Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Father Who Runs

I can’t believe Easter has come and gone again. The Good News of the Resurrected Jesus, however, is never gone. It stays with us as the source of our hope in this valley of shadows and tears. As we wrap up the season, I still have a couple of posts left on the subject of Grace as illustrated in the parables found in Luke 15. Today, I want to take another look at the Father in the story of the lost son.

“…he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” 
 Luke 15: 20b

The Father “ran to his son…”

What a wonderful picture. We have probably heard all about how in Middle Eastern cultures men of stature, wealth and high social status don’t run. Running is beneath them under any circumstances. So for the audience of Pharisees and Teachers of the Law the idea of a stately Father running was despicable and unthinkable.

I sort of relate to the unthinkable nature of such idea as well. When I think of my own father, I can honestly say that I don’t remember ever seeing him running. In matters of urgency, he would walk really fast. He would stretch his long legs to cover a mile wide of ground with every step, but that was about it. See, my Father was this imposing figure, larger than life in a sense, not because he was loud and lively, but because he was solid and seemingly unshakable, with an impeccable reputation for integrity and dignity impossible to corrupt. In our little town, my father was a highly respected man. And when he died, the entire town mourned him, giving him a funeral fit for a beloved statesman. So it kind of goes with what we are saying about Middle Eastern customs. After all, my Father was Spanish, and Spain is heavily influenced by the Arab culture.

At any rate, the point is that my Dad didn’t really run. However, there was one thing he always did: he waited for me. He waited for me every afternoon to meet me down the driveway when I came home from school.

Due to high-enrollment, my middle school/high school operated in shifts. Some grades would go in the morning and some others would attend school in the afternoon. From 9th to 12th grade, I attended the afternoon shift. Therefore, I’d come home around 6:00 p.m. At that time, my Dad was back home already from work, so he would sit out in the front porch, in this totally vintage, white and blue metal swing to swing the time away until I came home. I rode on this ridiculous, refrigerator-looking-type of minivan which passed for a school bus. The thing didn’t have the horse power to climb the rather steep driveway in my house, so the driver would just drop me off at the bottom, on the street, and I’ll have to walk up the hilly paved entrance to get home. As soon as my Dad would see the “bus” he’d get up from his swing and start the trek downhill to greet me. We’d meet somewhere below the middle and we’d walk up the driveway together, his arm around my shoulders.


During the last year of his life, my Dad’s ability to move became greatly diminished. Not only didn’t he run, but he couldn’t walk either. He was confined to a wheel chair, which for him was utterly devastating. By then, long gone were the days he’d waited for me sitting out in the front porch to greet me after school. At the time, however, he was, indeed, still waiting. He was dealing with the profound agony of having technically, for all purposes, lost his son…not to death but to a misguided decision on the part of my brother. My Dad waited for his lost son day and night. He longed for him. The pain that such loss brought to my Dad’s soul was unbearable, and it eventually drilled deeper into his heart until there was nothing left. I know, however, if my Dad had gotten the opportunity to see his dream of watching my brother come in the driveway become a reality…he would have stood up from that chair and ran to meet him, defying all odds and breaking every conventions.

The dream never came true. I never saw my Dad run to embrace my brother one last time. But unlike my Father, Our Heavenly Father does come down that steep, long driveway of sinfulness and darkness to meet us and embrace us the second our shadow hits the far end of the road. Grace wins, and the Good Father always welcomes His returning beloved back home with open arms. Not only does He welcomes us back…He runs to meet us, hugs us and kiss us.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Have It Your Way

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” 
Luke 15: 20

We are used to the idea that we are to wait upon the Lord. Psalms sing about it. Proverbs guide us through this concept. The Prophets show us the wisdom of God’s timing and how it differs from ours. James urges us to apply it in our daily lives. Jesus, in the parable of the lost son, however, tells us about a paradox shift. He tells us about the Father, Our Heavenly Father, as the one who waits.

Double hmmm…

The very fact that the father in the story sees the son “while he was still a long way off” means only one thing: the father was waiting for the son.

Remember that slogan from one of the fast food chains: “Have it your way!”? Considering our world today, our society as a whole makes a collective push so people believe they are entitled to have it their way. No matter what it is or how twisted it may become, we are told everywhere that it is OK to have it our way. In fact, we are convinced that we should accept nothing less but our way. With complete disregard of any negative or adverse consequences to us as well as to the people around us, we set off in pursuit of our way, pushing aside those who oppose us as we chant the trite song of tolerance.

Well, sometimes, as the parable illustrates, God does allow us to have it our way. In our rebellious spirit, we demand to live our lives the way we choose, ignoring God’s Word, warning signs, red flags, admonition and advice. We decide to go against what we know is right, in order to gain the instant pleasure that comes with obtaining the object of our misguided desire. We accept nothing less than what we want, and when we get it, we part ways with the Giver, hoping to never have to face Him again.

We refuse to see the truth, therefore, as the loving Father He is, God knows the only way to make us see is by letting us have it as we want it so we can see with our own eyes. He does it, however, clothed in Mercy, Love and Compassion, and only to show us the error in our ways.

Consider the simple exchange below:

Son: Can I go play outside?

Father: Sure, but please, wear a coat! It’s cold!

Son: No, I don’t want to wear a coat.

Father: You need to wear a coat. You’ll catch a cold!

Son: NO! I don’t want to wear a coat!

Father: Wear a coat! It’s too cold!

Son: NO!

Father: OK, don’t wear a coat…GO!

A few minutes later son comes inside the house and quietly grabs a coat.

Of course, it’s a silly example, but it serves to illustrate how this reality works in so many levels. And it also goes to say that sometimes, we just have to experience it for ourselves. Our stubbornness in thinking we know better often takes us off road into the wilderness, where we lose our way. And although Our Heavenly Father lets us to go there, and He technically doesn’t go looking for us, like in the parable, allowing us to make our mistakes, in the end, He welcomes us back with open arms. He doesn’t only welcome us, but He waits for us, and when He sees us, He runs to us to embrace us. He knows the mistake will take us into a road of discovery, growth and repentance, which will ultimately bring us home again.

May we open our eyes to the Truth and our soul to His Perfect Plan so we would leave behind the desire to have it our way, and accept His path for our lives.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Father Who Waits

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." Luke 15: 20

I think this is my very favorite passage in Luke 15. I absolutely love the image of God as the Father who waits. He is the Father who never gets his sight off from the window. He is the Father whose ears are constantly tuned into the sound of his son´s footsteps on the ground. How do we know He waits? Well, He is the Father, isn’t He?

As the youngest child in my family, I witnessed my Dad doing a lot of waiting for my brother and sister. By the time I was in middle school, they were both gone off to have their own lives in the big city, about 4 hours away from our hometown. Every holiday they would say they´d come to visit. Every holiday my Dad would wait for them with great anticipation. Many holidays he´d end up disappointed.

He would sit out in the front porch and quietly swing away the hours to try to be the first one to spot my brother or sister´s cars. He would anxiously talk to my Mom, asking her if she thought they´d left yet. That was the pre-cell phone era, so there was no way to communicate with anyone from the road. There was nothing left to do but wait and hope.

Many times night would fall upon him as he waited outside, so he´d come inside and sit in his favorite rocking chair in the Livingroom, eyes constantly on the big picture window just in case the passing headlights might be them. Finally, often late in the night, the sound of a vehicle in the driveway would propel my Dad up from his chair toward the door to be the first one to greet them as they got out of their cars. I always sensed, by the expression of sheer joy in his face, that the very sight of my brother and his family and my sister instantly erased the agony of the wait from my Dad´s heart.

Later, he would wait for me too. As I packed my bags and moved to a whole other country, far, far away, my Father would wait for my yearly visits in anguish and anticipation. His would be the first face I’d see in the ocean of faces at the airport. His would be the last one I’d glanced at in sadness as I went through security to catch my flight back to the States. It wasn’t, however, until I became a parent, that I truly understood the pain and agony my Dad experienced every time he saw me leave.

Life would have it that my Dad spent the last four years of his life waiting for my brother to come back home, but he never did, so my Dad passed from this life to the next without seeing his face one last time. Once again, I witnessed the dagger that cut through his heart as he waited for his long lost son.

Today, I know he continues to wait on the other side of the shore. I picture him sitting in his rocking chair at his eternal dwelling, next to my Mom…waiting for that day when we would too come back home…this time for good.

So is Our Heavenly Father, waiting for our return. He sees us while we are still long way off, heart filled with compassion, filled with love, as He rushes out to meet us. Unlike my Father, however, God knows we will come back to Him, for He directs our steps and He traces our path. Unlike my Father, God’s waiting is purposeful, for He uses it to guide us out of the gutter and to help us grow. Unlike my Father, God’s perfect plan for His children includes a happy reunion in the end.

Tomorrow we will see more about the Father Figure in the story of the lost son, and how the love of our earthly Fathers often points toward the love of our Father above.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Finder always goes after the lost, because of three main reasons:

1. He LOVES them.

2. He is the only one who knows where to find them.

3. He is the only one who knows how to bring them back.

It’s that simple.

We have seen how Jesus illustrates the immeasurable worth of those who wander off. In the examples found in the parables of Luke 15 we see that the sheep, the coin and the son are invaluable to those who lost them. In reality, the lost are all of us. The Finder is God. And the One who goes after us is Jesus. And every child of God is worth the precious blood of Christ.

In my inadequate comments so far I have shared my feelings about being lost myself and about the potential disaster that would be to lose my sons. However, no matter how much I think my personal experiences relate to what Jesus is talking about in Luke 15, nothing really can compare. For instance, I could lose my sons to the world, and regardless of any super human efforts I may attempt to recover them, I might utterly fail. The truth is I wouldn’t even know where to start looking for them. And even if I could find them, depending on their circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have the power to begin compelling them to return. Jesus is the Only One who can effectively accomplish such rescue mission.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. 
Lamentations 3: 22-23

In the next few posts we will take a close look at The Father whose heart is filled with compassion and how He ran to meet him on the way…and how He celebrated the lost son´s return.

In the meantime, let us remember that He loves us. He knows us. And we are never out of His reach…no matter how lost we think we might be.

Monday, March 21, 2016


Continuing with the focus on the Finder, I think of my sons again.  Today I think of Dylan.   I can say that I have never lost him. I’ve never left him anywhere. He’s never wandered off. He is never truly too far away from me. Therefore, unless he is at school or something like that, Dylan is usually within my eye-sight. I do, however, worry about losing him in the future. I worry about the choices he’ll make and how those choices will take him to the wrong path. I think about the son in the parable, and I can see Dylan asking us to give him his inheritance so he can squander it … no problem.

As it happens, Dylan, not unlike me, has a hard time seeing the need to be judicious with money. He likes it, but not enough to get too attached to it. He’d rather have the stuff money can buy. So whatever money he gets, doesn’t stay long in his wallet. In other words, he’s always broke…not unlike His Mom. He is also too lazy to work for it…hence the fact he’d think it’s a good idea to just ask for his inheritance now, so he can chill. What he doesn’t know is that whatever inheritance he might get will be gone before he can put his feet up.

Anyway…I worry about Dylan’s future choices.

Take the other day, for example. He agreed to clean the floor for a few bucks. Some might call it bribery. I call it persuasion. After cleaning everything but the last room, he came looking for me to get his payment. I told him to go finish the last room (which I had neglected to tell him he needed to do too). He laid flat on the clean floor and said no. I said, “I know I forgot to tell you to clean that one too, but if you do it, you’ll feel great about a job well done!” His no was unwavering. I said: “well, you have two choices: either you take your money in shame without finishing the job or you go and finish it so you can be proud of your work.” Guess what he chose without hesitation:

“I’ll take my money in shame.”

A couple of days earlier, I was facilitating a class discussion about a book I had assigned my students. The book dealt with the disturbing issue of gangs. As it happens, some of the most violent gangs are Hispanics. Their members are mainly from Mexico and Central American countries like Salvador and Guatemala. Well, as I was showing my class some pictures of the heavily tattooed gang members and talking about how they bare the mark of death on their faces, it hit me. Behind each young face I saw Dylan’s. I had a hard time finishing the discussion because the reality is that if Dylan had stayed in Guatemala, at his age, he would have probably been already recruited by a gang.

I have to say that when Dylan pronounced that he’d rather take the money in shame, I burst out laughing. However, as I saw my son lying on the floor unashamed of his choice…the images of the gang members came to my mind and I shuddered. The pain of the possibility of having this precious child lost to a life of darkness and violence was too terrifying to entertain.

I’m not sure what my sons’ lives would be like when they grow up. But I know for sure that if they wander off the wrong path, I would be chasing them until I find them…even if I know that sometimes that search is futile. Only Our Heavenly Father can effectively bring them back.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Lost Son

Last time we talked about losing sheep, coins and toys. Today, we will talk about the mother of all losses…a lost child.

Let me start by saying that I’m not very fond of hearing people say things like: “well, you don’t understand what it is to be ___________, because you’ve never _____________” (fill in the blanks with unsurmountable feat of your choice). I mean, I might have never gone without my daily portion of chocolate, but I have a good imagination and I can easily empathize with someone in such tremendously dire circumstance! (Just kidding…sort of)

However, there are a couple of things I have to agree are difficult to fully comprehend when you have not “been there.” Parenting is one of those. It is easy to judge bad parents. I mean really, any idiot can see that you are not supposed to feed your child Happy Meals? Right? Nothing that is not organically grown by small family farmers who cultivate the ground the way people did in the seventeenth century should ever enter a child’s mouth. Well, of course! You don’t need to be a parent to know that. Therefore, anyone who sees a parent at a drive-through line has the right to shame him/her for being so irresponsible (because only people without children should be at the drive-through line getting their fix).

My point is, and I do have a point, that it is very difficult to understand the perils of parenthood when you don’t have children. It is very difficult to understand how incredibly hard it is to juggle work outside the home, with laundry, dusting, moping, cleaning toilets, grocery shopping, chauffeuring people around, figuring out what’s wrong with the dog’s ear, tending to hurting extremities (except your own), homework, learning disabilities, bad grades, teen angst, topped with marriage and the fact that dinner has to be served every single night…if you don’t have kids.

Therefore, it is easy not to understand that sometimes there are just some moments when you just need drive-through.

However, there is another thing that is difficult to understand when you don’t have kids: the immensity of the love that you feel for that child, regardless of how he/she drives you absolutely crazy and is personally responsible for each gray hair in your head.

That is why the very thought of losing one is completely unbearable. That is why Jesus used the lost son as the ultimate illustration of what goes on in the Kingdom of Heavens when one is lost.

Other than trying to lose them on purpose when I need a break, the closest I’ve ever come to losing one of my sons for real was a few years ago when we first visited Disney World. We were exhausted after days of walking and riding, so we decided to treat ourselves to a nice, sit down dinner one night. We were at Magic Kingdom and we were ready to go so we could see the parade with the floats and the lights. I had Dylan on my lap and I reached for my bag when, “where’s Grant?” “What?” “Grant! Where is he?” Still from our seats, we looked around the restaurant, nothing. We got up and continued to survey the place, nothing. We walked around the tables, nothing. I felt my heart pumping faster and my intake of air became troubled. “Where’s that kid?” We asked the young hostess, nothing. Finally, we stepped outside the restaurant, nothing. “My kid…my VERY clueless 8-year old…my son is lost in that sea of people at night in Magic Kingdom.” I tightened my grip on Dylan’s hand as a myriad of scary thoughts began piling up in my mind. I couldn’t breathe.

Helpless we walked back inside the restaurant ready to ask where we could file a missing-child report, when we see him. I couldn’t speak. We rushed to him. We hugged him. Dan yielded at him. Dylan cried. I slapped myself (not really, but I wanted to because I still couldn’t get a grip). “I was in the bathroom,” Grant finally said confused about the commotion. To this day, he insists on the fact that he apparently did tell us he was going to the bathroom and we even replied with an “OK.” To this day we have never admitted to him that he could be entirely right about that, but we were just so exhausted and distracted that we might have, perhaps, answered “OK” without having really heard a word he said. To this day it is still entirely his fault that we almost died of fear. To this day I still remember the panic of thinking him lost.

It’s a silly comparison, really…but even so, the illustration stands: losing a child is probably the worst thing a person could experience. That’s only but a fraction of the kind of agony God feels when one of His children wanders off the wrong path. So much so that He, Himself became One among us so He could rescue us…so He could pay for our ransom with His blood.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Finders Keepers

The last few posts have focused on a look at the lost. We’ve meditated on those who have lost their way and on the importance of not harshly and quickly reverting to judging them for we are but one misstep away from walking right into their shoes ourselves. Today, we are going to turn our eyes to the other character in these stories: The Finder.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Luke 15: 3-6

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? Luke 15: 8

In both of these parables, Jesus tells us how the Owners have lost something…something extremely precious…something extremely valuable. For what is the Shepherd without His sheep? And what is a lone woman without her livelihood? Inevitably, the owners in the stories don’t think twice about abandoning all else in search of what they have lost. It means that much.

Very unlike that, when what we lose is not that important, our desire to get off our behind to go looking for it is severely diminished. Take my son Dylan, for example, most of his possessions have been given to him, meaning, they have cost him nothing, hence, they are worth nothing to him other than the pleasure they bring him while he is enjoying them. Therefore, when one of such things is lost, he doesn’t care much. I have to push him into actually making a decent effort to find it. Yeah, whatever…I’ll get to it later after my show is over…

In the meantime, I am frantically sweeping the house looking for the darn thing…why? Because to me it IS valuable…I PAID FOR IT!


Imagine how Christ feels every time we choose to walk away from His loving arms. He paid for it…He paid it all…but to us…


Just like Dylan forgets or doesn’t stop to think about how much that toy, shoe or gadget cost me, we often also forget that even though Grace is a gift, it is not free. It costs the precious blood of The Perfect Lam. I guess the thing is that, like ungrateful children, we take it for granted. We don’t appreciate the gift, let alone the price Jesus paid so we can have it. Therefore, it is all too easy for us to just walk away one day and lose our path. Jesus, however, can’t stand it. He can’t just keep launching merrily while we wander off. He goes after us immediately…He goes after us, searching and sweeping all around until He finds us.

Praise be to Him, Our Heavenly Finder, the Giver of Life, the One Who Ransoms us with His blood.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


As I continue thinking about the lost in this adventure on Grace and Luke chapter 15, I have been challenged, greatly, by the fact that I am not to be the judge of the lost. After all, what separates me from someone who has lost his/her way is the blurry line of a bad decision. Once again, I’m referring to “lost” as in someone who has lost his/her way…not someone who is not saved.

For instance, let’s look at a not-so-hypothetical situation in which a Father has three children. One day, one of them decides that he doesn’t want to be part of the family anymore. Let’s say that this brother walks very far away from his family and even though his Father tries to get him to come back, the son refuses. Years go by and the Father finally falls ill. In his death bed, the Father desperately longs for his lost son, and tries to hang on to life to see him one last time. It is all to no avail, however, because the Father passes away without seeing his lost son ever again.

In the meantime, the other children who have been faithfully by their Father the whole time, seeing him go from a strong oak to a withered and hollow trunk on the ground, harbor resentment in their souls because they blame the lost son for the suffering brought into the family. The dirt on the grave hasn’t settled yet, when the lost son determines he wants to claim his inheritance. Evidently, this infuriates the faithful children even more. There’s no repentance, no sign of remorse…no justice…only hate.

The justified anger of the faithful children consumes them as they witness the impunity of the lost brother. Hours, days, weeks and months are spent plotting what to do or say if given the chance. Not even seconds are spent in prayer. The unfairness of it all triggers such desire for vengeance that they forget that vengeance is the Lord’s.

The key to their cell’s door is lost when forgiveness ceases to be an option and the faithful children become imprisoned in their own bitterness.

When we refuse to extend grace and forgiveness to those who have wronged us…when we don’t forgive our debtors…we are, in a way, rejecting God’s sense of fairness. We are saying that God’s form of justice is not enough to quench our thirst for reparation. We are saying that God is not able to avenge us in a satisfying manner.

When we judge the lost, we place ourselves above them. We clothe ourselves with the coat of self-righteousness and say: “how could they? I would never do something like that!” We narrow in onto their offense and forget that they are every bit as human as we are and that we are every bit as sinful as they are.

When we don’t forgive those who trespass against us, we seal our fate and bring judgement upon ourselves:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 
 Matthew 6: 14-15

…therefore, we become lost as well…

Forgiveness may seem unnatural and impossible, but without it, our vision becomes blurred and we lose our way…joining in the aimless caravan of those adrift.

But the same way that unforgiveness causes us to lose our way, forgiveness puts us right back on track. Forgiveness is the gateway that Our Heavenly Father opens up in front of us to free us from our pain and lead us back into His presence. And the fact that we do not forgive by our own power, but by His power in us, made stronger in our weakness, represents the Hand of the Almighty reaching out to us to bring us back to Him. It is only when we clearly see and accept the immensity of what Jesus has already done for us to reconcile us to the Father that we are able to forgive. In the next post we will see how the Good Shepherd allows us to see this truth. In the meantime, may the power of Christ infuse us with the strength to forgive so we can come back to Him and rest in the comfort of His embrace.

For more inspirational readings, check out these blogs I'm linking with: and

Monday, March 14, 2016


As mentioned in the last post, being lost is being separated from God. Anything that takes us away from Our Father would make us lost. However, I’m not talking about being lost in the sense of not being a child of God or not knowing God. I’m not talking about losing your salvation as a child of God either because I believe that:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2: 8-9


For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

I’m referring to the condition illustrated in the parables of the Lost Son, the lost coin and the lost sheep. In all three of these cases, the son, the coin and the sheep, although “lost,” all still belong to the “Owner/Father.” There is no indication they don’t belong anymore regardless of their current condition. Basically, they’ve just lost their way at the moment. The very fact that the Father/Owners go looking for them or run after them makes me think they always belong. They never lost their place. They were just temporarily misplaced.

I don’t believe that this temporary misplacement only occurs due to a life of debauchery either. It could be caused by anything that takes our sight away from His Face. It could be something noble, smart and good, like our desire to protect our family by offering them financial security, or our desire to do works for the church or even our desire for justice in the world and retribution for the oppressed. It could even be the very mission we perceived as given to us by God.

We lose our way, in my opinion, when our mission or our cause becomes more valuable than Christ Himself. However profoundly righteous it may be, once our cause or our mission, whatever we call it, consumes us enough to make us forget about the reason we do it, we’ve wandered onto the wrong path. We lose our way when we forget that the goal of everything we do is to glorify God, to be closer to Christ and to lead others to Him through our testimony.

Sometimes we are so engulfed in the practical application of our day-to-day that we forget to look inwards. We forget to “watch ourselves.” Like, for instance, being a Mother. Probably the highest calling a woman ever receives directly from God, motherhood is entangled in the challenge of balancing the impossible task of raising a decent/God-seeking human and being and not getting lost in the process.

I’ve always been a nervous wreck…but ever since I became a Mother my ability to let go and just chill has been nullified. A memorable example that would probably live in the infamous book of not-so-happy memories, happened a few years ago while I was consumed by the idea of moving to a different community and all the implications of such move…mainly, changing the kids to a different school system/district. At the time, my older son, Grant was finishing 5th grade which meant he’d be starting middle school at the new district and Dylan was finishing first. Not only that, but up until then, both of them had attended a tiny Christian School since kindergarten. To tell you the truth, and knowing my kids’ personalities and life-circumstances, I wasn’t as worried about Dylan as much as I was about Grant. Changing schools at the onset of adolescence is nobody’s idea of a good idea.

The decision was made, however, and we were moving…but my heart was in turmoil. I could not think about anything else other than finding the right house, in the right neighborhood and about how Grant was going to ever fit in and deal with the cultural change that would certainly be brought up by being immersed in the Public School environment. If you don’t know Grant, he is…how shall I say this politely…socially challenged at multiple levels. I knew the change was NOT going to be easy or smooth at all. I couldn’t sleep thinking about the whole thing. I was anxious, nervous, afraid and mad all at the same time. I kept second-guessing myself and torturing myself with the idea that I was potentially going to ruin my son’s life. I did everything in excess…except pray. I focused on the winds and the waves and took my eyes away from His face. I wandered off into the wrong path. I was lost. I was lost in my own inability to solve the problem at hand. I was lost in my own efforts to calm the storm that was raging within me. I was lost and weak from trying to resolve everything by my own strength.

A bunch of other things happened to me around the same time that I was consumed with worry about my kids. Among others, my Dad had recently passed away, I was in the middle of estate disputes with my siblings, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and Dan lost his job shortly after we moved. Needless to say, life was rough. I was scared. I felt alone. I was in a dark place. I had lost my way. God, however, in His infinite mercy and love, turned on the light and not only allowed me to see the path again, but He came to me and met me. As I stood paralyzed and weighed down by the heaviness of my situation, God’s Hand tightened His grip around mine and placed me back on the road. He gave me back a firm footing, and motioned my feet to move again, one step at a time.

I was the lost coin…the lost sheep…the lost daughter. And it was terrifying. This experience taught me that I needed to make some drastic changes on the way I approach life. I need to seek Him first, and everything else will fall into place. But it also taught me that even if I forget that the main thing for me to do is to seek Him…and I lose my way…He rescues me, for He is never gone. He is always with me. Therefore, I am never truly lost. Even if I’m misplaced, one thing is certain, He always finds me.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Path of the Lost

Being lost is not fun. However, one rarely sets out to be lost. The journey to becoming lost usually does not start by someone saying: “I just want to go this way because I know if I do, I will end up totally lost.” On the contrary, what generally happens is that people start the journey thinking they are going to be free and happy. They think they know exactly where they are going, which often times is a place where they think they are going to be liberated from what they perceive as a yoke they’ve been carrying and don’t want to carry anymore.

I’ve been there. I’m not too old to have forgotten when I was young. So I still remember as a senior in High School all I wanted to do was to leave my parent’s house so I could escape their tight rule. I didn’t want their short leash any more. I didn’t want any leash at all! So as soon as I graduated, I left my small town for the big city and a life free from my Dad’s all-seeing-eye. My new found freedom took me around many different places, one of which was a college in Western Pennsylvania called Clarion. Sparing you the details, I’m just going to say that there; I got to experience the licentious living of a recently-released, unsupervised young adult who just wants to have fun.

Although I never truly lost my sense of right and wrong, I did bend and stretch the boundaries significantly. Often, I found myself at the verge of being lost, which for our purposes as Christians means separated from God. Like the lost son, who is separated from his father, the God Figure, the lost is not in the presence of The Heavenly Father. However, even though I never truly felt totally apart from God, there were times when I found myself in horrific places that gave me glances of what a life without Him would look like…and it looked grotesque and extremely scary. Sheer panic would clear my vision and turn me around before it was too late.

I’m not proud of my life as an undergraduate student; but it served its purpose…I can relate to those who seek a life of liberation from social constraints. The journey starts off as a plan to free oneself from pain and hurts began long ago. The path usually starts in many cases, as a way out of oppression and abuse. And what happens is that if the freedom-seeker doesn’t have a sure sense of direction and a guiding light, wrong turns are made, and he/she becomes lost very quickly. Before long, panic overcomes the lost…but it’s too late and they don’t know how to go back or even if they can go back. Like the lost son, they get trapped and chained by what they thought would free them…and then…they remember…and they compare what they thought tied them down before to the shackles they wear now…and they know…they realize…

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. 
Luke 15: 17-20

The good news is that God in His mercy always grants His children a precious moment of clarity so we too can get up and go to Our Father. That moment is His Hand reaching out into the pit to wake us up and pull us out. I don’t believe that a child of God who wanders off the wrong path and finds himself/herself lost from his/her perspective does so intentionally hoping to get helplessly lost. I think we start off following a misguided dream of freedom which we don’t realize is false. The allure of the fun found in false freedom often makes us forget that the path that can truly make us free is the road that leads to Christ.

We will continue exploring the path of the lost in another post this week before we move on to the other aspects of what we are learning about Grace through the reading of Luke 15.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

What I'm Learning about God's Grace from Reading the Parable of the Lost Son

As I have expressed in other occasions, like a good Teacher, God teaches us through well-prepared and cohesive lesson plans. Over the last few weeks I have seen a thematic lesson developing on the topic of Grace. Starting with a delightful evening with friends having pizza and popcorn at home while watching the movie The War Room, thoughts about the amazing reality (pun totally intended) of God’s Grace has been circling my mind and soul.

After that, and inspired by the fact that I finally began reading the book What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey, topped by a really intense sermon on the parable of the Lost Son with emphasis on the Father’s grace, I have decided to write a short series on my own meditations on Grace to lead me into Easter.

Since the Parable of the Lost Son speaks volumes to this effect and also to me in a rather personal manner, I will also use this magnificent piece of Scripture as the basis for my exploration of that unthinkable and unexplainable mystery called God’s Grace.

Let me start by saying how the Lost Son is the culmination of a three-part-parable in Luke Chapter 15th. The series includes the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son. In this series, Jesus illustrates God’s grace with stories that reflect a recurrent paradigm: lost-found-celebration. Something/someone is lost, then it is found and at the end there is a big celebration. In all three stories, God is the person who loses something extremely valuable, then He sets out to find it/him/her and when it is found, He rejoices and celebrates!

I’d like to take a closer look at each of the stages of this formula. Today I’d like to start by focusing on the lost. After all, I am the queen of getting lost.

As it happens, I am directionally challenged. I can get lost in my own house. At work, I rarely take the elevator because often times, when the door opens, I have no clue if I have to go left or right to find my destination. One time I took it because I was carrying bricks of paper in my hands from my basement classroom to my office on the first floor and inadvertently I guess, I pressed #2 rather than #1. So when the door opened, and I stepped outside, a colleague had to give me step-by-step instructions on how to get back to my office…I’m exaggerating a bit here, but I was, indeed, completely lost when I stepped out of that elevator and my colleague did have to tell me: “get back to the elevator and press 1 because you are on the second floor now.”

I’m the one who has to leave the house ½ hour earlier to allow time to get lost and found and still be on time when going somewhere new or not so new. GPS has been a great invention for me, except for when it is wrong…I have no idea how to figure out the right way so I just keep listening to it and I keep getting more and more lost…until I finally have to revert to my foolproof, old fashion GPS…my husband Dan…who has always been able to figure out not only where I am, but how to get me where I need to be from wherever he is at.

I get this heightened sense of direction from my Father. I am so much like him that it’s scary. I remember the last time he came to visit us we were living in a tiny house which had a basement entrance connected to the garage. It was a left turn at the bottom of the steps to go to the garage. Every time my Dad went downstairs to leave, he’d turn to the right instead.

I remember growing up, we’d get in the car to go somewhere, my Dad would get lost. We were lucky that my Mom was blessed with a keen sense of orientation so she’ll get us back on track every time. But it was both, really funny and REALLY scary because my Dad’s temper did not allow for detours. So every time he’d get lost, he’d also get really mad. My Mom would then, in her very gentle ways, re-direct, or I should say, recalibrate and diffuse the situation. Eventually, my Dad mellowed a bit and learned to make fun of himself by saying something like: “we are getting to know new places” as code for, “I have no clue where we are at, Thelma, you are on!”

Anyway, all I’m trying to say is that I know what it feels like when you walk into what you think is one place only to realize it is not. I know the panic of being left behind. I know how being lost is not fun, but terrifying. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the lost son, and how what began as liberation, ended in slavery.

For more inspiring posts, visit the following blogs I'm linking with: and

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Isn’t it odd how we learn big lessons from those we least expect it? It happens to me all the time with my younger son Dylan. Besides driving me insane and growing me gray hair, he always manages to teach me something…usually something pretty valuable and profound.

These last few weeks have been no exception.

If you don’t know Dylan well, you’d think he is this really quiet, sedate, mostly well-behaved 10 year old boy. Other than the fact that he is really 10, the rest is very far from the truth. When he is comfortable, his personality comes out with a bang! Like fireworks, the minute he walks into a room everything explodes in the most colorful and unexpected of ways. He is opinionated and demanding. He is always right and he is not very good at sharing, but excellent at taking away other people’s things (mainly his brother’s stuff). He plays with the truth and he is a huge drama king. He is an overall really poor listener. He can’t control his tongue. However, he is extremely controlling. (I swear I’m not describing myself here…this is Dylan I’m talking about).

Actually, we have often considered he’d make a good dictator of a small country someday.

Needless to say, such enthusiasm causes problems. Therefore, it needs to be re-directed.

In order to help him make better decisions, we devised a chart at home not unlike those used in elementary school classrooms all over the country. Along with the chart, we also created a list of offenses. The way it works is that every time he does one of the things in the list, the cloth pin moves up one level on the chart until it gets to the top which means he loses a privilege.

Anyway, once we created this tool, we proceeded to talk to Dylan about it. As it was expected, he did not like it one bit, but he accepted it since he had no choice. One of the things we told him was that his life was going to change for the better if he learned to go by the socially accepted rules of basic human interaction.

A while later, he came to my desk and said something like: “Mama, I’m afraid how my life is going to change.”

I realized the depth of my young son’s statement while considering my own life. There have been several challenges over the years that have caused my life to change and I have not liked it…I haven’t liked it one bit. Through life-altering experiences such as marriage, moving to a whole other country, infertility, loneliness, motherhood, tragedy, loss, illness, among others not just my surroundings but my entire identity has been and continues to be transformed. This transformative process, however, has not been smooth.

I have fought it. I have resisted it. I have rejected it every step of the way. I have wrestled through it all…and I have always felt as if I have lost each and every one of those battles. Our first years of marriage were a huge struggle. Moving was earth shattering. Infertility was devastating, but motherhood hasn’t been a walk in the park either. Tragedy, loss and illness have shifted much of my pre-conceived paradigms. And I have been lost in all the changes.

Today, however, as I witness the concern that the prospect of change brings to my son’s heart, I can’t help but wonder how his struggle is a mini version of the struggles that life brings to us all. As the parent, I know that the change that is about to come to Dylan’s life is all for good. I know that the paradigm shift is the only way for his life to improve. I know that the loss of certain things that he used to count on as constant is the best way to help him move toward a better path. I know that even though there might be struggle, resistance and rejection on his part, this is the best road for him to be on…but he doesn’t know any of that…and even if I tell him so…he can’t truly comprehend it until time has passed and experience has taught him otherwise.


I looked my son in the eyes and said: “I know, change is scary, but often change is good, and I promise you this changes are going to make your life different, yes, but better…trust me.”

I said these words to him inspired by the many promises Our Heavenly Father makes to us all over Scripture. I was inspired by the many promises that even though are true, I doubt. I was inspired by the many times He tells me to be still and let Him be God…and I wrestle Him. I said them inspired by the many times He tells me to not be afraid…and I fear.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17: 7-8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3: 5-6

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43: 2

It still remains to be seen whether the changes will bring about a different Dylan, but in the meantime…I’m going to trust that Our Heavenly Father is guiding us all and that His plans are perfect, meant only to bring us a future and hope!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Adventures of a First Time Chaperone - The Exciting Conclusion

SO PROUD of these young people!

Oh What a Night!
Well, like they say in show biz…the trip must continue even if your back hurts...or is it even if you break a leg? Not sure, but anyway, off we went. I had decided that my first order of business was to buy a really cheap tote bag at our first stop so I could get rid of the torn shopping bag I was carrying on my lap with all my useless snacks and bottles of water which I didn’t dare to eat or drink for fear of needing to go to the bathroom. However, I could not buy it at our dinner stop since we ate at a Chic-Fillet and there were no tote bags there. So, I had to wait until our first bathroom stop after dinner at some time past 9pm. I was happy to see that the rest stop had a really nice gift shop, where I was sure to find what I needed. To my dismay, my search for something in the vicinity of $3.00 or less was utterly unsuccessful. Therefore, I am now the proud owner of a $15.00 canvas bag of West Virginia.

That night, I slept a total of 3 hours give and take as I was kept awake by the weird movies playing on the state of the arts entertainment system above my head. When the movies finally stopped, kids began to settle, which you would think was a good thing, right?…WRONG! Many kids decided that lying down on the aisle made more sense than staying on their seats. So I was trapped! There were kids everywhere, even under my feet! I kid you not, I couldn’t see well, but I could tell there was something under my foot rest other than my backpack. When I looked closer, I realized that the thing under my footrest next to my bag was actually a kid’s head. Needless to say, my ability to move for the rest of the night was quite hindered…

It was snowing really badly outside and even though I could not see anything out the windows, I could feel the bus swerving, hitting the bumps on the shoulders every so often, which made me really nervous. By the time the breakfast stop came I basically forfeited food for a decent spot at the bathroom line. I brushed my teeth, washed my face and changed my shirt…I felt like a new woman. However, on my way back to my table I see Grant sitting by himself…gosh…the point of this whole trip was for him to finally solidify some kind of friendship with the other kids in the band…was this nightmare ever going to end!?

The Silver Lining

Finally we made it to Epcot sometime around noon on Thursday. I relished the idea of being off the bus for a long while. I particularly enjoyed the thought of being able to go to the bathroom at will! Which, by the way, that was exactly what we did first, of course. Things actually started to look up as I was able to find a group of three other Moms to hang out with, my two future roommates and my seat buddy. The group quickly became cohesive, and I have to say that together we actually had a lot of fun at the parks and events. My roommates, who were sitting on the front seat, even took over my roll call duty, which was a true gift! Much to my delight, I also began to see Grant managing to integrate to the flow as he found a place among the other eight graders.

All in all, among getting dizzy on the rides, fighting the crowds, facing the challenge of finding affordable places to eat and enjoying the glorious Florida weather, the days passed by rather fast.

Regarding my chaperone duties, I was able to settle into a manageable routine with the 8 kids, 4 girls and 4 boys, I was directly responsible for. We established a way to communicate at several intervals during the visits to the different parks, and all in all I believe I was able to hit the right mix of careful watch and trust which I believe made my kids feel both, save and free.

Although, I have to say that the first time I sent a group text to the boys, it got a bit…how shall I put it…revealing of my technologically challenged nature. The thing is that I sent a: “send me a thumbs up if you are OK” message, and I got a picture from one of the boys. At first, when I saw the picture of a young man wearing a ball hat, I chuckled because it was the nine grader boy being a nine grader boy. After all, he was, indeed wearing a ball hat that day. I knew the picture didn´t really look like him much, but I attributed it to it being a bit dark at the moment.

When I got another thumbs up with a picture in it, though…the gray beard and Stetson hat gave it away…that was not the tenth grader whose name was displaying on my phone! I was utterly confused, but dismissed it thinking that the boys had just taken random pictures and sent them to me to signal their required “thumbs up” as a prank. Later I found out that I had entered the wrong phone numbers for two of the boys and it was whoever’s number I texted who proceeded to send me their pictures as a reply to my thumbs- up-if-you-are-OK request.

Anyway, there were many incidents that could be qualified as less than pleasant, like the day of the parade, as we are riding on the bus, kids in their full Band uniforms, and I hear someone “coughing” next to me…only he wasn’t coughing, but throwing up! The whole thing was pretty fabulous though, if I may use that word in the same sentence with puke…this kid was so alert and forward thinking that he reached for his seat buddy’s bag of home-made-candy which was sitting by the window and averted total disaster. Thanks to a second water bottle I had grabbed that morning before leaving the hotel, wipes from the girl behind and a stick of gum from someone else, this young man was able to compose himself as if nothing had happened and be ready for the performance…while I held the puke bucket on my lap.

There was also the overflowing toilet in my girls’ room and having to talk to security about escorting someone to the bathroom at the lobby passed curfew. But other than that and the fact that we had to ride back home another 20 plus hours, spraying sunblock and any other chemicals on hand to try to freshen up the stinky bus due to the fact that many kids might or might have not taken showers during the whole duration of the trip, the experience was wonderful!

Even the fact that I totally spaced out and forgot to pack my tennis shoes and a pair of jeans in my backpack to change into on the way back home, which revealed another of my character traits (the fact that 15 year old boys have more common sense than me), I have to say that as my sandal-bearing feet sunk into a foot of snow back at Slippery Rock´s High School, I was very satisfied with the way the whole experience had turned out.

What made it wonderful were the people around me. I got to meet some amazing Band Moms, incredible kids and most of all, I was able to see my son blossom a bit. I saw Grant hanging out with kids, talking, having fun, and enjoying life. I saw him becoming independent to the point that I didn’t really get to hang out with him much at all after that first breakfast stop. It was so crowded and the lines were so long that I didn’t get to ride Space Mountain. I didn’t make it into the new Fantasy Land. And to tell you the truth, I never saw Goofy either…but I saw my son looking like he belong…and that was reward enough for me.

Grant tuning the saxophone before the parade...

I'm an official chaperone!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Adventures of a First Time Chaperone - Part 2

Where was I? O yes, I had just made my way down the long hallway to my new seat on the sparkling, brand new motor coach and met my seat buddy, Beth. It was all good and great…yeah…

Since the week had been so hectic, I had not have time to do a good job packing. I had spent most of my time prepping the material for the substitutes that were covering my classes during my absence, prepping meals for the two boys I was leaving home alone, and making sure Grant had all he needed. Therefore, when it came time for me to leave the house, I had forgotten to pack my snacks for the trip…among other things I found out about later. So, on my way out the door, I just grabbed a few miscellaneous stuff and as many bottles of water as I could hold, and put everything in a plastic shopping bag. The error in my ways began to show quickly after I made the trek down the bus hallway to my new seat. The plastic bag started tearing and an assortment of granola bars, cookies and water bottles began to poke through the thin plastic.

I also realized that the overhead compartment was too small to fit my backpack and that there wasn´t any room for my coat either, so I wedged the backpack under my seat and sat on my coat. Needless to say, it was all very snug. I just couldn´t get a handle of the space or lack of thereof to utilize it the most effective way possible…

For a while, I just sat there, immobile, my torn plastic bag on my lap, backpack under my feet and winter coat under my behind. The comfort that had been promised by the motor coach company seemed just a bit elusive at that moment. I was surrounded by seniors who had been together in Band since they were in 8th grade, riding on their last trip as a group…loud and crazy was an understatement. At least I was close to the bathroom, right? Wrong, the driver had just announced that the bathroom was off limits, and that it was to be used only for extreme emergencies, emphasis on “don´t use it!”

It was 2:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday when we left Slippery Rock. We were not to arrive at our hotel in Orlando until 9:00 p.m. ... on Thursday after spending the day at Epcot. Suddenly, the walls of the enchanted coach that was transporting us to the happiest place on Earth became narrower…the realization of spending the next 20 plus hours on this bus, on this seat, next to these kids, carrying a torn plastic bag on my lap, my feet on my backpack, sitting on my coat, not being able to go to the bathroom other than at scheduled stops and most of all, not being able to lay down on a bed to sleep until at least 29 hours later hit me like a ton of not so magical bricks.

Not only that, but the chaperone duties I had been assigned were daunting.  Somehow, the Band Director had decided that I was the person to assign as the bus garbage patrol and roll caller??? (I have a hard time pronouncing even my own last name!)  Also, I was responsible for the kids in not one but TWO rooms!!!  Really?  A Rookie Mom and first-time-chaperone??  Obviously, I had miscalculated what it meant to chaperone this monstrosity of a trip. Reality had definitively hit. The funny thing is that I kept thinking about Dan’s reluctance to come with us way back in August when I first suggested it…now I understood. I should have volunteered to chaperone something more manageable for my first experience…like a trip to Grove City! (about 10 miles from our town).

Don´t forget to tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of The Adventures of a First Time Chaperone

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Adventures of a First Time Chaperone

When my older son, Grant signed up for Marching Band, I was thrilled! I thought the experience would be really beneficial for him in helping him develop more self-esteem and a sense of belonging to something. So I told him, that if he was willing to make a good effort and not quit, I would support him and do as much as I could to help him succeed. I was ready! I signed up for everything! I volunteered at Band Camp, went to Band Boosters’ meetings, attended the games, went to special performances and even worked the concession stand a couple of times. I was exhausted, but most of all, I was excited to think of my son as part of something.

There was another thing I volunteered for: to be a chaperone.

Although I have been involved in youth activities at church and beside the fact that I am a teacher…I have never really been an official chaperone. How hard could it be? I thought. They are just kids…no biggie! So when back in August, the Band Director announced the need for chaperones for the Band’s trip to Disney World, I was said, sure! Disney World, Orlando…are you kidding me? The happiest place on Earth! I LOVE Disney World…of course I would take any opportunity to go spend a few days hanging out with Goofy, my favorite character! I was all in thinking about ridding Space Mountain and enjoying the new Fantasy Land at Magic Kingdom. This sounded like the perfect getaway!

At first I tried to convince Dan to make it a family trip, but the look on my dearest husband’s face when I first suggested it, indicated that there was no way that was ever going to happen…so I desisted and instead got the paperwork, sent in my deposit, got my clearances and made it into the list of chaperones.

I mean, c’mon…Disney World! Yeah!

Trip Day

The weeks became months, my closet became populated with a nice assortment of Slippery Rock Rockets T-Shirts and Hoodies, Grant’s saxophone playing became more and more pleasant, and sooner than I could say Mickey Mouse, we were boarding the bus. One hundred and six students and chaperones climbed aboard two very nice, brand spanking new, 55 person capacity coaches, both equipped with a state of the arts entertainment system and bathroom. We were certainly traveling in style!

I met the other two women who were going to be my roommates at the hotel and we decided to take front seats on the bus. The two of them sat together and I was across the aisle. It was a great seat. I could even see Grant who was only like two seats behind me. He seemed overwhelmed but excited and that was great to see. Before I could sit down, however, I was bumped to the almost very back of the bus since there were two girls that wanted to sit together and there were only two single seats available on the entire bus. No problem, I’ll be fine. I was blessed to sit next to a really great lady. A wonderful opportunity to meet someone new! It was all good…especially because this was a chance to escape the snow that was piling up like crazy that day here at home. Soooo, as the bus pulled out of the High School, I found myself thinking: Orlando, here we come!

If you are curious about the rest of the story, tune in tomorrow :)