Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Perfect Imperfection

"perfect in his generations"
Genesis 6:9

We've been talking about Noah in church the past few weeks.  I love the story of Noah and ark.  It's one of those Bible accounts that you've heard since childhood, and yet every time you read it, you learn or observe something new.

Like the fact that they weren't on the ark for only 40 days.  When I was a child, I thought that was when it ended.  Like on Day Forty-One, they were able to send out the birds, and de-ark soon thereafter.  But at some point later in my life, I read the verse that says, "the waters prevailed on the earth one-hundred and fifty days."  Which is a whole lot more than forty. 

Or the fact that they took more animals than the "two-by-two".  I always thought that was all, but then one day I noticed the verse where God told Noah to take seven of every clean animal.  That way Noah had animals to sacrifice to God.  So the ark was even more crowded than I had thought as a child.

Or the fact that the animals came to him, because how hard would it have been for Noah to herd all those creatures onto that boat?  Or the fact that God was the one who shut the door behind them all.  Details, details.  And they were there all the time, but I had to read the Scripture for myself to see them.

Apparently it wasn't enough to sing "Rise and Shine" in Sunday School every week.  ("Elephants and kangaroosies, roosies, Children of the Lord...")

But my most recent realization about Noah has to do with what hasn't happened yet.  At least, we haven't gotten to it in church, but I know it's coming because I've read Genesis one or seventeen or fifty times.

But before we look forward, let's look back.

Genesis 6:5 ~ "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth..."
Genesis 6:8 ~ "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord."
Genesis 6:9 ~ "Noah was a just man"
Genesis 6:9 ~ "Noah was perfect in his generations"
Genesis 6:9 ~ "Noah walked with God"

How awesome does Noah sound?  It's no wonder God saved him, right?

But I found myself thinking about what was ahead for him:

Genesis 9:20 ~ "And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard.  Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent.  And Ham, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.  But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid in on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father.  Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness."

Now, in a sense, this story is about Ham.  Noah cursed him for his disrespectful behavior.  But I was always somewhat disappointed with Noah for letting the situation happen to him.  And no, this isn't about drinking.  I don't believe drinking is a sin.  And as far as we know, God hadn't laid down any restrictions on drinking.  But I do believe that drinking too much is a sin.  So each of us has to work that out with God.

But Noah clearly drank himself into a place where he lost control of his own behavior.  Not to mention losing his dignity.  He was a man of wisdom, and he shouldn't have let it happen.  In my humble opinion.

Now, we know that Noah was a just man.
     Perfect in his generations.
          He walked with God.

But he made a mistake.

Which God knew that he would.

And God saved him anyway.

Just like He sent His Son, to save you and me, even though we have mistakes still to make.

He knows who we are.... and He loves us anyway.


~ "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, 
that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" ~
Romans 5:8

Monday, April 29, 2013

Taking my Spiritual Temperature

"And it shall be, 
when he is guilty of any of these matters, 
that he shall confess
that he has sinned in that thing"
Leviticus 5:5

A few weeks ago, after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, my TV-viewing habits underwent a significant, if short-lived change.  I'm not really a news watcher, but the event was evolving at such a rapid pace, I felt compelled to have the TV on for a lot of that week.  It wasn't until Friday evening, when the second bomber was captured by the police, that my news watching returned to its state of "once a day catch up with the headlines".

While I don't really watch the news, I do like to stay current on politics.  Almost every day I watch an hour-long show that updates me on what's happening in Washington.  And I made a funny observation the other day while I was watching that program.

The commercials during that hour seem to be aimed at someone a generation older than I am.  There are a myriad of ads for services and products aimed at senior citizens.  And a lot of it means nothing to me.  Conditions and syndromes, reverse-mortgages and medical insurance "that can't be cancelled because of your age".

But the medical stuff, specifically, got me to thinking. I started to wonder how many of these will pertain to me when I'm older.  And in that way, I think too much information is a bad thing.  I might be perfectly happy until some commercial starts pointing things out to me.  "Have you fallen in the past six months?"   "Have you had had tingling in your fingers or toes?"   "Well, have you??"

And I think this is probably how some hypochondriacs get their start.  The power of suggestion, and a susceptible mind.  Which is a pity, because some people might be happier if they never knew they had anything to be unhappy about.

What I think we could do with, though, is a bit of spiritual hypochondria.  Well, not so much hypochondria, as an awareness.   I mean, if there were commercials asking me, "Have you gossiped in the past six months?  Have you doubted?  Have you been selfish or judgemental?",  they just might cause me to think, "hmm..... Actually, now that you mention it...."

We somehow love to "brag" about our medical woes, comparing afflictions and wanting to top each other.  Just listen to any group of women discussing their experience with childbirth.   But we tend to be in denial about our spiritual weaknesses.  Even to ourselves. 

All the more reason to see the Great Physician, for a spiritual check-up!

~ "He said to them, 'Those who are well 
have no need of a physician, 
but those who are sick.
I did not come to call the righteous, 
 but sinners, to repentance.' "
Mark 2:17

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Remembering to Remember the Sabbath

"Remember how short my time is"
Psalm 89:47

I love laws.  Well, not like legal laws.  I mean, the laws of the universe, or something.  What are those called, natural laws?  Physical laws?

Legislative laws, on the other hand, are a necessary evil.  Or sometimes an unnecessary evil.  But we won't get into politics here...

As a matter of fact, I got into a bit of a run-in with the law just yesterday.  Actually I just got caught up in a DUI checkpoint.  But I was taking my Awesome Girl to volleyball practice, and we were both sober at the time* so we were able to zoom right on through. 

{* Well, truth be told, we're sober all the time.  It's how we roll. }

But no, I'm appreciating laws like gravity.  The laws of motion.  The laws of thermodynamics.  Like that.  The observations of things that just are, whether we like it or not.  The Apple of my Eye came up with one of his own early in our marriage.  He calls it the Law of Liquid Multiplication, and it states that any liquid will increase in volume when spilled. 

Picture it this way:  have you ever kicked over the dog's water?  And what was two cups of water becomes a gallon once it's all over the floor?  It's a true fact, my friends.

I love the expression "true fact".  There's such quiet humor in its ironic redundancy...

But the specific law I'm celebrating today ~ or rather, learning from ~ is "horror vacui":  Nature abhors a vacuum.  Or maybe it's the fact that a gas will expand to fill its container.  I don't know the Latin for that.  But to me they are different ways of saying the same thing.  That any available anything will be filled by something.

There's a law called Parkinson's Law that states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.  That's a true fact, too.  Have you ever started a task earlier than usual, to "leave plenty of time" and then found that you still weren't done until the night before?

Or how about this one:  Possessions expand to fill the space available to accumulate them.  I have seen evidence of this when packing for a trip, and also with purses.  The bigger purse a woman buys, the more stuff she finds she "needs" with her.

Or money.  Got a little extra?  Something unexpected will come up.  Extra money gone.  True fact.

The reason all this thinking came into my brain was that I had "nothing to do" on a recent Sunday.  You may remember that some time ago I started trying to "remember the Sabbath" in a new way.  I wanted to give it some thought, instead of treating it like Day #2 of the weekend.  So over the past several months it has become a subject of prayer for me.  Which is good.  Giving thought to the Sabbath is a good thing.

But as we were driving home from church a few weeks ago, and I realized we had nothing that had to be done that day, I started to think of things that I could do.  A few errands I could run, a couple things to do around the house...

None of them work, really, mind you.  They would have been just inside the realm of "resting".  But even the planning of them made me realize that I was quickly filling up a day that had been empty. 

I think maybe we need to think in terms of protecting the holes in our lives.  Financial advisers recommend putting money into a savings account immediately, so that you don't have a chance to spend it.  Maybe I need to use the same approach when it comes to my Sundays.  I need to think of that time as reserved, and then give Him a chance to show me what to do with my time!

Even if what He wants me to do, is nothing.

~ "My presence will go with you, 
    and I will give you rest" ~
Exodus 33:14

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sometimes I'm just a spiritual two-year-old

"when I cry and shout"
Lamentations 3:8

I found myself mad at God a few weeks ago.  And it's not the first time.  Although I think it might have only been the second.  Maybe the third...

Sometimes people are scandalized at the thought of being mad at God, but I think anger is a legitimate emotion, created by God.  And He's big; He can handle our anger.   The important thing to keep in mind is Ephesians 4:26 ~ "Be angry, and do not sin."  In other words, it's what you do with your anger that might be sinful, not the anger itself.

And I wasn't angry very long.  I know He's right.  But for awhile I was doing some grumbling and spiritual glaring at God.

Then the following Sunday morning, I sat down for worship, and one of the songs we sang included a line that was Peter's response to Jesus in John 6.  When many of those who were following Him turned away, Jesus said to the disciples, "Do you also want to go away?"  And Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life."

And I knew exactly what Peter meant.  I just can't stay angry at my Creator and Savior.  He is my source for peace, faith and joy.  And when my tantrums are over, He is waiting for me with His arms open.

~ "But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, 'You are my God.' " ~
Psalm 31:14

Friday, April 26, 2013

Presidential Lessons

"Let all bitterness and wrath
and anger and clamor and slander be put away"
Ephesians 4:31

Today was an exciting day for me. 

Well, mostly only theoretically.  After getting together with a sweet friend for a chat, I came home and did the same fairly routine things I always do.  Home, kids, work.... you know the drill...

But I watched a little more TV than usual, and that was because of the excitement, which was the dedication of the Presidential Library of George W. Bush, in Dallas, Texas.  The library will open to the public on May 1.

This is exciting to me for two reasons.  The first is that I now have another Presidential library to visit.  I've been to several homes/libraries of U.S. Presidents, including Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Grant, Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and one or both of the Roosevelts.  I was pretty young, then, so I'd have to double check with my folks.  Although I guess if I can't remember, I need to go back.

We have family living in Texas now {Hey, y'all!} so I'm sure we'll be in Texas sometime this year or next, and I look forward to visiting the Bush library.  Maybe both Bush's.  (Bushes'?  Bushs'?)  And maybe Lyndon Johnson's, too.  My kids can't get enough. 

Well, that's not quite true.  As a matter of fact, they may have already had enough...

The other thing that made this day cool was seeing those who attended the dedication.  It was one of those historic events that brings our current president together with our former presidents. And it reminded me of one of the things I love most about America. 

Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, George HW Bush (in a wheelchair and sporting red socks!) and Jimmy Carter ~ photo credit: dallasnews.com

The Carters, the Clintons, the Bush 41's, the Bush 43's, the Obamas ~ photo credit: nationaljournal.com

The presidential campaigns can be fierce, competitive, and even embarrassing to watch.  But the transitions are smooth.  There is a mutual respect among these men, despite how they might feel about each other's politics, principles, or decisions. 

Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama ~ photo credit: nytimes.com

I know it's the same thing where a lot of you live, too.  But it's not that way all over the world.  It hasn't always been that way in America either.  John Adams left Washington before Thomas Jefferson got there, because he didn't want to see him.  But those two had issues their whole political lives. 

photo credit: netaonline.org
There's a great lesson here, about understanding, respect and forgiveness.

Well, maybe not here:

But here:

And here:
Michelle and Barack Obama, Barbara (41) Bush ~ photo credit: washingtonpost.com

There are people in my life I don't agree with, when it comes to politics, or social issues.  As a matter of fact, I think sometimes people who are passionate about things become friends with other passionate people, even if they don't agree.  There's just something about a good debate.

That's even true among people of faith. There are differences of opinion on everything from style of music to observation of the Sabbath, and those differences can make for some great discussion, even if opinions never meld.

As any of those men who gathered at the Bush library today would tell you, it's about focusing on the common ground.  In this case, love of country.   In the case of Christians, it's love of God.  Paul dealt with this in a few of his epistles (Corinthians, Ephesians).  It helps me to look differently as those with whom I disagree, even in my own church.  To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, "He who unites us is stronger than he who would divide us."  And to quote the apostle Paul, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)

~ "For where two or three
 are gathered together in My name, 
I am there in the midst of them" ~
Matthew 18:20

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thoughts while not sleeping

"sleep departed from my eyes"
Genesis 31:40

I wasn't sleeping well a few weeks ago.  Back when I mentioned I was troubled

I might have been having insomnia because I was troubled.  Or maybe insomnia is why I was troubled.

I'm not troubled anymore.

And the beautiful thing is, the thing that was troubling me hasn't changed, but I got my perspective back.  God's in His heaven, all's right with the world.  

But back to when I had insomnia.  Well, let's get back to talking about insomnia.  I don't really want to go back to having it...

I never have any trouble falling asleep.  My problem is that once I wake up in the middle of the night, I'm wide awake.  I lie there thinking about things like where I left my watch, and wondering about things like did I transfer the wash to the dryer, and worrying about things like do I have enough buttermilk for lunch tomorrow?

Yes, buttermilk.  For Buttermilk Soup, actually.  Sooo good.  Cut a potato into chunks, and boil them until just fork-tender.  Put them in a bowl, sprinkle them with sea salt, then pour cold buttermilk over them.  Top with caramelized onions.

I know, but it totally works. 

Anyhow, whenever I'm lying in bed wishing I could sleep, my best bet is to lie as still as I can.  Resist the urge to toss and turn.  Refuse to allow myself to turn over and look at the clock.  I lie perfectly still, and I keep my eyes closed.  In other words, I go through the motions of sleeping.

When my kids were little, and they would tell me they couldn't sleep, I would tell them to lie still and not move.  I told them that even if they weren't sleeping, their bodies could still be resting if they were completely relaxed.

I'm not entirely sure that's true, but it makes sense.  And I do know that I have a better chance of falling back asleep if I'm not continually rearranging, and stressing over every tick of the clock. 

So there I was,  willing myself to lie as still as I could, and you know what verse I found myself thinking of?  2 Thessalonians 3:13 ~ "do not grow weary..." 

Ironic, huh?

The entirety of the verse is, "But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good."  But I think the way I was hearing it in my head was "do not give up."  I knew that if I kept on doing what I was doing ~ lying completely still, even though I had the urge to fidget ~ I would fall back asleep. 

This, my friends, is the nature of perseverance.  Knowing that if we just keep doing what we're doing, even if it seems futile, we will be rewarded.  We need to have faith with the path we're on, with what He has led us to, and carry on without wavering.  Galatians 6:9 says it beautifully:  "Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."

Stay the course.  You know what to do; just keep doing it.

~ "you must continue in the things 
which you have learned and been assured of,
knowing from whom you have learned them" ~
2 Timothy 3:14

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Knowing you need help is half the battle

"the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses"
Romans 8:26

You know what concept I love?

Besides peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.

The idea of an accountability partner.  I think the term originated in the sixties, and had to do with losing weight ~ getting someone to encourage you, challenge you, and keep you on track.

Now they exist for a myriad of reasons.  Pretty much to rid yourself of any bad habit, or ingrain yourself with any new pattern, an accountability partner can be invaluable.

A spouse is always a good choice, as they are generally someone you trust.  But in other areas, it's helpful to have someone who has walked the same path you're on ~ someone older and wiser than you.

The Apple of my Eye and my Amazing Boy ~ 2009

Although "older" is not necessarily a prerequisite.

I've read that Billy Graham never traveled anywhere alone.  That he always had a male companion with him to help insure he never got himself into a compromising position, or even a situation where it looked like he might have compromised himself.  This man was to keep Graham accountable. Gives a whole new meaning to the word "bodyguard," doesn't it? 

Well, my pastor said something last Sunday that got me thinking about all this. He was talking about the importance of a strong prayer life, and he said that our prayer lives are a reflection of awareness of sin in our lives.  Which makes sense.  If you think you're doing pretty good in life, you're not going to feel the need to lean on Him.  Independent, as opposed to dependent. 

I think sometimes, if we're too aware of His forgiveness ~ even in a good way ~ then it bothers us less when we sin.  Or that we might.  Paul said at the end of chapter five of Romans, and spilling into chapter six:  "Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more... What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not!"

You know that old saw, "It's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission" ?  Not so with God.

When I looked up the term "accountability partner," I read that it is a "neologism" ~ a fairly new word in the English language.  That may be, but the concept goes back to Jesus' words in John10 ~ "The Spirit of truth... will be with you... He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."

The Holy Spirit is our accountability partner.  Ever-present, and all-powerful.  And prayer is how we take advantage of that relationship.  This, I think, is the message I was getting from my pastor on Sunday.  The more aware I am of my temptation to sin, the more I will pray.

It's made me think a little bit about my weaknesses.  When, and how am I tempted to sin?  What are my tendencies?   What sin will I commit today if I don't ask Him for help?  What sin will I commit even in the next few minutes, if I think I'm strong enough without Him?

The sins I commit may be "little" in my eyes... I successfully avoid murder and stealing on a regular basis, for instance.  But I am disobedient, selfish or faithless more often than I realize.  He is my strength and my shield.

~ "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.
The spirit indeed is willing, 
but the flesh is weak." ~
Mark 14:38

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

C is for Cookie ~ That's good enough for me

"his allowance was a continual allowance
given him of the king, 
a daily rate for every day, 
all the days of his life."
2 Kings 25:30

I baked homemade dog cookies today.  I decided it would be cheaper to make them myself, since we're on a tight budget.  Plus, we always buy the cheapest brand we can, which means they aren't always the right size for our lil barker, so then we have to break them all up into smaller pieces so that we can get even more for our money!  But when I bake them myself, I can make them in just the right size for her.  The kids and I tried them, and they taste pretty boring, but it's okay, cuz we're talking about a dog who eats things you don't want to know about...

I've had many a head-shaking, eye-rolling conversation with the Apple of my Eye, about dog cookies.  We just don't have the same point of view on this issue.  I don't understand why he still feels the need to reward her every time she does what nature has called her to do. 

He says the reward is not for answering the call of nature, it's for answering the call of nature outside, as opposed to in the house. 

I maintain that she's been housebroken for about eight years now, so I think she's pretty much trained.  After all, I don't still give my kids stickers and m'n'ms when they wake up dry.  Incentive used.  Child trained.  Done and move on. 

But, either on principle or out of habit (begging the question, "Who trained who?") every day Holly gets her ration of treats. 

"Did someone say 'cookie'?"

Which, really, in the grand scheme of things, is fine with me.  There are far bigger issues that I should allow to take up space in my brain.  

And I think, for Holly, it must be wonderful.  I mean, she gets fed every day, but what a treat to also get, well, a treat!  It's not much; just a little something from those she loves most in the world. 

So naturally, while thinking about all this today, I thought about Mephibosheth. 

Didn't you?

I love the story of Mephibosheth, as I may have mentioned in the past.  We find him in 2 Samuel, in a few different chapters, but mostly in chapter 9.  He was the son of Jonathan, who was the son of King Saul, and David's closest friend.  And after Jonathan had died and David had become king, David honored his treasured friendship with Jonathan by honoring Mephibosheth.  "Mephibosheth shall eat bread at my table always."  (2 Samuel 9:10)

It was an privilege for Mephibosheth, but it pleased David to do it.  And my favorite thing about that story, and about that verse, is the word "always".  There's just something about a promise from someone powerful; someone you know can fulfill that promise. 

It's the promise of manna. 

It's the promise of "Give us this day, our daily bread..."

And to be honest, it reminds me that it's not about much, but about consistency

God gives, every day.  He gives beauty and peace and joy and blessings. 

I can look over there -->,
     and think He has given them -->
          more than He has given me

and sometimes I do that...

But that means taking my eyes off of what is in my lap.  And to forget, is to cease to be thankful.

~ "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life" ~
Psalm 23:6

Monday, April 22, 2013

The hits just kept on coming...

"then all the disciples forsook Him and fled"
Matthew 26:56

I mentioned a few days ago that I have a friend whose daughter has gone a little astray.  We talked several times last week, on the phone and in print, and more than one of those times, she had to share some new development.  In other words, a new discovery about another way her daughter had been making bad decisions. 

And also last week, I was doing some Bible research for something I've been writing, and I found myself bothered in a new way, about everything that happened to Jesus in the last hours of His life.  I know that He had to die for us.  I know it was His sacrifice on the cross that paid for our sins. 

But what about all the rest?  What about the scourging, the beating, and the slapping?  What about the mocking and the spitting, the crown of thorns and the purple robe?  What about having His beard plucked and His face so beaten He was almost unrecognizable? (Isaiah 50:6 and 52:14)

Was all of this necessary?  Why did God allow so much to happen, when only His death was needed for the propitiation of our sins?

As things got more and more complicated in her life, my friend asked me last week, "Why is God letting all of this happen?"  She has a strong faith, and a huge trust in God, but sometimes that makes it harder.  When we're confident that God can do something, it can make it harder to understand why He doesn't.

But I think the explanation lies in how we look at things.  For reasons I don't understand, everything that happened to Jesus over those painful hours, was all a part of the same thing.  It was all a part of His obedience, the punishment.  I asked my friend to try to to see all these things in her daughter's life not as separate things, but as all part of one thing ~ His working in her life.  Otherwise, it's too easy to feel overwhelmed by the waves when they just don't seem to stop coming. 

I am finding this approach helpful for me as I look at my life.  When I pray, and God says no, it's hard, but I trust Him.  But when he says no repeatedly, then I need to remember that it's like if one of my kids were to ask me for a soda for breakfast.  And then a cupcake.  And then ice cream.  And then candy.  I'd say no every time, but I wouldn't think of it as separate things, I'd think of it as all part of one thing:  the fact that I care for them too much to let them not take care of their bodies. 

My friend shouldn't be surprised that her daughter is walking through tough times.  Difficulties are promised for all of us.  But on the other hand, I don't think that expecting something makes it any easier.  Did Judas' betrayal, Peter's denial, and the disciples' fearful fleeing from His arrest hurt Him any less, just because He knew it was coming?  I doubt it.  Every aspect of His sacrifice hurt Him, just as it would have hurt us.

God has a plan for each of our lives ~ for our growth and His glory.  Every minute of every day is a piece of the same puzzle, a picture that will someday be clear to us. 

~ "He made Himself of no reputation...
coming in the likeness of men.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself and became obedient
to the point of death,
even the death of the cross" ~
Philippians 2:7-8

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Not Helping

"I will come and help you"
2 Samuel 10:11

My Awesome Girl did the dishes for me the other day.  She's like that.  Both my kids are, really.  I'm very blessed.

The kids each have chores that they're responsible for, but I do the bulk of the dishes and laundry.  They take turns being my "laundry assistant" or "kitchen assistant" for the week, and then switch the following week.  So they empty the dishwasher, put away the folded clothes, and anything else I might ask them to do along those lines.

But I don't expect them to do all the dishes.  Their schoolwork is to be their main focus; their priority.

So I was pleasantly surprised when she cleaned the whole kitchen for me.  I had fallen a little behind on some of my own tasks, and the kitchen was taking the brunt of my disorganization.  She noticed, and took matters into her own hands.

After she was done, she walked past me on her way to her bedroom.  I thanked her for all she did in the kitchen, and after she said, "You're welcome," she signed a quiet little sigh.  So I asked her if everything was okay.  She said she was fine, just that she was a little worried about all the homework she had to do. 

Of course I was even more appreciative then, of what she had done for me, but I also felt a little sorry, that I couldn't help her.  After all, you can't do someone's homework for them; it kinda defeats the purpose.  I wished that I could do something to help her, but all she could do was go to her room and knuckle down.  Which she did. 

Sometimes we can help people.  Sometimes we can't.  Sometimes we can take over a difficulty for them.  Sometimes there's nothing we can do.  When it comes to my kids' schoolwork, I can teach, I can guide, I can support, but the bulk of the work ~ the learning ~ has to be done by them. 

That's what it's all about.  The learning, we each have to do for ourselves. 

~ "Therefore, as we have opportunity,
  let us do good to all" ~
Galatians 6:10

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Lesson From The Hobbit (the movie)

"the Lord called Samuel.  
And he answered, 'Here I am!' "
1 Samuel 3:4

Yup.  Another lesson from The Hobbit.  After this I'm probably going to stop talking about The Hobbit for awhile.  I think.

But this lesson came to me while I was watching the movie, not from reading the book. They are a little different, of course... the movie and the book.  That's generally the case.  And it can be hard, when you love a book, to see the changes that are made to characters or plots.  For the most part, I think it's understandable; books and movies are totally different media.  Some things just don't carry over. 

One of the things I enjoyed about "The Hobbit" (the movie) was getting to know the characters a little better.  In The Hobbit (the book), the main character was Bilbo (the hobbit.  You following all this?)  The dwarves and Gandalf were rather bit parts.  But in the movie ~ probably because it's to be a trilogy ~ the characters are more developed.  The dwarves have definable looks and characteristics, which has made for some good-natured back-and-forth in my house, as my kids insist that their favorite is the best. 

And don't even get them started on the Avengers...

The scene I loved was toward the beginning.  The group had not yet left Bilbo's house to head out on their quest.  It was the night before, and they were sitting around the fire.  Balin and Thorin were in a conversation, discussing the high odds against the success of their mission.  Balin said, "After all, what are we?  Merchants, miners, tinkers, toy-makers... hardly the stuff of legend."

But it's Thorin's reply that is challenging, and inspirational to me:  "I would take each and every one of these dwarves over an army, for when I called, they answered."

There is something huge about responding when called.  I think it's fair to say that it's the most important thing we can do in life.   Whether it's your child calling you in the middle of the night, or a friend calling you to walk with them through a crisis, or God calling you to serve Him in something difficult or boring or scary.  Answering when we're called is when we stop thinking about ourselves.

And whether it's retrieving a stuffed animal off the floor, making a casserole, or heading off to the mission field, it's when the big things happen.  'Cause God doesn't call us to anything small.

I'm going on an adventure!

~ "If today you hear His voice,
      harden not your heart" ~
Psalm 95:7,8

Friday, April 19, 2013

In Praise of Poetry

"David spoke to the Lord the words of his song"
2 Samuel 22:1

It's the 18th of April as I write this.  In aught-thirteen.  Not 'seventy-five.

But the 18th of April ~ in any year ~ always makes me think of Paul Revere. 

photo credit: biography.com

Hey, that was a poem!  In a post about poetry!  What are the odds?

The 18th of April, in any year
Makes me think of Paul Revere

I wrote a couplet.  My kids will be so proud.  

I am not really a big fan of poetry.  I guess that's only relative to others' views on poetry, but as I studied poetry in school, I just felt there were so many poems that I was required to read, that seemed to have no affect on me, emotionally.  I like facts, and I generally like cutting to the chase.  So the Apple of my Eye knows not to buy me any greeting cards that have a trite rhyming quatrain.

Though apparently I'm okay with the odd, impromptu couplet.

And my Awesome Girl recently taught me a poem, that I loved the minute I heard it:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Some poems rhyme
Others don't

It's deep, isn't it?

Since I'm my kids' teacher, I do teach them poetry, but in the interest of full disclosure, I have told them the truth:  I sometimes struggle with poetry... but I love poems.

I say that because there are poems that I have read in my life, that have touched my heart.   Like Emily Dickinson ~ "Hope is the the thing with feathers that perches in the soul."

Or Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world

I have stood at the foot of that rude bridge.  And when I think about that poem, I am reminded of how I felt when I stood there, thinking back to that place, and what happened there.

And every year, on the 18th of April, I can't help but hear in my head, the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~

On the eighteenth of April, in seventy-five
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year...

One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
for the country folk to be up and to arm.

This is the purpose of poetry.  To stir in us the emotions of joy, awe, and thankfulness.  To remind us of where we used to be, and what God has done for us.  Of what used to be, and what could be the case again.

And when I remember that, I am more grateful ~ and pay more attention to ~ the poetry in the Bible.

"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer... my shield and the horn of my salvation... my stronghold and refuge... I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised; and so I shall be saved..."  (2 Samuel 22:2,3,4)

We should not be able to read verses like this in a monotone.  Of any words in the Bible, these should not leave our minds without first traveling to our hearts.

How about this:  "The Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice.  He sent arrows and scattered them; lightning bolts and He vanquished them.  The channels of the sea were seen, the foundations of the world were uncovered at the rebuke of the Lord..." (2 Samuel 22:14-16)  This is the power of the Lord.

And it's followed by this:  "He took me, drew me out of many waters... delivered me from those who were too strong for me..."  and why?  "He delivered me because He delighted in me." (2 Samuel 22:17,18,20)

This song of David is an acknowledgement of God's power.  The power available for you, too.  Why?  Because He delights in you?

"You are my lamp, O Lord.  By my God I can leap over a wall.  He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and sets me on high places... therefore I will give thanks to You, and sing praises to Your name." (2 Samuel 22:29,30,34,50)
What has God done for you, and what is your response?

How blessed are we by David, the Psalmist?  How blessed are we that God plucked this shepherd boy out of the field, to lead armies in times of battle; to lead his nation in times of peace, and to lead us in praise of God?

Christians sometimes struggle with unity.  There are so many differing opinions.  But no matter what church we go to, no matter what style of worship we prefer.... Though we disagree on how to honor the Sabbath, or why and how to fast.... On the worthiness of God to be praised, we cannot disagree.

~ "I will give thanks to You,
     and sing praises to Your name" ~
2 Samuel 22:50

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Loving a Gifted Child

"Having then gifts...
let us use them"
Romans 12:6

I saw an ad the other day, in a homeschooling magazine, for some sort of specialized curriculum.  And the attention-getter of the ad said, "Is your child gifted?"

When I read that, I thought, "Well, who's not going to pause when they see that??"  I'm sure many parents read that ad and buy that product, hoping to prove what they have long suspected ~ that their child is above average, academically. 

I feel a little sorry for those parents.  I wish they could all walk the path I walk ~ the path of knowledge; the certainty of the superior gifts and skills that my children possess.  Intelligent, courteous, thoughtful, obedient, brave, clean, reverent...

Sorry; I think I drifted into the Boy Scout Law there...

I'm kidding, of course.  My children are not perfect.  But I'm also right about how amazing and awesome they are.  And so is every other parent who believes that their child excels in some way. 

All children do.  Scripture tells us that each of us has something special from God.  A gift.  So each child has something only they can offer the world around them.   And while there are products that can help your child reach their full potential academically, only God can help each of us reach our full full potential.

I have a sweet friend whose daughter is walking through a tough time in her life.  She battled medical issues last year, then headed off across the country for her first year of college.  And it's been a tough year.   She has worked hard, in her studies and in her extra-curricular activities.  But she has also made some bad choices.  And those are coming back to haunt her now.  And my wonderful friend is just now finding out about some of those choices.

It's hard to find out your kids are not as perfect as you thought they were.  It's hard to watch them make mistakes, and then have to live through the consequences.  And just like when we have to punish them, it sometimes hurts us more than it hurts them. 

Or at least it feels that way. 

But a misbehaving, wayward, prodigal, or estranged child is no less gifted.  It can be hard to look past the pain of now, but that's what God does.  God sees us who we will be.  He sees us as forgiven... righteous. 

This is the message to anyone hurting, as my friend is ~ yes, your child is gifted.  And yes, she is a gift.  She is young, yet.  God has much to do in her, and through her.  And someday you'll come out the other side of this trial.  You might not be able to see that now, but that's what faith is  ~ believing when we can't see.

After all, faith is a gift, too.   Use it.

~ "Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me...
for of such is the kingdom of heaven." ~
Matthew 19:14

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Prayer That Leads to Praise

"lift your eyes to heaven"
Deuteronomy 4:19

Today is a very praying day for me.

First of all, we've been studying John 17 in Bible study.  26 verses of Jesus in communication with His Father, in the presence of the disciples, so they could hear it, and recorded for us, so that we could read it.  One of my friends said, "Now this is the The Lord's Prayer!"

Secondly, I'm in the midst of a two-day headache that has me feeling weak and dependent on Him.  I'm thankful that He is giving me the energy and direction to accomplish things, otherwise I'd just be horizontal most of the day.

When I am in a very praying mood, it's often rather self-centered.  After all, we think of Him more when we need Him, right?  That's not just me, right? 

So I try to counter my neediness by focusing on all that makes Him Him.  For instance...

I'm thankful that He is understanding ~
"Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite." (Psalm 147:5)

I'm thankful that He is there ~  
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)

I'm thankful that He is eternal ~  
"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen." (1 Timothy 1:17)

I'm thankful that He is my guide ~
"You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory." (Psalm 73:24)

I'm thankful that He is loving ~
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My loving eye on you." (Psalm 32:8)

I'm thankful that He is the God of all comfort ~
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:3)

I'm thankful that He gives faith ~
"Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17)

I hope you have a praying day today.

But without the headache.

~ "Prayer will be made for Him continually,
and daily He shall be praised" ~
Psalm 72:15

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Remorse, Regret and Repentance

"Go and humble yourself;
plead with your friend"
Proverbs 6:3

I expect to be talking to a friend of mine in the next couple of days.  We haven't talked in awhile.  Not for any particular reason; just busyness and schedules, and the fact that she was out of town for several days. 

But the thing is, the last conversation we had didn't go well.  At least, I think it didn't go well.  We were talking about something going on at church, and she said a couple of things by which I, um, wasn't, um, particularly edified.  How's that for tap dancing?

I don't think she meant it the way she said it, and I talked to the Apple of my Eye about how to respond.  Email is tricky, so he suggested that it would be better if our next conversation were in person.  I didn't see her at church yesterday, so maybe it will be a phone call.  And I've been praying for days about how to respond when we chat.

Do I apologize for what I might have said or done?  I don't think I did anything wrong, but that doesn't mean I didn't.  And even if I didn't, that doesn't mean I shouldn't apologize.  "Other cheek" and all that. 

Or do I just say nothing about it, and go where she leads the conversation?  I'm thinking of going that route, with the goal of not making anything worse. 

And all of this has me thinking about repentance and remorse, and all the different forms it can take.  What does a remorseful heart look like?  What actions should repentance prompt in us? 

We see remorse in lots of places in Scripture.  David remorseful for his actions with Bathsheba.  Esau remorseful for letting his birthright go so easily.  Peter's remorse for denying Jesus.

And then there's Judas.  If ever there was someone in Scripture who should be remorseful, it's Judas.  and Matthew 27 tells us that he was remorseful.  But at what point?  I remember reading someplace that maybe Judas had only wanted the money; he never thought it would go so far, and that Jesus would elude the authorities as He had many times before. 

Verse 3 of Matthew 27 seems to support that, saying, "Judas, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful." 

So he brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." 

I want to have compassion for Judas.  But the truth is, bringing back the 30 pieces of silver did nothing to right the wrong.  He was only trying to assuage his guilt.

Why didn't he try to stop what he had started?  The authorities had even said to him, "You see to it."  They practically challenged him to take actions of repentance.  Why didn't he go to Pilate and tell him everything he knew about Jesus?  About His innocence? 

Why didn't he try to find Jesus?

Remorse is only the beginning.  Repentance requires actions.  Making something right when we've done something wrong requires humility.  Sometimes humility is the only recourse, even when we haven't done anything wrong. 

What does our sorrow produce?  That's the question.

~ "For godly sorrow 
produces repentance leading to salvation...
but the sorrow of the world produces death" ~
2 Corinthians 7:10

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Lesson From The Hobbit (the book)

"Beware, for evil is ahead of you"
Exodus 10:10

Okay, let me just start by saying that if you had told me six months ago that I'd do so much blogging about The Hobbit, I would not have believed you.

Unless you are someone I knew very well, and that I trust not to lie to me, in which case I'd be incredulous that such a thing was going to take place, but I would have believed you. 

And if you had told me when I was a child that I'd do so much blogging about The Hobbit, I would have said, "What's a blog?"

Life is funny, isn't it?

I read the book for the first time a few months ago, but I keep thinking about a particular line I read.  It's on page 205 in my copy.  If you have a different copy than the 1981 Houghton Mifflin (80th printing) with my sweetie's signature on the inside front cover, then just know that I'm referring to the chapter called "Inside Information".

The dwarves had, at this point, discovered that the key that Gandalf gave to Thorin was their entrance into the mountain, and they sent Bilbo Baggins, as their burglar, ahead to explore the situation.  Bilbo headed down the tunnel that would lead to the treasure ~ and Smaug the dragon. 

But Bilbo didn't know this.  Yes, he knew they were after a treasure, and yes, he knew the treasure was being guarded by a dragon, but his journey had brought him to one unexpected thing after another (trolls, goblins, giant spiders) so he really didn't know for sure what waited for him down this tunnel. 

But he was pretty sure it was going to be a dragon. 

And this is what Tolkien wrote: "As he went forward (the glow) grew and grew... It was a red light steadily getting redder and redder.  Also, it was now undoubtedly hot in the tunnel... A sound, too, began to throb in his years... This grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him."

Okay, that was a little context.  Here's the line I keep thinking of:

"It was at this point that Bilbo stopped.  Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did."

The line struck me the moment I read it, and it has come back to me a few times since then.   I keep thinking how true it is.  Saying yes... going forward to something that scares the heck out of us, when we don't even fully know what we're getting into.   Maybe it's something God has called you to do, or be.  Fear of the unknown is a strong fear, and standing in a dark tunnel, hearing unidentifiable noises, it takes a great deal of courage to go forward.

Now let's be honest; Bilbo already had more courage than many of us do.  I know for darn sure I would have preferred to stay in my hole at Bag-End.  So we know Bilbo had courage to spare.   But this is what took the greatest courage of his life.  And then once he has mustered up that determination, he knew his perseverance would see him through to the end of the adventure.

It's a great lesson.  That God can provide us with the courage we need to go forward, when we know not what we are stepping into.

But to me, here's what takes even more courage:  going forward when we know exactly what's ahead.  I'm in that position, myself.  God is asking me to do something that's going to be hard.  And the scary part is, I know how hard it's going to be.  No ignorant bliss here.   And going on from here is the bravest thing I can do.

Sound familiar?  Ever been in that position?  Know who else has?

We can never be thankful enough for what Jesus did for us on the cross.  But the more we understand; the more we empathize with Him, the more thankful we will be.  I think of Him in the garden the night before, praying, knowing what lay before Him, and I recognize courage and strength in a whole new way.  And I feel a little more thankful, and a little more courageous.

~ "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

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The First Pets

"all livestock...
the birds of the heavens...
every beast of the field"
Genesis 2:20

My Awesome Girl had another volleyball tournament this weekend.  We were up and out of the house, just as it was getting light, and we weren't home again until mid-afternoon.  And when we arrived home, and the Apple of my Eye opened the door to the house, who was waiting there at the door, but our meowing kitty cat.

It's not uncommon for our cat to greet us at the door.  Granted, sometimes we're not important enough for her to disturb her seventeenth nap of the day.  But other times, there she is, meowing as we work the key in the doorknob.  I always wonder if she's been sitting at the door for awhile, or if she just came when she heard the garage door open.

I'm sure the dog would greet us at the door if she could, but she's either in the backyard, or in her crate.  Little minx can't be trusted in the house alone...

So I picked the kitty up and cuddled her a little.  And the cat wandered in circles until she chose the perfect position on my lap, and then settled down, purring.  She hadn't been waiting for us because she needed food or water, but because she missed her people.

This was several years ago.  One big happy family, aren't we?

I don't know that there's ever been a time when I didn't own a pet.  Dogs or cats, mostly, with one hamster and one guinea pig for variety.  Oh, and a turtle for awhile.  

But all of my pets have been social.  They have loved us ~ in their own way ~ as much as we loved them.  Even the guinea pig would come to the near side of the cage when we came into the room, and squeeeeee her "hello" to us. 

I was reading Genesis recently, and got to thinking about Adam and Eve, and all the animals God had put on the earth with them.  God had given man dominion over the animals, but what did that mean?  Adam had named every creature (Genesis 2:19) but I wonder, did he think of those names as being labels, as to species?  Or names, as to personalize and individualize them?  Did he have a heart connection with any of those animals? 

No animal was predator or prey during that time.  Every creature was an herbivore, so I imagine that the beasts all wandered freely, interacting with one another and with Adam and Eve.   Did any of them greet him first thing in the morning, purring or roaring or oinking or quacking for attention?

And then I wonder, how did Adam and Eve feel when an animal was sacrificed to clothe them?  They were already in pain over their failure to obey.  They were already ashamed by their nakedness.  Was the death of one of "their" animals yet another painful consequence of their actions?

I think so.

This first sacrifice in Scripture was a foreshadowing of Jesus' sacrifice, the consequence of our sins.  And I can't help but think that God was pained by the knowledge of what He knew was coming, and that His children could sense His pain. 

No sacrifice comes without pain.  And if Adam and Even felt the pain of their sin in how it affected the creation around them, I think that was only fitting.   We should all be so conscious of our actions.

~ "I will not offer to the Lord my God
a sacrifice that cost me nothing" ~
2 Samuel 24:24

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Good from bad

"all things work together for good"
Romans 8:28

I read a new book a few weeks ago.  It was another book that I was reading in advance of assigning it to one of my kids.  I never heard of it, though.  Discovering new, interesting, educational books is one of my favorite things about teaching my kids.

The book is called The Moved-Outers, by Florence Crannell Means.  It's about a Japanese-American family, interned in a camp during World War II.  The kids in the family are high-schoolers; a boy and a girl who deal with this event in very different ways.  The boy had been thinking about graduation, and what came after ~ getting a job, deciding whether or not to join his father's business...  The girl thought mostly about her education and, well, boys.   But not in a flighty kind of way.  It's just what was next, to her way of thinking.  A couple more years of high school, and then a few years after that, she expected to be married, and following in her mother's footsteps.

Obviously, their surroundings and detention derailed all that.

The boy turned bitter.  Though he stayed true to his upbringing for the most part, he did have a few run-ins with the camp authorities.

The girl, however, had a view of their circumstances that fascinated me.  She never seemed bitter at all.  Her mother seemed to have a sort of shrugging view of what had happened to them.  Sort of "it is what it is; what can you do?"

But the girl in the book took it one step further.  Her outlook was one I've never seen before, in the different books I've read about this period in history.  She felt that they were still Americans, and they were suffering for a good reason ~ for the sake of their country.  Either they were suffering while their country ~ America ~ made mistakes and learned from them (which we did, and we have); or they were suffering so that their country could concentrate on the war overseas.  She just seemed to understand, in a way that I never thought a Japanese-American would have.

I think, in a very simple way, she understood what many of us take a lifetime to understand ~ the idea that suffering has a purpose.  I love telling my kids, "that which does not kill us makes us stronger."  They probably get sick of hearing it, but it's true. 

Some things we bring on ourselves.  Other things are just the world and the stupidity of man.  But the attitude with which we bear them can make a big difference in how we come out of them.  I've heard it said, we can either let difficulties make us better, or bitter

Welcome to my cliche festival.

There is so much in life over which we have no control.  And I don't think we should just let life run us over.  But when we have to endure something, it's better for our hearts and our bodies and our spirits to trust that it won't last forever, and that we'll be the better for it. 

The girl in the story knew that.  But she knew, too, that her country would be the better.  And that would have been even harder to believe, I think, for someone living through that.  But I love the idea of remembering that while God is working things for your good, He's working things for the good of so many others.  Maybe your spouse, maybe your whole family, maybe even your country. 

He can do that.  He's God.  And not only can He do that, He does do that.  Believe it.

~ "May the God of hope fill you
with all joy and peace in believing, 
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope" ~
Romans 15:13

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Tale of the Flower

"the flower falls"
1 Peter 1:24

I had a very unusual experience a couple of weeks ago.  Very unusual.  Not huge, but something I can be pretty sure will never happen to me again.

When my sisters were in town with their hubbies (and one nephew) we went to Disneyland together.   It was a fun, but very long day.  We got there shortly after opening, and stayed until closing, and of course, you're on your feet nearly the whole time.  Not just walking, but also a lot of standing, and occasionally a little running.    

So at the end of the day, we dragged our tired bodies to the loading area for the trams that would take us to the parking structure.  We were in line behind another family, although you couldn't really call it a "line," per se.  The kids sat on the curb, and the grownups were all sort of grouped.  I was towards the front of our family.  The family in front of us was a couple of grownups, and a few kids, who all seemed to be in their mid- to late-teens.

We were all just standing there waiting... not much energy for anything else...

And while I was standing there, I was holding a flower in my hands.  Just a little daisy type of flower.  Maybe a gazania.  My wonderful children often pick wildflowers for me.  I have dozens of them tucked into my Bibles and other books in my house.  And maybe even a couple tucked in my wallet.

My Amazing Boy had picked this flower for me as we had walked, and I didn't want to crush it by putting it in my bag.  So I just held it.  We walked from Fantasyland, around the Matterhorn to Main Street, and halfway down Main Street to the lockers, where we retrieved our sunglasses and my brother-in-law's jacket.  Then the rest of the way down Main Street to the front gate, through the turnstile, past the entrance to California Adventure, past the stroller/wheelchair rental, and the kennel, past the entrance to Downtown Disney --

Did I mention we were really tired?

And all that way, I gently held my flower.  And then, as I stood and waited for the parking lot tram, behind a family of strangers, one of the teenagers in the group silently pulled the flower out of my hand.  I was a little stunned, and a little confused.  I guess I assumed he wanted to see it, or something; I don't know what I was thinking, but it was only a half a second.

And a half a second later, while I stood, incredulous, he quickly and silently tore my flower to shreds, then dropped the pieces on the ground like confetti. 

No one else saw.  His family was all facing forward, and my family was either behind me, or off to the side chatting with each other.   I was absolutely dumbfounded.

A minute later, he put his head on his mother's shoulder, and I immediately knew by the way they interacted with each other, that he was autistic.  And that, I guess, explained it.

I mean, it didn't, but it did.  I can't for the life of me imagine why he took a flower out of a stranger's hands, and destroyed it.  But he probably doesn't know either.

It's not hard to forgive him.  I understand enough about autism to know that he really didn't have full awareness of what he was doing, and that it never occurred to him it was unkind.  But I gotta be honest, it really, really felt unkind.  I felt like I'd been slapped.  Small, meaningless, and replaceable though it was, the flower was a gift from my baby, and I was sad that it was gone.

And please remember I was exhausted. 

And you know what the lesson is in this story?

Stuff happens.

Unexplainable, weird, painful, wrong, bizarre, surprising, sad stuff happens.   For no reason.   And life doesn't apologize.  It just is.

Sometimes all we can do is sigh, lean closer into the Lord, and wait for the next flower.

For there will be another.

~ "Behold the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come" ~
Song of Solomon 2:11-12

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Meditation on Meditation ~ Part 2

"... but by every word 
   that comes from the mouth of God"
Matthew 4:4

Hi!  And welcome back.   For those of you who are just joining us, we spent yesterday focusing on meditating on God's Word.  Whereas today we're going to focus on meditating on God's Word. 

We're nothing if not tenacious. 

As I shared yesterday, I was surprised and interested to learn all the different definitions of the word "meditate," and all the ways to apply it to our learning of His Word. 

Today, I'm all about how to do that. 

This topic came up in my mind after a conversation I had with a friend of mine.  She was sharing a trick she sometimes does to really focus on a verse.  She writes it out or says it out loud several times, each time focusing on a different word, such as:

For God so loved the world, He sent His only Son

       For God so loved the world, He sent His only Son

              For God so loved the world, He sent His only Son

                     For God so loved the world, He sent His only Son

etc.  It really highlights the details of that sentence, and you're forced to think about it in a slightly different way.   I thought that was interesting, and I started to think about all the ways I study, or think about, or meditate on a passage or verse.

One of my favorite ways to focus on a verse, is to dissect it.  I look up words ~ even words I know ~ in the dictionary.  Many times, I find out that the word means far more than I thought it did.  Say, for instance, the word "livid".   That word has several definitions, including:  "to go pale", "of a blue color", and "reddish".  Now that's a word with diverse meanings!

I also like to focus on word origins.  The word "spirit" for instance, comes from the Latin word for breath.  This knowledge gives new meaning to the idea of the Holy Spirit, and to Genesis 2:7, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."

And then, as I shared yesterday with the word "meditate", I'm also interested in what word was used when the Scripture was first written; either the Hebrew (Old Testament) or the Greek (New Testament).  English is a befuddling and contradictory language (see:  "livid") and it helps to try to come closer to knowing what the writer was trying to say.

I also mentioned yesterday the idea of singing.  A lot of Bible verses are already set to music, but we can do it ourselves, too.  It helps us to memorize Scripture, but it also helps us to focus on different parts of the verse.  A friend of mine once told me that any verse can be set to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," which I have found to be largely true.  So give that a shot sometime!

And of course, never underestimate the value of memorization.  Several years ago, over the course of a summer, I memorized all of Deuteronomy 32.  I could say the whole thing.  I can't any more, of course.  You gotta keep up with something like that.  But even today, if I hear a verse from that chapter, I know it immediately.  Makes me feel like that chapter belongs to me!

The other thing I like to do is visualize a passage.  Who's speaking?  To whom?  Where?  Are there others there?  If I were there, where would I be and what would I be doing?  Remember:  this stuff really happened. 

One of the reasons I got on this obsession recently, is because I was having to work to understand a verse in John.  It's 13:32, and it says (in the New King James) "If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately." 

And when I read it, I thought, "Huh??"

At first glance, it seems like an odd statement.  Or at least, in an odd place in history.  Jesus had just dropped a bombshell on His disciples, telling them that one of them would betray Him.  Then He gave a piece of bread to Judas, and told him to hurry up with what he was going to do.  Judas left, the door closed behind him, and then Jesus started talking about God being glorified.  So I really wanted to appreciate the statement.

So one of my first moves was to look at the verse in several different translations.  This can be done in actual books, or online.   This verse was so cool when all those translations were all lined up.  It was just variation after variation of God, and glory, and Jesus, and glory, and glory glory hallelujah!  I almost shouted "Hosanna!" right there in my LaZboy! 

Just another way of exploring His word.  But even better ~ then I understood it.  I understood it so much, that I decided to stretch my muscles a little bit.  My grammar-nerd muscles, that is.  And so I diagrammed it.  Here's what it looks like:

Diagramming for fun.... 'Cause that's how I roll!

Meditating is a lot about understanding.  But it's also about focusing and concentrating, and really internalizing His Word.  No matter how you do it, it's all about the why you do it.  His Word is not meant to be fast food, it's meant to be a feast!  So dig in!

~ "And he said to me, 
'Son of man, feed your belly 
with this scroll that I give you 
and fill your stomach with it.' 
Then I ate it, 
and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey." ~
Ezekiel 3:3