With These Hands

With These Hands
A poem for graduates

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"With These Hands" a poem for graduates

I shared a poem in this morning's service, dedicated to graduates on behalf of their parents and loved ones who raised them. It was written by Mark DeYmaz of Little Rock Arkansas and provided to us by Robin Ariola. Here's the text;

"With these Hands"

With these hands, I gently cradled this child,
Held him close to my heart,
Nursed his wounds and calmed her fears,
Held the books that I would read
And rock this child fast asleep.

With these hands, I made his lunches
And drove the car that carried her to school;
Snapped endless pictures, wrapped countless gifts,
Then did my best to assemble those gifts.
Combed his hair and wiped her tear,
Let her know that I was near
To nurse his wounds and heal her heart
When it would break.

With these hands, I made mistakes,
And with these hands, I prayed and prayed and prayed.
These hands are feeble, these hands are worn,
These hands can no longer calm the storms;
These hands have done all they can do;
These hands now release this child, my child,
To You.

For Your hands are able,
Your hands are strong,
Your hands alone can calm the storms.
Your hands will continue to do
What they are so gifted to do,
To shape his life and make her new.

Into Your hands receive this child,
For my child I now give back to You.
In the strong name of Jesus,
And with all my heart I pray,


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Newfangled Nana - Newfangled Love

It's a God given gift -- being able to see hidden beauty -- to have the ability to take something that others cast off as useless, hopeless, finished and discarded and to be able to recreate it, re-purposing it, giving it new life so that the once despised object garners from others a fresh appreciation, a newfangled love.

Artists think differently, don't they?  They see the world in possibilities.  For Jennifer Davidson, aka Newfangled Nana, raw fabric pieces are her medium.  She scours fabric stores looking for just the right materials to tell a story.  

Just as each stitch pulls together her theme, every stud solidly says this is not just a pretty cover, it's a personal journal, a diary of sorts. 

I admired Jennifer's work the first time I saw it.  I told her someday -- some day --  I wanted to have something of hers.  

What I didn't realize was that when my someday would come, I wouldn't just be getting something of "hers", I'd be getting something that was uniquely mine.

"My" piece started its life as a simple, off white settee - one I'd used well, seating families and children and babies and pets in the course of my photography career.  To my discredit perhaps as a photographer, I'm not sure I ever used the strangely designed little couch to its full glory.  

Because the settee's uniqueness resides in its back piece, its character had always been overshadowed, hidden by the placement of the more prominent persons being photographed. 

We drove together to her favorite fabric stores.  She listened to me as I told her I was classic but crazy, traditional yet a little wild.  To help celebrate not only the photographer but also the singer/songwriter/musician in me...  

Jennifer chose to decoupage the legs of the settee with pages from an old hymnal. 

This finishing touch sings its own praises along with ours.    

With every intricate pattern chosen and every bold yet complimentary color selected, the strangely twisted yet graceful bones of the settee would now declare aloud to all who would enter my own house that they were welcome to witness a new work that had been done.  The old had passed away...

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, 
he is a new creation. 

The old has passed away; 
behold, the new has come.  
2 Corinthians 5:17  


Newfangled Nana's focus is currently on upcycling furniture for the annual Shabby Love Barn Sale while taking only a few private upholstery projects each year.

You can reach Jennifer at:  newfanglednana@startmail.com

or at her website:  newfanglednana.com

Kelly's Settee Before NEWFANGLED NANA
Kelly's Settee After NEWFANGLED NANA

Monday, May 4, 2015

My Dad, My Hero

This past Saturday was 50+ years in the making...

My dad, Jean Keck, was one of 88 veterans recently chosen to fly to Washington, DC to receive a day of accolades and honor, compliments of Honor Flight of Dayton, Ohio.   

Dad was in the Army serving his country during the Korean War years and returned home to a delayed civilian life without fanfare or celebration.  He never expected any thanks.  He did his job - going where he was sent, doing what he was told. 

Without giving away all Honor Flight's wonderful surprises I can tell you Dad got the fanfare he richly deserved this past weekend!   

Thanks to the inside information and encouragement shared by my dear step-sister Debbie (Bryant) back in Ohio and the good people at Honor Flight (Jan and Larry) I was able to join my dad part way into the trip, as a surprise for what would become a memory making day for both of us.

As the buses arrived I scurried into place, hoping to hide myself for as long as I could stand, documenting at least this part of the day, honoring my dad through my photography.  But I neglected to factor how much of a weepy, blubbering mess I would be.  I made myself known and my own dear father, my hero, on his own special day, pulled us aside to sit and hold hands.  In that moment he chose to forget about his own incredible wonders that awaited him as he offered special encouragement and comfort to a daughter who felt she might be an intruder.  We lingered so long holding hands and catching up that we became the rear guard of sorts.  I'm so thankful for the support staff who gently nudged us onto the adventures of the day!  

Part of the Honor Flight experience is taking these men of valor on a whirlwind tour to see the monuments erected in their own honor.  

What was unexpected was the many men, women and children who stopped to thank my dad for his service.  Dad was often asked to be photographed with young students as well as parents.  My heart was deeply touched and my world stood still as our nation wrapped the arms of their gratitude around Dad's own heart.  

But this was only a small repeat of the reception Dad and his compatriots had already received in both Dayton and Ronald Reagan Airport.  Even while I was sleeping at home then arising to drive, metro and walk my way into town from the more rural burbs of Virginia, Dad was being cheered for and thanked.  Hundreds turned out to shake his hand and women kissed him and the others vets, making what would be the most powerful impact on him of the day. 


For me, it was an awakening, as if even I myself was only now beginning to realize that thanks are long overdue to all our veterans - ones who fight in far off lands and ones who work in homeland offices, ones who stand where they're told to stand and ones who leave their beloved families and our revered soil behind.  ::Thank you::


All soldiers put what we might call "normal life" on hold as they work to serve us and our great nation.  For some, military life becomes the new norm.  For others it is a season of sacrifice.

Whatever the reason for joining and for however long and wherever they served, the logo printed on the back of their tee shirt says it all: 

If you can read this, thank a Teacher.  
      If you can read this in English, 
                  thank a Veteran!

Dad was well thanked on Saturday.  I pray he'll continue to receive the appreciation for what he humbly considers his normal duty.  I know he felt the honor that was (in my opinion) rightfully his and all his companions.  And whether Dad ever feels like a hero or not, he was mine that whole day and even more so today.  

See, it's not just because of what he'd done (without glory) so many years ago, it's who he is and what he does today...  

from making peace in our family by sharing tender love and compassion, helping to reconcile estranged sisters to honoring his wife of 50 years - Rosemarie Keck - as they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary merely one day prior to this trip.  

Dad - YOU are my HERO.  I'm so glad God chose you as my father.  I'm so proud of the man you were and I'm proud to tell everyone who you are now.  

As I hear your own sweet words 
                 I echo back to you...
                                 "I love you more!"  

As a father shows compassion to his children, 
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.  
Psalm 103:13 ESV

Friday, April 24, 2015

What is "Providence"?

Noted Christian blogger, Tim Challies, periodically reads through a Christian classic, reading a chapter a week then discussing it on Thursdays in an open dialogue on his blog. Starting with a posting on ch 1 on May 7, he'll be going through the Puritan Classic "The Mystery of Providence" by John Flavel. 

So...for those joining in, some may have a question, "What is 'providence'?" It's one of those semi-vague concepts that needs clarification if we are to understand what the book is about. Here's an article, taken from the Lexham Bible Dictionary, that may be a helpful starting point;

"PROVIDENCE (πρόνοια, pronoia). God’s plan and interaction with His creation. Usually discussed in association with sovereignty, foreknowledge, predestination, free will, and evil.

Ancient Societies
Most ancient societies and philosophers subscribed to some type of providence:

  •      Mesopotamians believed the gods assembled each year to determine the next year’s fate (Ŝīmtu) for each person and event. The gods themselves were controlled by whichever god held the Tablet of Destinies.
  •      Egyptians viewed the gods as controlling nature and events. They performed rituals to entice desired outcomes from gods.

Ancient societies perceived death as fate’s principal determinant—even the gods could die (Lawson, The Concept of Fate in Ancient Mesopotamia). Fated events could be affected by human appeals.

Pre-exilic and Exilic Judaism. Yahweh planned and controlled nature and nations throughout the earliest Jewish writings:

  •      Satan must ask permission to afflict Job with evil (Job 1–3).
  •      God delivered Israel from famine through Joseph’s slavery, and then prominence in Egypt (Gen 37–47).
  •      God delivered captive Israel from Egypt’s oppression (Exod 3–15).
  •      God punished Israel with famine due to Saul’s covenant-breaking murder of the Gibeonites (2 Sam 21:1, 14).
  •      God protected David from Saul’s relentless murderous pursuits (1 Sam 19–31).
  •      God punished Israel with drought due to Ahab’s sin (1 Kgs 17–18).
  •      God chose national leaders like Moses, Joshua, Saul, and David.
  •      God placed angels to assist and care for humans (Psa 90:11).
  •      Ruth credited God with her calamities (Ruth 1:20–21).
  •      God determines personal health or sickness and poverty or wealth (1 Sam 2:6–8).
  •      Though God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, the Jews’ rescue from annihilation is presented as providential (Esth 4:14).

Throughout God’s sovereign interaction with all aspects of life, the Jews retain individual freedom in action and choice (e.g., God hardening Pharaoh’s heart after self-hardening, Exod 7:13, 22, 23; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; Feldman, “Divine Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Human Freedom”). In contrast to Jewish understandings, these passages could be interpreted as God manipulating every human decision and action except evil (Leahy, The Hand of God).

Wilson, K. M. (2012, 2013, 2014). Providence. In J. D. Barry, L. Wentz, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair-Wolcott, R. Klippenstein, D. Bomar, … D. R. Brown (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press."

Monday, April 13, 2015

What Kind of Mother Was Hannah?

I have been enjoying a chronological Bible reading plan this year. I've been using it for a few years now and it's getting more interesting each year as the cohesive story line of the Bible plays itself out step-by-step. This year has been a little different. We started a group-read at our church with the idea that we would be encouragers to each other. Daily emails on what passages to read developed into a daily commentary/devotion. Writing the commentary has forced me to stop and consider, for each reading, what was going on and how it fit into the big picture. I'm not sure everyone is reading it - I have a tendency to ramble - but the exercise has been good for my daily reading and meditation and I've enjoyed the process. 

A few days ago, I came across the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel.  I love Hannah's story, a girl who desperately wanted a baby, living in a culture that saw barrenness as a curse. Hannah prays fervently, in front of Eli, a priest. God grants Hannah's request and gives her a son, Samuel. 

Hannah's vow to God was to give her son to the Lord, devote him to a holy life (1 Sam 1:11). In Israel, this meant taking him to the  tabernacle at Shiloh and leaving him in the care of the priests. 

Hannah was a good and godly woman. I can't begin to imagine what it was like to hold her baby in her arms, grow him, wean him, then give him away. 

The world would see this as foolish. Some might even accuse Hannah of being an irresponsible mother. Perhaps Hannah had some of the same doubts. Perhaps she wondered, incessantly, whether or not she did the right thing,
whether or not she should have done something different. Knowing Hannah was a godly woman but a human being, as well, it would not be hard to imagine Hannah, on the way to the Tabernacle to leave little Samuel, wondering if she had prayed correctly, second guessing whether or not God had answered her prayer or it was just a coincidence and she should keep Samuel. After all, who was better equipped to raise him, his mother or some old priest?

Hannah is no different than any of us who love our children and want the very best for them. It's always a guessing game as to what to do for them, how to help them, how to show our love for them without holding them back or hindering them. 

Ultimately, Hannah had made a vow, back in a time when vows truly meant something. So, she gave her baby to Eli. The rest of the story is an incredible tale of a young boy who would be called, by God, to anoint kings.

Hannah made the right decision. She released Samuel, not into the hands of Eli, but into God's hands (1 Sam 1:28. The Hebrew word for "lent" means "to dedicate").

I think releasing Samuel to God was one of the biggest struggles Hannah ever had. Still, she was a godly woman and did it as an act of worship (see 1 Sam 2). 

Likewise, releasing our children into the hands of God is probably one of the greatest struggles in our lives. It doesn't mean we are bad parents. It's actually the opposite. Hannah
got it right. She never stopped loving or caring for Samuel. He was still a large part of her life. We know Samuel was always on her mind, always in her heart when we read  about the gift she took to him every year, a "little robe", a reminder that he would always be clothed and warmed by the love of his mother. But Hannah knew Samuel was special. The "robe" was a little priestly robe, worn by young boys in training for the priesthood, a reminder that Samuel was in the care of God's hands, as well.

Hannah was a wise woman. She loved her son. She knew that love could watch over him, provide for him and protect him...for a while. I like to think that Hannah knew this as well: her love could not change him or mold him into the man he was supposed to be. Only God's love could do that. Once Hannah released Samuel into God's hands, God took Hannah's offering and did something far more amazing than anything Hannah could have dreamed of.  

It all started with Hannah, taking her fondest desire, the most precious thing in the world to her, and giving him to God. Once she did, Samuel was free to be who God would make him. The double blessings is that Hannah is free as well, free to savor what God does in Samuel, free to receive further blessing. None of it means she forgets about Samuel, he is always in her heart and thoughts. Samuel is blessed and his mother, for her faithfulness, was blessed in a mighty, mighty way (1 Sam 2:21).

What kind of mother was Hannah? The greatest kind of all. The kind that loved her children profoundly and trusted God completely.