Friday, September 30, 2011

Why put off until tomorrow?

Exodus 8:10

I was cruising through some old notes today, taken during church years ago, and noticed a detail that astounded me.  I may have noticed this back when I took those notes, but if I did, I have totally forgotten it.  It's getting so I can hide my own Easter eggs, isn't it?

The Book is Exodus.  The chapter is 8.  The scene is the 2nd plague in Egypt.  The characters in this particular scene are Moses and Pharaoh.

The background:  Moses and his homies would like to leave Egypt, but Pharoah is reluctant to bid a fond "bon voyage" to his enormous Hebrew workforce.  Moses, commissioned by God to speak for Him, commands Pharaoh to let them leave.

Pharaoh says no.

Moses and his brother Aaron show the power of God, casting down Aaron's rod before Pharaoh, where it became a serpent.

Pharaoh says so what?

Moses and Aaron, at God's urging, up the ante, holding out the rod of Aaron over the waters of Egypt, which became blood.  Every last bloody drop.

Pharaoh says what else ya got?

So Moses and Aaron, following God's direction, stretch out Aaron's rod over "the streams, the rivers and the ponds, causing frogs to come up on the land of Egypt."  And so they came.  Frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.  Now, clearly Egypt has a pest problem at this point.  If these frogs are covering the land of Egypt, there are a lot.  In the houses.  In the stockyards.  In the drinking water.  In the food.   So Pharaoh's magicians work their magic to solve the problem.  Oh, no, wait a minute.  No, that's not what they did.  Verse 7:  "the magicians did the same with their enchantments, and brought up frogs on the land of Egypt."

I'm at a loss to explain why Pharaoh's magicians used their magic to make matters worse.  Why didn't they magically make the plague of frogs disappear?  The short answer is:  they couldn't.  It was a miracle of God, and there is no undoing that.  But we don't even see Pharaoh asking them to try.  So, frogs, frogs and more frogs.

And here's a wonderful bit of irony, cuz God loves irony.  Frogs were sacred to Egyptians.  The frog was the symbol of four different gods in Egypt, and so it was forbidden to kill them.  So the people had few options to rid themselves of the trouble.

Which brings us to our scene.  Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and asked:  "Entreat the Lord that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go and sacrifice to the Lord."  And Moses responded with something unexpected.  He said to Pharaoh, "Then please accept the honor I give you, of saying when I shall intercede for you and your people, to destroy the frogs from among you."

When?  Moses is asking Pharaoh when he wants to be rid of this plague?  When??  Why in the world would the answer be anything but "um, right now please."

But it's not.  Pharaoh's response was, "tomorrow."  And this, my friends, is a warning.  I can't imagine why Pharaoh didn't want the plague gone right away, but I do think that's it's not uncommon for us to react the same way.  We want to begin our diet ~ but not until after the holidays.  We want to stop smoking ~ starting January 1.  We want to start going to bed earlier so we can get up to read the Bible ~ but we'll start after the weekend.  We pray for God to remove a sinful habit from us, but not too fast.  We want to wean ourselves off of that which is spiritually crippling us, because sin is pleasurable, though only fleetingly. (Hebrews 11:25)

But the Lord is "I Am."  He is about now.  He promises you that you can be a new creation in Him.  Why would you wait?

~ "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; 
the old things have passed away, 
the new has come!" ~
2 Corinthians 5:17

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Are you done sinning yet?

"a prostitute named Rahab"
Joshua 2:1

I think Rahab is one of the most interesting people in the Bible.  She's a harlot which is, you know, not good.  Now, most ~ okay, all ~ of the people that God has on His team of workers are flawed, and in God's eyes, no flaw is worse than any other.  (See James 2:10 ~ "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.")  But culturally speaking, a harlot is pretty low.

Still, let's just call her "Sinner" shall we?  Perhaps that title will help us to remember that we're not doing that great either.  So there she is, living a life of sin, when all of a sudden she has an opportunity to love God, by loving His people.

Joshua, the new leader of the Israelites, upon Moses' death, sends two spies into the city of Jericho.  He wants to get the lay of the land before they attack.  And these two spies find themselves in Rahab's home.  I don't know why, and I'm not sure I want to know.... I'm not here to judge.  And the king of Jericho found out that the two Israelite spies had been to Rahab's house, and called to her to bring them to him.

But she had hidden those two men on her roof, under stalks of flax, and she lied to the king.  "Yes, they were here, but I didn't know where they were from.  They're gone now."  And off went the king's men on a wild spy chase.  So Rahab, the sinner, helped God by lying.   Which I have to believe is not what God would have preferred.   Exodus 20 tells us that we are commanded not to, so He would never want this to be the method of serving Him.

Now, of course, Rahab had heard of God, and had faith in Him.  But we have no reason to know she had any knowledge of the Ten Commandments.   So she probably didn't think there was anything wrong in lying to protect God's people.  But God knew.  He knew of her faith in Him; He knew the spies were going to end up at her house; He knew she was going to lie to protect them.  And He let her be an instrument for His plan anyway.

And not only was she used of God for His plan, she was saved from the judgement that was coming to Jericho.  The city of Jericho was going to crumble to the ground because of their decadent lifestyle, and their refusal to believe in the sovereignty of the God of the Israelites, of whom they had heard much.  But Rahab and her family were saved.

And not only was she used by God, and saved from death, she was one of only two women, praised in the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11:  "By faith, the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were unbelieving."  Her service has been remembered by every generation since.

And not only was she used by God, and saved from death, and praised by Him in the Book of Hebrews, she was given the gift of being an ancestor of Jesus.  Through her the line would continue, to David, to Jesus.  What a joy!

And all this, though God knew what a sinner she was, and that even in her service to Him, she would sin.  He does not expect perfection from us, either before or after we give our lives to Him.  He beckons us to Him knowing our past, and knowing our future.  And loving us despite both.

~ "Great is His love toward us, 
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. 
Praise the Lord!" ~
Psalm 117:2

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Verdict

"every matter may be established 
by the testimony of two or three witnesses"
Matthew 18:16

You know what I love?  I love when Scripture comes to life.  And it did for me in an unusual way just a few days ago.

A few months ago, I shared with you that I'd been driving with a friend, when she got a traffic ticket.  Now, a traffic ticket is basically a police officer (or in our case, California Highway Patrol) telling you that you've made a mistake, either on purpose or by accident.  The thing is, neither my friend nor I believed she had made a mistake.  We think what happened was that she pulled over when she heard the siren, as you're supposed to, and CHP #1 gave us a ticket because he thought CHP #2 had motioned us to pull over.  We politely told him so at the time, but his decision was to hand her the citation.

Now, when you're handed a traffic citation, you have two choices.  1)  Accept the officer's decision, which is tantamount to admitting guilt; or  B)  take your case to a judge.  If you go to court, then you give your side of the story, and the officer gives his.  I suppose the judge then uses detail of the circumstances, or what he can garner of the character of the two sides.

But fortunately for my friend, she was not alone in the car.  I had seen what had happened, so I gave the judge my testimony.  I was able to support her side of what happened.  And just as in today's verse, the matter was established.  My friend was recently notified that her case was dismissed.

I was pleased for her, and it made me think of this verse.  The matter of what had happened that day, in that intersection, had been established by our testimony.   I am so thankful that I live in a country that was founded on the Bible, and on its wisdom, because I know justice is not handled this way all over the world.

God is fair.  He is just.  And seeing justice done is like seeing the Bible in action.  And who wouldn't love that?

~ "The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of His unfailing love" ~
Psalm 33:5

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yes, but what have you done for Him lately?

"strong and of good courage"
Joshua 1:9

You know who I'm in awe of?


Parents of disabled children...

     and disabled children...


First responders who run toward danger...


Wounded and disabled veterans of our Armed Forces...

     and those who gave their lives...

     and their families...


Foster parents...

       and kids who grow up well-adjusted and strong 
despite parents whose lifestyles necessitated foster parenting for their children...


Disaster victims who rebuild from nothing 
but strength and courage...

       and the volunteers who help them...


Huggers at the Special Olympics...

     and running, jumping, cheering, victorious 
Special Olympians...


Those who battle chronic or terminal illnesses...

the ones who win; and the ones who lose...

and those who refuse to let them fight the battle alone...


I'm in awe of Joseph for waiting...

and Abraham for moving...

and Noah for building...

and David for fighting... 

and Moses for leading...

and Mary for obeying...

and the Disciples for following...

and Paul for preaching...


How can we ever commit the sin
 of pride in our accomplishments, 
when there is so much more we could be doing for Him?

~ "Have I not commanded you?  
Be strong and of good courage; 
do not be afraid, nor be dismayed,
for the Lord your God
 is with you wherever you go" ~
Joshua 1:9

Monday, September 26, 2011

I'm not lost, I just don't know how to get there from here...

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, 
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails"
Proverbs 19:21

Amazing Boy had a baseball game this morning.  He and the Apple of my Eye had gone early, to be there for practice, and I dropped my Awesome Girl off to hang out with her friends, and then I was driving straight from there to the game.  But as I drove away from her, I realized my directions to the game were going from our house.  That was north of the game.  I was coming from south.  But it's not as easy a fix as just going the other way on the freeway.  The baseball field is in a community that's quite a bit away from the freeway, so I was going to need to go surface streets.

Now, I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I do not have a very good sense of direction.  I can read a map ~ generally ~ but I don't have a good instinct for which the direction I should go.  If the sun is setting, I can identify west, but mostly, north is whichever way I'm facing.  The year before I was married, my parents took my sisters and me to Great Britain on vacation.  We were there several days, so we were starting to get a feel for which was the subway, and which way was the Thames, and which way was that pub where we had such a great lunch.  And yet, when we came out the door of our flat, if my family asked me, which way should we go?  I would tell them what I thought, and we would do the opposite.  And invariably, they'd be right, and I'd be wrong.  What can I say?  It's a gift.

So I knew I could successfully get to the baseball fields from where I was; the problem was, I didn't know the best way to get there.  So I made up my mind which route made the most sense, but as I got nearer to that street, I had the funny feeling it was closed.  Road repairs or something.  Sure enough, when I got there, there was a detour sign.  So I thought to myself, "okay, I'll take option #2 instead," and I made a U-turn, then made a right, and headed off in that direction.   But the closer I got to the street I planned to take, the more I realized that wasn't the best route.  "Ooh!"  I thought to myself, "I'll take option #3, instead!"  And I did.  Bypassed Option #2, turned left on Option #3, and I was at the game in a jiffy.

Really, Option #3 was the best choice from the beginning.  But I didn't realize it because I don't have a good sense of which streets and freeways will end up where.   I have to rely on my ability to make last-minute decisions, since I lack the knack for planning ahead.

Living a life wanting His will is like that.  We can plan ahead to our heart's content, but that doesn't mean that:  A)  it's going to happen, and 2)  that's what we're still going to want when we get there.   We can make decisions based on the facts we have at the time, but things change.  All the more reason to trust Him.  Being in His Word frequently will give us direction, and guidance.  Then, as we get close to a decision-making scenario, we're only some prayer and confirmation away.  I had no idea I was going to take Option #3, but I was headed in the right direction the whole time.  He used circumstances to turn me around after Option #1, and wisdom to guide me away from Option #2.

My goal in life is to always be in the general direction of His will.   I can't know everything in advance, but if I have a relationship with Him, if I am dependent on Him, then I can easily be guided ~ day by day, decision by decision...  nudged by Him into the plans He has for me; which is exactly the destination I'm looking for.

~ "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, 
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve 
what God's will is ~ 
His good, pleasing and perfect will" ~
Romans 12:2

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Simon says, "Set the table!"

"Abraham obeyed Me 
and did everything I required of him, 
keeping My commands, 
My decrees and My instructions."
Genesis 26:5

I had a disagreement with my family today.  Well, actually, I just became very aware of an already existing disagreement.  Not fighting, mind you, just disagreeing.

You see, it's my job to run the house.  Not the people in the house necessarily, but the house.  That means making sure there are clean dishes, and that everyone has clean underwear.  It also includes keeping the clutter from piling up, making sure the bathrooms are clean, and helping everyone be wherever they need to be, on time.  And it all has to be done with an eye to efficiency, and economy.  So in order for all this to run as smoothly as possible, there has to be a system, and tools:  laundry baskets and hangers; a scrub-brush and a dishwasher; a calendar and pen; a schedule; and lots of communication and cooperation.

And here's where there's room for disagreement.  Since our home is my workplace, it is also a source of pride for me.  So in order to do my very best, I have created systems that are efficient and logical.   Put your dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher, or fill them with water so the food won't harden...  If the sink is full, dirty dishes should go on that side of the counter, so that we can keep this side from getting cluttered...  Bring out your dirty laundry once a week, along with your empty hangers...  Put leftovers in Tupperware so we can have them for lunch later this week...  And for heaven's sake, someone help me eat the leftovers so they won't go to waste!  
This is several years ago, but how cute is this helpful little boy?
... Put your schoolbooks away as soon as we're done, so the dining room table will be clean for dinner...  Refill your water bottle so it's ready for you to use...  Keep the pen for the calender attached to the calendar so it's handy...  This drawer is for the "good" kitchen towels; use the other ones for drying off the dog...

Etcetera, etcetera.... If you're a mom, you know what I mean.  Or maybe even if you're a dad.  Or an employer.  Or a teacher.  Or a coach.

But just because something seems like the "right" way to me, doesn't mean that it's the only right way, or even that it's right.  Yes, they could go along with me and all my "systems," and frankly, a lot of the time, they do.  But they are not me.  My sweet husband, the Apple of my Eye, is a grown man with his own responsibilities.  My kids ~ whom I may have mentioned a time or two are Awesome and Amazing ~ are a big help to me, and by helping me, they are learning how a home can run smoothly.  But when they have homes of their own, they might very well have routines that are different, but just as efficient, in their own way.

The only One who knows what's right, is God.  He is the Judge, of each and of all of us.  Some of His commands to us are clear and unmistakeable:  Thou shalt not commit adultery.  But others are open to interpretation.  What does it mean to "keep holy the Sabbath"?  You and I might answer that question differently.

The Pharisees had a whole lot of rules, most of which didn't come from God.  "Woe to you, who load people down with burdens they can hardly carry!"  (Luke 11:46)   My family does support me, a lot of the time, in my efforts to support them.  And I need to respond with grace the times they don't "meet my expectations".  I need to remember words like "flexibility," and "individuality".   I need to allow Him to judge by His standards.  And I need to remember that if I expect to be a recipient of forgiveness and understanding, I need to be a giver of them.

~ "In the same way you judge others, 
you will be judged,
and with the measure you use, 
it will be measured to you" ~
Matthew 7:2

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In Praise of Rahab

"Joshua spared Rahab... 
with her family and all who belonged to her"
Joshua 6:25

One of the books I'm studying this year in Bible Study is the Book of Joshua.  One of my favorite books.  There are so many inspirational heroes in this book.  Joshua, for instance.  And Caleb; he's one of the people I most admire in Scripture.  But there are some unexpected heroes in the Book of Joshua, too, like Rahab.

Rahab is a surprising hero, partly because she was a prostitute.  I love that God included this detail about her, so that after we see how she serves God, we'll feel bad for having judged her based on her occupation.  (Come on, you know you did....)

She's also an unusual hero because... well, because she was a heroine.  There are courageous, obedient, faithful women throughout Scripture, but not as many as there are men.   Of course, there are more cowardly, disobedient, and faithless men than there are women, too, so I guess it's just a matter of numbers.

Rahab's heroism consisted of hiding the Israelite spies who came to scope out Jericho in advance of attacking it.  She protected them, in chapter 2, because she had faith in their God:  "the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below."  This had to be a terrifying time for her.  She had heard of what God had done for the Israelites, and then she had her chance to make a decision.  She believed the stories she had been hearing, and she believed in the strength of the one, true God.  And then she had the opportunity to act on her faith, when the two spies showed up at her door.

But I think that's only half the lesson.  The other half is in verses 17-20.  The spies, after promising to protect her and her family, added this disclaimer:  "The oath we swore will not be binding unless you have tied this scarlet cord in the window."  Maybe this doesn't seem like such a big deal, after the bravery she had already shown, but it's a reminder to me of the importance of obedience.  Hanging that cord out her window was a public proclamation of her faith.  Many of God's promises require both faith, and obedience ~ faith to believe in the promise itself, and the obedience to show that your faith is real.

Take the following examples:

"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from me...
and you will find rest for your souls."
(Matthew 11:28-29)

The obedience called for: take His yoke upon you, and learn from Him
The promise:  rest for your soul

"Those who wait in the Lord 
shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint."
(Isaiah 40:31)

Your obedience:  wait on Him
The promise: strength

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God;
and the peace of God, 
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your heart and your mind 
through Jesus Christ."
(Philippians 4:6-7)

Your obedience:  prayer, petition and thanksgiving
The promise:  peace

What Rahab wanted, was salvation, but she got more than that.  Her name and her story have been preserved in His Word, and she was in the lineage of King David, and of course, Jesus.  She is, indeed, an inspiring example of faith and obedience leading to life and blessings.

~ "Was not even Rahab the prostitute
considered righteous for what she did?" ~
James 2:25

Friday, September 23, 2011

Things Are Not Always As They Seem

"God has chosen the foolish things 
to confound the wise; 
and those that are powerless 
to shame the powerful"
1 Corinthians 1:27

I read an interesting article last week about a little-known disagreement between the U.S. and Great Britain.  It took place in the mid-1800s, shortly before the American Civil War, but only a couple of decades separated from the War of 1812, between those same nations.  The dispute was about the San Juan Islands, and whether they were owned by the U.S. or Great Britain.  It's an interesting little tidbit from history, because it never escalated to war.  The only casualty was a pig ~ which is why it's known as The Pig War.

I'm a history buff, so I found the article interesting.  There were a few maps for people (like me) who wouldn't otherwise know where the San Juan Islands are.... and there were photos of the important parties, like George Pickett, who became famous for ill-fated "Pickett's Charge" at the Battle of Gettysburg.   There were also photos of artifacts.  Items that have been discovered ~ some of them recently ~ in the area of the altercation.  These artifacts were interesting to me, mostly because they were so uninteresting.

Photo credit:  Smithsonian Magazine
A few bullets ~ significant in that they were never fired; glasses, pipes, and an old bottle.  They are not valuable, except for their age and historical value.  To their owner, they were nothing to be cherished, really.  All readily replaceable.  And yet, all these many years later, they were an exciting find for someone who knew the history of the area.

We all have things that we cherish, even though they are not monetarily valuable.  The cast-iron skillet that used to belong to Grandma...  Dad's baseball glove from when he was a boy... objects that the original owner may not have thought much about.

I think there are experiences like that, too.  Just last weekend a friend thanked me for something I don't even remember.  I had invited her for coffee on a day when she needed to talk.  No big deal, right?  Well, it was for her.   And a few years ago, my kids asked me how I became such good friends with a gal at church.  I said something about the fact that we have a similar sense of humor, and enjoy chatting; but when I mentioned it to her, she said, "I know exactly why we're friends."  And she told me what I had said to her one of the first times we met.  She had been having a bad day, and shared it with our small group.  I, in response, had said something that had meant a great deal to her.  It was just a couple of verses of Scripture, but they were appropriate to her situation, and gave her the encouragement she needed.  I guess it's true that "like apples of gold in settings of silver, is a word fitly spoken"!  (Proverbs 25:11)  But I didn't even remember that conversation.

Now, lest you think I'm in danger of breaking my arm by patting myself on the back, I'll tell you this story, too:  Just a short time after that friend had told me how vividly she remembered that conversation that was so important to her, I ran into another friend, that I hadn't seen in years.  We had been in a small group together about ten years ago, and her son had needed repeated doctor appointments, so we were all in prayer for him.  During that difficult time, she had been given a gift ~ unsigned ~ to remind her of God's loving care for His children, and she had shared with our small group how that gift had touched her.  Now, all these years later, as we reminisced about old times, I "confessed" that I had been the one to give her that gift.

She had no idea what I was talking about.

I was still giving myself points for that gift to her, and she'd long forgotten it.  But the words I had shared with the other friend ~ that I'd forgotten ~ were still treasured.

The fact is, we often don't know that what's unimportant to us, is valuable to someone else.  And frankly, it's not our place to decide.  Every good thing we do or say, comes from Him, not from us.   And we often don't even recognize what He considers good, because we are too busy valuing something worthless.  I guess the lesson is to pray that He will use us to bless others, and then just trust that He's doing it, whether we know it or not.

 ~"God will bring every deed into judgement,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil" ~
Ecclesiastes 12:14

Thursday, September 22, 2011

One step forward, two steps back

"get thee behind Me!"
Matthew 16:23

Peter was a disciple of great contradiction.  He was capable of both deep insight, and shallow self-involvement, and in that way I suppose most of us are like him.  I myself can gossip and judge with the best of 'em.  I'm also self-centered about 90% of the time.  Maybe more.  But often there are other people in my dreams; does that count as thinking of others?   :)

This verse today represents one of Peter's lowest points.  You could argue that Peter's denial of Jesus was his lowest point, and you might be right, but I'd counter-argue {is that redundant?} that it doesn't get any lower than Jesus calling him "satan". 

Although really, Jesus didn't actually call Peter "satan".  Jesus was just recognizing that Peter's words were inspired by satan.  And what were these words that provoked Jesus' response?  Peter had protested the idea of Jesus' death.  

Verse 21 says, "Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things... and be killed, and be raised the third day."  And then Peter spoke, and not only did he speak, he had the chutzpah to actually rebuke Jesus:  "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!"

Now, it's a fairly good bet that if you're contradicting the Lord at all, you're in the wrong.  But if you are going to contradict Him on the whole reason He came to earth, well then you're.... well, you're speaking satan's point of view; that's all there is to it.  

And that's why Jesus turned the rebuke back on Peter, and on satan's ideas in Peter's head.  "Get thee behind Me, satan!  You are not mindful of the things of God, but of the things of man!"  Harsh, but appropriate.  

Now here's the warning for us:  this low point in Peter's discipleship came right after a very high point.  Just a few verses before this exchange, Jesus and Peter had shared another one.  In that conversation, Jesus had asked Peter, "who do you say that I am?"  Peter had correctly answered, "You are the Christ; the Son of the Living God," and Jesus praised him:  "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah... for this has been revealed to you by My Father in heaven."  Jesus was not only telling Peter that he had the right answer, but praising him for having a teachable spirit; for internalizing the truth that the Holy Spirit had brought to his heart.  

I wonder if maybe this praise, this recognition, had Peter a little cocky.  He'd gotten that one right, and then spoke in his arrogance, protesting that Jesus would certainly not be killed.  But that opinion was certainly not revealed to him by God in heaven.  I wonder if I'm in this danger, too.  That soon after I've understood some meaningful truth, I'm in danger of attributing that learning to my wisdom, not His gift of revelation to me, and then to proceed in my wisdom.  {Or what I think is wisdom.}

I think one of the best things we can be, is teachable.  But that doesn't do us much good unless God is the teacher.  And no matter what wisdom He imparts to us, we're only a few words away from reverting to foolishness.

~ "Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed,
 lest he fall" ~
1 Corinthians 10:12

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Despicable Me

"Your Word have I hidden in my heart"
Psalm 119:11

Man, I drive myself crazy sometimes.  I'm sure you feel that way, too.  Not that I'm driving you crazy, but that you're driving yourself crazy.   I hope.  Not that I hope that you're driving yourself crazy, I just hope it's not me that's driving you crazy.  You know what I mean?

I'm driving you crazy right now, aren't I?   Sorry.

So the reason I'm exasperated with myself is because today, the closest I got to reading the Bible is:  picking up my Bible and holding it in my hand.  Isn't that sad?  I got up and said goodbye to the Apple of my Eye, and then I generally have a few minutes to myself before my awesome and amazing kids get up.  Today I sat down in my comfy chair, and I picked up my Bible, and held it in my hand for a minute.  I guess I was still a little sleepy.   Anyhow, before I even got the book open, my Amazing Boy came bleary-eyed into the room.  So I set The Book aside to interact with him... a little "good morning," a little "how'd you sleep," etc.

And then, somehow, with breakfast, and lunch, and exercising and showering, and getting dressed and doing dishes and homeschooling and preparing for the meeting I had to go to in the evening, I never sat back down with my Bible in my hand.  Now, there are several things I didn't get to today ~ I somehow never got out to the laundry room, either ~ but this was the one thing had my best intentions.  And yet....

How does this happen??  How do I let myself go all day without reading the Bible?!  I know how important it is, and I hate how weak my flesh is, and how forgetful my brain is.

But here's what's interesting.  I had a song in my head today, that I haven't heard in several weeks.  It's from a movie, and it's really not even a song as much as a ditty, with only about two lines.  I'll give you a hint ~ the song was sung by this person:

.... about this topic:

And there was this song, banging around in my brain, completely useless and completely uninvited.

And as I wondered on this phenomenon, I realized that I also had a passage of Scripture in my brain.  I've been in the Book of Matthew a lot lately, and I have found myself meditating on a couple of different areas.  And even though I was lazy enough, or weak enough, or foolish enough not to sit down to read the Bible today, He came to me.  Just as I had that song in my head, without having watched that movie today; I also had His Word in my head, without having read anything new today.  I think He knew this was a busy day for me, and He met me where I was.  I know busyness is not an excuse; I just think He had compassion and forgiveness for me today.  So, as Scripture says, "the Word of the Lord came to me" and I continued the meditating I'd been doing the past couple of days.

Yes, I am despicable.... weak and lazy... But He is good and giving and merciful.  No matter how bad we are, He is always good.  He can be nothing else.  I'm just glad to be the recipient of His thoughtfulness.

~ "If we are faithless, He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself" ~
2 Timothy 2:13

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum.....

"you were little in your own eyes"
1 Samuel 15:17

Today's verse was spoken to King Saul, by Samuel the prophet, almost as a challenge.  Back when Saul had first been informed that he had been choses to be the king of Israel, he had protested.  "Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of the families of the tribe of Benjamin?"  And then, when the time came to present Saul to the Israelites as their king, he hid.  Despite his impressive stature, and his lofty calling, he was indeed "little in his own eyes."

Over time however, his role; his title; or the privileges of being king had gone to his head.  He no longer saw himself as little.  He had even offered a sacrifice unlawfully; without waiting for Samuel's guidance.  It seemed that Saul believed that his role as ruler also entitled him to take Samuel's role as priest, too.

When Samuel spoke these words to Saul, it was because Saul had again disobeyed God's command, and this time, Samuel confronted him with a very true assessment:  "You are no longer little in your own eyes."

Back when Saul had been little in his own eyes, God had seen him as a king.  For indeed, while God knows our every flaw, He also sees what we can become.  Jesus told us to be "perfect, even as [our] Father in heaven is perfect," and when Jesus is our Lord and Savior, God sees us through the filter of His holy Son, who died to erase our sins, and wash us as white as snow.

It's tough, sometimes, to see ourselves as little.  We see what we have accomplished, instead of seeing that it was Him who gave us the strength to accomplish it.  Do we look upon our spiritual growth with pride, and fail to see how far we have to go?  Do we strive to remove the speck from another's eye, while ignoring the plank in our own?  Or maybe we take our eyes off of Him entirely, filled with the "importance" of all we have to do "for" Him.

As I grow in Him, He is able to use me more, but the more He can use me, the stronger I feel, and the stronger I feel, the less humble I feel.  But humility is what I strive for; that is the the highest goal I can attain, for He promises that if I humble myself in His sight, then He will lift me up.

~ "These are the ones I look on with favor:  
those who are humble and contrite in spirit, 
and who tremble at My word." ~ 
Isaiah 66:2

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Walk in the Word

"the whole counsel of God"
Acts 20:27

I went on a bit of a nature walk recently.  I had gone on a women's retreat, which I do every year, and I have a tradition of bringing my wonderful kids something from nature.  For Amazing Boy, I find an interesting rock or stick {no, really ~ there's some interesting sticks out there!} and for my Awesome Girl I pick a flower and press it in my Bible.  Then, when I get home, she adds it to her collection of pressed flowers.

So I took a walk to look at flowers, taking pictures as I did.  Unfortunately, I used the old camera, which does not take high quality pics, so they didn't turn out great.  So in the interest of full disclosure, I'm using a couple of my photos, but I'm also using photos my sweet girl has taken.  She's an amazing photographer and she loves to take pictures of flowers.

I walked down the path, seeing flowers, taking their picture, and wondering if they were the choice to press, and bring back to her.  But every time I finished taking a picture, I would see another flower nearby, and I would wander over to that one.  Then I would catch a glimpse of yet another one, farther one, and I would move to that one.  But then ~ ooh look!  I'd find my attention caught by that one over there!

As I happily wandered down this path of discovery, I thought of two things.  First, I thought of my dictionary.  I love my dictionary.  I love words, and I love knowing their meanings and origins.  So it's hard for me to look up a word without getting lost in the dictionary, reading about other words that distract me, on the way to my target word.   Sometimes I even forget what word I was looking for to begin with.   Sad, but true...

And of course, I thought of my Bible.  I frequently get lost in Scripture.  There are so many verses that make me think of other verses.  Verses that seem to have nothing to do with each other, or at least, they are nowhere near each other, but they go together, echoing the same message, or one verse adding information to another.

For instance, Joshua chapter 4.  A wonderful chapter about the Israelites crossing over the Jordan into the Promised Land.  God enabled them to cross over on dry land, and then instructed them to build a memorial of stones as a reminder of God's faithfulness to them.  Verse 19 says they gathered those stones on the tenth day of the first month.  This verse then, connects with Exodus 12:3, which says that the tenth day of the first month is when the celebration of Passover was instituted.  I love the "coincidence" that their celebration of crossing over is the same day as their celebration of passing over.

Or, take Romans 8:28.  A verse well-loved by many.  "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose."  I love that verse together with Genesis 50:20.  This is the verse that summarizes Joseph's odyssey.  After being sold by his brothers, serving Potiphar faithfully, but ending up in prison anyway, then being released from prison and rising to the position of second-most powerful man in Egypt, Joseph tells his brothers:  "What you meant for evil, God meant for good."  I love how beautifully both of these verses say the same thing.  And they are both a promise for us.

Go for a walk in Scripture.  Let your mind wander as you read.  Let Him remind you of His Word while you're learning from His Word.  Bring together what you learned last week with what you're learning this week.  See how, though it was written at different times, by different men, it was all written by one God.  And how, though it is separated by chapter and verse and book, there is beautiful continuity in Him.  Let Him lead, and see where the path takes you!

~ "Every word of God is pure" ~
Proverbs 30:5

Sunday, September 18, 2011

... In Your Name, Amen

"far be it from me that I should sin 
against the Lord 
by failing to pray for you"
1 Samuel 12:23

I have a very dear friend who has lost her job
 and is worried about the future.  
Far be it from me that I should sin by failing to pray for her. 

I have a friend who is waiting for the results of an X-ray.
Far be it from me that I should sin by failing to pray for her. 

I have a friend in Uganda, who has adopted one child
 and is waiting for the approval on her second. 
Far be it from me that I should sin by failing to pray for her. 

I have another friend who is in Uganda
 loving and serving mothers and babies.
Far be it from me that I should sin by failing to pray for her. 

I have a friend suffering from an infection.
Far be it from me that I should sin by failing to pray for her. 

I have a friend who does not believe that Jesus is her Savior.
Far be it from me that I should sin by failing to pray for her. 

I have a pastor who studies and labors to teach me every Sunday.
Far be it from me that I should sin by failing to pray for him. 

I have two wonderful kids doing their best to grow strong in the Lord.
Far be it from me that I should sin by failing to pray for them. 

I have parents and in-laws who set examples
 of grace, wisdom and forgiveness.
Far be it from me that I should sin by failing to pray for them. 

I have an amazing husband
 who is working to provide for and protect his family, 
while being true to the creative spirit God gave him.
Far be it from me that I should sin by failing to pray for him. 

I have a group of friends who are embarking
 on an adventure of growth and service for Him.
Far be it from me that I should sin by failing to pray for them. 

How about you?  Are you praying?  Or are you failing?

~ "God has surely listened 
and heard my voice in prayer" ~
Psalm 66:19

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Caution: Tribulation Ahead

"In the world, you will have tribulation"
John 16:33

I live in Southern California, so at any given time, if I'm in my car, I'm not too far from a freeway.  Southern Californians get to know the freeways they use the most often.  We know the patterns of traffic in different areas.  For instance, you get to know that at certain points, you're gonna want to be in the far left lane to avoid the influx of traffic merging from another freeway.  Or you might get in the habit of getting off the freeway a few miles ahead of your exit at a certain time of day, because you know that surface streets are going to be a little faster than the freeway in that area.  It's a way of life.  And when you come to know the traffic patterns, it makes it easy to accurately plan how long it's going to take you to get from Point A to Point B.

Until there's a problem.  A stalled car; a flat tire; a fender-bender... and you and thousands of other people are caught in the wake.  And the worst?   Construction.  Cal-Trans (California Department of Transportation) does not have a reputation for speedy work.  Now, I don't know how long it takes to accomplish road work.  Maybe the length of time it takes them is perfectly logical.  But it doesn't seem that way.  When you just want to get wherever you're going, and day after day there are cones and orange signs telling you that your route is not going to be smooth, it's frustrating.

Well recently, Cal-Trans has begun doing some construction on the on-ramp nearest to my house, so there's a helpful orange traffic sign warning: "On-ramp will be closed intermittently from 9/1/11 - 9/30/12"

Now, this sort of sign is unusual.  Generally, if they're going to close something, they just close it.  And for some reason, I found this sign annoying.  I know they're trying to be helpful, but telling me there that my on-ramp may or may not be closed at any given time in the next year sounds like a threat, not a warning.

And in a way, the sign is pretty much useless.  Because even before they decided they needed to do road work, there was always the chance that the on-ramp could be closed, right?  Stuff happens.  And whether or not there's a sign there warning me, I need to be ready for the possibility that I need to find an alternate route.

Such is life.  Would you find it helpful if your day began with a warning that said:  "Caution.  Your plans could be intermittently interrupted by car trouble, an unexpected fever, or a phone call that changes your life." ?  Well, that's what today's verse is.  A warning.  James 4 says we should not say "today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.  You do not even know what will happen tomorrow!  Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will love and do this or that."  Any other attitude is arrogance.

So make your plans.  But understand how little control you really have, and that road closures await you.  Be warned, but not afraid.  As the old saying goes, you may not know what the future holds, but you know who holds the future.

~ "In the world you will have tribulation;
 but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." ~
John 16:33  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Who's your Daddy?

"children of God"
John 1:12

My family was watching TV a few nights ago, and there was an ad for something {I'm not even sure what ~ good commercial, eh?} that had a mom and dad looking in on their newborn via a camera.  The mom and dad were in their bedroom, and could keep an eye on the baby on their computer.  My Amazing Boy scoffed a little, and said, "yeah, like parents would really be that desperate to see their baby."  The Apple of my Eye and I both spoke together, "that's exactly how parents feel!"

We explained to him how, when you're a new parent, you check on your baby almost constantly.  And how, the first time they sleep through a feeding, you panic, and run to check on them.  And then you feel a little silly for having been so paranoid, and then you do it again a half hour later...

And we told him how much you love to just look at your baby.  Even your sleeping baby.  Sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry, but you're not just looking, you're studying... noticing the little creases... and the swirls of hair... and the way the baby's mouth puckers and unpuckers.

This, my friends, is love.  And though I haven't experienced all the kinds of love there are, I'm gonna say it's the strongest.  I mean, let's be honest.  I've been married for twenty-plus years, to the most wonderful guy on earth, but I've never watched him sleep.  {Sorry, dear.  Nothing personal.}

And the best part about getting to experience that incredible love for my kids, is knowing that it's exactly how He feels about me.

And it's exactly how He feels about you.

~ "In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, 
and the Word was God.  
He was with God in the beginning.  
In Him was life 
and that life was the light of all mankind.  
And to all who did receive Him, 
to those who believed in His name, 
he gave the right to become children of God.  
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, 
and we beheld His glory; 
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, 
full of grace and truth." ~
John 1:1-2, 4, 12, 14
(great verses!)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Swept Away

"be willing.... daily"
Luke 9:23

In our home, our little schoolroom faces the backyard, which is nice because we notice the birds ~ the ones who come to the bird-feeder, and the ones who hop along the ground under the bird-feeder cleaning up the mess, and the ones who return every year to the nest in our patio cover.

But it's also bad, because if the backyard is in disarray, I can see it.  I might be waiting for Awesome Girl or Amazing Boy to work on math problems, and my eyes wander to the window, and I notice all the leaves that need to be swept off the patio, or the gardening implements left out, or the soccer ball or the basketball or the volleyball or the baseballs or the hockey sticks...

So today, when I had a few minutes, I decided to go outside and do a little sweeping.  But when I got out there, I felt completely overwhelmed.  It's been so hot lately, we haven't been using the backyard, and it really needed attention.  It just seemed like soooo much sweeping to do.

So I decided to rake instead, and cleaned up the garden area, and then I picked up the broom again, to try again on the patio area.  And then I just gave up.  So I decided to tackle a different problem, and grabbed a couple of garden tools to put them away, but when I opened the shed, I was overwhelmed all over again.  The shed has become a bit of a catch-all for things we don't know what else to do with, and it badly needs to be cleaned out.

I surveyed the property, and the belongings with which we've been blessed, and I thought, not for the first time, that I wished I hadn't been so neglectful.  This is the kind of thing that is so much easier to take care of a little at a time.  If I would just spend a little time, maybe a couple of times a week, it wouldn't have the chance to become a time-consuming, whole family, weekend project.

There are a lot of things in life that are like that.  A little at a time to keep it from getting out of hand.  Keeping it under control to avoid becoming overwhelmed.  Like dishes... balancing the checkbook... or flossing...

Our spiritual upkeep is like this, too.  God's Word, and Jesus' example when He was on earth, illustrate this over and over.  "Give us this day our daily bread," we are taught to pray.  And the account of the Israelites in the desert, receiving manna every day ~ but only enough for one day.  He wants us to come to Him, frequently and regularly.  He wants us to want Him, and to need Him.  Well, actually, we do need Him every day, but He wants us to acknowledge that we need Him.

We're walking through this life, either with Him or without Him.  The closer we walk with Him, the closer we'll stay to the path He desires for us.  When we wander from Him, we wander down stray paths.  And the farther we get down a wrong path, the harder the road back to where we should be.  Whereas, if we're only a little lost, we only need a correcting "nudge" from Him.

His Word is our guide.  Being in the Bible every day enables Him to teach us, and to reach us, in whatever place we're in, or whatever path we're on.  If you're not reading the Bible every day ~ why aren't you?  What are you doing that's more important?

Are you forgetting?  Ask Him to remind you.
     Are you not interested?  Ask Him to entice you.
          Are you worried you won't get other stuff done?
          Ask Him to set your priorities straight.

We're going to make mistakes.  Every day.  So ask Him to fix them.  Every day.

~ "Jesus said to all of them, 
'If people want to follow me, 
they must give up the things they want.  
They must be willing 
to give up their lives daily 
to follow Me.' " ~
Luke 9:23

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Perhaps you're not meant to carry it alone...

"make your load lighter"
Exodus 18:22

This verse, which is part of a wonderful passage in Exodus popped into my head this morning, as I waved good-bye to the Apple of my Eye.  He was off to work, and it was the beginning of a very busy day for him.  Like most of us, my sweet husband has a lot on his plate.  He's an amazing father, very in-tune with our kids, and what's important to them, and he's a thoughtful and caring husband to me.  He's also a son, and a son-in-law; a brother and a friend; and on any given day, an employee, an assistant baseball coach, an elder at our church and a teacher of Bible Study for high-schoolers.

Last night, right before bed, he remembered something he had hoped to have done before Bible Study started today.  And he was going to have to try to squeeze it in during his lunch hour.  But this morning, as he was leaving, I asked if there was someone he could delegate that task to.  Fortunately, that had already occurred to him, and he'd sent a text message to a couple of the other leaders in the Bible Study, and someone else had volunteered to take care of it for him.

And as he drove away, I thought again of the importance of delegation.  We sometimes think of delegation as not taking responsibility, or foisting something off on someone else, but it's actually a gift.  That's why I love how it's demonstrated to us in Scripture.  In the book of Exodus, chapter 18, Moses' father-in-law, Jethro came to him and asked him why he was handling so much by himself.  Moses replied simply, "because the people come to me."  But Jethro told him, "What you are doing is not good.  You will only wear yourself out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone."  A very wise observation from someone who knew and loved Moses well.  Jethro's suggestion was delegation.  "Select capable men... men who fear God, trustworthy men... appoint them, and have them serve the people.  That will make your load lighter."

The word delegate means to authorize someone; to entrust someone else with something.  It's not just shoving aside a task you dislike.  It's about sharing responsibility.  Sometimes it's hard to let go of something, especially if it's important to us, or if it should be done a certain way.  But delegation is a gift not only to the delegator, but also a gift to the person to whom you are delegating.  {The delagatee?}  We grow when we are given responsibilities.  And we get the joy of blessing others.

It's possible to do this wrong ~ it really is.  Delegation should be prayed over; otherwise you're just abdicating what should be your responsibility.  Take a look at your to-do list, and at all the hats you wear.  And pray about sharing the joy of service with someone else ~ your kids, your spouse, a friend or someone in ministry with you.  If it's of Him, you'll both be blessed.

~ "If you do this, and if God commands, 
you will be able to stand the strain, 
and all the people will be satisfied" ~
Exodus 18:23

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Do you have something you'd like to share with the whole class?

"Let the message of Christ 
dwell among you richly as you teach"
Colossians 3:16

Well, it may not technically be Autumn, but it feels like it.  The summertime routine has ended, and the school year routine has begun.  We're about two weeks in now, and my Amazing, Awesome kids and I are settling into our new schedule.   Here's one thing I've learned about homeschooling:  Every year is remarkably the same; and every year is totally unlike the one that came before...

So by now I'm pretty much organized with the lesson planning; they're pretty much organized about the homework-doing.  And as they get older, I'm realizing that my part in their education doesn't get less, like I thought it would.  I thought that as they got more independent, I'd take more of a supervisory role.  They'd read the books, and answer questions; I'd administer tests, and be more of a guide than a teacher.

I should have read the fine print.  As their schooling gets more difficult, it also gets more important.  The subjects ask more of them, and if I'm not paying close attention, they could wander down a path of bad habits, or misunderstanding of a subject.  So I read what they're reading, and then I discuss it with them.  I keep up with French, so I can keep up with her.  Sometimes I write the follow-up questions or the quizzes. If I don't stay ahead of them, I'm liable to hold them back.

So as I sat down at my computer in the late afternoon, I realized it was the first time all day I could take my mind of off teaching, and put it on other things in my life.  Like tidying up the living room, and thinking about dinner.   Little things like that...

Along with the end of summer, comes the beginning of the Bible Study class that I'm involved in.  Tomorrow evening is the first meeting of the year, and it's just fellowship {and food} and fun {and food} but starting next week, we'll get back into study.   While I do read the Bible, and devotionals over the summer, it's not as focused and, well, studious as the class I'm in.

I'm reminded that while none of us is ever done being a student, we are also expected to be a teacher, as well.  I wore my "teacher" hat almost exclusively today, but I can't let that make me forget about my "student" hat.  I have much more to learn ~ about the Bible, about French, and about living a life for Him.  And the more I learn, the more I'm expected to teach.  My kids, my friends, someone.  "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48)

Though I don't know you, I pray for each of you every day.   And today I pray that He is teaching you something every day, and calling you to share with someone else.

Teach, and be taught.

~ "Let my teaching fall like rain, 
and my words descend like dew; 
like raindrops on the tender herb, 
and as showers in the grass." ~
Deuteronomy 32:2

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering September 11

"Remember and turn to the Lord"
Psalm 22:27

Well, another year has passed.  It's been more than ten years since that Tuesday morning.  My one and four-year-olds are now 11 and 14.  Life has moved on, and yet, we find ourselves thinking of who and where we were ten years ago.

Remembering is sometimes unpleasant.  Regardless, many Americans willingly sat down to watch a TV special remembering September 11.  Some even attended a service, in their local church or park, or in New York, Pennsylvania or at the Pentagon.  Sometimes after we've gone through something difficult, we are glad for events that take our mind off of the pain, but on the anniversary of 9/11, we choose to acknowledge the painful events of that day.

And ten years later, those same feelings remain.  We feel sadness for those who died, and for their families; for the loss of our "innocence," which simply means we never imaged something like that could happen to us.  And now we know it can.

The Pentagon Memorial ~ Washington, DC
We feel anger for senseless death; for buildings destroyed and damaged; anger at the people who feel it is their right not only to judge others, but to take God's law into their hands, to choose and inflict the penalty for what they deem to be crimes.  But it's more than anger we feel.  We feel indignant.  How could they?  How dare they??

Flight 93 memorial ~ Shanksville, Pennsylvania
But that anger, that indignant feeling, gives rise almost immediately to resolve.  To determination.  For some, it's determination to act - to join the military, or become a firefighter.  But for many, many others, it's a determination to live differently.  To live more fully, and appreciate more deeply.

Rebuilding at Ground Zero, New York City
And we feel overwhelming awe and gratitude toward people who showed courage in the face of death - in the face of terror.  First responders and "regular" people, on the planes and in the buildings.  People calling upon strength maybe they didn't even know they had.  And maybe those feelings are why we choose to remember.  An appreciation for who those people were, and an acknowledgement of what they did.

But while I'm remembering, aching and in awe, all at the same time, I'm thinking of Him.  I'm remembering His sacrifice on the cross.  The pain and the courage of Him not only dying on the cross, but enduring the pain and mocking that went before it.  And I want to feel the same anger on His behalf ~ not anger at those who shouted, "Crucify Him!" but anger at myself, because my sin is the reason He had to.

And I want that indignant feeling to bring out in me a resolve to live a life worthy of being saved.  My acknowledgement of His death on the cross for me, my belief in Him are the key to my salvation.  But I want that determination to live my life for Him, in appreciation for the eternal life with Him He has promised me.

And I want to remember frequently, with overwhelming gratitude and awe, His facing death, that I might have that life in Him.

~ "All the ends of the earth will remember
 and turn to the Lord, 
and all the families of the nations
 will bow down before Him" ~
Psalm 22:27