Sunday, September 30, 2012

Counting on what counts

"teach us to number our days"
Psalm 90:12

You know what I wish that verse said?  I wish it said, "teach us how to number our days."  Cuz I've been thinking about that verse lately, and I'm not entirely sure I know what that verse means.

But I guess that could be a good thing.  Maybe, by not knowing exactly what He means, I'll try harder to parse the phrase; to understand what He wants me to do, and what He wants me to gain from it.

He loves it when I parse. 

The word number has many definitions.  But let's exclude the word's uses as a noun, and look only at what it means as a verb, which is how it's used in this verse.  Now my choices are:

: to amount to or comprise something (as in "the group numbered more than 1,000")
: to include or classify as a member of a group (as in "we numbered many singers among us")
: to mark with a number, or assign a number to (as in "each man was numbered as he came in")
: to count (as in "count the stars if you are able to number them")
: to assess the size or quantity of something (as in "he numbered the flock at 100")

See what I mean?  

So what does it mean to number my days?

Does it mean that God wants me to know how many of them there have been?   Cuz I calculated it, and there are about 15,000.  But I don't really feel particularly edified by that information.

Does it mean He wants me to know how many are left?  Well, that's impossible.  He would never ask that of me.  I also don't think He's telling me to estimate it, so that's out.

I have a hunch that it's not really about counting at all.  I think it's about appreciating every day that came before this one, and everything He has worked in my life to make me who I am, and teach me what I know.

And I think it's about appreciating every day that's yet to come; knowing that there are not an infinite number of days in my life.  If my goal is to live a life for Him and His glory, then I need to be thinking about every day, and not just going through my routine. 

I think that it's not about counting my days, but about making every day count.

~ "Teach us to number our days,
  that we may gain a heart of wisdom" ~
Psalm 90:12 

~ "I will fulfill the number of your days" ~
Exodus 23:26

Saturday, September 29, 2012

E Pluribus Unum

"as He is, 
so are we"
1 John 4:17

When you think of Jesus, what do you think of?  The good Shepherd?  Sacrifice?  Compassion?  Teacher?  Healer?  Leader?

He fed, He washed, He reminded, He encouraged, He challenged and edified and exhorted.

He loved those who were unloved.

He listened to those who had worries or struggles or questions.

He taught Scripture to those who didn't know it, and reminded those who did.

He prayed for those He loved, and for those He didn't love.  Of course, He loved everyone, but if there had been someone He didn't love, He still would have prayed for them.


So what do you do?  How do you imitate Him?  How do you follow the example He set for us while He was on earth?  None of us can be everything He is, but we can each be something He is.  And each of us will be blessed by one another.

Recently I read an article about a car that went off a mountainous road in an area of Utah called Logan Canyon.  The car carried three kids along with the driver, but when it went off the road, it went into a river, and the driver was unable to free the children.  Fortunately, several other drivers noticed, and came to help.

The children were all saved, and when the driver went to thank those who had helped, he found out the the group included a member of a search-and-rescue team, a retired Navy diver, a respiratory therapist, a chiropractor trained in CPR, and a former police officer.   Not one of them could have done it all, but each of them had something to give in this situation. 

What do you have to give?  Any form of loving your neighbor is like a little bit of Him.  And He adds it together with what someone else has to give.  Don't you just love that He works through us? 

~ "one and the same Spirit
    works all these things...
for as the body is one and has many members,
so also is Christ" ~
1 Corinthians 12:11-12

Friday, September 28, 2012

My goat belongs to me again

"The leopard shall lie down
  with the young goat"
Isaiah 11:6

Do you know the origin of the phrase "get your goat" ?  It means to agitate or irritate someone.  But the origin is really interesting.  It has to do with racehorses, who apparently are a nervous sort of critter, as a rule.  And because of that nervousness, they feel better when they've got company in their stall.  So trainers took to putting a goat in the stall with them to keep them calm.

But then unscrupulous types took to stealing the goat, hoping that the resulting nervous horse, would be less able to perform at race time. 

Fascinating where we get some of our quirky sayings, isn't it?

I was thinking about this recently, while at church.  I was chatting with an acquaintance there ~ I'm very deliberately using the word "acquaintance" in this instance.  I'm not sure I could really call her a friend.  First of all, we don't actually talk to each other very much.  Guess we don't have much in common or something.

And secondly, well.... she gets my goat.

Actually, that's not true.  The truth is that she used to get my goat.   She had a.... habit.  Or quirk.  Or way of acting, or something, that somehow rubbed me the wrong way.  I really can't even explain it.  Besides, putting it into words would make it sound trite.  Which maybe it is.

But I've known her for years, and I realized recently that somewhere along the line, I stopped being irritated by her.  Or I stopped being hypersensitive ~ however you want to phrase it.

I don't know why.  I don't know how.  I only know Who.  What I know is that it bothered me that she bothered me and I didn't want it to be that way.   So I prayed, and sometime, when I wasn't even looking, He answered.  I didn't try to stop being annoyed by her.  I don't even know how I would do that.  I just prayed.

And the funny thing is, she's still doing what she used to do.  She hasn't changed.  But I have.  God can do that.

~ "Now may the God of patience and comfort
grant you to be like-minded toward one another,
according to Christ Jesus" ~
Romans 15:5

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I could have had a V-8!

"have I any power at all?"
Numbers 22:38

My family went apple picking last weekend.  And by that I mean, we went out to the country and picked out the varieties of apples we wanted to buy.

Usually we drive up to this area to actually pick the apples ourselves, but we went up earlier in the year than we normally do, and the you-pick orchard we normally visit told us that it was too soon in the season to pick.  There were other orchards open, that weren't you-pick.  So we were happy to buy a few favorite varieties, and try a couple new ones.

It's a bit of a drive from our house ~ maybe two hours away.  And normally, the Apple of my Eye does the long (and middle) distance driving, but he wanted to get a little work done, so I drove.

I love driving ~ when it's my car.   It's just the right size for me, and it's a smooth, comfortable ride.  But my car was in the shop (trying to become a smooth, comfortable ride again) so I had to drive my sweetie's car.  His car is, well, less of a smooth, comfortable ride.  It's big, and manly and takes more concentration for me to drive.

And as we were tooling up the mountain road, my sweetie looked up from his work, realizing that we seemed to be losing a little momentum.  He glanced at the speedometer, grinned at me and said, "You can push harder on the gas pedal.  It's a V-8; use the power!" 

See, my car has 6 cylinders, so if it's having trouble going up a steep hill, there's not much I can do about it.  I don't want to ask the engine to work harder than it can, so I keep steady pressure on the gas pedal, and let it do its thing.  I'm not really one who needs a high performance car, I guess...

But with my hubby's car, I was able to ask more of the engine.  It's a more powerful vehicle, and I wasn't taking advantage of that until he reminded me.

Power that's not being used when it's needed is essentially going to waste.  It's not like conserving something so it will last longer.  The car has 8 cylinders, and that's not going to change.  I can either take advantage of that power, or deny myself the ability.

And I'll bet I do that more often than just in his car.   My faith is in the God who created the universe.  He keeps the world turning; He keeps my heart beating.  And He is the source of my faith, my courage, and ability to obey Him.  Whether it's the difficulty of loving others, or taking a scary step of faith, He's the power I need ~ if only I call upon Him.

~ "In the day of my trouble,
  I will call upon You,
     for You will answer me" ~
Psalm 86:7

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


"the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout,
with the voice of an archangel,
  and with the trumpet of God"
1 Thessalonians 4:15

Is there anything more exciting than the arrival of someone you've been eagerly anticipating?   Maybe when family comes into town, or someone who's been away comes home?  I've seen some of those videos of soldiers returning home, and I could just watch them over and over.  And those aren't even my loved ones!  

Watching children run to a parent is always sweet to watch.  I used to love when my kids were little, and I would come through the door after being gone, and they would crawl as fast as they could to come greet me.  Such a beautiful sight!

Another sweet memory I have is that when my youngest was still a baby ~ I can just picture him in his swing or the bouncy seat ~ he would smile such a big smile when I came into the room.  But the smile got even bigger when his big sister would come in behind me.  How precious is that?

I got to thinking about this topic a few weeks ago in church.  I was sitting, and church had already begun, but the Apple of my Eye was not sitting with me yet.  He helps out a lot at church, and I guess he was helping to set up, or make sure the ushers all had copies of the Sunday bulletin they hand out.  But we had started singing, and so I knew he'd be along any second.

I was sitting near the aisle, so even though I had my eyes on the lyrics I was singing, every time someone came down the aisle to find a seat, I could see them out of the corner of my eye.  I'd see a motion, and know someone was coming, so I'd look up to see if it was my sweetie. But time after time, it wasn't him, and I felt a little disappointed every time. 

That kind of surprised me.  I mean, I love the guy and all, but I see him every day.  I wouldn't have thought I'd be so excited to see him, when I had just seen him 15 minutes earlier, as we drove to church. 

Eagerly anticipating my sweetie's arrival.  Can I say that about Jesus?  I don't think so.  I go for days without thinking about it, when I should be prepared in my heart, and checking the sky.

Hmmm.... I guess it's time for me to read Revelation again. 

He's coming back.  This I know.  For the Bible tells me so. 

~ "Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" ~
Revelation 22:20

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In remembrance

"eat of the bread and drink of the cup"
1 Corinthians 11:28

Do you take communion in your church?  How often?  Every Sunday?  Once a month?  Significant holy days?

Or maybe your church doesn't do communion.  I don't know if all churches do or not.

I've also known people who do communion in their own homes.  I like the sound of that.  Nothing says it can only be done in a church.  A little juice or wine, some crackers or bread, and a prayerful heart.  Beautiful.

When you take communion, do your thoughts go to what you know about the night before Jesus' death?  You probably know the facts.  If you don't, they are in the gospels.

We read about where Jesus was, and who was with Him, and what they were eating.   We read that He washed the feet of the disciples, and identified His betrayer.  And we can read what He said to all of them as they sat around the table.

And of all the things He said that evening, I believe His most significant words were, "Do this in remembrance of Me."

When we share communion, we do it in remembrance of Him.  When we share it in our churches, or in our homes, we do it in remembrance of Him.  We do it because He ate and drank, and because He told us to.

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the Last Supper ~ the Lord's Supper, he called it. But he wasn't just reminding them, he was scolding them.  Starting in verse 17 he said, "In the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.  When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal.  One goes hungry, another gets drunk.  Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?  What shall I say to you?  Shall I commend you in this?  No, I will not."

The Christians in Corinth were apparently not "doing this in remembrance of Him."  They were just "doing this"

Paul went on to say, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself."

Communion, in remembrance of Him, is not a meal, any more than Thanksgiving dinner is just a meal.  Communion has a purpose.  Actually, it has three:

Celebration, acknowledgement, proclamation.

Communion is a celebration of selflessness and sacrifice; of God's plan of redemption.  And it's a celebration of our new life.

It is an acknowledgement of what that new life cost, and an acknowledgement of what it's worth.

And it's a proclamation of our belief, and our intentions ~ to Him and to ourselves.

So take communion, in your church or in your home.  Because He told us to.  But before you take, think about what you believe, and what you intend.

~ "the Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed,
took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it
and said, 'This is My body, which is for you.  
Do this in remembrance of me.' 
In the same way He also took the cup after supper,
saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." ~
1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Monday, September 24, 2012

One of a kind

"a special treasure to Me"
Exodus 19:5

Are you weird?  I think you are.  Some of you I've met, and I know that you're weird.   Many of you are strangers to me, but I'm pretty sure there's something weird about each of you, too.

Why do I know that?  Well, simply because we're all different.  And some of the things that make us different might also make us a little weird.

I have a condition called synesthesia.  It's weird.  There are variations on it, but in my case, it enables me to see the colors of letters and numbers.  It's a gift.  And it's unusual.  I know there are other people in the world who share this unique trait, but the only ones that I know of are my two sisters.  So in the circle of my extended family, and my friends, it's something weird about me.

Of course, that's not the only oddity about me.

So what's weird about you?

Maybe you have to brush your teeth after every meal.
Maybe you have to sleep with a window open, even on the coldest nights.
Maybe you're able to wake up at the same time every day without the aid of an alarm clock.
Maybe you always sneeze in threes.

Whatever it is, God loves it.  He loves those weird, unique, quirky, special things about you.

C.S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters, that there is a sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about the little things that make you you.  It's about truly and sincerely enjoying any one thing in the world, for its own sake, without caring twopence what other people say about it.  It's about being who you are.

Don't you love the idea of that?  No one knows my kids better than I do.  And no one on earth loves them more than I do.  And I love everything about them.  Everything.  And I'm betting there's someone in your life about whom you can say the same thing.

Don't you just love knowing that God feels the same way about you?

~ "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; 
therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you" ~
Jeremiah 31:3

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Give the people what they want

"Have you heard the counsel of God?"
Job 15:8

In the few months, I've had two separate conversations with two separate people who, in two separate scenarios, had the exact same complaint. 

Both were friends of mine, each in a quandary.  They each had been praying over a decision, and struggling with which way to go.  Nothing earth-shattering, just something they didn't want to take lightly. 

In both cases, they sought advice from their husbands.  The husbands gave their opinion, and the wives went along with what the husbands thought. 

And then a few months later, both women decided they had made a mistake.  That they were not where God wanted them to be.  Ever feel like that?  Like you've made a decision, but just don't have peace with that decision?  It's not the same as just not liking where God has you.  We all have that sometimes.  We don't get to pick-and-choose the way we'd like to in life.  But I'm talking about having that unsettled feeling that God wants you to revisit a plan or decision. 

In both cases, these women continued praying, and each came to the conclusion that she should have said no to something she said yes to.   Both women felt they had confirmation from God that they now knew where He wanted them ~ they each had peace.  And they made the change in their schedules accordingly. 

Now, in both cases, the husbands, when asked for advice, had given it.  But ~ and both men sheepishly admitted this after the fact ~ neither had prayed about it. 

Dude.... seriously? 

These are praying men, both of them.   They know how, they know why... and yet they didn't.   Too busy?  Too distracted?  Too sure they thought they knew best?

And unfortunately ~ been there, done that.  How about you?  Anyone ever ask you for advice, and what you gave them was your advice?   We're so tempted, aren't we?  Because what we think is so wise, and so mature, and clearly it's our obligation to share with the world.  {catch all that sarcasm, did ya?}

And it's funny.... I know I've shared on this topic before.  But I guess I needed to be reminded.  Or you did.  Or both of us...  How hard is it to say, "I'll get back to you on that after I've prayed."?

These friends of mine fully expected that the advice they were getting from their husbands was prayed over.   There are times when people are going to come to you, or me, expecting Godly wisdom.  If people know how important the Bible is to you, that might be precisely why they come to you.  So don't get cocky.  It's not your advice they want. 

~ "Many are the plans in a man's heart,
    nevertheless, the Lord's counsel will stand" ~
Proverbs 19:21

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Scarred for life

"recall the former days"
Hebrews 10:32

Do you have any scars?  If you don't, I'm impressed.  Either you're really careful, or you heal nicely.

I've got a burn mark on my arm, but that's pretty faint now.  And I've got a scar on my chin where I had to have stitches when I was five.  Fell off my scooter.

I know I used to have more scars, but they're gone now.  I wonder why some scars heal, and some stay with us forever.  Makes me think of Jacob, wrestling with God.  Jacob's hip was never the same after that; the muscle on his hip shrank when God touched it.  He had a lifelong reminder of who he had been, and who he had become.  (Genesis 32)

And I think about Paul, who in 2 Corinthians 12 spoke of a thorn in his flesh.  Three times he prayed that God would take away the source of his pain, but God did not.  So Paul lived with it ~ a reminder that God was the source of his strength.

My favorite scars are the ones on two of my fingers.  Slightly weird to have favorite scars, I know.   They were painful at the time I got them ~ both physically and emotionally.  But now they are a reminder ~ a reminder that makes me laugh, and makes me think.

It was about 16 years ago.  I was camping, and pregnant with my Awesome Girl.  So I was a little unsteady on my feet.  I was sitting talking with my sister, when one of said something the other disagreed with.  Next thing I knew, I was storming away from her, furious, and I lost my footing on the rocky ground. 

I guess I put my hand down to take the brunt of the fall, and I cut two of my fingers, on the knuckles.  And maybe because it was on my knuckles, which are constantly moving, the skin couldn't heal completely.  It's really not noticeable at all unless I point it out to you, because of the way skin is around the knuckle.

It makes me laugh now, because not only can we not remember what the argument was about, neither one of us can even imagine being that mad at each other!  We still disagree on things sometimes, but generally we just lightheartedly turn to conversation to something else.  And sometimes that lighthearted conversation is laughing at the idea of being that mad at each other!

But those scars also make me think.  My sister and I have obviously both matured a lot since then.  And I'm so grateful now for a friendship that is precious to us both.  We have another sister, too, and  all three of us are good friends.  Our husbands all like one other, and our kids all get along great.  I'm blessed with wonderful family, on all sides. 

The scars that remind me that it wasn't always that way.   They remind me that I'm a little wiser, a little more mature than I used to be.  That it is possible to be at peace with people with whom you don't always agree, if love is there.

I'm grateful for who He's growing me to be, but I'm also grateful for the reminders of who I was.   Makes me appreciate that much more, all that He has done. 

~ "confident of this very thing,
that He who has begun a good work in you
will be faithful to complete it
until the day of Jesus Christ" ~
Philippians 1:6

Friday, September 21, 2012

I know there's something I'm supposed to be doing...

"your faith without your works"
James 2:18

You know what's one of my favorite times of day?  When I go in to my kids' bedrooms to kiss them good-night.  I don't really get to "tuck them in" very often.  Only on the coldest nights, and even, they're pretty much tucked in the way they want to be.  Oh, they might let me pull the covers up around their chins, but they're gonna put them back the way they want them as soon as I leave the room. 

And that's okay.  Sometimes we go through the charade anyway.  Good kids humor their mother, don't you think?

But I love those few moments with each of them.  We talk a little bit, sometimes about something that's bothering them, or something that went wrong that day, and sometimes about something fun they want to share. 

And I always remind them to pray.  They don't always need reminding, but, well, habits are hard to break sometimes...

Well, a few nights ago, during that dark and whispery time, my Amazing Boy was telling me about a difficult friend.  Someone who, was not being a good friend, is a better way of putting it.  He had hurt my boy's feelings a little bit, and we were talking about the fact that we sometimes have people in our lives that we wish we didn't.  Or that we wish were different in some way.

As I left his room, I reminded my Amazing Boy that he needed to pray for his friend.  But you know what?  I didn't pray for his friend.  I was the epitome of James 2.

James 2 is the passage that talks about faith and works.  "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (verse 26)  You know the passage?  How about verse 15 ~ that's the one that was ringing in my head the next day ~ "If a brother or sister is unclothed and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?"

I recognized that there was a need, but I didn't do anything about it.  Worse, I recognized that there was a need for prayer, and did nothing about it. 

I remind my children to pray, but I have a long way to go, myself. 
~ "Brethren, pray for us" ~
1 Thessalonians 5:25

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I feel so used...

"Your faithfulness endures to all generations"
Psalm 119:90

God gave me a little peek today.  Sort of a glimpse of the future, through the eyes of the past.  I was actually just looking at now, but I was thinking about the past so hard while I was looking at now, that it felt like I was in the past, looking at the future

Peradventure I should explain. 

Love that word, peradventure.  It just means "perhaps" but it's so much more fun, isn't it?

Okay, here's the tale of my day... I've been in Bible Study for 12 years.  For seven years I attended the same class, during the day, and then five years ago, an evening class was started in our area.  This is not with my church; it's a national, non-denominational organization, and I knew that by switching classes, I would still be getting the same in-depth study, just with a different group of women. 

For five of those seven years, I taught children of different ages, from 2 to 13.  I'm not teaching kids anymore, but I do have some fond memories of those years. 

Well today, I got to go back in time a little.  That day class where I began, needed help for the day; volunteers to help the teachers in the classrooms.  So I went, and hung out with several very sweet, very cute two-year-olds. 

That was my trip into the past.  Goldfish crackers, little praying hands, adorable children saying they want to thank God for their toys and their dogs.  Sweet, sincere, short-attention spans.  Gotta love 'em...

But a couple of aspects were familiar to me in a very special way.  First was a flag.  We always said the Pledge of Allegiance with the kids, and then the Pledge to the Christian Flag.  ("I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior for Whose kingdom it stands.  One Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life everlasting for those who believe.")

And today when the teacher got out the two flags for the kids to hold, I realized that I had made that Christian flag.  That exact flag.  Way back when I was teaching, we needed new flags.  So I bought some fabric, and sewed some new flags.  It's not a hard pattern:


And because the flags only get used for a few minutes once a week, I guess they've lasted pretty well, cuz there it was, after I was long gone from that class.  It was fun for me to know that something small that I had done, was still being used after all this time.

The other thing that was special to me, was prayer time with the children.  When I was teaching two-year-olds, my teaching partner and I had the idea to try to have prayer time with the children.  We bought some fabric, and cut out squares ~ about 1' x 1'.  And at the end of our class time, we would turn out the light, and the children would lay down, with their heads on their prayer cloths, and we would say a prayer over each of the children.  Teachers from other classes told us "it will never work with two-year-olds; they won't be able to sit still for that long."  But we decided to give it a try, and it worked.  And they came to love it.  I still remember the day when the kids finished their snack, and our noisiest, wiggliest child went over to turn out the lights, because he was ready for prayer time. 

A few years after that, one of our teachers began doing volunteer work with the international arm of our Bible Study ministry.  And because she'd seen it work in our classes, she introduced it to the teachers she was training in other countries. 

And all these years later, the teachers in that daytime class are still making prayer cloths, and speaking quiet prayers into the ears of sweet two-year-olds.  And around the world, it's happening in other classes. 

Today I saw myself, ten years younger,  and I got a glimpse of the impact I was allowed to have. 

I hope this doesn't sound like bragging.  I was just in the right place at the right time.  I didn't come up with the design of the Christian flag; I just bought the fabric and took some time to cut and sew.  And I didn't come up with the idea of the prayer cloths.  I don't even know where the idea came from; I just know my teaching partner and I saw it, and both were inspired to try it.   

God was doing something all those years ago, and I got to be a part of it.  If it hadn't been me, it would have been someone else; I just feel privileged it was me. 

I think that happens a lot more often than we think.  As a matter of fact, I think it happens all the time.  What we're doing matters, but so often we don't get to see it.  Today I got to see it. 

The things I did were small, in the realm of His people, and all He's doing on earth.  But it gives me such joy to know that for a few of these things, He uses me to get them done. 

I can think of nothing I'd rather do, than be used by Him.

~ "We are God's handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do" ~
Ephesians 2:10

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Known and Unknown

"we know that his testimony is true"
John 21:24

If you watched the news at all over the past week, then you probably know of the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya.  Christopher Stevens died last Tuesday, September 11, of smoke inhalation, when the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was attacked.  Those are the facts we know.  The details surrounding his death are all conjecture.

As I watched the news last Tuesday, I heard from many different people.  I'm a bit of a policy wonk, so I like knowing what's going on in Washington, and I heard statements from our embassy in Cairo, which was also under attack, and from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and from President Obama, and from Mitt Romney, the man running against Obama for President.

And then I heard from analysts and commentators and anchors and a variety of people paid to give their opinion on political matters.  But I really didn't learn any new facts.

I also went to the Wikipedia page about Christopher Stevens, because I wanted to know his family information.  I wanted to know if he had a wife and children I should be praying for.  His entry in Wikipedia consisted of three sections:  Early Life and Education; Foreign Service; and Death.  Last Tuesday, the paragraph concerning his death was two or three sentences long, including the few facts that were known at the time.   On Friday, I looked again, and the section about his death was 15 sentences long, and the information was punctuated by words like "reportedly"... "apparently"... "reports differ...." and "U.S. officials believe..."

The article is even prefaced by the words, "this article is about a person who has recently died.  Some information, such as that pertaining to the circumstances of the person's death, and surrounding events, may change as more facts become known." 

We live in the age of the Information Superhighway, but there's a lot we don't know about Ambassador Steven's death.  Authorities don't know who, and they disagree about why.  All they know is that he died in a fire, but they're not even sure how the fire got started.

Make no mistake:  the existence of the gospels, and the fact that we can hold them in our hands, is a miracle.  Four different reporters ~ Matthew, Mark, Luke and John ~ human, flawed, biased, emotional, forgetful, selfish...

But the books they authored?  Fact.  Inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit and then written by men who were there.  When we study the gospels, we are privileged to study not conjecture, opinion or analysis, but fact. 

And not just the facts about His life on earth, but His actions, and His words.   I don't know about you, but I'm guilty of taking for granted the very existence of these documents, not to mention their availability to me. 

It's time for me to start my Bible Study class again, which I look forward to every year with eagerness and anticipation.  But this year feels different.  I find myself approaching it with thankfulness, and with reverence.   And I realize it's how I should have felt all along.

~ "it seemed good to me also, 
having had perfect understanding of all things 
from the very first, 
to write to you and orderly account... 
that you may know the certainty of those things
 in which you were instructed" ~
Luke 1:3-4

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Doing, Doing, Done

 "A man's heart plans his way,
  but the Lord directs his steps"
Proverbs 16:9

Man, I had quite a day today...  Not what I expected it to be when I got up this morning.  And if you had asked me last week what today would be like, I'd have been even farther from accurate.  And if you had asked me six months ago what today would have been like, I'd have been completely off!

My goals for a typical day would have included feeding my family (or making sure they ate... I don't really make every meal).  Teaching my kids and prepping any worksheets or tests that might be necessary.  Cleaning up the house where it needs it, doing laundry, and tending to the volunteer work I do.

But I was out of town for the weekend, so the house needed more attention than usual.  And I needed to unpack and put things away.  And a few days ago, my car's "check engine" light came on, so I needed to take the car in to be serviced.  And then of course, school, eating, laundry....   Oh, and the phone company surprised me by coming {finally} to fix the phone line, which has been out of commission three months.  Kids and hubby had someplace to be tonight, and I had a meeting to go to, and a phone call I had to make before Bible Study starts tomorrow night.

Not a typical day at all.  And I was very aware of my "to-do" list, which at the end of the day didn't look very much like my "have-done" list.

But that's okay.  God doesn't care about what I intend to do as much as He cares about what I do

So what did I accomplish?

Well, I spent time just talking with my wonderful kids.  We'd missed each other while I was away this weekend, so I was soaking them up today.  I also saw both my parents.  Daddy picked me up from the mechanic's when I dropped my car off, and Momma drove me there to get it when it was done.  I love living close to my parents; being there to help them with stuff, and having them to help me when I need them.  And I don't very often see them without my hubby and kids being there.  It was fun to have a little one-on-one time with each of them. 

I also sang a worship song with my family.  The Apple of my Eye is leading the worship at my Bible Study class tomorrow night, with my Awesome Girl singing with him.  So they were practicing tonight, and Amazing Boy and I joined in.  We made a beautiful noise unto the Lord!  Even the dog came into the room to see where all her people went!

I also prayed for a friend today, and helped another solve a problem.  I encouraged someone who was struggling, and was able to lift a loved one who was down.  I was a listening ear for someone who is working through something, and I was a friend to someone who needed one. 

None of that is bragging, you understand.  I was just being where God wanted me, taking advantage of opportunities He brought me, though I probably missed a few, too.  It happens. 

I'll probably do some laundry tomorrow, and finish unpacking.  I expect I'll find my kitchen counter under the clutter.  I'll make sure the kids do school, and get their chores done, and it will most likely feel like a typical day.  But at the end of it, I hope that God is pleased with my "have-done" list. 

~ "I know that nothing is better than to rejoice,
and to do good" ~
Ecclesiastes 3:12

Monday, September 17, 2012

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

"what do you think?"
Matthew 21:28

A friend of mine was judging me the other day.  At least I think she was.  She didn't say anything, but she was thinking it.  At least I think she was.

I was telling her about a decision I'd made regarding my kids.  Her kids are younger than mine, so she hasn't yet been in my position on this issue.  And yet she was judging me for my decision!

At least, I think she was...

*sigh*   Why do we do that?  Why are we so sure that others are judging us, when really it's just in our own minds? 

Why do we think people are thinking negative thoughts about us, when maybe they're not even thinking about us at all?

Is it because we are thinking poorly of ourselves?

Or is it because we are guilty of judging others, so we assume it's happening in return?

Which is worse, thinking too much about myself, or thinking too much about what people think of me? 

I think maybe I need to think more about what God thinks. 

Don't you think?

~ "Commit your works to the Lord, 
and your thoughts will be established" ~
Proverbs 16:3

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Asking is for the birds

"every bird of every sort"
Genesis 7:14

Are you a birder?  That's a weird word.  When I was a kid, they were called "bird watchers".  When did they become birders?

It's a wonderful hobby, with many different variations.  There are those who never leave their house, but draw as many varieties as they can to their backyard, and there are those who travel the world in search of elusive species.   I'm fascinated by the idea of the latter.  Going to remote locations, and sitting in a tree all night long, hoping to catch a glimpse or hear a trill?  Awesome.

However, truth be told, I'm more the type to thoroughly enjoy the ones that come to visit me.  Like our beautiful woodpeckers, the tiny hummingbirds, and the strikingly beautiful phoebes.  Not to mention the wild parrots that every summer come to live in the high eucalyptus trees behind our backyard.   Those are hard to see.  We hear them plainly, but if we go outside to look at them, we can't see them.  They are green, and blend completely in with the trees.  So if we're lucky we can see them flying.  And once, when Amazing Boy was in the backyard, two of them buzzed his head, so he and I both got a good look ~ albeit a brief one! 

My parents and in-laws have both taken an increased interest in backyard birds over the past few years.  They've experimented with seed and feed to attract a variety of birds, and gotten a thrill from a glimpse of something beautiful or unusual.

I read recently about a woman who had become an occasional bird-watcher.  She didn't decide to become one, she just started noticing the birds around her home, so then she started looking a little harder. And soon she became aware of a beautiful song, but from a bird she couldn't locate.   She generally heard it in the evening, so she took to going outside and waiting for it in the evenings, but even the times she heard it, she couldn't locate it.

And then she prayed.  She said that her words were, "Father, I would love to know the name of this bird and see what it looks like.  Thank You.  Amen."

And some time later ~ a day, a week, a month, I don't know ~ she saw him.  He flew near her one afternoon, and alighted on a log near where she was.  And he stood there for several seconds, so that she got a good look.  And he sang, so she knew it was the one she'd been looking for.

Now, the message of this post isn't about the timely miracle of this bird who just happened to appear after she prayed.  The message really isn't about answered prayer at all, though I love this sweet reminder that God does answer prayers!

No, the message ~ the lesson, really, that I took away from reading that account, was not about answered prayer, but about praying.  To be honest, I'm not sure it would have occurred to me to pray such an insignificant prayer.  And that's really a pity.  I think sometimes I just assume that God knows what's best, and God knows what I want, so why bother asking?  If He wants me to have what I want, then I'll have it.

But the truth is, He wants us to ask.  He wants us to not feel "resigned to our fate," but to desire better.  And that includes the little things.  It includes praying that my schedule will work out, that the weather will cool down, and yes, it includes praying to see a bird up close, so that I can really appreciate it.

I take it as a challenge.  There's evidence of a childlike faith in her prayer to see the bird, and I think I need to humble myself more.  To admit to Him that I'm helpless, that there is nothing in my life that is not from Him.  It doesn't mean He'll say yes to every prayer, but asking Him acknowledges that He should decide, not me.  It acknowledges that the God who parted the Red Sea and raised the dead to life, can also bring a white Christmas, or find that necklace I lost, or guide me in my day. 

There is no prayer too small for a God so big. 

~ "How much more
will your Father who is in heaven
give good things to those who ask Him!" ~
Matthew 7:11

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fear not

"Fear not.... You are Mine."
Isaiah 43:1

The calm after the storm.  That breath of relief after enduring something difficult.  Sometimes, in spiritual terms, it means the end of a trial.  And sometimes it means being reminded that He was with you all along.

Such is Isaiah 43:1.

I love the Book of Isaiah.  I'm not sure why, but I've always loved it.  It surprises me a little, because there are some difficult passages; both to read and to understand.  But there are also passages of such hope and beauty.  Isaiah is a book of poetry and promises such as "Unto us a child is born... Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace..." and "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat..." and "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth..." and "they will soar on wings like eagles".

Isaiah 43:1 is a poetic and beautiful verse.  But the best thing about it is that it follows after Isaiah 42. 

Part of Isaiah 42 is upbeat and encouraging, but it is about a difficult time for God's children.  He had allowed them to face the difficult consequences of their rebellion.  Verse 22 says, "this is a people robbed and plundered; all of them are snared in holes, and they are hiding in prison houses; They are for prey, and no one delivers; For plunder and no one says, 'Restore!'"

And in verses 24-25, "Who gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel to the robbers?  Was it not the Lord, He against whom we have sinned? ... Therefore He has poured on him the fury of His anger and the strength of battle; It has set him on fire all around, Yet he did not know; and it burned him, Yet he did not take it to heart."

Now, as I read that chapter a few weeks ago, I was struck by the powerful negativity of those words:  burned, fire all around, battle, the fury of His anger, sinned, robbers, plunder, prey, prison houses, snare, plundered, robbed...  I'll be honest, I'd rather read about sunsets and frolicking woodland creatures...

But happily, refreshingly, Isaiah 42 is followed by Isaiah 43:1, "But now" ~ and can I just say how much I love the word "but" in this instance?  It draws to a halt all the negativity of the previous chapter; a relief in and of itself.  And then it continues... "But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.' "

Beautiful.  Though He was allowing them consequences for their actions, He was with them. 

Though they were suffering, He would redeem them. 

Though they had rebelled, they were His.

As are you.

~ "the Lord your God,
He is the One who goes with you.
He will not leave you, nor forsake you" ~
Deuteronomy 31:6

Friday, September 14, 2012

Been there, done that

"as we are"
Hebrews 4:15

I'm reading a new book.  Well, new to me.  I think it was written in the 60s.  I never heard of it before someone recommended it for my Amazing Boy, and that surprises me, because it's by an author I loved when I was a kid.

I'm not very far into it, but it's very intriguing.  The boy who is the hero of the book is living at the time of Jesus, so it's giving an interesting glimpse into what life was like for people who lived in that time.  The boy is Jewish, living under the tyranny of the Romans, and waiting and hoping for the opportunity for the Jews to break free.  Then a relative of his invites him to come hear Jesus preach, and he's forced to examine his motives and goals. 

I think my Amazing Boy will enjoy it.  He likes history, he likes learning about the Bible.

I am liking it because it's thought-provoking and interesting, but also because it's about the time in Jesus' life, that isn't detailed in the Bible.  Of course it's fiction, but based on what we know of Jesus' early public life.  I just love to imagine the things we don't know about His life on earth.  After all, we know about His birth, and then not much else until He was a man of about thirty, and don't you just love wondering what His life was like in the meantime?

I think I began wondering about Jesus' "lost years" when I had my children.  Both times, I was pregnant during the Christmas season, and it made me think a lot about Jesus' mother, Mary, and what it must have been like for her.  And then after I had my kids, I began to picture Jesus at whatever age my kids were, experiencing what they experienced.  Learning to walk, getting His first tooth, running to His father when he came home from someplace.  Making friends, learning carpentry, visiting relatives, playing with the neighbor's goat.... the joy of wondering and imagining is endless. 

You should try it.  Wonder what Jesus might have been like, might have done or said in a given situation.  Why?  Because He was as we are.  Hebrews 4:15 says, "We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin."  Don't you find that comforting?  "In all points tempted as we are".  That means tempted to lie, tempted to be lazy, tempted to gossip.  Tempted to ~ well, everything I am.  I find that very reassuring. 

Can you imagine Him living your life?  Having to make the same decisions you make, struggling with the things that cause you to struggle?  For me, it's one of the best things about the fact that He walked this earth.  Wherever I am, He's there, and wherever I go, He's been there.

~ "He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, 
I shall come forth as gold." ~
Job 23:10

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Studying, part three ~ Connect the Dots

"find the knowledge of God"
Proverbs 2:5

Did you ever sit down to do something, and find it was much more complex than you anticipated?  Perhaps even something you knew was going to be complex?  Or difficult?  Only to find out that you still had no idea what you were getting yourself into?

Well, then you know a little about how Lewis and Clark felt.  See, they knew that what they were setting off to do was going to be difficult.  Dangerous, even.  The goal of the Lewis & Clark Expedition was to map and scout the new territory that Thomas Jefferson had just purchased from the French.  But they also intended to find an easy route to the ocean on the western side of the continent; a water passage.  Put simply, they were expecting to find an east/west equivalent of the Mississippi River.

At one point, Meriweather Lewis left his party behind to climb the bluffs that lay before them, expecting to see the waters that would carry them the rest of the way to the Pacific.  But rather than seeing a gentle sloping valley, he was the first white American to lay eyes on the Rocky Mountains.

For me, the awe and fear that Lewis must have felt as he saw what lay before him, is what I felt years ago when I began to study the Bible in earnest.  The joy of appreciating the Book as a whole was the mountain range that lay before me.

Early on, studying the Bible was, for me, learning what was in there, and what the different books were about... where they were and who wrote them.... finding the Book of Philemon, and remembering how many L's there are in Philippians.  Then it became about understanding better what I already knew. 

And at some point, I came to the realization that I was playing a joyous game of "Connect the Dots".  Or rather, "Connect the Scriptures".  I found that often, my pastor was teaching on something that connect exactly with what I just learned in Bible Study ~ even though they were in two different parts of the Bible.

So after talking about understanding the whole verse, and understanding the whole message, today's discussion is about understanding the whole book. 

It's been said that the greatest commentary on Scripture is Scripture.  What that means is, that if you don't understand something in the Bible, the explanation is elsewhere in the Bible.  You might find it helpful to read other commentaries, but don't neglect to look in places other than where you are reading, right there in the Bible.

For instance, Micah says in chapter 5, "from you, Bethlehem Ephrathah... shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler of Israel."  And Isaiah says in chapter 9, "In Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light."  It seems to me that those who studied and knew the writings of the prophets might have trouble reconciling the seemingly contradictory nature of these two verses.  How could the Savior come from both Bethlehem and Galilee?  And yet He did.  We who study the Bible now, are knowledgeable as they were not.  We can see the connection between these verses, where all they saw was contradiction.  And more enlightenment awaits us!  Someday every confusing word in Revelation will make perfect sense!

The word "sacrifice" is mentioned in Scripture over 350 times.  Clearly this is important to God.  But then I read Hosea 6:6, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."  And 1 Samuel 15:22, "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice."  I can read every verse on the how and why to sacrifice, but I have not learned all I can until I have read those two verses on what God loves more than sacrifice.

In Exodus, when Moses asked God His name, that he might have an answer for the children of Israel, God replied, "I Am."  I wonder if that seemed incomplete to Moses; if he waited for the end of God's sentence... "uh huh.... You are... ??"  But that was God's statement.  It spoke of the completeness of His being, and it spoke of His eternal existence.  But I think the perfection of God's sentence came when Jesus spoke it:  "I Am the Bread of Life... I Am the Light of the World... I Am the Door... I Am the Good Shepherd... I Am the Resurrection and the Life... I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life... I Am the Vine."  41 books, 1500 pages and centuries after God spoke. 

One of my favorite connections is Galatians 5:22-23 and Matthew 12:11-12.  Galatians 5 lists the fruits of the Spirit, and the last line in verse 23 is "against these there is no law."  This seems like a strange line to have here.  Of course there wouldn't be a law against love, or kindness!  Why would there be?  These are all positive things!  And for years the wording of it bothered me.  And then one day I was in Matthew 11, where Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, and the religious authorities accused Him:  "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"  He was being accused of disobeying a law, by showing love and kindness.  But though the Pharisees tried, against such, there is no law. 

Countless times, the Old Testament appears in the New Testament.  The Book of Psalms refers back to what was happening in David's life when he wrote them, and refers forward to Jesus' coming to earth.  Jesus fulfills prophecies from thousands of years before, while prophesying about what will happen thousands of years later, and while on the cross, He quotes Psalm 22.   And Paul refers to the Old Testament while in Corinth writing to the Thessalonians, and then while in Ephesus writing to the Corinthians!

The Word tells me that righteousness comes from faith, that joy comes faith, and that strength comes from joy... that obedience comes from faith, faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.... that perseverance comes from trials, character comes from perseverance, and hope comes from character... He makes beauty come from ashes, the oil of joy comes from mourning, and a garment of praise comes from a spirit of heaviness.  Because every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

Mstislav Rostropovich was a Russian cellist.  And a fan once said of him, "I always had the same reaction, even up to the last time I heard him play ~ that I just wanted to run home and pick up my cello."  This is how I want to learn the Bible.  To leave church, or Bible study, or even a conversation with the Apple of my Eye, running to my Bible wanting to find out more about something that the Holy Spirit just brought to my remembrance.   There is much to learn, and it's not always easy, but He wants us to want it.  In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Tis the good reader makes the good book."

~ "He opened their understanding,
that they might comprehend the Scriptures" ~
Luke 24:45

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Studying, part two ~ The Rest of the Story

"all the words of the Lord"
Exodus 4:28

Remember Paul Harvey?  If you're not old enough, I'm sorry for you.  You missed an interesting and informative man.

Paul Harvey, who died in 2009, was a radio broadcaster whose most famous segments were something called "The Rest of the Story".  He began these vignettes during World War II, but I knew them as part of their own series in the 70s.  He would tell a story about someone you knew ~ but you didn't know who he was talking about until the end.  And as he told the story, you'd find out facts you never knew about someone you knew.  Got all that?

For instance, a story of a young boy named Jamie whose thirteen-year-old brother died, and whose mother mourned him so fervently, that Jamie determined to keep his brother's memory alive ~ a brother who would forever be thirteen.  "Jamie" was James Barrie, the man who created a world where boys were boys forever.  Sir James Barrie was the author of Peter Pan. 

You might have known of Sir James Barrie, but the details of his childhood are the rest of the story

The Bible is full of details like this.  I wrote yesterday about verses that can be confusing or untrue, if they are only read in part.  Today's lesson is about endeavoring to understand the details; seeking to know the rest of the story. 

Take, for instance, John 10:10 ~ "I came that they might have life".  I'd be happy with that.  But He wants me to have more, and so the verse continues:  "I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly."  It's not just about eternal life with Him, it's about abundant life even here on earth. 

Or in Luke 10, when Jesus told the disciples, "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you."  It's like being told you have superpowers!  This verse tells us how little power satan has over us.  And you can almost see the disciples high-fiving each other... "yesss!" 

But then Jesus tells them the even better reason:  "nevertheless, do not rejoice in this... but rather, rejoice that your names are written in heaven." 

I also have to constantly remind myself that the Bible was not written with chapter and verse.  Those divisions that make for easy reading, also cause us to stop our thought process, and when we pick it up again next time, we start afresh, separating into two thoughts what was not written that way. 

Deuteronomy 6 says, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."  A clear and concise commandment that you can spend your whole life trying to obey.  And I think, "how can I achieve this?  'All my heart, soul and strength' ??  When will I have time to concentrate on anything else?  When will I have time to raise my kids??"  But then I keep reading:  "these words I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up." 

By simply continuing the passage, I find not only the "how" to obey that command, but the "how to raise my children, too.

One of the most empowering verses in the Bible is James 4:7 ~ "Resist the devil and he will flee from you."  I love that verse.  I recite, I teach it to my children, and I firmly claim its power.  I have always loved that all that is necessary to overpower the devil is simply resist him.  Because against God's power in us, the devil just ain't that strong.  But that's not the whole verse.  I remember realizing one day, with a bit of shock, that the first instruction in the "resist the devil" plan is:  Submit to God.  If I am not submitted, my resistance of the devil is in my own power.  And that is not the power I want. 

Okay, a couple more examples.  Cuz I love this stuff...

Matthew chapter 11.  "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest..."  When I was a young mother, I was taught that this was the verse for mothers, because we know about labor, and about being heavy laden!  But if you come to Christ on the basis of these words, you are misinformed.  For the life we are called to is no longer the Garden of Eden.  When we are promised rest, we picture our feet up, cool breezes and something refreshing to drink.  But Jesus continues:  "Take My yoke upon you" ~ whoa, wait.  There's a yoke?!   That doesn't sound restful!  But the truth of the matter is, you are yoked.  One way or another.  If you do not choose the yoke of Jesus, you choose a much harsher master.  How will we find the rest we seek?  "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me... and you will find rest for your souls...  My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

And finally, the peace and beauty of Philippians 4:6-7 ~ "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 hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  I love the promise in this verse, of peace that transcends understanding, but the first instruction is, "be anxious for nothing." 

That is the kind of instruction that frustrates me.  Just don't be anxious?  Do you appreciate how hard it is to turn off anxiety?  *grunt*.... yeah, nothing.  Then He tells me to make my requests known to God, by prayer and petition.  Done.  With thanksgiving.  Done.  But the anxiety comes back, and I don't know how to stop it. 

And then one day I realized that there are verses that follow these.  I had memorized verses 6 and 7.  Claimed them.  Hidden them in my heart.  But oh, the verses that follow... "Whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report... If there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things."  Put these things in your head, and there will be no room for anxiety. 

I know that when He tells us to do something, He gives us what we need to do it.  But it took me far too long to realize that Philippians 4:8 and 9 came right after Philippians 4:6 and 7!

I hope these examples stimulate you.  I hope you are intrigued, and start looking before and after the verses you're looking at.  He has given us a smorgasbord ~ we should not eat lightly.  Of course, we cannot possibly memorize the whole book, and hiding any portion of it in our hearts pleases Him, as long as we understand there's more to it.  Seek, and you shall find.

~ "I have not shunned to declare to you
  the whole counsel of God" ~
Acts 20:27

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Studying, part one ~ Getting It All

"rightly dividing the word of truth"
2 Timothy 2:15

September 11th is on us again.   For those of you outside the United States, I don't know if that date gives you pause.  But for Americans, it's a day of remembering.  I remember where I was when I heard the news of the terrorist attacks, and the first person I talked to.  I remember going about my day that day in 2001, doing "normal" things, but with one eye on the TV all day, because it was anything but a "normal day".

I also remember the days that came after that.  There was an increase in patriotism and religious fervor after September 11, and many times I heard 2 Chronicles 7:14 quoted ~ "if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, pray, seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land."  We were a land that desperately felt the need for healing, and this verse was on bumper stickers and t-shirts, as well as being heard in prayer.

That time of my life, those days ~ and that verse ~ changed the way I read the Bible. 

I was unfamiliar with that verse, so I looked it up, to understand the context in which it was written.  When I did so, I realized it was only half a sentence.  The sentence begins in verse 13:  "When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, then, if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, pray, seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land." (underlining mine)

The sentence, as a whole, speaks of when God causes a plague on people He loves, and how they should respond if they want Him to heal their land.

Now, I'm not saying that God caused the terrorists attacks.  I'm not trying to say anything political.  But I became very aware that I was only hearing half of God's sentence when I heard 2 Chronicles 7:14.  And it make me think of other "half sentences" and it was the beginning of an entirely new way of reading and studying Scripture.

I think there are two basic mistakes people make when reading, remembering, or "claiming" Scripture.  For purposes of this discussion, what I mean by claiming is a verse that gets in your heart.  It becomes one you remember, and it guides you or changes you or fortifies you in some way.  Hope that makes sense.

The first danger is claiming only half or part of a Scripture.  For instance, John 3:16.  Most people know the beauty of that verse: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son".  Now that, in and of itself, is true.  But the entire truth lies in the whole sentence, which includes: "... that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  The completion of the verse changes what you need to know.

How about these:
"Christ is not risen"
"I am more stupid than any man"
"Your faith is futile"
"I can do all things"
"coals of the broom tree"
"I am a wall"

Those verses are all in the Bible.  1 Corinthians 15, Proverbs 30, Philippians 4, Psalm 120 and Song of Solomon 8.    But they are words that could confuse, or even contradict if they are not read the way God intended.

In Math, the Transitive Property says that if A = B, and B = C, then A = C.  When I was a kid, I once heard someone jokingly use this property illustrate that Ray Charles is God.  He said, "God is love.  And love is blind.  Ray Charles is blind, so Ray Charles must be God."  Now that's twisted truth! 

The Word of God is our weapon; the sword of the Spirit, "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword."  And like any weapon, we can injure someone ~ even ourselves ~ if we are not handling it correctly.  God does not talk in sound bites.

Get the truth.  But get the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

~ "I have treasured the words of His mouth
more than my necessary food" ~
Job 23:12

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Apple of my Eye

"A man entrusted with God's work must be blameless ~ 
not overbearing, not quick-tempered,
not given to drunkenness, 
not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.  
Rather, he must be hospitable,
one who loves what is good, 
who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.  
He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message
as it has been taught, 
so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine
and refute those who oppose it."
Titus 1:7-9

It seems incredible that men like this could exist.  It seems too much to ask that one man could have all of these qualities.  Especially in this day and age. 

Our culture celebrates women.  We herald the do-it-all supermom, the career woman, the single mother.  And often these women have our admiration or our pity because of the men in their lives ~ or lack thereof.  A man is her competition in the workplace; a man left her for someone younger and prettier; or he stays married to her because he's too dumb to find his own socks.

Men are the "bad guys" in the dramas, and the idiots in the sitcoms.  No one would put down the status of women in our society, because it's politically incorrect.  But we have no qualms about men as the butt of our jokes.  

But men like Paul described to Titus do exist.  I know several.  I'm married to such a man.  He is a doer of God's work.  Gentle, mild, even-tempered, sober, honest, welcoming, generous.  He is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  He holds firmly to the Word, using it to encourage and teach others, but also knows it is an integral part of the armor he dons every day as a soldier of Christ.

I think the greatest accomplishment he can claim, though, is who he is to me.  On a daily basis, I thank God for choosing this man to be the Apple of my Eye; to love, protect, care for and strengthen me.  And I thank God for the father this man is to the two Amazing and Awesome children who are so precious to me.  For God has entrusted this man with a daughter, for whom he is the example of what she should expect in a man; and a son, whom he is raising to also meet the description Paul gave to Titus.

There are untold numbers of men like this.  They're not very well represented on sitcoms or in women's magazines, but they are quietly and faithfully doing the work of God ~ fighting the good fight.

If you know such a man, thank him.

And then thank God.

~ "He encircled him, He instructed him,
He kept him as the apple of His eye" ~
Deuteronomy 32:10

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On Speaking Up

"convince, rebuke, exhort"
2 Timothy 4:2

I went to a women's gathering at my church a few weeks ago. 

It was fun, because:
    yummy things to eat
 + the opportunity to chat with some friends
 + teaching and encouragement from our pastor's wife.
=  Fun

She was talking about our relationships to each other ~ the women at our church.  About loving and supporting one another.  About being friends and sisters and fellow students of the Word.  She always says none of us is any better than the other, and that any teacher of the Bible is just "one beggar showing another beggar where to find the bread."  I love that.  A very "we're-all-in-this-together" sort of thought.

But she also talked about the sometimes difficult part of loving and supporting someone else.  The part about keeping each other accountable.  The part about telling someone when they are caught in sin, and don't seem to realize it.  Or maybe they do realize it, but keep doing it. 

It's not easy for most of us.  I think most of us are rather non-confrontational, seeking to avoid disagreement with others.  And pointing out what someone else is doing wrong is likely to lead to confrontation...

It's also hard because most of us try not to judge one another.  That is, we try not to judge out loud.  It's sometimes hard to control what goes on in our minds.  But that's a sin for a different conversation.

It's easier when I think of it in terms of my kids.  When my kids were growing up, I would never let them be unkind to each other.  I knew parents who just shrugged when their kids teased or annoyed each other.  But I wouldn't allow that.  No "kids will be kids" or "it's only human nature".  Deliberately making someone else unhappy out of selfishness or thoughtlessness or because it's "only a joke" is not okay.  There is no place for it.

And frankly, I didn't very often have to discipline my kids for being unkind to each other.  Maybe that was because they were simply born Awesome and Amazing, and I just didn't have to do much.  Or maybe it was because I nipped it in the bud; I don't know.

When Rudy Giuliani was mayor of NYC, he cleaned up blighted areas using the broken window theory.  It's the theory that if you ignore broken windows in a neighborhood, vandals tend to break more windows.  Eventually they may break into the building, squatting there or doing damage inside.  But if you repair the broken windows, the vandalism and crimes are not allowed to escalate.   Stopping small sins helps prevent bigger ones. 

But it's not easy.  It's something I'm praying about lately, because I want to be ready for anything He asks of me.  And if He does, I want to do it right ~ not judging, but loving.  Bringing truth with grace and an understanding of my own weaknesses. 

We need to be ready to listen, but just as ready to speak.

~ "Be ready in season and out of season.
Convince, rebuke, exhort
    with all longsuffering and teaching" ~
2 Timothy 4:2

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Going with the flow

"I have been sent to you with bad news"
1 Kings 14:6

I got some news the other day.  Sad news.  A friend of mine is moving.  Her husband is being transferred.

I'll miss them.  We all went to church together, and I'll miss seeing them on a regular basis.  It's even possible I'll never see them again.  Schedules are so busy and life is unpredictable.  I mean, you never can tell, right?

The news was sudden, yet it surprised me how much it threw me.  It's not as life-changing as other events, but it reminded me of how little we can count on in this world.  Every day there is the potential for change.  Huge change.  Job changes, death of a loved one, car accidents, frightening illnesses.  The people and places in our lives are not forever.

Does that give you pause?  Well, it's meant to.  But I have a close friend who is fond of saying, "If you belong to God, change is always in your favor."

I love that sentiment.  Reminds me that God is in control.  Makes me think of Joseph in the Book of Genesis.  Threatened and then abandoned by his brothers.  Forced to be a slave.  Wrongly accused and imprisoned, and then forgotten.  Well, forgotten by everyone but God.

On the contrary ~ God had everything well in hand.  Every change in Joseph's life was for good.  And not just for Joseph's good, but for his family, and indeed, for all the nation of Egypt.

It's foolish of me to find peace in constancy.  That's too unreliable.  Soon my friend will be gone, and we will find ourselves communicating in writing every once in awhile, and I'll settle in again.  I've got plenty of friends at church ~ lovely people that I enjoy talking with.  So everything will be fine.  Until the next big change in my life.

It all depends on my location.  The storms won't faze me if I'm in the boat with Him.

~ "He calms the storm, 
  so that its waves are still" ~
Psalm 107:29