TG TruGlory

Haircuts for the homeless.  Pizza for the hungry.  Trendy clothing for those on a budget.

Who spends their Tuesday nights making this happen?

Tito Garcia.

Last week, my dear friend, Jackie, wore a cool black shirt bearing the letters TG.  I asked her about it, and she smiled wide as she explained it to be part of the TG TruGlory clothing line.

“You know,” she said, “TruGlory?”

I shook my head.  “Nope.”  Keeping pace with fashion has become a distant memory.  With three children under ten in my house, I feel I’ve accomplished a major feat if all the laundry is sorted, washed, and folded neatly in baskets before midnight on Mondays.

“Well, you know Tito, the drummer at church?”  I nodded.  “It all started with him.”

As Jackie shared with me about the ministry, my jaw hit the floor.  How had I not heard about this?  The more Jackie said, the more blessed I became by one man’s vision and how, in 2012, God grew his desire into a reality.

Today, TG TruGlory serves the homeless of Hoboken, NJ and impacts lives in immeasurable, important ways.  Grooming and haircuts to lift the spirit, pizza and sandwiches to satisfy and strengthen, attractive shoes and apparel to meet everyone’s budget.  TG TruGlory’s kindness and compassion shines clear and bright through its generous acts of love.

The story moved me deeply.

Last year, my husband and I celebrated out 15th Anniversary in NYC.  Even though we live ten minutes from Manhattan, we rarely go into the City but took the opportunity for this special occasion.  Our hotel stood near Times Square, and as we approached it, I couldn’t help but notice the sidewalk lined with the homeless.

Tears filled my eyes.

Throughout the course of the weekend, my eyes searched them out, laying on benches, huddled along alleyways, sleeping on church steps.  I couldn’t escape the wrenching-of-heart, the anguish of soul.  I felt their pain as my own and wanted to somehow ease theirs.  All of it.  Unrealistic, I know, but the “wanting to” never left me.

“You’ll get used to seeing them around,” some might say, “and then it won’t bother you so much.”

Get used to it?  I pray not.

I pray that the suffering of the wounded bothers me long into the night and drives me to my knees on their behalf.  I pray that the broken hearts of strangers compel me to deny myself a pleasurable evening and do something to impact the eternity of another human being.  I pray that concern for those who have no hope would fill my heart and embolden my prayers.

Every day.

Whenever I look into the eyes of the homeless, I see what could have been my future.  I have a heart condition, which for years was disabling, and without supportive family and friends to help me through that time . . .

I could have been homeless.

Perhaps that why I can’t look past and ignore.  I can’t walk by and not be moved.  Some don’t want help, but many do.

I want to always remember them.  I want to always stop and “see”.  I want to treat others the way I wish someone would’ve treated me had circumstances forced me to walk miles down their road.

Thank you, Tito, for proving an incredible example of a man who lives out his faith in humble, practical ways, transforming time and talent into an eternal investment.  Thank you for showing how simple it is to offer the gifts God has given back to Him by serving others.  Thank you for inspiring me to do more with everything breath that He gives.

I love what you’re doing, Tito, and am honored to call you my brother in Christ.  I appreciate the sacrifice your wonderful wife, Taina, and boys make every Tuesday night to be apart from you, making them partners with you in ministry.

May God richly bless this amazing family, TG TruGlory, and all those touched by their faithful service, both today – and beyond.

 

Captain Morgan

When people asked me during the 2016 election period who I thought would be the best President of the United States, my first answer was Jesus Christ.  My second choice elicited smiles, nods, and many times, for those who know my candidate personally, solid agreement.

He didn’t run for any office that year and sadly has no intention of doing so in the future, yet I believe he would prove a compassionate leader, fierce protector, and amazing hero.

He already is.

Nearly three years ago, this particular candidate harnessed the guts and gusto to step into a sinking ship with a marvelous resolve to right it and propel it along a prosperous new course.  Many had attempted this daring feat and failed, but after much prayer and prudence, he determined to set sail.

Within months, he surpassed his goal and gained the favor of kings.  The unwavering loyalty of his diverse crew spoke volumes about his management style and his ability to bring people together, unify a motivated team, and build them up with strength, vision, and purpose.

Today, other captains, both near and far, have noticed and called upon my candidate for advice, comraderie, products, and employment.  While blessed by finding favor, he vigilantly keeps his heart in check, knowing that humility permeates a truly successful man.  He couldn’t be labeled an ivory tower poster boy, as he never hesitates to toss his collared shirt aside and grab a pair of gloves, working the lines alongside his team when the call arises.

Fully aware when in the presence of his betters, he embraces opportunities to learn and grow rather than cower in fear or wallow in a pit of insecurity, asking, “Who moved my cheese?”  Respecter of persons, giver of grace, he takes responsibility for his actions, rights his wrongs, and makes it a practice to take the high road.

For years, he faithfully provided for a family with significant challenges.  This man has sacrificed much for the sake of many.  He is adored and appreciated far more than he knows.  Through wind, sleet and hail, he’s climbed uphill battles, the kind that separate the men from boys, clashes that cost him nearly everything dear.

He’s a man, one that stands in the gap.  When the going gets tough, he hits his knees and prays God would enable him to get tougher.  I’ve seen this Man of Steel fight fires and chase down giants, carry groceries for elderly ladies and visit men behind bars, befriend the outcast and weep with the homeless.

What kind of candidate does such things?

No, he’s not Jesus.  My candidate would detest the comparison and declare his shortcomings.

Yet, it’s Jesus’ heart I see in him.

Every man falls.  Faced with the choice stay down or rise up.  Learning from the “falling” and re-charting his course accordingly have defined the man he has become.  This post, this resume of character, reflects the heart of a man dedicated to living a life worthy of the words, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”

Who does such things?  My nominee.

Movie-making, drone-flying mad scientist, this seafarer of mine.  Relentlessly-cycling, steadilyy-swimming, marathon-running machine.  Former skydiver and electrician turned poet and friend.

A leader who leads leaders.  A warrior who protects at all costs.  A chosen vessel who commands his ship with the wisdom of Solomon and the love of Christ.

A devoted father, husband, and friend.

Christian T. Morgan

The name Morgan means “of the sea” and well-fits this able and excellent Captain.

O Captain, my Captain!  Thank you for not hesitating to steer our ship straight into the storms of life, fearless and bold, loving to the end.  From the Bronx to the White House, I’ll hold up your sign, wear your t-shirt, and campaign across the USA, proud to be by your side.

And to nominate you for the office of President of the United States.

Happy Birthday!  We rejoice in God’s gift of you!

It Ate Roast Beef

To the delight of the kids, Christian had taken a random August Wednesday off to pack the SUV to the gills with snacks, sunscreen, and beach toys, and when it could hold no more, we piled in and zipped off to enjoy Morgan Family Beach Day 2017.

Who could have known a ruthless assailant lurked nearby?

We pulled into the Point Pleasant lot, gathered up our “Fun Gear”, and headed toward the shoreline.  The kids squealed with delight as they ditched their flip-flops and immersed their feet in the glistening sand.  We pitched our camp.  Colorful towels and sandcastles, beach ball and snacks, seagulls and water.  It was all fun and games.

Until.

Hannah asked me to swim with her, and I gladly obliged.  We swam out past the littles dipping buckets for castle-building and past the knee-depth adventurers seeking shells and creatures, settling into the deeper water rhythm, letting the waves push us up, then gently letting our bodies fall.

After a mere five minutes, I felt an object strike the middle toe on my left foot at such high speed that my entire leg shot out and swung me 180-degrees.  Pain almost immediately replaced the shock.  I awkwardly lurched forward and clutched my ankle but then nearly face-planted in the salty water..

“Hannah,” I gasped, “are you okay?”  My mama bear instincts kicked in.  I initially thought I’d somehow kicked her shin and worried that she suffered a worse injury than mine.

With a sweet, faraway look, she took a minute to paddle around and face me.

“What?”

“Didn’t you feel that?”

“Feel what?”

“I don’t know,” I said, amazed she hadn’t sustained an injury.  “Some strong current or a rock . . . something hit me so hard that I spun around.  I couldn’t tell if I whacked your shin.”

“I’m fine.”  She returned to her dreamy, relaxed floating over the wave tops, focusing her gaze back to the shoreline.

I’m not!  I didn’t want to intrude further on her reverie and vowed to hang in there a while longer, but I wasn’t sure how long I could last.  All attempts to catch and hold my ailing appendage were inhibited by the waves, so it hung down in the water, fluttering and flapping with the current.

Ouch.

Instead of resembling a solid, weblike flipper, my left foot had become a prong-like, inefficient painful mess.  Time to pull the plug.

I hobbled back to camp while Hannah reported the news to Christian.  Lifeguards gathered and the EMT assessed.  Christian packed up the no-longer-fun gear.  The kids oscillated between disappointment and concern, and a beach wheelchair carried me to the gate, where we loaded up and headed home.

Early.  Way too early.

I tried to console myself and my blessed carload with Pollyanna thoughts.  At least we got to go.  I’ll only visit the ER, not be admitted.  The drive isn’t long.  We can come back another time.

Then I glanced in my little spy view mirror.

Speckles of sand stuck to their faces and necks as they stared out the windows, open-mouthed and nearly nodding off.  They’d so looked forward to this day.  I glanced at Christian sideways, the set of his jaw, the sag of his shoulders.

I changed course.  Tossing my power of positive thinking to the wind, I spoke the words they needed to hear most in that moment.

“I’m sorry, everybody,” I said, my voice breaking with sobs.  “I’m sorry we had to leave early.  I didn’t want to either.  It really stinks.”

Hearts melted and small smiles covered their faces.

“It’s okay, Mommy!”s and “You couldn’t help it”s erupted throughout the vehicle.  Christian grasped my hand and squeezed with a chuckle.

“It’ll make for great footage.”

Great.  Just great.

Hannah accompanied me to the ER.  Christian had thought it might need to be set, but alas, I received the standard tape, ace bandage, and crutches.  I could’ve used the ones from last summer (when I broke my right foot) if one arm pad hadn’t fallen off.

Six weeks later, it still isn’t healed.  I’ve probably been walking on it too much, but with three young kids during the summertime, it’s hard to keep this girl down.  I’ll try to be good for a bit longer . . .

To this day, I have no idea what struck my toe.  The podiatrist following up with me said that the break was bad, running diagonally down the length of my bone.  Abby had attended the initial visit with me, and when he’d asked which toe I’d broken, she giggled.

“It ate roast beef.”

For the full and complete video of Morgan Family Beach Day 2017, click here.

 

What Love Looks Like

“What does love look like to you?”

I asked my five-year-old Abby Mae this question one day.  She responded by quietly smiling and hopping off her chair.

“I need my art box, Mommy.”  With titled head and thoughtful gaze, she poured over a simple sheet.  I expected something with hearts and flowers, maybe butterflies and family, but her final masterpiece took my breath away.

“Jesus on the cross.”

My eyes filled with tears as had hers.  I took in her glowing countenance, her tender gaze.  Her love for Him was beautiful.

“Sweetheart, this picture is wonderful!  Please tell me all about it.”

“There’s Jesus on the cross,” she said, her small finger tracing his form, “and all of those circles are his boo-boos.”

The week prior, I’d searched online for Easter movie clips and briefly previewed a scene of The Passion of the Christ, which portrayed Jesus’ agony immediately after Roman soldiers scourged Him.  Abby had passed through the room at that moment and froze when her eyes landed on the screen.

“Why is Jesus bleeding?  He’s not on the cross yet.”

I explained to her that the beating was part of His punishment, the one He bore but never deserved, for her, for me.

It bothered her.  To her core.

“I don’t want Him to bleed, Mommy.”  She wept and wept.

It had obviously affected her in a profound way, for as I sat with her, gazing at the picture, something about it further struck me.

“Abby, I’ve never seen Jesus smiling while He’s on the cross.”

“He’s smiling because He loves me.”

I had the privilege of leading our children’s Sunday school class in their Palm Sunday song, The Salvation Poem, on Sunday.  We’d practiced for several weeks, and even though Abby had always sung with a smile, the difference was marked after we’d seen the movie clip.

After she’d noticed Jesus bleeding.

Her every word flowed past thoughtful lips, her misty eyes closing at times.  Her little hands moved fervently as we made a cross with our arms and hung our heads to die.  Radiant joy spread across her face as we sang the news of Jesus rising to save the lost and forgiving our sins.

At only five years of age, this sweet girl loves her Savior and feels deeply loved by Him.

May we all bask in the precious love of the Savior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-16

My little Abby Mae turns five today.

Tears blind me now, for I cannot recall her birth without remembering how close she came to death.  Many, many times.

We praise God for the gift of her life and love.  Although we celebrate today with butterflies and flowers, sparkly ribbons and bows, strawberries and sunshine, my heart trembles under the crushing weight of memory, ushering in mingled wonder and sorrow, hope and pain, joy and suffering.

And to think, the first specialist to diagnose Abby’s heart defect recommended I abort her.

I distinctly recall gasping at the mere mention.

“Mrs. Morgan, really!  Think of it.  The baby’s heart is a mess, her organs are positioned backwards . . . ”  The doctor shook her head and folded her arms with disgust.  “Why rush to CHOP (the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) and make them go through all sorts of heroics to try and salvage this?”  She swallowed and softly said, “Besides, haven’t you been through enough already?”

She referred to my son, John, who’d received his diagnosis in the same office some two years earlier, a boy with intestines forming outside a large hole in his belly, intestines that were also blocked and likely damaged severely if not fatally.

The doctors had given him a 15% chance of making it.

I numbed out as the specialist built her case.  The inconvenience, the expense, the unknown outcomes.  As the doctor prattled on, I inhaled deeply.  I looked full into her fiery eyes and calmly said, “We’re going to CHOP.”

I will not lie.  Christian and I had both looked forward to a pregnancy without problems, a wondrous time we could spend with our children and heal from John’s traumatic birth and infancy experience.  What a crushing blow.  Thrust into the nightmare once again, same storyline, different details.

After extensive testing, CHOP informed us that our daughter did indeed have a severe heart defect, as well as Heterotaxy Syndrome (where the organs are abnormally placed within the body).  This five person team, although not nearly as blunt and insensitive as the first physician, waited for my decision about procuring further care.

I swallowed hard.  Then I smiled as tears rolled down my cheeks.

“We’re cheerleaders.  And besides, we already know where to park, the cafeteria menu cycle, and how to avoid the construction traffic.”  I cried a little, and then I said, “As long as there’s hope, we’re in.”

My father sat at the table in lieu of my husband’s presence, his tears saying it all.  I knew I needn’t call Christian, for I knew what he would have me do, what God would have us do, what the mother in me longed to do, and what the warrior in me was destined to do.

FIGHT!!!

On our knees, day and night, night and day, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, fight for this little life we did.  Born with little chance in this world, but oh, how her cries and the prayers of all those who loved her moved the Heart of heaven.

And today SHE TURNED FIVE!

My thoughts began to swirl a few weeks ago when my church sent out a general email announcing the annual fundraising banquet of Lighthouse Pregnancy Resource Center (LPRC).  In the past, our family had participated in various support opportunities, and since we continue to lay down roots here in NJ, I spoke and prayed with Christian at length about contributing.

We decided to attend the banquet, but I neglected to make the necessary connections until after the deadline had passed.  As I sat up late one evening reviewing past emails, I discovered my error and froze.  I hadn’t realized until that moment how important it was to me but couldn’t explain why.

I had no idea how personal the connection would become.

Believing that God would make a way if He wanted us to attend, I shot an email to the Lighthouse events team, expecting to be graciously turned away.  Then I clicked to Facebook to check my most recent blog post picture.  Somehow as I scrolled along, a man’s voice came over the speaker, startling the daylights out of me (I thought I’d muted it).

Our family friend, Eric Bugbee, had shared a link to Wildcard’s video of Tim Tebow’s recent interview about keeping his priorities straight, which greatly aided him in keeping his cool on the field.  He recounted picking up castaways in Haiti, not mincing words as he declared his desire to be known as one who emits faith, hope, and love rather than as a  successful ball player.  While thankful for the platform sports has given him, his obvious passion is serving others, namely those who have no voice.

I was highly impressed.

I continued scrolling over the next few days and found that another family friend, Aegis Boyer Stuart, had posted a link to a live event at none other than the Tim Tebow Foundation!  Riveted, I viewed her video.  Again, Tim spoke from his heart, sharing his vision to supporters and proclaiming undying devotion to “those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”

I’d heard Tim mentioned among our homeschool community and knew he played ball, but I didn’t know about his foundation nor the parties it served around the world.  Curiosity caused me to thoroughly investigate, and sure enough, what I discovered blew me away.

Hospitals and play rooms.  Proms for the mentally challenged.  Dreams fulfilled for the terminally and chronically ill.  Outreach to orphans.  Surgeries for the sick and disabled.  Rescue for victims of human trafficking.

All totally up our alley.

Everything I saw and viewed resonated loudly with the call God’s placed on my life, and witnessing others living it out in such amazing and far-reaching ways stirred me to the core of my being.  Not only Tim but also his parents and siblings have long been involved with these causes, in years past as missionaries in the Philippines and currently in different countries and capacities.

As I researched the amazing Tebow family, I grew more excited about the possibility of attending the Lighthouse banquet.  It seemed a wonderful way to take another step forward in the same direction as they, a way to serve families in crisis with no voice.

I checked my email one more time after my research binge and read the Lighthouse event flyer one more time.  Lo and behold, I’d glossed over the name of the banquet speaker earlier in the evening, but now, it jumped out at me as if arrayed in Broadway lights.

Pam Tebow.

By the grace of God, two seats opened up.  Christian and I headed to the Venetian awed and humbled, for I had shared with him all that had transpired that week.  We knew that He had something special in store.

Pam shared her testimony about how, when she was extremely ill in the Philippines and carrying her fifth child (Tim), her obstetrician recommended an abortion in order to try and save her life.  She obviously declined and gave birth to not only an incredible athlete but more importantly, an amazing servant.

She also told of how her son wore the reference John 3:16 on his eye black during the 2009 college football national championship, during which 94 million people googled John 3:16. Exactly three years later to the day, Tim led the Denver Broncos to a win in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and after the game, his rep informed Tim that all of his stats included the digits 3-1-6.

He threw for 316 yards.  Yards per rush: 3.16.  Yards per completion 31.6.  Ratings for the game: 31.6.  Time of possession: 31.6

No coincidence.

Thank you, Pam Tebow, for sharing your story around the world.  Thank you for all you are doing to encourage mothers to give their babies life and inspire them to bravely face the challenges ahead.  And thank you for the reminder that every life is precious.

Even the most delicate of hearts.

Thank you, Abby Mae, for lighting up every room with your smile and song.  For the way you curl up in the arms of grizzly bears and melt their hearts like butter.  For the way you paint away problems, encourage the pessimist, and dance into the loneliest of hearts.

Young in years, yet a wise old soul.  Mistress of joy, deep and unspoiled, lavishly given and freely enjoyed.  Forever may you blossom and grow, little girl, spreading your sunshine and adoring ways.

Thank you, God, for this precious life.

Born on 3-16.

 

Finding the Good

Have you ever had lice?

I hadn’t.  Not until last year.  Christian’s former workplace had given us a generous gift certificate for Christmas a few years back, so I took Hannah for a haircut from the participating vendor (an upscale salon, which will remain nameless).

Lo and behold, she scratched her golden curls almost immediately afterward, prompting me to advise her to shower and wash off all the hair fragments lingering on her neck and hairline.  Nothing more was mentioned.

Two days later as I shampooed Abby, I yelped when I noticed tiny squiggles squirming around on her scalp.  Christian rushed to the doorway and grimaced at the sight.

“This means war!”

Off to CVS he dashed, soon to return with lice kits, extra combs, and lots of shampoo.  All five of us soon became victims of these persistent, itchy little creatures.  Christian dug out his electric razor and rid himself of the beasts entirely.  He also shaved John’s head while we girls watched, coveting, wishing it were as easy to rid our long manes of the uninvited guests.  We scrubbed and combed, scrubbed and combed, combed and scrubbed until our scalps turned red and raw.

I bagged up nearly all of our blankets and throw pillows, sheets and stuffed animals, clothes and towels – thirty garbage bags full – and headed to the laundromat.  Of all times for my dryer to be broken!  The kids fell in love with the laundromat and asked me if we could sell our washer and dryer.

I found myself thankful I’d gone to the laundromat because, as I placed contaminated laundry items into the washer, lice literally hopped from the sheets onto my arm – ICK!  I squealed and shoved the entire mass into the machine, and then I ran to the sink to thoroughly scrub my arms in hot water.

I went home and scrubbed the floors and carpets, curtains and blinds, sofas and beds.  We sanitized the entire house from top to bottom, leaving no stone unturned.

We did NOT want to go through that again.  Ever.

Needless to say, the word lice now has a new meaning in our home, but amazingly, that meaning has morphed yet again.  Last night as Christian and I trained for our upcoming spring triathlons after the kids went to bed (a very fun date night – he runs on the treadmill while I bike – or vice versa), we watched a fascinating documentary titled Corrie ten Boom: A Faith Undefeated on Pure Flix (http://pureflix.com) about a courageous Holocaust survivor.

I love her story.  I’d read The Hiding Place many years ago, and as I briefly searched for the movie, I came across this documentary that showed her real home, the watchmaker’s shop, etc.

Fascinating.

One thing that I’d forgotten and am thankful to have been reminded of as we watched was how Corrie and her sister, Betsie, learned to be thankful for everything.  During their imprisonment, they lived in a barracks that was infested with lice and fleas, so much so that the guards refused to enter it.  They left the prisoners’ food at the door and let them pretty much fend for themselves.

Horrible tales surfaced about what guards had done to prisoners in the other barracks, but thanks to lice and fleas, the happenings in Barracks 28 at Ravensbruck proved vastly different.  Twice daily, Corrie read from a small Bible that the enemy had miraculously not confiscated, and all 700 women prayed together in this small room built to hold only 200.  Thrust together by their dire circumstances and crammed into a filthy hole of a home, these brave prisoners held on, surviving one minute at a time.

As I snuggle up in my soft pillow-topped queen, complete with clean sheets, thermal blankets, and patchwork quilt, I feel spoiled, unworthy, and humbled as the legacy of these incredible saints thunders through my mind.  I loathe my comforts and detest my comparatively complacent spirituality as these women risked their lives for years, hiding and helping those hunted and cruelly sought out, those if caught would be tortured and possibly killed by the hands of an unyielding, voracious enemy.

How my heart breaks for them, these precious sisters, enduring such terrible suffering and horror day after day after day.  And yet, the recordings taken from Corrie’s speeches after her miraculous release reveal a radiant, joy-filled voice so powerful that goosebumps erupt down my arms every time I hear it.  Devotion to God permeated her words and defined her life as she acted without hesitation, reservation, or thought of self-preservation.

Both Corrie and Betsie sacrificed all to save those who would likely be lost had God not used them to intervene on behalf of His people.

I scarce can take it in.

May their example serve as a searing reminder to me that no matter how bad things get, no matter what circumstances I face tomorrow, God will help me find something for which to thank Him.  In the darkest nights, when I’m infested with the lice and fleas of my life, may I fight to find something good, something for which to praise Him, even when I don’t understand the “why” of it all.

Thank you, Corrie and Betsie, for reminding me to find the good and that the Ultimate Good can always be found anywhere.

Loved

Happy Valentine’s Day yesterday!

I teach a kindergarten Sunday school class, and thanks to the genius of my teaching partner, Miss Jackie, we had a wonderful party last week with the girls (Darien was absent – we missed you!).  Jackie had thoughtfully brought red plates, napkins, and cups along with goodie bags of candy – she went all out to make these sweet five-year-old ladies feel loved.

I had to ditch my crispy brownies (okay, slightly burned) and whip up some cupcakes with pink icing and sparkly sugar.  I also swiped an idea from John’s school teacher, Ms. Buttery (thank you!), and made the girls a personalized valentine.  The girls, Miss Jackie, and I sat around our feast table and shared things we appreciated about each other.  I jotted them down onto small colored paper hearts, and Miss Jackie glued them onto bigger paper hearts, one for each girl.

The center focal point of each heart was the phrase “God loves ____ (girl’s name)”.  Our hope was that each girl would walk away that day knowing she is loved not simply by her peers and teachers but more importantly by God.

That is one of our greatest desires as teachers, for the children to know God loves them.

It is also one of my greatest desires as a parent.

In the midst of all the Valentine chatter and activity, my son, John, informed me at the end of class that it was time to head downstairs and find Daddy so that we could go home for lunch.  I gathered my daughters and complied with John’s request, following my hungry boy down the stairs and up the sanctuary aisle.

The girls took a seat, but John stood still.  He slowly walked toward the pulpit, hand outstretched, eyes mesmerized.  Immediately I saw what he couldn’t resist: the crown of thorns hanging off the front.

My pastor had taken a team to Israel two years ago, and this gem had returned to New Jersey with him.  Once vibrant and green, it now hung there, beige and brittle, looking as if one flick of a finger would send it to the floor as dust.

I saw John grazing his index finger across the tip of the largest thorn, nearly two inches long.  He had a faraway look in his eye.  I walked over to him.

“Mom, look at how long this is!”  I nodded as we examined the thorns together.

Pastor Frank noticed him from afar and came over, rubbing his forearm.

“John, do you know that the big thorn on the backside there scraped nearly the length of my forearm last week?”  All three of us looked at his arm, but the injury had healed completely.  “I was walking by the pulpit, and that big thorn snagged my skin right here.”

He went on to explain that the thorns here in the U.S. tend to be short and squatty.  These thorns, however, resembled long, sturdy needles between one and two inches long.

“Ouch,” I said as Pastor Frank moved to speak to someone.  John continued to stare at them, slowly fingering each one.  “Can you imagine wearing that on your head?”

“No.”  He shook his head back and forth.  Then he smiled and looked into my eyes with tears.  “Jesus must really love me.”

“He does, John, He does.  So very much.”

May all of our children know the precious love of God all the days of their lives – and beyond.