Friday, May 31, 2013

Lessons Learned

"that they may learn to fear"
Deuteronomy 4:10

I'm going to tell you a story today.  It's a beautiful, sweet children's story about a puppy and an adventure.


Actually, that's not true.  It's a frightening, true story about a puppy.  But there were children involved.  Who both would desperately love to forget.

When our dog was, well a puppy, and my kids were about 7 and 4, I was across the house doing dishes or reading or some such, when I heard my Awesome Girl scream for me to come, in a voice that terrified me.  I ran the length of our house (which is not huge, but still, I was as far away as I could be) to find our sweet puppy in a bit of a fix.  She had decided it would be fun to chew ~ as puppies do ~ on the cord to the vacuum cleaner, which I had left plugged in.

And somehow, not only had she electrocuted herself to some extent (albeit not to death, thank God) but her jaw muscles had locked up, and she was unable to open her mouth to release the cord.  When I ran into the room, she looked up at me with an expression of desperate fear that I will never forget.  If a dog's eyes can communicate, these eyes said simply, "Help me."

I unplugged the vacuum, and removed the cord from her mouth, and then we ran her to the vet.  She was burned in several places in her mouth, and there was also the possibility of internal damage if any of her organs had received too much of a jolt.  The vet gave her a thorough work-over, and we left with some antibiotics and instructions to keep an eye on her. 

She healed completely, and you would certainly not know now that anything had ever happened.   But for one thing.  The vet warned me that puppies do not learn their lesson from an experience like that.  That chewing on a cord is simply too tempting and too rewarding, and they often continue doing it.


Well we had certainly learned our lesson, and didn't leave the vacuum plugged in when we weren't actually using it.  And we kept a closer eye on her so she didn't check out any other cords in the house.

But in this case, the vet was wrong.  She did learn her lesson.  She developed a healthy fear of the vacuum cleaner, and would back away from it or the leave the room anytime it entered, whether it was running or not. 

That was several years ago, and she's less afraid than she used to be.  She no longer leaves the room when I vacuum, but she'll lift her head and keep an eye on it.  And if it comes too close to her (her tolerance seems to be about six inches) she'll jump up with obvious haste and move out of its way.

And I wonder sometimes, if she remembers what happened, or is there just something in her that tells her to respect this machine?

Some lessons are like that, I think.  God grows us through the circumstances of our lives ~ including the painful ones ~ maybe without our even remembering what the circumstance was.  And maybe that's due to our faulty memories, but maybe it's God taking away a memory that's unnecessarily painful to us.

That happened to my sweet girl once, when she was very little ~ maybe four.  She had done something very wrong, and she was so very sorry for having done it, so tearful and apologetic, that I couldn't even bear to punish her, though it deserved it.  Instead, I found myself comforting her, and praying fervently that God would wipe it from her mind.

And He did.  The very next morning, I made a very obscure, vague reference to it, and she didn't know what I was talking about.  And I never said another word about it.  It's gone, in her mind and in His.

I'm sure it stays in my mind only as a reminder of how sweetly He forgives and protects us. 

My puppy's experience is forgotten by her, I believe.  And yet somehow she has remembered the lesson.  It challenges me to learn what He needs me to learn, the easy way, in the hopes I won't have to be taught that lesson again!


~ "It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I may learn Your statutes" ~
Psalm 119:71
~

Thursday, May 30, 2013

At Ease

"we shall be like Him"
1 John 3:2

My Awesome Girl had a friend over last weekend.  I'll call her Emily.  We've met Emily a couple of times, but usually it's when the high-schoolers are all doing something together, so it's just a quick "hi" at drop off or pick up.   But on Saturday the girls were here all day, baking cupcakes and teaching each other chords on their ukuleles. 

Yeah, they both have ukuleles.  What are the odds?

Then we had dinner and watched a movie.  It was a very fun, relaxed day. 

But the thing that stood out to me was how completely comfortable I felt with Emily.  The girls weren't hiding in out the bedroom all day, they were hanging out with us, laughing and chatting with each other, without seeming self-conscious at all.

And frankly, I felt the same way.  Sometimes it's hard to have a guest in the house.  I feel like I can't relax, can't be myself.  I worry that they're going to judge the fact that something needs dusting, or that I have a stack of papers that need to be graded or clean clothes I haven't put away yet. 

But Emily had such a fun and friendly way about her, I felt immediately comfortable.  She helped make dinner, she had input on what movie to watch, and our cat spent a large part of the evening in her lap. 

I praise God for people like Emily.  Some people just have a way of putting others at ease, making them feel relaxed.  I imagine that's how Jesus was, when He was on earth.  I think He could sit right down with those who were lonely or frightened or needy.  I think that's why He drew people to Him; why they followed Him and wanted to be around Him.   

We all have something to offer.  Some way in which we are like Him.  We may not know what it is, or what others are seeing in us, but if we are striving to live for Him, His Spirit will shine through us.

~ "By this all men will know that you are My disciples;
if you love one another" ~ 
John 13:35
~

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Baby steps, but in the right direction

"bodily exercise profits a little"
1 Timothy 4:8

I exercised today. 

I hate exercising, so I don't do it as often as I should.

Really, the only exercise I get is when I run out of money. 

(ba DUM-bum!)

I've been meaning to get back into a routine for a while now.  But I'm not going to tell you how long a while, because you'll judge me. 

Oh, yes you will...

So I'll just leave it to your imagination, which will probably leave me in a more favorable light in your eyes than the truth.  

After the Apple of my Eye left for work, and before my Awesome and Amazing kids got up, I headed to the stationary bike and rode it for several minutes. 

But I'm not going to tell you how many minutes, because you'll judge me. 

Oh, yes you will....

And then I did again later in the day.   So that's something to be proud of. 

But really, the whole thing is something to be proud of.  God is proud of me.  It's something I hate doing, and I'm really not good at.  I'm a reading and writing kind of a girl; not really active.  I never really know what to do, or for how long, or how many reps or how many times a week, or how to warm up, or how to cool down, or what to wear.  So though others would judge me by what they feel is an appropriate standard, God knows what I've accomplished, relative to me.

Now it's about consistency.  Perseverance.  God is happy to see us take even small steps in the right direction, as long as we don't rest on that.  He wants each of us to grow, but at a rate that's right for us.  He knows where we've come from; He knows where we are; and He knows where we are going.

And He's the only one we need to please.

~ "Do not despise these small beginnings,
for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin" ~
Zechariah 4:10
~

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An audience with the King

"And God listened"
Genesis 30:17

I read an interesting short story a few days ago, in my son's world history book.  It's called "The Audience" and it's a wonderfully imaginative account of Christopher Columbus petitioning Ferdinand and Isabella for the ships and men for his venture.  

Photo credit: lookandlearn.com

But in the room for Columbus' presentation, there were also advisers and other witnesses.  And because of the title of the piece, The Audience, my thoughts were on them as we read it.  I imagined being in the room, hearing the proposition, the questions and the answers. 

The piece ended with Columbus leaving the room; the king and queen having left it at "we'll think about it."  But the very last line was what made me understand why the story had been given the title it had:  "Columbus bowed and walked quickly from the room.  The audience was at an end."

I realized that it wasn't about being a part of the audience, but the honor of Columbus being given an audience with the king and queen.   It was about the privilege of being heard.

Do we realize the honor of being heard by our God?  Mighty Creator... King of kings and Lord of lords... the Alpha and the Omega...

We focus so much on the answer sometimes ~ or lack thereof ~ that we forget to be astounded by the fact that we are welcome ~ encouraged, even ~ to communicate with Him, whenever and as often as we want.

I forget, it's not about my needs, or my requests, or even my praise to Him.  It's about simply being heard.

Joy.
~ "Blessed be God,
which hath not turned away my prayer" ~
Psalm 66:20
~

Monday, May 27, 2013

I'm still vacuuming up needles, though

"labor and do all your work"
Exodus 20:9

I did some cleaning this weekend.  Some long-needed cleaning.  In the garage. 

The garage is largely the territory of the Apple of my Eye.  Except of course, for my car.  The laundry is out there, so that corner is my responsibility, but the laundry is a continuum, so no clutter camps there long. 

I'm not exactly sure what a continuum is, but it really seems to work in that context, so I'm going with it.

The rest of the garage is taken up by the sports paraphernalia, and general storage ~ both his purview, with two exceptions. 

The first exception is anything pertaining to the education of our kids.  Textbooks, records and years' worth of completed work are filed in boxes and well-labeled.  I have never let this situation get out of hand; if I need to find something, I know exactly how to put my hands on it. 

The other exception to the "storage is your problem, dear" principle is a cupboard.  We have a few out there, but one of them is mine.  It's a collection of rarely used things that haven't found a place in the house, but mostly wrapping stuff; Christmas and otherwise.  And therein was the problem.  After Christmas, as I cleaned the house, I carefully collected gift tags and rolls of ribbon, folded all the salvageable tissue paper, broke down gift boxes, and stacked the gift bags according to height and personality.

Then I shoved the whole kit 'n' caboodle into my cupboard.  And there it has remained.  For five months. 

Priorities.  I haz them.

Since Christmas my life has consisted of teaching my kids, reading to stay ahead of them in literature, their sports, Bible study, writing, and, well, a continuum of laundry, dishes and miscellaneous housework.  Priorities.

And while every time I had to go into that cupboard for something I was reminded that there was a project waiting for me out there, I put it off again.  Intentionally.  Because it wasn't a priority. 

It might seem like procrastination, but I'm the kind of person who loves a project.  Reorganizing my books; labeling my spices; categorizing all the music in my iTunes.  And sometimes these events become distractions from what I should be doing. 

Busy work is just that:  stuff that keeps us busy.  Distractions from the work He has for us.  Sometimes the distractions are more interesting or more pleasant, but other times we are just putting off obedience.  Buying a ticket to Tarshish, if you will, instead of dealing with Ninevah.

The time will come for the bonus "projects".  Focus on what He has called you to, and the rest will fall into place. 

~ "Whatever you do, work heartily,
as for the Lord and not for men" ~
Colossians 3:23
~

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How He reminds us is up to Him

"I will not forget Your word"
Psalm 119:16

I was driving through the Little League parking lot last week, after dropping my sweet boy off for practice, when I saw a car that had a Bible verse on the license frame.

It was a wonderful verse ~ Nehemiah 8:10 ~ "The joy of the Lord is my strength."  Such a great promise.  But I hadn't thought about that verse in a long time.  And I was sort of disappointed in myself, somehow, for letting such a powerful verse slip from my mind.

And it made me think of a line I heard, years ago... I think it was Dorothy Parker:

"I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, 
a list a quotations beautiful, 
from minds profound; 
if I can only remember any of the darn things."

I've always thought that was such a funny line, but also true.  And in my mind ~ literally ~ it's never more true than with the Bible.  There is so much in there:  wisdom and peace and guidance.  Strength and direction and funny and beautiful.

And I would repeat them, every one of them, to myself, slowly and soothingly.... if only I could remember all of the darn things.

So I guess I'll just keep going the way I'm going.  Reading and memorizing and forgetting and re-reading.  Little by little, verse by verse, precept by precept...  as long as I live.  And I'll just count on His Spirit to bring them to me when I need them. 

Because He promised.

~ "the Helper, the Holy Spirit, 
whom the Father will send in My name, 
He will teach you all things, 
and bring to your remembrance 
all things that I said to you." ~
John 14:26
~

Saturday, May 25, 2013

We want more! We want more!

"win more"
1 Corinthians 9:19

Another volleyball tournament a couple of weekends ago.  The Apple of my Eye and my Amazing Boy weren't able to go, 'cuz my boy had a baseball game, and my sweetie is one of the coaches.

So my mom joined me for the volleyball tournament.  This is a fairly rare occurrence, as volleyball tournaments are incredibly complicated affairs.  For starters, we don't know until the Thursday before the tourney where it will be held (which could be as much as 75 miles in any direction.  Except west.  75 miles west, and we'd be in the Pacific.  And that, at best, would be water polo, not volleyball.)

Once we know which facility is hosting, we need to know the ground rules.  Any food allowed?  Do we bring our beach chairs, or are there bleachers?  Is there a cost for admission?  Where do we park, and is there a cost?  It's truly unconscionable what these places will charge.  Are the girls allowed to bring their lunches, or are you going to force us to buy from your overpriced concession stand menu?

And even when we know all that, there are still possible difficulties, like the fact that it's really uncomfortable for my folks to sit on stadium seating for several hours.  So if it's not a place that allows beach chairs, they're probably not going to come.  And sometimes, even if we can bring our chairs, it's so crowded we can barely find room for our three chairs (mom, dad, brother) much less my folks.

All that to say that my mom doesn't come as many volleyball tournaments as she'd like.

But this was a great tournament for her to attend.  My Awesome Girl's team has had a rough go of it this year.  Let's call it a "rebuilding" year.  She and her teammates work hard, but they've been outmatched for the most part.  I'm sorry they've had to face so many losses, because I know how hard that is for someone who's competitive, but I also know there are valuable lessons in losing, so I'm praising God that He wastes nothing.

I also love the camaraderie and support among the girls.  They encourage and cheer one another so genuinely that sometimes you can barely tell they're losing ~ except for the furrowed brows.  So although this year hasn't been easy, I know there's been growth and lessons, and of course, a few good friendships.

But this tournament ~ ah, this tournament, they rocked.  Won the first match two out of three outright.  The second match they lost, but they took it to three games, and the third game was close, so lots to be proud of.  The third match they also took to three games, and they won the tiebreaker.  Not to mention that two of the games they won during the day, they won by such large margins, that they were the overall winners for the day in their bracket.

Clearly I should bring my mom more often...

But I made an interesting observation as I was watching all these games.  For most of the year, as the girls have struggled, my prayers have been modest and humble ~ somewhere along the lines of "Please let them win just one."  And they always did, and I was happy.  I had a bright spot to point my girl to, when she was frustrated that the team didn't do better.  I would talk about teamwork and great points and that one game!

But little by little, as we did well and scored lots and won games, I realized I was still hoping to win each game.  I was hoping for more.

Now, to be honest, I wouldn't really say I was praying for more.  That would have required a conscious decision to ask for more.  No, I was just hoping.  Wanting.  It was an instinctual thing, I guess.  Or maybe I'm just more competitive than I think.

It was a bit of a warning to me.  Now, please believe me when I say that I'm not like this in all areas of my life.  I own fewer shoes than any woman I know.  And I like it that way.  I own a couple of necklaces, a handful of bracelets, and about half a dozen pair of earrings.  I just don't need a lot of stuff.

On the other hand, I could never have enough dark chocolate.  And I hoard brown paper bags.  And I admit, I frequently want more where my kids are concerned. (Not more kids, mind you.  I just want to be able to say "yes" to them more often.)

Coveting sneaks in somehow.  We want what God doesn't want us to want.  Or we want without giving any thought whatsoever to what He wants.   We even justify it somehow, believing that we've earned it, or we deserve it for all the losing we've had to endure up to this point.

But if we're going to pray "Thy will be done," then we have to follow up by reminding our hearts to want His will.  Hope for His will.  And pray for His will.


~ "God has dealt graciously with me
and I have enough" ~
Genesis 33:11
~

Friday, May 24, 2013

Peace in Believing

"seek peace and pursue it"
1 Peter 3:11

What is the most valuable thing you own?  What do you protect above all else? 

Maybe your car.  Although I once heard a comedian joke (imagine that) about how Americans tend to leave their $25,000 car parked in the driveway so that they can protect their useless junk in the garage. 

How about your jewelry?  Maybe you keep that in a safe or even a safe-deposit box.

How about things that aren't worth money, but hold great value for you?  The things I protect more than anything else, of course, are my kids.  They would probably tell you with rueful smiles and rolling eyes that I protect them slightly more than is necessary.

I also feel very protective of small material things that would mean nothing to other people.  Books, inexpensive jewelry, travel souvenirs, etc. 

But it occurred to me last weekend ~ when I was overly stressed about life and circumstances beyond my control (which is most of them) that there is something I need to protect more fiercely.  I believe it's the thing stolen more than anything else on earth. 

Peace.  

That calm, trusting feeling that everything is going to be okay.  Do you have it?

We are supposed to have it all the time.  It's a promise from Him, and He doesn't make those lightly.

Jude 2 ~ "Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you"

2 Peter 3:14 ~ "Be diligent to be found by Him in peace"

Hebrews 12:14 ~ "Pursue peace"

But the world, and the ruler of this world steal our peace.  he is a thief, that comes to steal, kill and destroy. 

I feel fierce, lately, about my peace.  Angry at anyone or any circumstance that would take it from me.  Determined to be at rest in my heart for myself, and those I love.   And Isaiah tells me clearly that it's up to me.  "You will keep in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." (Isaiah 26:3)

Gotta keep my mind on Him.  Gotta trust Him. 

Colossians 3:15 ~ "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts"

Philippians 4:9 ~ "The God of peace will be with you"

Philippians 4:7 ~ "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus"

Ephesians 2:14 ~ "He Himself is our peace"

Galatians 5:22 ~ "The fruit of the Spirit is... peace...."

1 Corinthians 14:33 ~ "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace"

1 Corinthians 7:15 ~ "God has called us to peace"

Any questions?

~ "Now may the Lord of peace Himself
give you peace always
in every way
The Lord be with you all." ~
2 Thessalonians 3:16
~

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A little bit Peter, a little bit Luke Skywalker

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

This week my Bible Study class finished our study of the Gospel of John. A bunch of us were talking last night, looking over the book and the biggest lessons each of us felt we learned over the past nine months of class. 

One of the things that is so interesting to me, especially in the gospels, is how much we see ourselves in the different people.  And truthfully, I think it's God's desire for us to learn lessons from these flawed men and women, that we can apply to ourselves.  Each of us is a little bit Mary, and a little bit Martha; a little bit Thomas, and a little bit John.  For all I know, you may even be a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.

But more than anything else, I hear people comparing themselves to Peter.  I think Peter's awkward words and impulsive actions ring true to many of us.

And one of the instances that kept coming up was Peter's response to Jesus on the night of the Last Supper.  After Judas left, and Jesus turned to the remaining eleven, He had three basic points to them:  glory to God, His own imminent departure, and a new commandment.  (All of this is in verses 31-35 of John 13.)

But Peter seems to have heard only one of these points, and he responded in what I think is a very Peter-esque way:  personally.

"Where are you going, Lord?"  And I love that Jesus didn't really answer Peter's question.  He dealt with it, but by reiterating the important part:  "Where I am going, you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me after."

Peter persisted:  "Why can I not follow You now?  I will lay down my life for Your sake."

It's a beautiful sentiment, and it was sincerely spoken, there isn't a doubt in my mind.  Peter was nothing if not sincere.  His love for his Lord was genuine; his commitment was real.  And theologians believe that Peter one day would lay down his life for his faith in Jesus. 

But Jesus had sobering news for Peter:  "Most assuredly I say to you, the rooster shall not crow til you have denied Me three times."  The conversation reminds me of the scene in The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke is training with Yoda, and he's so eager to take on Darth Vader, and he says to Yoda, "I'm not afraid."  And Yoda replies, "You will be."

A little while after this, Jesus would be in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He would ask Peter to pray with Him.  And Peter would fall asleep.  That's why Jesus said this to Peter ~ because He knows that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Author Stephen Ambrose wrote in his book To America"The death camps of the Holocaust were kept so secret that only when Allied armies overran them did the full dimensions become known.  Even Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, was unaware that the Nazis had murdered millions of civilians."  Without even knowing what we know now, the Allied forces fought as they did.  They didn't have to know details to know they were fighting evil.  This is the reality about satan, and about hell.  We have to fight with all our might, though we won't know until it's over how bad it really is.

Enthusiasm is good.  Courage is good.  Necessary.  But do not underestimate the strength of the enemy we face.  Most of us will not be called to die for Jesus, but each one of us is called to live for Jesus.  And that can be even harder.

Jesus knew the truth about Peter's upcoming failure.  But it wasn't a reflection of the depth or strength of Peter's love for Him.  It was about fear, and not fully understanding what needed to happen; what Jesus had warned them all about.

Living for Him means we will be tempted and we will be tested.  Did you know that the oak tree is one of the trees most often hit by lightning?  They are tall ~ but they are also deeply rooted, reaching down to the groundwater that attracts the lightning.   The taller you stand for Him, and the more deeply rooted you are, the more likely you will be tempted.  And you will sometimes fail.  But stand tall anyway.  Live for Him.

~ "Lord, You know all things;
You know that I love You" ~
John 21:17
~

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hope in Oklahoma

"by the sorrow of the heart
the spirit is broken"
Proverbs 15:13

The news today has been all about Oklahoma.  The tornado yesterday was a bad one, and the pictures are sobering, and in some cases, heartbreaking. 

... frightened children being pulled out of destroyed buildings. 

... people who have driven from neighboring states to locate grandparents.

... folks grateful to have their lives, though their every belonging is gone. 

Each image, each tale more painful or poignant than the one before. 

~

But I also heard of a miracle today.  Those are not uncommon in the midst of a disaster, though often they are human-driven miracles, more than God-driven.  With the understanding, of course, that all good things come from Him (James 1:17)

But this was an unusual miracle.  I'm not sure I remember hearing of this happening before, but it gave me a bit of hope, and reminded me of what's real. 

Yesterday evening, in the last news report I saw before I had to leave the house, they were reporting 2 people had died.  By the time I came home, nearly 5 hours later, that number had increased to 51, with many of those being children.  The Apple of my Eye even commented on how much worse the death toll had grown.  When something like this happens, it's painful every time the number grows, so a jump like that was hard to hear. 

But this afternoon, when I turned on the news for an update, the reporter informed me that because of the confusion in the aftermath of the tornado, some bodies had been counted twice.  In fact, those who had died numbered only 24. 

Now, you understand that I mean "only" just as a comparison.  Each one of those lives was precious, both here on earth, and to God in heaven.  But whenever there's a natural disaster, the number rises, not falls. 

And I know that that number might rise again as the missing are accounted for.  But it just reminded me that nothing is as bad as we think it is.  Sometimes we misunderstand the facts.  Sometimes we just don't know all the facts. 

And we sometimes fail to remember the bigger picture ~ that He holds the earth in the palm of His hands.  "He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." (Colossians 1:17)

We live in a fallen world.  Sadness and hardship are never out of sight, but our faith and peace need not waver.  God's in His heaven. 

And He's right here on earth, too.

~ "truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled
 with the glory of the Lord" ~
Numbers 14:21
~

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Unexpected Strength

"marble slabs in abundance"
1 Chronicles 29:2

So I have these cereal bowls, that I just love.  I no longer even use the dinnerware that came with them, but I just keep using those bowls.  They are perfect size for cereal, or if I have noodles or similar for lunch.  And they are a comfortable weight in my hand. 

Somewhere along the line, we broke one of them, so I only have three left.  I don't even put them in the dishwasher, because I don't want them out of commission for too long.  So I wash them by hand. 

Well last week I got one out of the cupboard, to use for breakfast, and I swung around from the cupboard too quickly and slammed the bowl into the island in the center of our kitchen. 

It hit the marble slab that sits on the island, and then flew out of my hand, and seemingly in slow motion, I watched it fly through the air and land, upside-down, on the tile floor of the kitchen. 

Because the whole thing felt like it was happening in slow-motion, I had time to think, as the bowl was soaring through the air:  "Oh darn.... I love that bowl...."

But it didn't shatter when it hit the floor.  As a matter of fact, when all was said and done, the only damage was a good-sized chip taken out...

... of the marble slab.

That's right.  Bowl - 1.  Marble - 0. 

The lesson?  You're stronger than you think. 

Hang in there.

~ "The God of Israel is He 
who gives strength and power to His people.
Blessed be God!" ~
Psalm 68:35
~
For J, E, and R...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Citius, Altius, Fortius

"the Lord, God Most High"
Genesis 14:22

I think that I'm gettin' full up on superlatives.  There's just so durn many of them around, ya know?

When I watch the weather reports on the news, every storm seems to be the somethingest storm of all time.   Coldest, rainiest, snowiest, whatever.... they even had to come up with a new name for Hurricane Sandy ~ Superstorm. 

I can't seem to watch a sporting event without hearing about how this guy is the fastest, strongest, most nearsighted player ever to do this well on a Tuesday in September when the previous night had been the full moon.

Yes, that's a real category.  Why wouldn't it be?

Or the cooking shows.... I love to watch cooking shows, albeit it doesn't happen a lot because I have too much to do to sit in front of the TV for very long. 

Unless, of course, there's an opportunity to hear the dulcet voice of Vin Scully.  Now there's a man who deserves his superlatives.

But back to the cooking shows.  I can't seem to watch without being directed to use the finest extra virgin olive oil I can get, or the best vanilla extract, or the highest quality dark chocolate. 

And then, of course, the resulting dish is excellent.... perfection.... magnificent....

We live in an era of extremes.  So many people striving to distinguish themselves in some way.  Or their food.  Or the weather.  All to be noticed, really.  Or at least I think that's what it all comes down to. 

But a little part of me recoils whenever I hear a superlative being used.  I think I'm becoming inured to them, so I don't believe whoever's using them.  I assume they are just exaggerating. 

But in the same way that superlatives catch my attention on TV, I notice them in the Bible, too. 

And I love them.

There's just no more accurate way to describe Him, than in extremes.

All powerful... all knowing... most faithful... unceasingly patient... King of kings.... Lord of lords... exceedingly merciful... wise... powerful... eternal.... most, all, best...

We can count on it.

~ "He who does not love
does not know God,
for God is love" ~
1 John 4:8
~

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Prayer for the Sleeping

"she continued praying before the Lord"
1 Samuel 1:12

I'm going to bed early tonight, 
but I'm feeling very prayerful. 

I get that way when I have a headache.

So tonight I'll be praying for people with headaches.

But I'm also praying for people who have brain cancer,
and people who have esophageal cancer.

I'm praying for people who have been hurt by a friend,
and people who feel lost.  

I'm praying for people who try, 
when they think they have no strength left;
and people who wait with faith, 
instead of giving up.

I'm praying for people who remember,
and pray,
and listen,
and love. 

And I'm grateful to God for the privilege of praying myself to sleep.

~ "The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord will receive my prayer" ~
Psalm 6:9
~

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The New Commandment

"by this all will know that you are My disciples"
John 13:35

My folks went on a trip a few weeks ago.  They live just a few minutes away from me, so when they go out of town, I take care of their house for them.  Bringing in the mail, watering the plants, keeping a general eye on things.

And I do a great job.

Really.

That exploding mailbox a few years ago was not my fault at all.  There is absolutely no way I could have prevented that.

Anyhow, the job is really not that complicated.  You'd think.  But my mom has dozens of plants indoors, and my dad has a beautiful, lush backyard with a variety of plants.  And that's where it gets tricky. 

I'm not really a plant person.  I mean, I love them.  But I'm not very good at keeping them alive.  Over the years, I have learned that there are a couple of varieties that are hardy enough to withstand my overwatering or underwatering, but most other varieties are in danger in my care.

So when my folks go out of town, they generally leave me a list of instructions:   which plants need to be watered every other day, which ones every two days, how much, etc. 

But this last time, they didn't.  I guess they figured I knew what I was doing, or that it was fairly obvious what needed to be done and how often.  I panicked a little when I saw they hadn't left a list.  Just went with common sense and a lot of prayer.  Oh, and water.  And I think things went fine ~ the plumeria and orchids and African violets seem to have weathered my storm just fine.

I was talking with some friends of mine recently about leaving instructions behind before you go.  I sometimes wonder if I'll ever leave my kids home alone without giving them a few parting words.  After all, they're old enough know to make good decisions when I'm not home, but somehow, I can't resist giving them a few instructions or reminders. 

And there's a sweet example of this in John 13.  Jesus was with His disciples at the Last Supper, having recently washed their feet, and He was giving them a glimpse of what was coming next, letting them know that He would soon be betrayed. 

But then Jesus turned the topic to one more interesting to the disciples:  themselves.  He called them "little children" ~ the only time He ever used that term.  I think that's what made it sound to me like when I give my kids instructions.  His disciples could not go where He was going, so He laid out what He expected of them after He left.

His work on earth was coming to an end, but theirs was just beginning.  So He gave them a new commandment:  "Love your neighbor as I have loved you." 

Now, "love your neighbor as yourself" went all the way back to Leviticus, but this was a new and unparalleled kind of love ~ loving as He loved. 

With this commandment, more than half of the ten commandments are off the table.  We don't even have to think about them, because this love is all-encompassing.  Supreme, self-sacrificing, servant love.  And we cannot ~ cannot! ~ love this way unless He is actively at work in us.  It is so against our nature. 

It's like driving up one of those hill in San Francisco.  If you are not actively going up, you're going to start inching down.

So how did He love them?  Jesus helped, fed, served, taught, forgave, touched, encouraged, listened, welcomed, shared and prayed.  All things we can do.

When my son was about four, I asked him what he loved about his big sister, whom he adored.  He thought for a minute, and then said, "She's fast... she's kind... she loves to sing... and she gives good explanations." 

It was that last one that stood out to me.  That's what a four-year-old values.  That's how you love a little brother:  good explanations.

Jesus loved in many different ways, but always relevant to the needs of those He was loving.  We are to do as He did.  John Wesley said, "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can... as long as you ever can."  It should be our response to God's love for us.  Sort of "pay it forward," if you will.

I remember reading, years ago, about the first time that 18th century composer Franz Joseph Haydn heard Handel's Messiah.  It was in 1791, at the Handel Festival in Westminster Abbey.  He had never before heard a performance on so grand a scale; the orchestra and chorus together numbering upwards of 1000 people.

When at the Hallelujah Chorus the whole assembly, including the king, rose to their fee, Haydn stood with them, and wept, and exclaimed, "He is the Master of us all!"

Handel's Messiah is a beautiful piece, but one or two voices could not have evoked this same response from Haydn.  It took a choir.

Jesus was speaking to His disciples as a group ~ "By your love for one another, all will know that you are My disciples."  When you and I love, we are blessing others, and we are in obedience.  But when we all love, as He commanded, the world sees Him, and He gets the glory.

"the love of every one of you all 
 abounds toward each other"
2 Thessalonians 1:3
~

Friday, May 17, 2013

And they all go marching...

"Go to the ant...
Consider her ways"
Proverbs 6:6

We had our first ant, um, visitation of the season last week.   My Amazing Boy and I were doing school, and I think he dropped his pencil or something, and when he bent down to pick it up, he said, "Uh, mom....?" in a voice that made me not want to know whatever he was going to say to me.

It was just a couple of wanderers in the dining room where we do school, but as we followed their general path toward the kitchen, we found more and more.  

So I called both kids to order, and we mobilized.  We moved the table and chairs out of the dining room, picked up rugs out of the kitchen, shook them off and took them to the laundry room.  Then we vacuumed and mopped in both rooms, and sprayed a little Raid once we found the lil buggers' point of entry (the ants' point of entry, not my kids').

The ants come marching two-by-two a few times a year, generally when the weather is hot.  Or when it's raining.  So apparently, they come looking for water, or trying to get away from it.   Isn't irony fun?

In this case, they came in because it was raining.  But once inside, they found a crumb in the corner of the kitchen that became their goal.  A little crumb that I didn't know had escaped the last time I swept the kitchen. 

Although, who am I kidding.... I should say, "the last time one of my kids swept the kitchen".  I only sweep the kitchen if I break something.  Cuz why have kids if you're not gonna split the chores with them, right?

That crumb wasn't much.  Not only was I not aware of it, the dog hadn't found it either.  And she patrols the kitchen pretty regularly.  And by itself it wasn't big enough to draw the ants in, but once they were in, they took advantage of what none of us had noticed.

I think life is like that sometimes.  It's called being blind-sided.  Or worse, it's called being hit while you're down.  You don't even know you have a weak spot until something unrelated causes you to realize you have let your guard down. 

In a way, I suppose it's a good thing.  I wouldn't have known I had a crumb to clean up, if it hadn't rained.  I guess I needed something ~ albeit unrelated to the crumb ~ to let me know that the corner of my kitchen needed attention. 

It's hard sometimes, to be grateful for things that seem like a negative.  But there's always a positive.  He gets our attention any way He has to, and draws us to those things that He wants us to work on. 

Then we need to sweep and mop and get it up to His standards.  Cleaned up and feeling thankful, and ready to tackle the next crumb!

~ "Purge the old leaven that you may be fresh...
for Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed" ~
1 Corinthians 5:7
~

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Faith-colored glasses

"you will see greater things"
John 1:50

What's your favorite color?  My family ~ well, my mom and my sisters and I ~ has always been partial to purples.  Somewhere along the line, I guess we just realized that we look good or feel good in that color, so it's always a safe bet when we're buying something for one another. 

After my visit to Kauai several years ago, I added a new "favorite color".  It's a color I call "Kauai".  It's mostly in my mind ~ the blue of the ocean combined with the green of the island they called "the Garden Isle."  Course, since the color mostly exists in my mind, it's a little hard to find in real life. 

Except on Kauai.

I read a quote the other day that got me to thinking about something a friend of mine once said.  She wondered out loud if maybe all colors were in our minds.  In other words, when I say blue to you, in my mind I could be thinking of any number of shades of the color blue.  We'd have to get into specifics to both be envisioning the same color. 

But, my friend argues, even if I said navy blue, would we still be picturing the same shade?  Or, does my eye see the same thing your eye sees?

I mean, you and I would both agree (unless you're color blind) that this shade of blue is darker than this shade of blue, but maybe the darker shade of blue is darker to me than it is to you. 

You with me?

The quote that I read that made me think of this whole concept was in a book on Lewis and Clark Expedition.  I just never get tired of reading about Lewis and Clark.  All they saw and all they accomplished, while maintaining (relatively) good relations with the many Native American tribes they encountered is just amazing to me.

The quote was by Meriwether Lewis, and it was something he had written in his journal during the expedition.  He said, "the state of mind in which we we are generally gives the colouring to events."  I think that is so true.  It's really a very poetic way of explaining why some people see the glass as half-full, and some see it as half-empty.  

Optimist, pessimist, realist*.... which one are you?  

* I don't believe in realists.  
I think they're just pessimists who won't admit it

You and I can see the same color, differently.  And we can see the same situation differently, too.  You can view it as bad luck, or God-ordained.  You can see it as a strange coincidence, or a divine appointment.

Faith is the filter.  It's the evidence of things unseen, but it's also the explanation for how things are seen.  You can change what you see, by changing how you see it. 

~ "Jesus said to her, 
'Did I not say to you that if you would believe, 
you would see the glory of God?" ~
John 11:40
~

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Just come

"Come and eat and be satisfied,
that the Lord your God may bless you 
in all the work of your hand which you do"
Deuteronomy 14:29

"Come and declare His righteousness"
Psalm 22:31

"Come and see the works of God"
Psalm 66:5

"Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will declare what He has done for me soul"
Psalm 66:16

"Come and let us go
to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways, 
And we shall walk in His paths"
Isaiah 2:3

"Come and let us walk
in the light of the Lord"
Isaiah 2:5

"Come and see My glory"
Isaiah 66:18

"Come and sing
in the height of Zion,
Streaming to the goodness of the Lord"
Jeremiah 31:12

"Come and let us declare in Zion
the work of the Lord our God"
Jeremiah 51:10

"Come and hear what the word is
that comes from the Lord"
Ezekiel 33:30

"Come and eat"
John 21:12

"Come and see"
Revelation 6:7
~

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Plus there's that whole pillar of salt thing...

"forgetting those things which are behind"
Philippians 3:13

It was hot today.  Very hot.  It might have been close to 100*, but I'm not sure because I avoid looking at thermometers when it's hot.  I don't want to confirm my suspicions that it's hot.  It's a desperate attempt at denial.

Of course, my kids like to poke the (hot) bear by going outside to look at the thermometer and coming back in and saying, "Boy, Momma, you really do not want to know what the temperature is."  Which is sort of like when you're recording some sort of sporting event, and you tell people not to tell you the outcome and they say, "Okay, I won't tell you, but you're going to love it!"  And then you know what you didn't want to know.

It's hard to be in denial when you're well-informed. 

Anyhow, because of the heat, I didn't get as much done today as I would have liked.  Only one load of laundry, although that one load smells wonderful and fresh after hanging on the line.  A little bit of grading, and a teeny-tiny bit of tidying up around the house.  But after lunch I mostly tried not to move too much, and stay in the darkened living room until the sun (and the temperature) went down.

Yeah, that's how I felt...

It's hard not to look back at a day like today with a little bit of regret for not accomplishing more.  But I try very hard in life not to accept any remorse that isn't fully earned.  And today it's not. 

The truth is, God cautions us against looking back either with condemnation, or pride.  Too much self-analysis is too much self.  I was talking with a friend of mine recently who still deeply regrets the choices she made in her life BC ~ before Christ.  She said it just breaks her heart when she looks at her life through God's eyes. 

To which I say:  those aren't God's eyes.  God's the forgiving type.  And I believe that the things that pain us the most are the things that are most forgiven.  If that makes any sense. 

In Luke 9:62, Jesus said, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  It's about being focused.  It's not about who we've become or what we've achieved.  It's not about punishing ourselves or resting on our laurels. 

It's about taking up our cross daily, and following Him.

~ "Therefore, beloved, 
looking forward to these things which are ahead,
be diligent to be found by Him in peace,
without spot and blameless" ~
2 Peter 3:14
~

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thoughts I Thought on Mother's Day

"mother cherishes her own children"
1 Thessalonians 2:7

I'm writing this on Mother's Day.  We're having a quiet day here.  A little church this morning, and now a little catnapping (Literally.  That cat's been lying there for hours.), a little reading and writing, a little iced tea, and a little Vin Scully.  Color me blessed.

Every morning when I check my email, there's a Bible verse waiting for me.  Years ago I signed up to receive them, and I love that a verse gets my mind thinking, first thing in the morning.  Because when it comes to getting my mind going in the morning, I need all the help I can get.

Today's verse was Proverbs 8:17 ~ "I love those who love Me".  It's just a portion of the verse, which goes on to say, "And those who seek Me diligently will find Me."  It's a beautiful promise to us that He is always nearby, and that loving Him and seeking is our choice. 

But the fact that just the first part of the verse was highlighted made it seem like such a beautiful choice for Mother's Day.  It is my sentiment exactly, when it comes to my kids.  They love me, and I love them.  And I love that they love me.  And I love loving them and being loved by them. 

It's a regular lovefest over here.

And then I saw a quote from a friend of mine on facebook that I thought also beautifully celebrates motherhood.  I think it's attributed to St Francis of Assisi ~ "Every life needs a purpose to which it can give the energies of its mind and the enthusiasm of its heart."  Now, I have a few purposes for my life.  Things to which I give the energies of my mind, and the enthusiasm of my heart.  Teaching, my role in Bible study, my writing.  But for 16 years, I have loved the work of being the best mom I can.  I know there are times it has probably driven my kids crazy, but I do nothing without overthinking it.  And to me, that's a gift from Him. 

When my daughter was about six months old, I was holding her on my lap and making goofy faces at her (okay, maybe I do some things without thinking at all) when I heard Jimmy Durante's "Make Someone Happy" playing, and I thought it was so applicable to my life.

Make someone happy,
Make just one someone happy;
Make just one heart the heart you sing to.
One smile that cheers you,
One face that lights when it nears you,
One girl you're ev'rything to. 

Fame, if you win it,
Comes and goes in a minute.
Where's the real stuff in life to cling to?
Love is the answer,
Someone to love is the answer.
Once you've found her, build your world around her. 

Make someone happy,
Make just one someone happy,
And you will be happy too. 

Now, there are few disclaimers here.  Being a mom is not just about making your kids happy.  In fact, that's a recipe for disaster.  And of course, I have two someone's to love, along with the Apple of my Eye.  But the basic sentiment is the same.  St Francis and Jimmy Durante are both talking about taking the focus of of yourself, being about other people.  It's about serving, and about loving others as He loves me. 

The job of being a mom is a gift from Him.  It's the method He has provided to give me the greatest opportunity to obey His command of selflessness.  It's hard, and never-ending, but full of purpose, and mostly joy.  And it's a constant illustration of my relationship to God.  Discipline, teaching, the practice of patience, and most of all, unconditional love for those sweet people who love me.


~ "Children are an inheritance from the Lord.
They are a reward from Him" ~
Psalm 127:3
~

Sunday, May 12, 2013

There's a high probability this isn't going to make any sense at all

"And so it was, on the next day..."
Exodus 18:13

This train of thought might be a bit of a labyrinth.  But the human mind is a wonderful thing, isn't it?  So come along!

Fact #1 ~ When I was a kid, my mom got sick of my sisters and me fighting and quarreling (which, may I say, I wouldn't have done so often if it wasn't their fault.  They started it.)  so she came up with the brilliant, if unorthodox, rule that we weren't allowed to get mad if it wasn't our day.

Yup, we each had one day a week to be mad.  I think mine was Tuesday.  So if one of my sisters bossed me annoyingly or bit me on the toe (you know who you are) on a Thursday, all I could do was grumble quietly in my head, and make a note of it, and then the following Tuesday I was allowed to express my displeasure.

If I was still mad.  And if I remembered.

Of course, it's hard to be mad days later.

What day it is makes a difference. 

Fact #2 ~ My sisters and I have a condition called synesthesia.  There are many different manifestations of it, but in us, it causes us to see words, letters and numbers in color.  So the days of the week are colored.  Monday is sort of yellow.  Friday is definitely green.

My sisters, however, would disagree with me on the colors.

But each day is different.

Fact #3 ~ I was having a bad day this past Wednesday.  I was cranky about a situation that's going to come up in a few months.  I wish it didn't have to happen, but it's a situation I can't get out of.  Thinking about it was making me irritable and short-tempered.

I might have also been slightly hormonal.  I'm a girl.  It happens. 

But the next day, though the situation hadn't changed, I was feeling better about it.  Maybe a good night's sleep, maybe a better outlook.

Maybe it was because it was no longer Wednesday, but Thursday, which to me is sort of rose-colored. 

It was a new day, and I was looking at the problem through Thursday-colored glasses.

His mercies are new every morning.  A day makes a difference.

~ "Therefore we do not lose heart...
the inward man is being renewed day by day" ~
2 Corinthians 4:16
~

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Lesson ~ yes, from brown paper bags

"provide yourselves bags"
Luke 12:33

I'm doing it again.

I'm stockpiling grocery bags.

I am not a hoarder by nature.  Probably the only thing I have more than my share of is books.  I don't hang on to old newspapers or empty egg cartons or half-used batteries.  Storage space is at a bit of a premium in our home, so if I hang on to something, it's because I've made a deliberate decision to.

Although now that I think about it, if the Apple of my Eye had his way, we'd probably have fewer empty cardboard boxes in our garage.  But I hate when need to ship something, and there's nothing to ship it in.  And you never know what size you're going to need.  In addition, I need to store school papers and textbooks, and basically you just never know when you might need a box, right?  But even those I only keep if it's a size I think might be useful. 

So basically, if it's in my possession, it's been carefully chosen.

Now, with all that being said, I do have a couple of weaknesses when it comes to stockpiling.  (Stockpiling sounds better than hoarding, doesn't it?  It sounds like I'm prepared.) 

One of those weaknesses is grocery bags.  Brown paper bags.  Not the plastic ones; I hate those.  They are too wimpy, and they spill their contents in the back of the car on the way home from the store.  But the brown paper ones are awesome.  They hold more, and they hold it more successfully.  And we can use them more than once, and then we use them for trash.  The plastic bags won't work for that.

And yes, I also use reusable bags, too, but I can't use those for my trash, either. 

But not all grocery stores around here carry brown bags.  I guess the plastic bags are cheaper, so they figure if they're going to provide bags for free, they're gonna provide the cheap ones.   So when I am in a store that carries them, that's what I ask for.  And then after unloading my groceries, I fold up the bags and put them on a shelf in the garage.  And when that shelf has a good-sized stack of bags, then I use reusable for awhile until the supply of brown bags is dwindling.  Then I stop using the reusable bags until I replenish my supply.

Riveting story, isn't this?

But I've gotten a little paranoid over the past several months.  I think I'm afraid that my government, who won't let me use the light bulbs I want, and who has more of a say about my health care than I want, is going to ban the use of brown bags.  For my own good, of course.  Much like New York City tried to ban large sodas.

So when my shelf was full of brown bags, I opened up space on another shelf, and I started a new stack.

But I realized with a start the other day, that I have a whole lot of brown bags, and then I realized that the reason is that I'm paranoid.  I'm worried that at some point I will run out of brown bags, and have to figure out something else for my kitchen trash.

Now, does that sound like someone who is at peace?  Does that sound like someone who is trusting that God will provide ~ if not brown bags, then another solution?

"My son, God will provide"
Genesis 22:8

"And Abraham called the name of the place, 
The-Lord-Will-Provide"
Genesis 22:14

"And so it was, because they feared God, that He provided"
Exodus 1:21

"Rejoice... He will provide"
Deuteronomy 32:43

"Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, 
'May the good Lord provide'"
2 Chronicles 30:18

"You will provide"
Psalm 65:3

"You, O God, provided from Your goodness"
Psalm 68:10

"God shall supply all your need 
according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus"
Philippians 4:19

Any questions?

~

Friday, May 10, 2013

While you are sleeping

"I will lie down in peace and sleep"
Psalm 4:8

There's a new family that's been coming to our church the past few months.   They moved from Texas to Southern California around the beginning of the year ~ all 7 of them.  Dad, Mom, and 5 kids.

I actually haven't met any of them yet.  The Apple of my Eye introduced himself to the dad, and my Amazing Boy goes to Youth Group with one of the daughters, but to be honest, I don't even know what the mom looks like.  I'm sure I'll meet her soon, at some ladies function or something, but so far, no....

But though I haven't met them, I've been praying for them, because shortly after they moved here, their oldest was admitted to the hospital with an intestinal problem.  I think all told, she was there for a few weeks.  It took the doctors several days to diagnose the problem, and deal with her symptoms while they did so.

Although they'd moved to California to be near family ~ so they weren't alone ~ it has to be so hard to be dealing with a medical crisis right after moving.  Unpacking boxes, learning your way around town, and having four other kids at home who need you while you're trying to spend as much time as possible at the hospital.

Towards the end of the crisis, shortly before she came home, when I was getting a prayer update, I overheard that father say that while he was glad they had a diagnosis, it had been so difficult to see his little girl in such pain.  He said that at one point, the pain was so bad, she was whimpering and crying out in her sleep.

Oh, that just about broke my heart.  Can you imagine crying in your sleep?  I mean, it just really speaks to the intensity of the pain, that she didn't even have relief while sleeping.

It got me to thinking about the things we do unconsciously, or rather, subconsciously.  The things we do without thinking, or without knowing we are doing them.  It might be a nervous habit ~ nail biting or hair twirling, for instance.  It might be words in our vocabulary ~ "y'know" or "like" being said several times a sentence, perhaps.

Or it might be actions.  Those, I think, have the potential to be the most dangerous.  Any time you do something without thinking, well, that's thoughtless, right?  Literally "without thought".  Which might mean that maybe it's something you should have thought about first.

It speaks to our character, I think, who we are and what we do when we're on "autopilot".  Do you open doors for people all the time, or only when you're trying to impress someone?  Are you polite to clerks and baggers at the market, or just to your pastor?

And what about your relationship with the Lord?  How differently do you pray, when you're praying out loud, than you do when you're in private?  Do you read the Bible for you?  To grow in your knowledge of Him?  Or do you do it so that you can check it off your list, or say you read the whole thing in a year?

God knows when we're faking; when we're misrepresenting who we really are.  He sees our hearts, and He can't be fooled. 

But you know what?  That person you are unconsciously, subconsciously, in your sleep... He loves you so much.  But He wants you to be your best, kindest, lovingest, forgivingest you, all the time.  Which, let's be honest, we can't do without thinking about it.  We can't do it without trying... and we can't do it without His help.


~ "Be ye perfect,
even as your Father in heaven is perfect" ~
Matthew 5:48
~

Thursday, May 9, 2013

All That and More

"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God"
Matthew 16:16

I read an article a few weeks ago, about John James Audubon.  Amazing man.  I grew up familiar with his work, from a beautiful book my parents had when I was a kid. 

Of course, they probably still have it. 

Ornithologist and artist, taxidermist and naturalist.  He pioneered in the work that he did, and succeeded as no one else ever had. 

Photo credit: wikipedia
One of the many new things I learned about him through this article, was that he was nicknamed The American Woodsman.  Fitting, right? 

Photo credit: pbs.org
 But here's the quirky tidbit ~ he gave himself that nickname.  There's something... I don't know, wonderfully arrogant about that.  Although I don't think he was arrogant at all.  Just confident.  

Photo credit: americanartgallery.org
It's probably also that he was trying to make a name for himself ~ literally.  He needed money, and it was probably a way of advertising himself and his work. 

But it made me think of Jesus' line to Peter, "Who do you say I am?"

It's in Matthew 16.  Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"  They answered, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 

And that's when Jesus asked him, "Who do you say that I am?"

There are a lot of answers Peter could have given Him.  All of them accurate.  But there are a lot of times when I think the answer I would have given, would not be the right answer.  That is, it would be right, but wrong, in an incomplete sort of way. 

If I were to ask someone who I am, their answer would depend on how well they know me, and what our relationship is.  My parents might answer, "You are my daughter" and my kids would probably answer, "You are my mom."  But what about my old friends from high school?  Whatever answer they gave would probably be accurate, but outdated.  Incomplete.  Or what about my son's baseball coach?  He could certainly pick me out of a lineup if he were asked to point to the mother of the world's greatest first baseman. 

No, I am not exaggerating.  He rocks at catcher, too.

But none of those people would be able to tell you all of who I am.  All of us are too complex for that.

Who would people say you are?  Who are you, really? 

Who do you say that He is?  Who is He, really?

He is so much more than we remember, or can comprehend.  It's one of the things I thinks He forgives us for, even though we don't know enough to ask for His forgiveness.  We underestimate Him, confine Him, and minimize Him. 

Ask yourself who you think He is.  And then ask Him to show you how much more than that He is.

~ "I AM WHO I AM" ~
Exodus 3:14
~

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Facing Reality

"I do not pray 
that You should take them out of the world"
John 17:15

While I've been going to church all my life, Bible study is a fairly recent addition for me ~ only about the last 12 years :-)

And what I love about this particular study is how in-depth we study.  It's a 30 week study, and for example, this year we are studying John.  There are 21 chapters in John, so some weeks our entire focus is not even a whole chapter.  It really allows for time to examine verses in detail. 

But our homework also asks us sort of "personal analysis" questions.  Questions like, "what do you think" and "describe in your own words..."

Recently we had one of those "what do you think" questions that really got me, well, thinking.  The question said, "Some critics see Christianity as a religion of escape from reality.  Do you think that position is valid; why or why not?"

The thing is, I read this question right after I got off the phone with a friend of mine.  I'll call her Esther.  She's had a lot going on in her life the past several months ~ an unidentified virus or parasite has been attacking her daughter's insides, so there's been a plethora of doctor visits, medications and special diets.  Well, on this particular day, she had called me to tell me that her other daughter was in the hospital, having overdosed on medication prescribed for a sports injury several months ago. 

Esther was understandably distraught.  Her daughter had been taken to the hospital quickly enough that her life was not in danger.  But she knew there would be a long road ahead of them.  Her faith is strong but she was crying and scared as we talked about how close she had come to losing her daughter, and whether or not the overdose was accidental.

We talked for awhile, and then after we got off the phone, I picked up my study and came to this question.  And frankly, it made me a slightly indignant to think that there are people who think faith is an escape. 

Esther is a strong Christian ~ prayerful, and studious about reading the Bible and growing as a Christian.  But there was no escape from reality for her.  Reality was hitting her right in the face ~ painfully.  And there will be no escape over the next several months as she does her part to help her daughter heal physically, emotionally and spiritually.

And I thought to myself, "Is an umbrella an escape from reality?  Is a bullet-proof vest on a soldier an escape from reality??" 

Faith in God is a shield.  A refuge.  He is the source of peace and hope.  He is the strength to go on ~ He is the courage to face reality. 

And most of all, faith is the knowledge that this is not all there is, and that we are not alone.

~ "Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." ~
Isaiah 41:10
~