse made sure each practice to send verbal arrows my way. Dreading every practice and game, I limped through the season.

One day as I walked away from the field to my dorm apartment, my little adversary called out in a voice dripping with arsenic, “Don’t forget my birthday!” I called out to the Lord, “How do I handle this, Lord? How do continue to do something for which I have little confidence, few skills, and no support? How do I respond to the negative attitudes?”

In answer to my call, the Holy Spirit dropped this passage into my soul:

“To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:20-21

All right then! I went home, baked and  decorated cupcakes, bought plastic cups, mixed up some Kool-Aid, and boxed it all up in the trunk of my car. After practice when we collected the equipment, I told the girls to gather around for an announcement. Opening the trunk, I declared that we were having a birthday party for Cindy.

Her facial expression will always be a snapshot in my memory. She was shocked and mortified. I could see the emotions playing one after another. Instantly, she realized that she did not deserve this party, and she saw her behavior for what it was. From that moment to the end of the summer season of 1969, Cindy and her buddies could not do enough to help and support me.

And I received a dynamic lesson in the truth and power of God’s Word at work.

My physical education “career” lasted through four years on the elementary level. When our children came along, I turned over the athletic skills to one with the prowess – their father. In college, he excelled on the basketball court and baseball field, and I cheered for the team.

The Urban Dictionary defines “frenemy” as  “an enemy disguised as a friend.” In my case, I had an enemy who became a friend because of the grace of God.

2 Cor. 12:9,10: Fumbles and Foibles and Faithfulness

After  caring for my five and six-year-old grandsons for a week in June, I was struck by similarities between myself and Jakob the Younger. The boy lives life impulsively. He barrels through the house on a quest for a toy, a chase, a treat without regard for his surroundings. During one outing to IKEA, his busy hands knocked over some dishes with catastrophic results, and he was devastated because he didn’t mean to! Over a two-day period,  he slipped on a wet surface twice, smacking himself on the back of his head and on the knees. He also bit his finger really hard feeding himself Fruit Loops, and not only bruised it badly, but loosened a tooth. We prayed for each injury, and he bounced back, celebrating his loose tooth as a sign of progress. He did, however, wonder why he had so many accidents.

I can relate, Jakob. In my journey, I focus on a goal but often pay a price for my inattentiveness to the details.

Recently, I visited my mother and sister in Texas. Ordinarily I put license and boarding pass in a sheet protector for easy access, but since I could not print the pass, I put the license in my left front pocket and checked frequently.  On the approach to the door of the DFW airport, the license was missing. We realized that this flight may not happen. My Sis was checking with our last stop at Cracker Barrel, and we backtracked to the car as I was silently praying,  “O, Lord, help me in my weakness,” and there was the license, right by the car in the parking lot! After the flight, I realized my van battery was dead at Groome Transportation. No worries; I called AAA, except that my membership had expired (did not see that memo) and I had to re-up on the phone. I was close by a cold drink and a restroom and found out that the Groome people would have jump started me. Oh, well, I knew I would need AAA again, and I did, three weeks later for the next battery fail, which meant a new battery. God’s faithfulness, again.

The following week, I was buzzing around putting items in place to be gone for a couple of months — packing up my classroom, organizing my home, putting items in storage, and preparing for the summer in both the South and the Rocky Mountains.  The day before I left, an intense storm hit my neighborhood, flipping yard furniture, dropping a tree on the electric lines, and ripping the utility boxes off the house. As service was being restored the next day (the day I needed to leave), I misplaced my cell phone, which does not work without a wireless antenna, run by electricity. The van was packed and ready to go.  After searching all possibilities before unpacking, I drove to school to use the wireless and pull up “Find my Phone” on the iPad. It was in the cottage, so back to the house. By this time, the Diverse Power guy was in the process of connecting the house back to the lines on the street. He kindly loaned me his phone, and after SEVEN texts, all of which I could hear in the corner of the bedroom, I spied the cell next to the land phone which I had packed away on a closet shelf! Saved.

Mr. Diverse Power said he would have service back shortly, and I saw no reason for delay. Several lights needed to be turned off, but my main discovery was that the A/C had not automatically started. Without the unit running during the summer, my belongings in that little concrete dwelling would mold. Saved again, even through my foibles.

The most comical is probably the weekend that the Goose Family with six goslings came to visit my place. I was trying to be discreet and not bother them as I went in and out, so I was distracted and realized that the front door screen had locked me out! Not to worry. I remembered my brother’s gift of a Swiss Army knife in the glove box. Sure enough — a Phillips head screwdriver to remove the hinges from the door. After that, all I had to do was squeeze through the hinge side to unlock the screen.. Feeling good about my resourcefulness, I walked into the house and behold! The back door was open. I had slipped out the back to avoid startling the geese.

Over the past year, I lost my wedding ring when washing my hands at a rest stop on I-70 West, dropped my wallet out of my backpack in an airplane (which I recovered), misplaced innumerable items, let weeks go by without calling my adorable 90-year-old mother, and left my cell phone at a Qwik Trip in Woodstock and at school multiple times. The catalogue of fumbles is so long that I have forgotten many of them…

What remains is a deep sense of my flawed human condition and gratitude at the consistent, always present, faithfulness of God. He knows my weakness in details; as a result, I come repeatedly for His good memory and His endless mercy. This is only one area of my fallen nature, but one that keeps me dependent on God’s Promise:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.   

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Jakob and I have a lot in common. We wonder why we are prone to all these mishaps, but that doesn’t stop us from charging ahead, absolutely confident that God will catch us when we fall.

Re

Part III: Psalm 37:5,6 “The Justice of Your Cause”

During the process of being taken to court with all the stress and pressure of those seven months, we received encouragement from believers in our church and from family members. My brother Paul shared a passage with me:

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:6,7

After committing our venture to the Lord and determined trust Him, we saw him accomplish the seemingly impossible in giving us a victorious court case. But He wasn’t finished. 

After we were given the green light by the court system, we decided to get some school uniforms. In public, we felt it would enhance the attitude of our community toward the validity of home schooling. We all wore red polo shirts with khaki pants for boys and skirts for girls. We schooled our children in behavior, expanded our outings in the community, and followed up with thank-you notes or posters.

The following year, the local public schools hosted Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook. Carol and I slipped in among the rest of the teachers and enjoyed his presentation of the value of reading aloud with our children.

Every year I taught, I always read aloud to the children after lunch. I loved making different voices, bringing characters and events to life. Hearing this man’s encouragement confirmed this method of building a love of language through literature. Each new book was a journey to a new land or experience. We read the entire Little House on the Prairie series (twice), The Chronicles of Narnia, Little Rascal, The Wheel on the School, Caddie Woodlawn, and many more. None of us liked to see the end of a book come because that meant leaving the adventure and the new friends we had made on the journey. We read biographies of Johannes Kepler, Mother Theresa and others. We included God’s Smuggler, The Hiding Place,  and other books on Christian heroes.

Filled with the glow of boosted confidence, we stood in line with those seeking autographs on our newly purchased copy. I overheard conversation ahead and realized the head of the school board was right in front of me. I figured that we had nothing more to lose (the official court documentation protected us from further prosection for ten years), so I introduced Carol and me. He was polite, but the best was yet to come. When our turn at the author’s table came, and I explained to Mr. Trelease that we were home schooling, he was very animated, enthusiastic, and supportive. He talked about other students he had encountered in his tours – how intelligent and inquisitive these youngsters were — all in the hearing of the School Board president. He made our light shine as the noon day.

But God still wasn’t finished performing His Word: 

As a follow-up to a unit on God’s authority, we visited the courthouse and watched jury selection. In preparation, we baked lots and lots of cookies, wrote notes of appreciation, and delivered them to every office in the courthouse – police, legislative, even maintence. After the jury selection, that same assistant district attorney come over to speak with us. He told our red-shirted group that he was impressed by what he saw and heard about our little school, and he said, “I was skeptical about this at first, but now I believe you are doing a good thing.”

God made “our righteousness shine like the dawn and the justice of our cause like the noonday sun.”

Part II: Numbers 13:30 “Take Possession of the Land”

So began the journey of home school. After the first few weeks, we stopped peeking through the curtains when a car drove into the cul-de-sac unexpectedly, thinking it might be more officials. We established morning chore routines, shared devotions daily (among many sidetracks and interruptions), assessed grade levels among the children, and began the adventure of  home education. On Tuesdays and Fridays, we joined the Hastings family in cooperative ventures. In our research, we discovered that the more experiences a young child has, the easier it is for them to “hang” new information on the “coat hook” of knowledge.

We began Friday Field Trips. We toured the post office, grocery store, local airport, and cheese, potato chip, and bread factories (oh, the homey fragrance of fresh bread!). We visited pioneer and art museums, regional historical sites, and the space museum where we watched an IMAX of space travel. We traveled to Cheyenne Bottoms and viewed a private Indian “intalio” carved into a hill on a farm. And the list goes on.

The culmination was a trip to the state capitol in Topeka and the Kansas History museum while staying at the Holiday Inn with a pool and games. The children had done odd jobs for months to help support the cost of the trip. The only glitch in the plan was Carol’s unexpected severe ankle sprain as she turned her foot coming out of the capitol building. Spending four hours in the ER with five wiggly young’uns wasn’t on the agenda, but we finished our itinerary with Carol on crutches and armed with painkillers.

Since we had heard nothing from the authorities,  we were lulled into a sense of safety. I had something else to think about – I was pregnant (unexpectedly, of course) with child #6! In addition to more housework (because we were always home), unending loads of laundry, daily math, English, science, social studies with sprinkles of art, music, and PE, I now added fatigue and nausea. While wrestling through this life-changing situation, I went from shock to amazement to sorrow to being completely overwhelmed. The tears weren’t self-pity but incapacity! How was I going to manage?  I have always valued the sanctity of life — I just couldn’t cope with the timing! Therefore, my eyes leaked a lot, and I must have looked a bit demented as I continuously mumbled prayers under my breath..

On December 5 during my second month of pregnancy, my house was a mess, there were no plans written in the lesson plan book, school was late getting started, the kids looked unkempt, and the doorbell rang. There stood the sharply suited assistant district attorney with the feminist principal of the girls’ former elementary school for a surprise home visit! They informed me that the court would proceed with truancy charges against us because the Kansas State Supreme Court had ruled against the Sawyer family’s home school. If those parents did not put their children in another school, the state would put them in foster care.

Part of the court’s investigation of us involved home visits (some announced, some not) from two school principals, a school psychologist, a speech therapist (for Amy), and the head of the education department of Bethel College in Newton, Kansas. This dragged on from December through Spring. Our court case was scheduled for April 6, 1984. Our attorney met with us a number of times, assuring us that God was in control. He said that any time someone raises his head above the crowd, rocks will be thrown, or at least pebbles. One example was close to home. Our children found that their former neighborhood friends were less friendly, telling our kids that they were breaking the law.

On the Friday before our court date, Mr. Peckham met with Judge Sam Sturm and the prosecuting attorney to lay out their strategy. Back home, our two families were gathered for a group day. Mr. Peckham visited us before the meeting and promised to return afterward to tell us the  outcome. During that session, the judge looked over the arguments and declared that if we proceeded to go to court on Monday, he would rule in favor of the school!

What a celebration was held at 11 Anderson Court when he returned – shouting, thanksgiving, and singing! We had a Victory March around the house. We are ever grateful to Dick Peckham for his godly leadership and integrity, going so far as to charge us only half his usual fee because he believed that God was in our decision. Shortly after, the judge retired, and we declared  Judge Sturm Day at Light of Life Christian Academy. The children chose a menu of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut in geometric shapes, with cookies, fruit, and iced Koolaid. They made a banner with the declaration of the day and gave this fine man a tour of our basement classroom with bright rust carpet and primary yellow and green cabinets and cupboards, designed by Dad with education in mind. They showed their best projects. The judge declared that this was the highlight of his career.

Carol continued to home school another six years, and I continued until early January of 1998 when the Lord moved me into a Christian high school and the youngest two came with me. just as Joshua and Caleb had brought a good report and urged the Israelites to face those giants with God’s help and move into Canaan,  we two ordinary families, called by God to pioneer homeschooling in a hostile environment, watched God defeat the giants in the land and give us possession.

Read Numbers 13 – 14 for the whole story.

Part III to follow

Part I: Numbers 13:30 “Take Possession of the Land”

In 1983, God impressed my husband and I to home school our children. Because this was unheard of in our community and rare in our state, we took the initial steps with trepidation and much prayer. I shared the idea with my friend Carol, and her family joined with us in initiating our little school. We tossed around options for names, and combined our two ideas into Light of Life Christian Academy. We tried to lay low and start quietly, but because we had enrolled our older children in the local public school, the authorities noticed. My friend and neighbor was also involved in the PTA, so the school figured it out. To truncate the story, we began.

It wasn’t surprising that a representative from the local Social Services agency was sent to investigate both families, and to our knowledge, she gave a positive report. However, shortly after taking a fall camping trip to Branson, Missouri, to combine fun with nature studies, we were visited by the county sheriff who served a subpoena to appear at a hearing on a charge of “truancy.”

Carol and I both had an inkling this was coming; during our individual Bible study and prayer times, we each sensed a warning that we would be challenged, but we were to put our faith in God to take us through. Carol had a high school diploma, and I had a teaching degree with four years experience. Though Carol was a naturally gifted teacher, we all felt that the court would respect my credentials more, so I became “principal.” I wrote a Philosophy of Education statement, and we gathered curriculum and materials to present to the hearing. In the meantime, I contacted the Home School Legal Defense Association. At that time, if families were already contacted by authorities, we were ineligible for their help. Their job was preventative. However, Mike Farris, head of HSLDA, searched for and found the name of a Christian attorney in our area. Dick Peckham readily agreed to take our case, and we attended the October hearing. The assistant district attorney declared that all seemed legitimate, but they would schedule another hearing for December 5 in case the Kansas Supreme Court ruled against the home school case which was before them.

Carol and I were clinging to the declaration of Joshua and Caleb after the spies had reported on the land of Canaan to Moses. The others were full of fear at the size of the giants in the lush and spacious land. They were afraid to go in even though God had told them to move forward. ..

.” but Caleb declared…’We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.'” Numbers 11:30.

God was telling us not to be dismayed at the giants of our opposition who had power and resources to fight our small little school led by two frightened moms armed with the determination of conviction.

See Part II

Launching The Word Made Flesh

As it is written...
As it is written…

I have thinking for several years about writing a series entitled The Word Made Flesh. The phrase comes from the Book of John, chapter 1, verse 14:

“The Word became Flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

This passage speaks of the eternal Father who sent His Son Jesus Christ in the form of a human being, implanted him into the womb of a young virgin named Mary, and allowed Jesus to walk among other men and women, performing miracles, teaching and preaching about the Kingdom of God. He gave up his life willingly to his enemies who nailed him to a cross where he suffered a criminal’s death. Because He lived a perfect life, pleasing only His Father during his sojourn on Earth, Jesus alone as God/Man could satisfy God the Father’s requirement of a blood sacrifice for sin. He took upon Himself the suffering of all mankind so that the fallen humans whom the Father loves so deeply, could have a bridge back to God. On the basis of believing in Jesus as Savior and living for Him, we can live eternally with God in Heaven after death.

This blog will be a collection of stories from people who have believed the written Word of God and have experienced the truth and power personally. Each story would relate a particular situation where the promise or concept from the “Word” was lived out or “made flesh.” The purpose of this blog is to encourage readers to test and see the reality of 1) a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – the ultimate Word Made Flesh and 2) the validity, power, and timelessness of the written Word of God that continues to impact lives today.

Look for stories to come.

Where real life meets real truth -- in the Word of God

Where real life meets real truth — in the Word of God