Gail

Helping Others Transition: A Lesson in Leadership from the High Command

And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.’ – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

This sweet-faced boy is my father at 17—the age at which he enlisted in the Navy and went off to boot camp to prepare to serve his country in World War II. Happily, the war ended the month before he was slated to ship out and so, by the age of 19, he was a veteran, back home with his relieved parents, and planning to start college with the aid of the GI bill.

He is now 90, and although his time in the Navy lasted just a few short years, his military experience has had a lasting positive effect on his character and identity. As one of America’s “greatest generation,” he has always viewed his service in the Navy with great pride. His love for both his country and the sea has never died, and he still wears a Navy ballcap as he heads off to the VFW meetings in his retirement community.

My brother recently found this treasure—one of the few letters my father has ever kept. Personally addressed to “My Dear Mr. Nelson”, it was signed by James Forrestal, the wartime Secretary of the Navy, and dated July 1946, the month after received his my honorable discharge.

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What Makes You Happy?

Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!” – Psalm 144:15

Browsing in a gift shop yesterday, I came upon a wall of rustic wood signs hand-painted with inspirational sayings. Trendy and very tempting, yes, but who among us hasn’t had this thought—why spend $25 when I could do that myself? I remembered I had some scrap wood laying about and even began dreaming up catchy names for an Etsy shop. As I took stock of my possibilities, however, I realized that I lacked paint, stain, the right brushes, hardware for hanging, workspace, time, and calligraphic skill.

Faced with my clearcut deficiencies, I sank back to earth and returned to reading the assorted clever sayings and cliches displayed before me. My attention was drawn to the message painted on one especially winsome square fashioned from rough-hewn pine planks—“Do what makes you happy.”

Now this was an arresting thought which gave rise to quite a few questions to ponder on the drive home. Was it true or false? Good advice or bad? Should I do what makes me happy? Does God want me to do what makes me happy? Do I usually do what makes me happy? What does make me happy?

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Dancing with a Star: A Tribute to My Mom

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

You already know the most important thing about my mom if you read my April 19th post about her recent baptism at the age of 86. Now here is the rest of the story of this crazy fun lady who brought me into this world.

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Small Change: Four Ways to Ease Transition

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. Zech 4:10

What do you do with the small change you accumulate? When my kids were small, I used to throw mine in a coffee can and every few months roll it and have enough to pay for a babysitter and a night out.

But there’s been a big change in small change. My current jar is high-tech, actually keeping track of the amount I’ve fed it. In the last year and a half I’ve managed to accrue the whopping sum of $14.83. Coins just don’t get used much any more. In high school we used to keep dimes in our penny loafers for emergencies— a phone call home or THAT machine in the girls room. Just twenty cents could cover 90% of your teenage crises. I still keep some quarters in my wallet out of habit, thinking I might need to make a call. But where would I even find a pay phone?

It may not be long before coins are obsolete and the expressions I’m exploring here will sound like Shakespeare to a new generation. But before that happens, let’s look at how some of our cliches about coins can help us remember that strategic small changes add up to long-term victory in the face of constant change.

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Just For You

Whatever you do, do your work from the soul, as for the Lord, rather than for men. – Colossians 3:23 (NASB)

If we were to play the “find something in your purse that tells us who you are” icebreaker, I would most certainly whip out my 4 color pen emblazoned with Thomas Jefferson’s words, “ I cannot live without books.” I’ve had a lifelong love affair with both novels and nonfiction, and I’m never more than an arms-length from the written word other than when I’m swimming in the ocean. And even then, there’s a paperback waiting for me in my beach bag.

I also confess to an inordinate desire for writing implements, and I’m constantly engaged in a quest for the perfect pen. As a child I longed for stamp pads and colored pencils, I begged my grandfather for his delicious new legal pads, and when my mom took us to the store I would always choose a treat from the stationery aisle rather than the toy department.

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Let the Circle be Unbroken: The Goodness of the Lord

Psalms 27:13-14:  I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

My mom was 86 years old when she finally decided she’d like to join the rest of her family in believer’s baptism. The timing was perfect: a reunion to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday meant her pastor grandson would be flying in for a visit. I was delighted to learn she’d asked my son Jon to baptize her and he’d agreed.

Jon wanted to be certain she understood the meaning of the step she was about to take, so before the baptism he took her through the relevant Scriptures, carefully and patiently explaining each one. Sitting down on the couch next to her grandson, Mom looked happy as could be and tried her best to follow along with her magnifying glass and large-print Bible. I was flooded with joy as I witnessed this conversation—what a marvelous culmination of years of prayer as both a daughter and a mother!

Mom leaned forward, listening intently and nodding, but when Jon began to read from Acts Chapter 8 about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, she got a puzzled look on her face. She stopped him right there and asked for clarification.

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Psalm for the Broken-Hearted

Today in 1 Samuel 16, as I continued my study in the life of David, I read how God used the young shepherd’s love and talent for music to minister peace. When King Saul suffered from severe bouts of depression and fear, his servants suggested music therapy:

“Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music and you will soon be well again.”

Whenever David played his harp for his king, Saul found relief. What a powerful gift God has given us in music!

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Living Crosswise: The Life of King David

As I begin to teach a series on the life of David for the women’s Bible study at my church, I can hardly contain my enthusiasm! All of the big themes the Lord has brought to my attention over the past few years are threaded throughout:

  • navigating the zigzag path of life’s relentless transition
  • honesty with God: a lifestyle of worship
  • transparency and vulnerability in relationships: mentoring
  • learning to be still
  • learning to be brave
  • bringing glory to God through the creative arts.

Although Joseph may run a close second, no one in Scripture had more ups and downs, twists and turns, highs and lows than David. And because he was a poet and songwriter, we get an intimate view into the heart of the man whose life exemplifies the truth that while change is constant, God is constant too.

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Target Practice

Spring was in glorious full bloom, and I thanked God for a few hours of solitude during a recent women’s retreat. As I hiked through the green hills and blossoming fields of the conference grounds, relishing the scent of pine and eucalyptus, I came through a clearing and found the archery range open for instruction. I welcomed this opportunity to try a new sport, and in so doing discovered that the Lord had a spiritual lesson targeted just for me that day.

Our genial, red-bearded instructor looked like a modern-day version of the ruddy, good-looking King David and immediately put me at ease. He gave me terminology and tips, followed by a masterful demonstration of his own prowess as a bowman. I watched him fit the notch of his arrow to the bowstring and take up his stance with precision. When he drew back and let it fly, he never missed the center of the target. Clearly he had plenty to teach me.

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Getting Below The Surface: A Shark’s Tale

I had so many good reasons not to get into the water that day. First off, there was the newspaper headline that greeted us on arrival at the Maui airport —

“Snorkeler Attacked by Shark in South Kihei. Beaches Closed.”

And where were we headed with a suitcase full of snorkeling equipment? To our time-share in South Kihei, of course. The weather was cooling off back home, and we’d been so looking forward to the extension of summer that our October Hawaiian vacation would provide.

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