The First Day of School

When I take my morning walk, quite often I’ll hum or even sing the old hymn “This is my Father’s World.” It’s a theme song for me I guess, if people have such a thing. It’s a song that comes to mind as I experience the wonders of God’s good creation every morning. It’s a song that meant something to me back when I was still teaching.

Today is the first day of school at the Christian School where I taught for 30+ years before retiring a few years ago. First school days will be happening for my grandchildren at their Christian schools at some point in the near future, too. To be honest I don’t often think about ‘first days’ of school that much any more. But today, I pray that for them, at whatever level they’re at they’ll be learning, in some way, about what I sing.

Join me? “This is my father’s world…”

Christian Education. Today’s gift.

Just What I Needed

I turned the corner to leave the cereal aisle and there she stood.  A teaching colleague from years past; a friend that I hadn’t talked to in years pushed her cart with the week’s groceries.

You know how it goes, after the initial surprise, we caught up on stuff. You know, things like family. “How are the kids doing? Really they’re that old!?” Topics that only scratched the surface to be sure, but useful for folks who’ve been apart for a time. It kept the conversation going a bit.

As we chatted a little more we dodged the folks trying to make their way to the Special K.  We rearranged our carts so shoppers could get by then the conversation changed. The topic turned to God.  Yep, it happened right there in the grocery store, next to the Frosted Mini Wheats. Right there among shoppers filling their carts with tomorrow’s breakfast, in stepped God.

Several years ago, she and her husband left secure teaching jobs in a stable Christian school to start up a Christian school in the same town, in the heart of a neighborhood rife with poverty, instability and crime. A gutsy move, I thought at the time. They said, a calling from God.

God calls, indeed. He’s a God that not only calls, but over the years he’s demonstrated that he equips and blesses. Over the years God has made that little school a blessing to the neighborhood. He brought the right people together, gave them the courage to take a leap of faith and through them multiplied his blessing and grace to an impoverished neighborhood. God was and is at work through the Tree of Life School in the Edison neighborhood of Kalamazoo, Michigan. It’s an incredible story, to be sure.

That’s about where our conversation ended. For me it was an important reminder that God graciously walks daily with me too, as I try to fulfill his calling. It was a reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness right there in the cereal aisle. Today, a little chat about God with a friend, just down the way from the Corn Flakes, was just what I needed.

Today’s gift.

Still Available!

Here it comes again, the 2nd annual shameless self-promotion…  I humbly offer my apologies before I even start.

Here’s some history. Over the last 30 years I’ve written more than a few short stories, a lot of them about Christmas. I wrote them mainly for my students back then. Some of them were even good enough to be published in a few educator’s magazines.

So with that little bit of fleeting success, I decided long ago that I’d like to see them published, put into a book. However the stories remained in my file, on my computer and in my mind … until recently.

After hearing about the whole concept of self-publishing a while back, the idea of putting my stories together in a book started percolating again.  Self-publishing… hmmm … The cool thing about self-publishing a book is that, really, only one person needs to like it.

So about a year ago, I took the plunge and published the stories with Kindle Direct Publishing. Here it is.

Now available at

I want to make it clear that I’m not in this for the money or to make someone’s best seller list.  Although, with this blog readership of about six, who knows what might happen. Things might just take off.

I wrote most of the stories mainly for my students and the people closest to me.  And, I had fun doing it.  Besides, even after all these years, I still think these stories, in their quirky little ways, still belt out a pretty strong message about Christmas and it’s true meaning, which, of course, is that Jesus was born, Immanuel, God with us.  That, my friends, and NOT some flashy book … is today’s Gift.


If you want to see the blurb and read a sample at, click on this link.  If not, that’s fine, too.

Now Available!

Here it comes, a shameless self-promotion…  I humbly offer my apologies before I even start.

You see over the last 30 years I’ve written more than a few short stories, a lot of them about Christmas.   I wrote them mainly for my students back then.   Some of them were even good enough to be published in a few educator’s magazines.

So with that little bit of fleeting success, I decided long ago that I’d like to see them published, put into a book.  I tried back then.  However, after only a few tries to get some real publishers interested, the stories stayed in my file, on my computer and in my mind …  until recently.

After hearing about the whole concept of self-publishing a while back, the idea of putting my stories together in a book started percolating again.  Self-publishing… hmmm … The cool thing about self-publishing a book is that, really, only one person needs to like it …  in addition to one’s mother.  (I must say that when my mom was alive, she liked my stories, too.)

So over the course of the last year or so, I investigated the process, dusted off the old stories, reformatted them, wrote some new ones, had someone check them over and submitted them.  Lo and behold both the paperback and eBook versions were accepted by Kindle Direct Publishing.

Now available at

I want to make it clear that I’m not in this for the money or to make someone’s best seller list.  Although, with this blog readership of about six, who knows what might happen. Things might just take off.

I wrote most of the stories mainly for my students and the people closest to me.  And, I had fun doing it.  Besides, even after all these years, I still think these stories, in their quirky little ways, still belt out a pretty strong message about Christmas and it’s true meaning, which, of course, is that Jesus was born, Immanuel, God with us.  That, my friends, and not some flashy newly published book … is today’s Gift.


If you want to see the blurb at, click on this link.  If not, that’s fine, too.

Morning Songs

Today is my last day of volunteering at Rehoboth Christian School in New Mexico. This morning at breakfast one of my volunteer colleagues shared with me a small event that happened in the mid school (That’s what they call middle school around here.). She’s been helping with the choir this week. There was this kid in the choir…

She wondered if I knew this kid. I probably met him in the science class in which I was helping. By the way, I have to say that I was impressed that every day I was in that classroom, the teacher, in some way, acknowledged God as creator of an awesome world.

“This is my father’s world I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas

His hand the wonders wrought”

Anyway, this kid that I probably met at some point, had a request for the choir director. My friend is right there to witness the whole thing. By the way, she and her sisters, are singers themselves. As a matter of fact this morning they sang for the elementary students during their chapel time. They beautifully sang a version of…

“Seek and you will find

Knock and the door will be open

Ask and you will receive”

So, the kid asked the choir director if he could share a song with the class. I’m picturing the kid, all sincere, asking, and the choir director pausing a bit amid the controlled chaos of the students coming into the room. I’m sure he was wondering, maybe what to say so that the kid’s feelings aren’t crushed. He knew the kid. He knew the challenges he faced in the classroom. And, he knew his choir. He said sure.

One of my favorite choir pieces is “Do Not Be Afraid,” by Philip Stopford. It’s based on Isaiah 43:1. That song and I have some history. I listened to it the first Sunday I was here.

“Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.”

Anyway, I’m picturing the kid quietly, shyly sing his song in front of the group. I wasn’t there, but I imagine him standing in front of his classmates and pausing, taking a breath, maybe a little nervous, singing without fear, a song he had written. And his classmates politely, respectfully listened to him sing… and applauded when he finished.

In church Sunday morning we sang a song, not written by a mid school kid, but another guy, Jeremy Zeyl. It was based on the words of a centuries-old catechism. It went like this…

“This my only comfort in my life and in my death

You have fully paid for all my sins and all my debts

With your precious blood you’ve set me free

I am not my own but belong body and soul

In my life and in death to you Lord, Christ my Lord”

Now I don’t know if the kid with the song knew anything about this catechism. But I’m sure that at this place, Rehoboth Christian School, he’s been taught the essence of what it means. You see, his song was about his mother. She was going through hard times.

I wasn’t there, but my friend was and she was having a hard time finishing the story without a tear or two slipping from her eye. This story about the kid, who at this place is surrounded by teachers and classmates who love Jesus and who love him; this story about the the kid who wrote and shared a song about his suffering mother touched her, touched me.

And one more thing… the most important thing…. There was one more song that resonated with me today. It was sung in chapel by the elementary students at RCS in two languages, English and Navajo. This morning the sound of that song floated through the halls of this school, permeating a community that believes and practices the truth of its words without reservation.

“Jesus loves me this I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to him belong

They are weak but he is strong.”

Morning songs…today’s gift.

Retired – I Probably Should Write Something

As I write this, it’s one day after my last day of teaching middle schoolers. It’s the end of a 44 year career of working for two different school associations, in four different buildings and classrooms, with many colleagues and a boatload of middle school students. I suppose I should write something. After all, this retiring business is a big deal. Just the fact that while I’m sitting here writing, I can still get choked up thinking about my teaching career says, yep it’s a big deal. So I guess I should write something, I’m not sure what, though.

Today, I had some time to delete school stuff from my soon-to-be extinct school account. I kept a few things, but deleted most. After all, when will I ever need that ‘Compost Column Summary’ assignment? And that website I created to help launch kids into discoveries about God’s world? You know, the one I would always introduce with the line ‘go to http:/mrk…. , your favorite website, heh, heh…’ Not needed anymore, gone… It gave me a quite a funny feeling. I guess maybe I could write about those funny feelings… I don’t know what though.

I’ve taught with a lot of people down through the years. I’ve served under a host of different principals. I was even the principal for a couple of years! Most of these colleagues I would count as friends. Some of them, well, we got along okay, but, uh, you know… Looking back over my last day I have to say that I didn’t make the rounds and seek out all my colleagues to do a final goodbye, perhaps an error on my part. However, the reverse was also true. They knew where to find me.

However, the friends and colleagues with whom I did connect. Let’s just say that the tears flowed as we reminisced, expressed our mutual respect, admiration and love. Maybe that’s something I could write about here. Maybe I could end it with some tag line like ‘today’s gift…’ but they already know that’s how I feel about them and maybe that’s enough said for now.

I’ve taught more than a few middle schoolers over the years. All of them are precious in the eyes of God. But really, for some of them, that whole precious-in-the-eyes-of-God stuff looks good in print, but in reality, I imagine that the Creator of the universe had his hands full during their middle school years. I know I did.

Occasionally, I’ve had the privilege of meeting up with former students. What a treat and a blessing to see how, years later, the Spirit has been at work in their lives. That might be a good thing to write about, the Spirit’s work. Maybe I could do something with that.

… So after all that, I’ve decided what to write about. Here goes.

I was reminded recently that it’s not my teaching that defines who I am. Good thing. As of yesterday, I’m not a teacher anymore. However, what ‘defines’ me and all of us, no matter what occupation or stage in life we’re in, is this. We are children of God. Through us his Spirit is at work, advancing his Kingdom, one step at a time, for his glory. And that, my friends, is what all this  has been about.

“Did You Ever See An Angel?”

As I approach the three-months-to-go-until-I-retire milestone, I’m discovering a lot of ‘lasts’ – things that I’m doing, using or talking about for the last time in my classes.  Things that I still like doing.  When someone congratulates me about my retirement I try to be gracious, but at this point… I don’t know.  There’s still a lot I like about what I do.

I do know that I still have more to do and more things to tell.  Like today, when a student asked, “… did you ever see an angel?”  Those were the magic words that launched me into a story that I’ve told students for almost 40 years.  And today, I realized, it would probably be the last time.  

Depending on the day, I can stretch that story to last a whole 45 minute class period.  It makes me a bit sad.  It’s like saying goodbye to an good friend.  And that’s the way it is with old friends, I guess.  Sometimes you just can’t get enough.

So without going into great detail here… a friend and I went backpacking in the Smoky Mountains.  It was to be a 3-day, 2-night trip into the wilderness.  No phone, no electricity, no cars, just our feet and all the things we’d needed on our backs.   It was enjoyable, a lot of work and not without its frustrations.

One of the frustrations was the trail that went along Eagle Creek.  We discovered, late in the day, that to get to our designated campsite, we needed to cross this creek.  There were no bridges or stepping stones to walk across, either.  Just deep springtime, swift water flowing over slippery rocks.  

We stood and puzzled for a while, not quite sure what to do. We needed to cross the river.  We needed to complete our loop.  Our families were going to be waiting for us after all.  What to do?  

While we were thinking a guy came walking up.  He looked like he just got out of the shower, fresh and neat.  Quite the contrast to the two of us – hot, sweaty and a mess.  He had no backpack either, just a small sack.

Brian was his name.  He said he had worked in the park summers and knew this trail we were on.  He said he was there to meet his brother coming down the same trail.  Then he said, “You’re going to have to cross this creek a dozen times before you get to your campsite.”  Then he said that he wasn’t going to wait around for his brother and did we want the butter pecan ice cream he had in his sack.  We took the ice cream and Brian walked away.

After a bit of ice cream, still firmly frozen, we decided to try wading across the river.  One step convinced us that we were making a big mistake as the water immediately came up to our waists.  Soaked, tired, frustrated and armed with the knowledge that it would take a dozen crossings of Eagle Creek if we were to continue, we turned back.  

We turned back and looked for Brian!  He certainly could help us figure out a shorter way back to civilization. The ice cream was still frozen, after all.  Quickly, we headed back, but Brian was gone.

Here’s where I could play up the ‘angel’ part.  But I really don’t believe Brian was an angel sent by God.  I do believe, however, that Brian was indeed sent by God to a couple of inexperienced hikers.  I believe he was God’s messenger to tell us about the dozen crossings across Eagle Creek.  Armed with that information we humbly went back, safe and sound, the way we came.

The point I make with my students is about God’s providence.  Just like he took care of us on the trail by sending Brian, he takes care of us every day, in usually, ordinary ways.  He does what’s best for us, even if we don’t always realize it.

So, did I see an angel?  Probably not.  Did I see another example of God’s care? Yes!  It’s a fun story to tell, and today, I probably told it for the last time.  However, In the telling I’m reminded, once again, that God’s providential care will last for all time.


No Crib for a Bed

Note:  This year’s faculty devotions task landed during the season on Advent.   Here’s what I shared with the staff.


Lamentations 3:22-23 – The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease,  for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.


No Crib for a Bed

 The preacher said, “Sometimes to understand Advent we need to look back into the darkness in order to look forward to see the Light.”


Harold DeWit, long time teacher of covenant youth, looked out over his wide-eyed 5th graders, just… just looking at him. He had given them lengthy instructions for the “Creation Rocks” project and they just sat there as if waiting for a starter’s pistol.

“What are you waiting for?!” Harold said.  “Get going!”  

That was several years ago and “what are you waiting for?” became one of those lines  Harold used to launch each and every new project.  And… for Harold, this year, it became the spark for a grand idea for his Advent bulletin board project.

“Hey, Mr. DeWit?”

“Yes, Abby,” said Harold to his almost daily early morning visitor.  He was at his desk attacking a mountain of uncorrected papers he wanted to get done before Christmas break.

“What should I do with this?” Abby said.  She was standing by the back bulletin board holding up a picture of a scruffy dog, printed from an animal rescue website.  

“Just hang it anywhere.”

“There’s no room.  It’s full.”

“Just figure it out,” He regretted his curt reply.  But in spite of the season of light, hope, joy and peace, Harold was not feeling any of them at the moment, especially this week … The week, when long ago…

“OK.  I stuck it next to Evan’s, whatever-it-is, in the corner.  Hey, Mr. DeWit?”

“Yes, Abby,” Harold sighed, his patient professional veneer wearing thin.

“Do you want to know what I’m waiting for?” Abby said.

Trying to move things along, Harold cut to the chase.  “A new dog, I’ll bet.”

“Yep.  See you later, Mr. DeWit.”

The “What are You Waiting For?” wall was Harold’s attempt at bringing some meaning to Advent and the anticipation of the coming Savior..  Of course, when school was all over before the break, he hoped that the student’s answer to the bulletin board question would be “Jesus.”

At home that evening, he stepped back from his project sitting on the workbench in the basement.  “There!” he said dusting off the small wooden toy box.  “Just one more thing…”  He reached over to the right for the branding iron.  “OUCH!”

“Harold?”  Maggie called from the other room wondering about her husband’s safety as he worked with power tools.

“Just applying the brand,” he said.

“Hot enough?”  Harold could hear her giggle.

“Ya-hoooo!  I just need to find my cowboy hat for the branding…”

“You just concentrate and finish up,” she said. “You don’t need twenty-three fifth graders asking you tomorrow, what ‘HDW’ burned onto your hand means.” She giggled again.

“Got that right.”  said Harold, not only teacher of covenant youth, but also amateur woodworker with almost average skills.  He agreed with his wife who sidled up to witness the branding of the Christmas present Harold was making for the neighbor kid.

“Don’t forget to write the date,” she said, “…and the verse…?”  Maggie’s voice trailed off with the question hanging in the air.  

The traditional signing of the Harold’s projects included the brand, the date and the reference to a verse in Lamentations.  He had written these on his projects since his very first attempts.   “OK…” he said.  Next to HDW he wrote “for Jake” then the date and, … with a sigh, the letters L-A-M 3:22-23.

“Looks good,” said Maggie. “I’ll bring it over tomorrow, when he gets home from school. ‘S that OK?”  Maggie knew that her husband’s long-time resentment resurfaced at this time of the year.  It tainted his mood at home and at school when he looked back into the darkness of so many years ago.  Then she added, “Doing OK?”

“Sure, I’ll be fine.  Thanks,” he said as he headed  back to the pile of student work waiting to be graded.

The next morning’s school routine began again. Determined to be able to walk into Christmas break school-work free, Harold arrived at school an hour earlier than normal, the world still cloaked in the morning darkness. He rinsed yesterday’s leftovers out of his mug and poured himself a cup of coffee.  He strolled around the room for the morning inspection, nodded at Bob, the classroom skeleton dressed in his holiday finery, and headed to his desk to tackle the tasks of the day.

As he passed the “What are You Waiting For?” bulletin board he noticed Abby’s puppy picture.  It was surrounded by other student’s wishes and wants for what they were waiting for that Christmas.  Pictures or trinkets with notes explaining their Christmas desires were attached to the bulletin board in the back of the room.  A variety of popular toys, visits from relatives and a trip to Punta Cana made the list.

Harold sighed…  In spite of his best efforts to show his students that Advent is a time of waiting, of anticipation for the Messiah, the Savior of the world, there was not one mention of Jesus.  

But it was there… right in front of him, right in front of his eyes, if only he would see it… there was Jesus.  

Abby walked in.  “Hey, Mr. DeWit,” she said offering her usual morning greeting.  “What’s the problem?”

Harold was sitting at his desk with his head in his hands.  He was remembering that day 35 years ago to that very December day when his daughter, Emma was born.  Cute, long and scrawny, what a precious gift!  He and Maggie had waited so long… so long… Their first child and, as it turned out, the last.   She was a miracle child, really.   

Blunt Abby again said, “What’s the problem, Mr. DeWit?”

Surprised to see his early morning visitor, Harold looked at her.  “What … !?  

“The Daily Mystery Math Problem!  What is it?”  she said. “I’d like to get an early start.”

“Oh,” Harold said.  “That problem.  It’s over there.  I forgot to put it up.  Would you?”



Abby sat at her desk and worked on her problem and Harold worked on his.  He remembered that birthday, so long ago, so close to Christmas.

One of his first Christmas woodworking projects was a cradle for Emma.   He applied his less than average skills and finished the cradle just in time for Emma’s unexpected early arrival.  He proudly branded the side with HDW.  He wrote the date and Lam 3:22-23 on it,  all the while humming the song inspired by the verse… “Great is Thy Faithfulness!”

However, even years later Harold questioned that faithfulness, for within days, their dear, precious, gift from God…  Emma, died in her cradle….

Angry at God, needing to vent his anger, Harold hefted the cradle out to the curb and threw it on the pile of debris, waiting for the monthly bulk trash pick up, never to be seen again, never to remind him of that awful day. It seemed he would never forget the sting of loss and the seeming unfaithfulness of God….

“Mr. DeWit?”

“Yes, Abby?” said Harold.

‘Can’t wait to read my paragraph in class today.” she said.  “You know the ‘What are you waiting for’ paragraph?  Can I read it to you now?” said Abby.

“M ‘uh huh, sure, Abby,”  Harold said.  He gathered himself up out of his self pitying slouch. He looked the young girl in the eye, giving her all of the attention he could muster, “Let’s hear it.”‘  

Abby said.  “Oh, and here’s the picture.”  She ran to the back of the room, took off the picture she attached yesterday. She handed it to Harold.  “Ok, here goes..”  Abby took a deep breath and began reading to her early morning audience of one.  “What am I waiting for?  I’m waiting for a new baby brother.”

“Wait…” said Harold.  “I thought you were waiting for a puppy.”

“I was, until yesterday morning, when my mom told me about, Jacob.  That’s his name or will be his name, in May, you know what I mean.” Abby said.

“Great news, Abby.” You’ll make an awesome big sister.” Harold said.

“Thanks!”  Abby smiled.  “Here’s the rest of my paragraph.  ‘I’m waiting for a new baby brother.  My mom says he will arrive in May.  She says that if he’s anything like me he will be a good baby.”  Abby looked up at her teacher and grinned.

“He will sleep in the cradle that I slept in when I was little.  It’s the same one my mom slept in when she was a baby.  My mom says that back then her family was so poor that she didn’t have a place to sleep except for the floor or a drawer in an old dresser, no crib, like most babies slept in.  

Harold marveled at the child’s uninhibited openness.  

“One day my mom’s mother’s sister’s husband came by and brought them this cradle.”

“That would be your grandmother’s brother-in-law,” Harold said.

“Yah, right,” she said as Harold studied the photo Abby brought to hang on the bulletin board.  His gaze scanned the cradle and the precious child in it, while Abby continued.   His eyes rested on HDW- December 11 – Lam 3:22-23…

“Anyway, he said he found it on the side of the road.  So before the trashman came, he took it and brought it to the trailer.  That cradle is where my mom slept and where I slept and where new baby brother, Jacob, will sleep.  The End.”

Abby looked at the glassy eyed teacher.  “Who would throw away a cradle, Mr. DeWit?”

Harold turned away from Abby.  He captured the tear rolling down his cheek before he answered with a lie.

“I don’t know, Abby,” he said. “I don’t know…”

“I think my mom would like to say thanks if she could.”

The morning’s first light peeked into Harold’s classroom.  He  smiled at Abby.  “Thanks for sharing your story.  It made my day… and taught me something that  I needed to learn again.“

“Thanks, Mr. DeWit,” said Abby, as she bounced out of the room to greet her friends and a new day.



Casts, Crutches, Wheelchairs and An Upset Tummy


There they were walking down the hall together. One was on crutches.  The other one had her left arm plastered in place and hanging in a sling.  For the one it was a softball injury, sliding into second, catching her arm somehow and breaking it.  For the other it was corrective surgery to get her ankles lined up again and, in time, making things the way they were intended to be.  I kinda chuckled to see the sight of our two healing students smiling and making their way down the hall to their classroom.

Yesterday, there were chuckles and laughs along with the tears at the funeral I attended.  It was for my cousin, Tom, who died last week.  We were reminded again that death is not the end.  We were reminded that we belong to Jesus, body soul and in life and in death.  Good News. The Gospel.

This morning we were visited by Mr. Hank, our former custodian.  By all medical standards, Hank should not have survived his injuries incurred ten months ago. Today, Hank spoke to the student body.

He rolled into the gym in his wheelchair to applause from the student body. He talked about the accident, falling to the ground from a height of 25 feet.  He talked about the multiple injuries he incurred, for some, perhaps in too great detail.  He filled us in on his plans for the future.  He made it clear that the reason he was here was because of the goodness of God and the prayers of his people.  At the end of the assembly, we circled around him, all 600+ students and teachers, and prayed.

Maybe it was the nearness of yesterday’s funeral with new grief for the new widow,  or maybe recent chats with a friend, also a widow, who at times experiences old grief in new ways, a year and a half after…, or perhaps yesterday’s sudden passing of a gentleman from our church… or the Mr. Hank visit.  Who knows?  Anyway, this morning all of this affected me, got me thinking.

During Hank’s talk, one of the kindergarteners walked out with her teacher.  She had an upset tummy.  I’m here to report that she is fine, just like the girl in the cast and the one on crutches… and just like Hank…. and just like the grieving families… All fine in the way God is blessing them today.

So, today, I’m thinking about healing, body and soul, because we belong to Jesus, the great healer, making things right, in his time…  which is today’s gift.

The Mighty Acts of God


Grand Parents Day – May 12, 2017 – “The Mighty Acts of God”

Note:  Several months ago I was asked to speak at the Grand Parent’s Day chapel service.  Here’s what I said.


Psalm 145:4 – “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts…”

There’s a simple song that goes, “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good to me…”

God’s goodness, to us, day-by-day is one of his many mighty acts.

For over 450 years the Heidelberg Catechism has been used to teach generations of believers the basic truths about God… about his goodness and how we can respond to his goodness.  I remember being taught it and memorizing it.   Maybe you remember this…

Q and A 1:  What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I am not my own, but belong—

body and soul, in life and in death—

to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,

and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.

He also watches over me in such a way

that not a hair can fall from my head

without the will of my Father in heaven;

in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,

Christ, by his Holy Spirit,

assures me of eternal life

and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready

from now on to live for him.

That saving act, the daily care, the assurance of eternal life… these are mighty acts of God….

A long time ago, before the Heidelberg Catechism, there were Israelites.  We read about them in the Bible.  We read about how God rescued his beloved, chosen people and saved them from the tyranny of Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  He brought them out of Egypt after a series of horrible plagues, led them through the Red Sea on dry ground, drowning Pharaoh’s army which was in hot pursuit.  All mighty acts of God.

He led them through the wilderness.  Every step of the way providing protection, food, water, daily needs.  Even in his gentle daily providence we see the mighty acts of God.

The Israelites made it to the promised land and God gave it to them.  The Jordan River stopped in it’s tracks, walls of cities crumbled to dust, enemies were defeated in spite of impossible odds.  God was at work.  God’s mighty acts.

Things were great.  The Israelites told about and remembered the mighty acts of God, his acts of salvation.  They praised God for them.  They loved and worshiped him, the God who loved them first.

And then, the wheels fell off… Generations later, after Moses, after Joshua, after the Israelites were comfortably settled in the land God gave them, they forgot about God.  They forgot about his mighty acts.  They became just like everyone else, putting other things –  idols, themselves- above the God who saved them.  And I wonder why?  What happened?  Here’s what I think… I think that parents and grandparents stopped telling their children and grandchildren  the stories, the stories about the mighty acts of God.

Stories… Stories are gifts from God.

Some are just for fun… like… “Once upon a time there were three bears. They lived in a small cottage deep in the woods.  One day a young girl, Goldilocks by name happened to come walking by …”

Some stories just occur naturally, in casual conversation, as we tell each other about our day.

A student comes home and gets asked the question, “How was school?”  Answer: “Fine…”  Next Question:  “What did you learn today?”  Answer:  “Nothin’”

Short and to the point!

Teachers often use stories to make a point in lessons they teach.  For example, here’s one I use from time to time…

One Saturday, I just decided to bake a  blueberry pie!  … And the story goes on to make some educational point remembered by few.

But what about the ‘God’ stories, the stories of our lives that we share that tell about how he daily cares for us… Stories that tell the ‘mighty acts of God’ in our lives.

They maybe simple stories, simple truths… I had a student a long time ago in another school in another place  When it was his turn to pray at lunch he was nervous and he would stand in front of class, and like a pitcher on the mound… He’d wind up scrunching his eyes closed hands folded,  he’d  pray… “Deeeaar God….”  and then deliver the pitch, “Be with everyone on the ro – oads…”   And the simple truth, the mighty act of God was that everyday, students made it to school safely.  There were no serious accidents, that I’m aware of, among our school family that year.  God is so good…

Some stories are more complicated…There was Mary….

Mary’s life began about the same time my teaching life began.  She was born the year before I began teaching, in a different town …  a different place.  There was no connection between our lives… except God was at work in both places.  I didn’t know it, but God had a plan…

Fourteen years later, in a different school, Mary became my student.  My memory of the details is a bit sketchy,   She came as an eighth grader.  I was teaching eighth graders at the time.  She was bright, full of energy, fun – a beautiful child of God.  But also, as I found out, troubled.  If I remember correctly, she came to us in the middle of the year.  She had moved in with relatives because things weren’t working out at home.  Home was not a good place for her. I don’t know the details, but for some reason it was better for her to not be there.

At school there were good days and bad days.  And if I remember correctly, really bad days.  She ran away.  She didn’t finish the year with us.

But God is good.  God had a plan.  I couldn’t see it.  Many times since then, even today, I wonder, “Why did God bring Mary to my school?”

The following year I tried to keep track of Mary.  I prayed for her.  Visited her while she lived in a state institution for troubled teenagers.  In fact the last time I spoke to her, almost 30 years ago, was to say good-bye as I walked out of the dreary, gray visitation room at the state mental hospital.

That was pretty much it for me and Mary.  The paths of  our lives intersected for just a small bit of time.  As far as being part of my life, at first she wasn’t – then she was – then she wasn’t…  As far as God being part of Mary’s life, at first he was, and now he is, he always will be.

From time to time, via a mutual friend, a former student… [It’s so nice to say that a former student is now a friend.] I would get reports about Mary.  She had a kid…. She was too young, not married, I think… I’d pray, then she’d fade from my mind.  She moved down south… I’d pray… for awhile..  She got married … I prayed, “Thank you.”  I prayed for a normal, not messed up life.

I found out her husband died, cancer, I think… Three little kids.. Mary is struggling was the report.  Mary’s fighting addictions they said… Pray for Mary.  And I would, for a while…

Time moved on… Our lives moved on, Mary and mine … almost 30 years of our lives… And then, not so long ago, my friend said.  We’re going to get Mary.  We’re bringing her home, back to Kalamazoo.  And they did, family and friends… God was at work.  He had a plan.  And I prayed some more.  And I hoped that maybe I would get to meet up with Mary again…

I don’t know all the details, but Mary started going to church… The God who loved her first, was at work… through family and friends and the work of the Spirit… her relationship with God became more and more real.  And at some point… before she passed away… she met Jesus.

She realized in her heart that in spite of the tyranny of her troubled past,  she belonged body and soul, in life and in death, to her faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

At the funeral we sang:

My chains are gone, 

I’ve been set free

My God, my Savior has ransomed me

And like a flood His mercy reigns

Unending love, amazing grace

How will the next generation know the mighty acts of God unless we tell the stories?  We need to tell the stories  of God’s grace… God’s goodness…  God’s mighty acts.

“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts… “  Psalm 145:4