The Chalkboard

May 24, 2016

I can’t remember now where I bought the board – a simple chalkboard that you would use in a restaurant to write Today’s Specials on. Just a blackboard with a plain wood frame. But I do remember the first scripture I wrote on it:


The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

It was an odd, out-of-place statement in my upside-down chaotic home; almost defiant. A single mom with a mountain of debt, two angry teens and a toddler living day to day on the tender grace of God. There was not much room for joy, but God made room and even supplied the joy Himself. His joy, my strength. I remember my eyes catching the chalkboard as I walked into the kitchen, retracing the simple words, and allowing them to settle deep within. On different days, the meaning would shift, like a crystal turning in the sun, and His joy became mine. I caught hold of Hope and I could see it sifting down into the boys, turning the cynicism into wonder.

Eventually the verse changed and it became a family centerpiece, the words surrounded by my very limited artistic scratch; some flowers crawling up the sides or leaves falling from a tree, then snow. Birds, stars, moon or sunshine. And I would watch with amusement as the older boys would pause and read the latest entry, as if the hand of God had penned it.

Later, as the toddler grew to be a teen, the board traveled with us and the latest scripture was a centerpiece for discussion, even if just briefly. And if I grew busy and neglected to change the board, I would hear,

“Mom, isn’t it time for a new scripture?” — a gentle chiding to get on the ball.

Somewhere over the last few years I wrote one of my favorites:

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

The boys are gone now; one in heaven, two in North Carolina and my quiver of grandchildren is ever-growing. Two brand new grandsons are due to arrive this year. The board hasn’t changed now in at least 5 years,

Every now and then, I look at it, the hippie art work with the tree, the leaves falling (must’ve been fall) and the crescent moon, and I think, C’mon, Robin. You can come up with something new. But I think this verse is a necessary reminder to me, daily, to move forward. There is sometimes a tendency to pull back, to say, Well, maybe that was fine for when you were young and zealous, but now you are more mature. You can take it easy and still go to heaven! I get tired and slide into cynicism.

The prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. There is a higher road that I have to remember, no matter where the road Here leads. It is the practice of not being moved by what we see, what is lateral, and keeping our gaze upwards, not just to heaven and the final destination, but to what the Bible calls “wide open places”

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. Romans 5:1-3 MSG

Sometimes my landscape is confusing to me. I remember well dark days, when even the next step seemed overwhelming. Exhaustion weighed down on me, sorrow and despair became a slow mudslide and I would call on Jesus to help.

“Over there,” He would say, and I would find my footing, then a way that led up, over the turmoil and out of the darkness until I came into the “wide open space” of His glory, a place of rest, of peace, where the air was pure and I could breathe in healing and restoration. The upward call.

Oswald Chambers says, “Have you ever noticed what Jesus said would choke the word he puts in? The devil? No, the cares of this world.”

What starts as a mud puddle can become an ocean of fear and worry, or worse, a murky pond of neutrality and boredom.

But I have bills to pay, or a child who is sick, or loneliness or just a desire to be of use!

Come, Jesus calls to us. Over here, to this wide open place I have prepared for you, tired sojourner.

My two sons and their beautiful families live in North Carolina. I’ve watched them as they became men, then husbands, then fathers, creating homes together with their wives, and I’ve noted with delight and a little amusement that chalkboards have gone up in both homes. I know they have no power in themselves but the words on them do, God’s word. They are establishing a beacon of light, pointing the way to the path upward for themselves and their children. It could be a chalkboard is the greatest legacy I can leave. It sure won’t be a bank account.

To press implies action, to “move or cause to move into a position of contact with something by exerting continuous physical force.” It takes work, it requires focus, but we must remember that God has not only provided a grand prize at the finish line, but a place of refuge and blessing along the way of the upward call.

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! Romans 5:4,5 MSG

 Press on, fellow pilgrim, God’s word lights the way towards the prize. Just up ahead, He has thrown open the door to the wide open space of His glory and grace and is calling us, Come in! His joy is our strength,

He is thy praise,

He is thy God.

Deuteronomy 10:21 KJV