Thursday, April 17, 2014

The right message at the right time. Just for you. And me.

"an apostle of Jesus Christ"
1 Peter 5:1

One of the things I enjoy when I study the Bible is comparisons.  Looking at one aspect in several places, and finding similarities or differences that stand out to me, and then wondering about or analyzing those aspects. 

Recently I was reading 1 Peter, and something happened to catch my eye.  His introduction.  In the first sentence of that letter, Peter identifies himself only as "an apostle of Jesus Christ."  It's such an astoundingly simple way to acquaint himself with his audience. 

A few chapters later, in 5:1, Peter refers to himself as "a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed."

Why these words?  Why these things about himself?  There was so much he could have said.  He was one of the first disciples called by Jesus.  He was with Jesus for three years, eating and sleeping with Him, hearing His teaching, seeing His miracles firsthand.  His feet were washed by Him.  He was present on the Mount of Transfiguration.

And yet: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ."

Methinks that maybe further introduction wasn't necessary.  Maybe Peter's reputation preceded him.  But whether or not that's true, didn't matter.  This was the introduction that was perfect, for this audience, in this letter. 

There are a lot of letters in the New Testament.  And I love that Peter, or Paul, who wrote so many, didn't just send the same letter to all the recipients.  They could have.  Their words, which bless us all now, would have blessed everyone in their day, even if they had just kept circulating one great letter.  But they wrote, as led by the Holy Spirit, letters with very specific messages. 

It's a good reminder, when I sit down to read the Bible, that what's waiting for me on any particular day, is exactly what I need.  Each part of it, written just for me, just for now. 

And you too, of course.  Every day.  Just what you need.

~ "My God of mercy shall come to meet me" ~
Psalm 59:10

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

To Know Him is to See Him

"among my family"
Genesis 24:41

My sister and her family were in town last week, and every time they visit, they try to do some touristy things in Southern California, so that my nephew can enjoy seeing and doing new things. 

On this trip, one of the things they did was whale watching.  And my daughter went with them, because she's studying Marine Biology in school this year.  My brother-in-law took copious pictures of course, because whales and dolphins are beautiful, and my nephew is adorable. 

And while I was looking through the pictures, I noticed something fun.  Many of them were my nephew looking out at the water, with his back to the camera.  Some of those times he was with my daughter, and despite the fact that neither of them were looking at the camera, I knew immediately who they were. 

I know their details so well, that even though there were sixty-some-odd people on that boat, I knew these two.

Now, of course, you're saying, "Naturally you recognize those people, because of course your brother-in-law was taking pictures of people you know.  Why would he take pictures of strangers?"

But then I show you this one:

See that dolphin?  That was the point of my brother-in-law's photo.  But there are also four people in the picture.  Three of them are strangers to me, and one is related.  You don't know which one.  I do.

Well, you might know, too, if you're also related.  Which a couple of you are.

The point is that those I love, I know.  I know them well.  I know their voices, their body types, height, etc.  I can pick out my boy when he's out on the baseball field with eight other boys, and I know my daughter's walk coming down the hallway. 

There's an old Jewish proverb that says that disciples should follow their rabbi so closely, that they would be covered with the dust kicked up by the rabbi's feet.  Don't you love the visual there?  Don't you love the idea of being so close to Jesus that you know Him at a glance?  That you could pick Him out in a crowd?

That's a lot of what reading the Bible does for us.  We get to know Him in those pages ~ whether Old or New Testament.  Then we recognize His truth when we hear it, and we are conscious of His ever-presence with us. 

When I look at those pictures, and see people I'm crazy about, I feel happy inside.  I feel love.  This is the gift that relationships are for us.  This is the same feeling we should have when we remember His love for us, and His nearness.  He knows us.  We should know Him, too.

~ "the world neither sees him
nor knows Him;
but you know Him,
for He dwells with you
and will be in you" ~
John 14:17

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Beautiful from the Inside Out

"... and a diamond"
Exodus 28:18

I met a friend for breakfast a few weeks ago. 

It wasn't great. 

The breakfast, I mean.  It was a disappointment.  It was a quiche, but it tasted like they had prepared several of them first thing in the morning, and it had been sitting around. 

But that's okay.  Lesson learned.  I just won't order that again at that restaurant.

My visit with my friend was lovely.  We met several years ago in Bible study.  She now attends a different class than I do, but the friendship has remained.  Best kind, right?

She's a funny kind of person, my friend.  She has a quirk, sort of.  A quirk I've seen in quite a few of my other friends. 

Which makes me wonder if maybe it's me who's quirky....  I've got to give that some thought. 

Anyhow, the thing about my friend is that she often wears a sweatsuit when getting together with friends.  It's not because she just left, or is headed to, the gym.  On the contrary, this isn't even the kind of sweatsuit you'd wear to the gym.  It was one of those rather nice sweatsuits.  Maybe they call them "lounge wear"?  Or "resort wear" or something?  I'm hopelessly out of touch when it comes to fashion...

I feel like I should wear something nice when I go out of the house.  I mean, not fancy or dressy, necessarily, but I just have my hang-around-the-house clothes, and my be-seen-in-public clothes.  And ne'er the twain shall meet.  After all, I don't want to wear out my nice clothes or risk getting them dirty by wearing them around the house. 

But here's the thing:  though my friend had on her incredibly casual sweatsuit, she was also wearing her unbelievably beautiful diamond wedding ring.  Of course she was.  She's married, after all; she wears it all the time.  But it seemed so incongruous with her clothes. 

Incongruous, but in a good way.  I somehow just loved the way her ring seemed even more lovely, being set off by clothes that were mostly unremarkable (although I've certainly managed to remark quite a bit here).

But more than that, I loved the reminder that how we look on the outside changes ~ over the years and day to day.  We grow old, with the wrinkles and gray hair (or no hair) that goes along with that.  Or we dress to paint the house, or clean the garage, but still wear that gorgeous diamond ring that we got on our wedding day.  Our identity does not change.  Our love does not change, just because we can't do justice to our jewelry.

And worthy of a diamond ring, is how our Savior sees us.  All the time.  Whether we're grimy and muddy, or dressed to the nines.  We are His.  And we are beautiful.

~ "as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
    so shall your God rejoice over you" ~
Isaiah 62:5

Monday, April 14, 2014

Peace is in the details. Or lack thereof.

"not knowing what had happened"
Acts 5:7

We had movie night at our house the other night.  Nobody had practice to attend, nobody had any games that night, nobody had any obligation to be anywhere.  So we made dinner and ate in the living room, as we enjoyed a movie together.

We had a little trouble narrowing it down, but when the Apple of my Eye picked a number between 1 and 5, the movie he had selected was "Apollo 13".  One of my favorites.  And I haven't seen it in years, so it was fun to watch it again.

I first saw the movie in the theater, and for the most part, did not know what to expect.  I was a wee babe when the events actually happened, so I was pretty much watching it play out for the first time.  I was anxious and confused and elated, and all those things a movie is supposed to make you feel.

And what makes it such a great movie, is that I still feel those things, every time I see it.  I mean, I'm less confused now, because I understand the technical stuff better.  I've read Jim Lovell's book, "Lost Moon," and there are some great details that add amazing depth to the movie.

And yet, though I now know what to expect, my heart still races at certain points, even though I know they're going to make it.  I feel the same anxiety when watching something like the movie "Lincoln".  I find myself hoping that what I know is going to happen, won't happen.

Anxiety is not of God.  Trust is what God wants for us.  And peace.  And yet life provides us with plenty of opportunities to worry.  Sometimes it's because we don't know what to expect.  And sometimes it's because we know exactly what's coming.

But the important thing to remember is that He knows.  He has a plan for each of those He has called, and we can rest in knowing that nothing is accidental.  Nothing is unexpected. 

The world will tell us that there are plenty of reasons to be worried.  But we only need one reason not to be. 

~ "As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him" ~
2 Samuel 22:31

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Woodpeckers and Apples

"a tree...
that brings forth fruit
it its season"
Psalm 1:3

It's Spring in Southern California.  Which means it was over 90º a week ago, and is forecast to be 64º tomorrow.  Variety is the spice of life, right?

The other day, while we were out in the backyard appreciating our woodpecker, who had come to visit, my daughter pointed all the apples starting to appear on our tree.  Two more signs of Spring. 

I know on most apple trees, the emergence of apples would not signify Spring, but on our tree, that's how it works.  We get our apples in the hottest part of summer.  Weird.

Anyhow, here come the apples.  And there appear to be a lot of them this year.  We just never know from year to year how many to expect.  Most years, our crop is just the right amount for us to have a constant supply of apples, homemade apple sauce, and fresh apple juice for a few months. 

But some years we have more apples than we can handle.  This results in a mess in our yard, because many of them are too high for us to reach, even with the long-handled picker.  So they hang there in the sun until they bake, and then they hit the ground with a splat.  Messy.

A few years ago, we barely had any crop at all.  We do nothing to help the tree, and never have, so I don't know what was different that year.  I do know that I had friends whose fruit trees also gave noticeably less that year, so maybe it was a rain thing, or a pollen thing.  I don't know.  It's embarrassing how little I know about plants and trees.

Seasons are different, sometimes with no explanation.  I'm comforted by that knowledge.  It reminds me that when I'm in a less-than-productive season, it's okay.  It happens.  Sometimes I can pinpoint the reason (like not enough rain); other times I can't.  The good news is it doesn't mean I'm not still growing.  And seasons of amazing fruitfulness are ahead!

~ "Blessed is the man...
whose delight is in the law of the Lord...
He shall be like a tree
planted by the rivers of water,
that brings forth its fruit in its season,
whose leaf also shall not wither" ~
Psalm 1:1,2,3

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Comeuppances. And other warnings.

"whatever a man sows..."
Galatians 6:7

I had an interesting collision of ideas today.  One was a quote from C.S. Lewis.  The other was a Bible verse.  Together they illuminated one another, and gave me a somewhat unpleasant insight.

The Bible verse was from Proverbs 1.  Verse 10 says, "My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent."  Then there are a few verses underscoring that directive, and giving a few examples.  Then in verses 18 and 19, there's the "why" part of the statement:  "(Sinners) lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives.  So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners." {emphasis mine}

So, the idea is sort of along the lines of, "you bring your own destruction on yourself," right?

Then there was the quote from C.S. Lewis... "There are only two kinds of people in the end:  those who say to God, 'Thy will be done'; and those to whom God will say, 'thy will be done.'"  Kinda the same idea, isn't it?

Sort of "name it and claim it," but in a punitive way.

When I was a kid, I used to love reading books by Beverly Cleary.  One of her characters was a boy named Otis Spofford, who was a troublemaker in class.  In one book, he continually shot spitballs at the girls in class, until his teacher told him if she caught him again, he'd get his "comeuppance".  He was worried, but intrigued at the same time.  What could that mean??

Well, his curiosity won out.  He shot another spitball.  And his punishment was to sit on a stool in the back of the classroom, and shoot spitballs into a trashcan.  Over and over and over, until he couldn't stand it anymore.  His crime became his punishment.

It's a sobering warning.  Be careful of what you love.  And be very careful of what you love more than you love the Lord.

~ "even as they did not like to retain God 
in their knowledge,
God gave them over to their corrupted minds" ~
Romans 1:28

Friday, April 11, 2014

Flowers and Dirt

"trampled down like mud"
Micah 7:10

These pictures aren't great.  I took them with my phone.  So I hope you can see them okay.

I took these at a baseball field a few weeks ago.  We were visitors there, and it's not a field we've played at before. 

You see the dirt-y part of this picture?  It's a pathway from a practice area, to the field itself, going around an equipment shed.  Our kids trampled across this area when it was their turn to take the field, and it was obvious from the patchy grass that we were far from the first team to do so.  Clearly the grass has trouble growing there.

But what's harder to see in that picture, in the lower left-hand corner.  See them?

Lovely little lavender flowers!  I saw them and smiled to myself, and pointed them out to my husband, "Look at those amazing flowers that insist on growing, despite all the cleats that parade through here!"

And immediately two words came to mind:  buffalo wallow.

A buffalo wallow is a natural depression in the topography of the prairie that would collect rain.  The water would draw buffalo, to drink, and to bathe.  Over the years, this depression would grow, holding more water and attracting more wildlife.

Here's the wikipedia photo:

When I was a kid and read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Laura tells the story of her youngest sister, Grace, wandering away from their home when no one was watching.  The rest of the family split up to search for her on the vast prairie.

Laura was the one who found Grace, sitting in an old buffalo wallow that was filled with violets.  Laura had never seen anything like it before, and when her Ma asked her, "Where did you find her?"  Laura found herself at a loss to describe the beautiful, fragrant hollow place.

How's that for a stellar quality photo?   Direct from my personal copy of "By the Shores of Silver Lake"
"Masses of violets blossoming above low-spreading leaves.  Violets covered the flat bottom of a large, round hollow.  All around this lake of violets, grassy banks rose almost straight up to the prairie-level.  There in the round, low place, the wind hardly disturbed the fragrance of the violets... 'Pa, could it be a fairy ring?  A place like that couldn't just happen, Pa.  Something made it.'"

Pa explained to Laura how the hollow was formed, and there was such irony in those massive, ungainly creatures being a part of that delightful place.  Life and beauty emerged.

I don't know if those little lavender flowers appeared because of all those boys' cleats, or in spite of them.  But I was reminded that lovely and fragile often win out over heavy and strong.  And I was reminded to persevere in the mud, because the flowers are coming.

~ "Love bears all things,
  believes all things,
  hopes all things,
     endures all things" ~
1 Corinthians 13:7