Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Just passing the time

"in much patience"
2 Corinthians 6:4

I was throwing out some old magazines the other day, and came across a photo I love.  I haven't thought about it in awhile, and I was entertained to see it again.  

photo credit:  Sports Illustrated
You see what's happening there?  That's Tennessee center John McNeil, on the bottom of the dog-pile.  And while things are getting sorted out and players are getting to their feet and the refs decide who has possession, McNeil is passing the time by untying the shoes of his competitor, who is blissfully unaware.   Cracks me up...

It occurred to me as I looked at the photo, that this is a great way to approach this scenario in our lives.  When circumstances are piling on... you feel trapped or overwhelmed, maybe having trouble breathing ~ metaphorically speaking of course. 

Patience.  God has it sorted.   Trust Him, because in reality, you're not trapped; you just feel that way.  So relax, and wait on Him.

But don't be afraid to have a little fun while you're waiting.

~ "Those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength" ~
Isaiah 40:31
~

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Decisions, Decisions...

"If you take the left, then I will go to the right"
Genesis 13:9

"What do you want for dinner?"

"You want to drive?"

"Do you want the chocolate or the vanilla?"

Could be any conversation between two people.  We might have dozens of conversations like these every week, with friends or family.  But when we offer a choice to someone else means one of two things:  either "I'm fine with either choice" or "It matters to me, but I want you to have what matters to you."

In Genesis 13, we see this conversation happening between Abraham and his nephew Lot.  And there are two lessons from this interaction.

The first is the decision.  Abraham ("Abram," at the time) and his flocks and herds and tents, were conflicting with Lot and his flocks and herds and tents.  "their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together."  So they needed to put some space between them.  So who would go in which direction?

A decision needed to be made, but Abraham didn't make it.  He was the patriarch of his family.  There were rights, respects, etc to be paid to him by Lot.  He was in a position to demand whichever land he chose.  But he didn't.  He didn't choose, and he didn't demand. 

In verse 9, Abraham said, "Is not the whole land before you?  Please separate from me.  If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or if you go to the right, then I will go to the left."

Is it because Abraham knew how blessed he was?  He knew how much God had given him, and he did not feel the need to demand his rights?  'Cuz there's a good lesson for us.  You're incredibly blessed.   Are you still demanding rights?

The second thing to learn is about the fact that Abraham knew a decision had to be made.  There was strife between his herdsmen and Lot's.  And it's hard to be at peace when important people in your life are undergoing strife. 

Sometimes there's nothing we can do about it.  Sometimes we need to find our peace despite physical or emotional or spiritual turmoil in our lives.  And it's possible.  It's what He calls the peace that transcends understanding. 

Then there are times when we need to separate ourselves from it.  Other people's stuff needs to happen, and we need to let it, and maybe we need to detach ourselves emotionally or physically.  Might be a challenge, but maybe it's the challenge He has put before us. 

Lastly, are the times we need to take action.  That's what Abraham did.  They had done a lot of journeying.  There's no way to tell how long things had been difficult between the groups.  But it was time to do something about it.

What to do and when to do it.  And then how to do it.  Not easy.  And decisions come up every day.  Makes that whole "pray without ceasing" thing look pretty good, doesn't it?

The motto?  Do what's right.  Unless God wants you to go left.

~ "Lot chose for himself... 
and Lot journeyed east...
Then Abram moved his tent,
and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees...
and built an altar there to the Lord" ~
Genesis:11,18
~

Monday, July 29, 2013

These things take time

"Watch"
1 Corinthians 16:13

The Apple of my Eye did not replace the battery in my watch yesterday. 

I'm calling it a successful failure.*

{ * a term used to describe the spacecraft Apollo 13, which returned to earth safely, but failed to land on the moon. }

I left first thing in the morning for a day-long activity, and as I left the house, I realized that the watch I grabbed had a dead battery.  So I set it on his desk where he'd notice it, and asked him if he'd handle it for me. 

Now, I don't wear a watch very often, especially in the summer, so there really is no rush, but neither did I want my watch shoved to a corner of his desk with other "stuff" that needed attention.  Which, um, has happened once or twice.  And when I got home later that day, I saw my watch sitting pretty much where I had set it. 

The reason this stood out to me is because I knew he had run errands while I was gone that day, and one of the places he went was a place where he could have purchased a new battery.

Yet there my watch sat.  Dead. 

So this morning, I was going to give him a hard time about missing the opportunity to fix my watch.  So without saying a word, I picked it up and looked at him and just smiled.  He looked up at me from what he was doing, and his face just fell.  And he said to me sorrowfully, "Man, I was so gonna get that done yesterday!  I had it with me, and I looked, but I couldn't find the right size battery!  And I was so disappointed, because I thought you'd be so impressed!" 

We both kind of laughed about it, since my intention had been to tease him, but how could I, when he had been so sincere about wanting to take care of it for me?

My watch is still dead.  But I'm touched by my sweetie's efforts to take care of me, even when it's something small, and even when he fails. 

Intentions mean a lot.  It's the thought that counts.  I'm thankful that God notices my efforts, no matter the results, and I'm thankful that there are people in my life who love me enough to try for me.  

~ "My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever" ~
Psalm 73:26
~

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Never Alone

"your companion
in the tribulation and kingdom and patience
of Jesus Christ"
Revelation 1:9

"Companion" is such a friendly word, isn't it?  It sounds so.... companionable.  It's like "friend", but closer.  Not necessarily closer in the heart, but physically closer.  The word comes from the Old French and Latin for "one who breaks bread with another" and though it no longer has much to do with bread, it still connotes that feeling of nearness. 

I talked on the phone the other day, to one of my oldest friends.  We have shared many memories and adventures over the years of our friendship, but at this stage in our lives, it would be hard to call her my companion.  I hardly ever see her, though we do talk, and email fairly often.  But the companions in my life are not those with whom I "check in", but those with whom I walk.  They may not even be people who are my favorite people, but can still be called companions.

My daily companions, of course, are the Apple of my Eye, and my Amazing, Awesome kids.  They remind me that it is one thing to walk alongside others; it is another to hold hands with them as you walk.  I teach them, and learn from them.  I work with them, have fun with them, laugh, cry, forgive and am forgiven.

The apostle John's words in the book of Revelation are more than a statement of fact ~ they are a promise.  Like the wedding vow "in good times and in bad," John points out that believers are companions "in tribulation and in kingdom".  They remind me of Jesus' promise to us:  "Lo, I am with you always."

When this verse first caught my eye, I started wondering if Jesus could truly be called my Companion.  Am I walking with Him, or am I just "checking in"?  Daily?  Occasionally?

But then I realized that it's not a question of whether or not Jesus is my Companion.  He is.  I need to remember that.  He is with me as I work in the kitchen, along for the ride when I get in the car, receiving my praise when I worship in church, and listening when I scold my kids.

He is beside me when I'm hurting, and sharing my joy when things are good.  Gives a whole new meaning to breaking bread with someone, doesn't it?

~ "the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One" ~
Jeremiah 20:11
~

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Prayer for You

"The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious unto you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace."

~

Jehovah barak shamar

May the one true God bless and save thee

~

Jehovah paniym 'owr chanan

May the one true God turn His face upon thee, 
as a light
May He show thee mercy, grace and favor

~

Jehovah nasa' paniym suwm shalom

May the one true God exalt Himself 
in thy presence
And lay before thee
tranquility, contentment, completeness:
... His peace

~

Numbers 6:24-26
~

Friday, July 26, 2013

Life is a Lizard

"the gecko"
Leviticus 11:30

Take a look at this picture.

photo credit: Mark W. Moffett for National Geographic

Isn't it amazing?  It's an "ornate day gecko".  I saw the photo in National Geographic, so it was even bigger and richer in color than I can achieve here. 

I stared at the picture for several seconds, trying to drink in the colors.  The Turquoise around his eye, and the Azure along the edge of his mouth, and those wonderful Amaranth polka dots in a field of Amazon Green.

Why yes, I do love colors; why do you ask?

Now, National Geographic is hardly a magazine that's known for its spiritual leanings, but I can't read an issue without being reminded of God.  Of course, I can hardly read anything without being reminded of God.  Hence this blog.

But I didn't just think about God, I thought about apples.  And artists.  Specifically my Awesome Girl, and a still life she did last year.  It was a collection of fruit that she painted so beautifully and realistically.  But she was never satisfied with the apple.  It wasn't a red apple, or a green apple, but a little of both.  And she had a heckuva time getting the colors right.


I tried to console her by telling her that the colors of nature are really hard to imitate.  Creation is God's design, and some of it is just impossible for humans to copy.  Green and red just don't blend well.  Except on an apple...

I'm not sure it helped, cuz she's an artist after all, and I don't know if it's true of all artists, but the one I married is very often dissatisfied with his work.  Perfectionist, I guess.

But then I saw this lizard, and I thought, That's the secret!  That's how God does it!  It's about those little dots that make up the lizard's skin.


Do you see?  It's like a mosaic.  Each individual dot has its own color.  I can just picture God dipping His fine-tipped brush into the green, or the pink or the white or the brown.  A touch here, a little lighter there... and impossible for us to see if we're not looking closely.

It's what He's doing in our lives, too.  Taking our good decisions and our bad ones, carefully blending our mistakes with a gradual growth in Him.  Up close, maybe all we see is pain and failures.  Dots.  But if we back up just far enough to see the design, then maybe ~ just maybe ~ we'll remember that God is a designer.  And He's always at work.

I have heard life compared to a tapestry, each thread doing its part to create the picture.  But I think maybe life is like a lizard.

~ "let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us" ~
Psalm 90:17
~

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Liddle Lamzy Divey

"one little ewe lamb"
2 Samuel 12:3

I held a lamb in my arms today. 

Last Saturday, Some-one found a lamb in a field somewhere in Southern California.  There had been sheep there, but they had been moved on, and somehow this lamb had been left behind.  And Some-one heard it crying, and found it. 

Some-one didn't know what should be done, so Some-one called Some-two.  I'm not sure if Some-one thought Some-two would know what to do, or just that Some-two would know who to contact. 

So Some-two called Some-three.  Some-three then called Some-four. 

Some-four called Lori.  Lori works with animals ~ offers pony rides, a mobile petting zoo, live animals for nativity scenes, etc.  She also rescues and rehabilitates wild animals.  The lamb is now being cared for. 

Lori and her petting zoo came to our Vacation Bible School this morning.  And I got to hold a lamb in my arms.  A five-day-old lamb that was saved by five people.  Four of them didn't know what to do.  But each tried to help, and each was a part of helping. 

Our small efforts are precious to God in His work on this earth. 


~ "He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
      He will gather the lambs with His arm" ~
Isaiah 40:11
~

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sometimes the teacher, sometimes the student

"it stuck fast and remained immovable"
 Acts 27:41

Our church is doing Vacation Bible School this week.  It's sort of a week-long Day Camp for kids.  Crafts, worship, games, and of course a lesson.  Every year there is a theme; this year it's a farm theme, so all the decorations, snacks and games are tied in to that theme. 

To help get ready, my family and I all stayed after church on Sunday ~ as did much of the congregation.  There was furniture to be rearranged, faux farm implements to be strategically placed, banners and balloons to be hung, etc.

The task we were given was to hang a couple of large banners - one out front, and one in the main sanctuary of the church.  And the gal in charge (my friend Meghan) was really busy handing out jobs, so I didn't want to bug her with the "how" part.  So my kids and I took the banners, and headed off to make it happen.

We found a place outside to hang one, but we needed string.  So I found the church secretary and asked her if she knew where we might find some string.  She suggested the storage cabinet in the ladies' room.  So I headed there.

Problem was, the cabinet was locked.  Well, child-locked.  And it was some sort of contraption I'd never seen before.  Something that must have been invented since the days when I had to pay attention to stuff like that.   Although, to be honest, I never used a lot of those.  My preferred method of keeping my kids out of places they didn't belong was to tell them to stay out, and then discipline them if they disobeyed.  Novel approach, yes?

In a couple of places I actually had child locks, like under the kitchen sink, but our contraptions were much different looking than this. 

So I pushed what appeared to be a button, but nothing happened, and I pulled what appeared to be a connector, but nothing happened.  So I did both of those things again, but harder.  Nothing happened.  Then I did both of those things together, but nothing happened. 

Fortunately, I knew just what to do.  I went and got my Awesome Girl.  I explained my dilemma, she walked in the room and immediately unlocked the cabinet.  Just like I knew she would. 

Time was, that something like that was designed to baffle her; to outwit her.  But she has grown in wisdom and maturity.  And even though she's never come across that type of gadget before, it took her no time to figure it out.  And my favorite part of this whole thing is that I knew she was the person to ask.  I know how smart she is, how clever.  And not just about frustrating gadgets. 

It is a blessing to me that I can rely on my children.  I can go to them for answers, for advice, for their opinion on things.  I know they still have stuff to learn, and experiences to get, but I also know how valuable they are to me already.  And I'm not sure there's a greater blessing than learning from those I have taught!  Of course, I haven't taught them everything they know, but I know better than anyone how much they have learned, and I'm grateful to Him for how He is using them to teach me.

~ "I have no greater joy than to hear
     that my children walk in truth" ~
3 John 1:4
~

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I'm no longer just a stick figure

"all who are gifted artisans"
Exodus 28:3

Have you ever seen those plastic plates that you draw yourself?  You know, they send you the circles of paper, then you send them back with your design on them, and they turn them into plates?

We did them as a project with our homeschool group several years ago ~ the kids were pretty young ~ and there were leftover blanks, so my hubby and I did a couple, too.  And we still have them.  I guess those plates are impressively durable, even if I do sometimes put them in the dishwasher!

Okay, so here are the plates.  Although I think we had one more, so maybe one did break somewhere along the line...


This one my baby boy did.  I think he was about 4 at the time.  Maybe 3.  See the chicken?  Not bad!  And then some, you know, abstract stuff...

~


This one the Apple of my Eye did, and then my boy added his, you know, abstract stuff...

~


This one is my girl's.  She was about 6 or 7.  And she has grown into an amazing artist.  You can see glimpses of it there.

~


Another one by the Apple of my Eye.  Also a wonderful artist.  This is his dinnerware masterpiece, without the additional artwork by our son. 

~

Okay, now mine.  Ready?  Please remember that I am the least talented artist in the family.  But I can write, and I can see colors where none of them can, so everything evens out, right?

And obviously, we were on a baseball theme, except for my girl.  Which is pretty typical for us. 

Okay, ready?


Now, I know it seems a little childish.   But you know what?  I'm really proud of it.  I worked really hard on it, and it's far better what I'm normally capable of.  My usual artwork consists of stick figures. 

I copied it from someplace; a collage in a book or Sports Illustrated or something.  Which is why the figures sort of just stop, cuz that's what they did in the picture from which I was copying. 

I've taken a little ribbing for my work.  Sometimes from people that I love.  But that's okay.  I know that's it's an improvement from what I've achieved in the past.  

Aren't you glad that God looks at each of us individually?  That He doesn't compare us to one another, but wants us to grow, each at our own rate, to be who He designed us to be?  It's not a competition, art or otherwise. 

I simply cannot compare to others in certain areas.  I need more work in areas that come easily to people I know.  But I'm not who I used to be.  And I can take joy in that.

~ "grow in the grace and knowledge
   of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory, both now and forever" ~
2 Peter 3:18
~

Monday, July 22, 2013

Our Dwelling Place

"We dwell"
1 John 4:13

Both my sisters are going camping this week.  Not together ~ just a coincidence, I guess.  Which is good.  If they were planning a camping trip without me, I would be not be happy.   Probably crash their party.  =)

No, they are both going with their families, one to Yellowstone and one to the Lake Tahoe area.  One of them has already left, and sent a photo of the view from their tent. 


Gorgeous, isn't it?

Here's one from our trip last year.






Okay, several...

It's such a stunning place to live, and always hard to leave.  You'd think, someplace that beautiful, why would anyone want to leave?  We live there, but only for a week, and then we return to a place less beautiful, but more practical.  

So I'm thinking today about dwelling.  Abiding.

In Genesis 21, we see the story of Hagar, handmaid of Sarah, concubine of Abraham, mother of Ishmael, coming to its conclusion.  Hagar had been sent away by Sarah ~ well, actually by Abraham, because apparently Sarah wore the pants in the family on this issue.

Hagar wandered in the desert until the water she had brought with her was gone.  Then she put Ishmael under a bush, and went a short distance away, to wait for both of them to die.

But the angel of God called to her to reassure her.  And then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well.  Spurgeon tells me this is the well of Lahoi-Roi.  She gave her son a drink from that well, and he did not die. 

This well, Lahoi-Roi, or Lahai Roi, or Lahairoi, is mentioned again in Genesis 25.  But here, we are told that Isaac dwelt there.  And that word is important. 

To dwell means to stay, to remain, or to have one's abode.  It's not a temporary thing. 

Why did Hagar not dwell there?  She was saved at that place, by an angel of God.  At that place, God revealed salvation, for her and her son.  Why did she leave?  Isaac dwelt there; why didn't Hagar?

Was it because she was alone, and didn't have the ability to make it a viable place to live for herself and her son, the way Isaac was able to?  Sort of the same reason we come home from camping.  That beautiful spot in the mountains doesn't have what we need to sustain us.  It would take a lot of work before we could dwell there for longer than a week.

Spiritually speaking, however, we are able to make the choice that Isaac did.  We can dwell with Him.  We can abide in Him.  Why?  Because He abides in us.  He has given us His Spirit, and we don't have to ever be apart from Him. 

He is our source, and our life.  We need never thirst again.

~ "we dwell in Him,
and He in us,
     because He has given us His Spirit" ~
1 John 4:13
~

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Just One Part

"the same God who works in all"
1 Corinthians 12:6

We went to our family reunion today, which we do every summer.  There are relatives who come from much farther away than we do, so it's always fun to see who's going to be there.

And I had a long conversation with a cousin I haven't seen in years.  Actually, he's my cousin's son, so he's really my first cousin-once-removed.  But that's too complicated, so we'll just go with cousin.

I haven't seen him in years because he grew up in Oregon, then lived in Alaska for some time, and then when he wasn't living in Alaska, he was serving with the US Army in Iraq.  He was wounded there, and although he looks fine now, he's unable to work due to the injuries he sustained.

So we talked about his hobbies and his daughter (sweet little five-year-old; I met her for the first time today.)  He's an amazing guy:  down-to-earth, good conversationalist, and interesting to talk to.  But something he said really stood out to me.

I've mentioned before, my admiration for how those in the military never think they are heroes, something Joe said, too.  But he took it one step further.  He said that sometimes people thank him, but he doesn't want that; he feels it's unnecessary.  He said, "Serving in the military is what I wanted to do."  He said he feels like he should thank others for raising or growing the food he eats, or for building homes for people to live in, or delivering the mail, or whatever. 

Of course, he's neglecting the part about how dangerous his job was, and about how for the rest of his life he will have to live with the injuries he suffered.  But he makes a good point about seeing your contribution to society, along with others'. 

I have an uncle who used to say, "It takes all kinds of people to make a world."  And it does.  And I have a God who says, "If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing?  If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?  But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as he pleased." (1 Corinthians 12)

It seems wrong to compare my contributions to society to those of my cousin Joe.  I vote, I obey laws, and I'm doing my best to raise two kids who will make society a better place.  But that's not much when compared to soldiers, firefighters, or cancer researchers.  So it's comforting to know that me being the best me I can be, means I can be used by God.  That through Him, what I have to offer is bigger and more valuable than anything I can accomplish on my own.


But don't worry; I thanked Joe anyway. 

~ "There are diversities of gifts, 
but the same Spirit.
There are differences of ministries, 
but the same Lord.
And there are diversities of activities, 
  but it is the same God who works all in all." ~
1 Corinthians 12:4-6
~

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Look out!

"she looked through a window"
2 Samuel 6:16

{At the end of this, you're probably gonna be thinking,  
"Why don't you just wash your car?"  
And I'm gonna respond, "I know, I know... 
but I keep forgetting.  
And it's hot outside.  

And I keep forgetting."}

So, um, my car needs to be washed.  I mean, it's not horrible, but it's dirty.  It's been several weeks since it's been washed, but I've always just felt that a car's job is transportation, you know?  So while I don't like when the kids leave trash or whatever in the back seat, I've never been a real stickler about washing it.

And on top of that, I need new wiper blades.  Seems like I just replaced them, but maybe with the California sun they start to deteriorate quickly.  Or maybe we just bought a low-quality brand.  It's not a big deal, because it doesn't rain very often here, and even if it does, I'm probably not driving at the time. 

Anyhow, cleaning my windshield with those wipers has been sort of pointless lately.  The streaks that result are worse than the dirt.  But the other day, when we stopped for gas, the Apple of my Eye washed my windshield for me.  And even though my car isn't any cleaner, it feels cleaner.  The windshield is the part I look at as I'm driving, and frankly, my outlook has improved. 

Just another reminder to me that it's all in how you view things.  Perspective.  Making a few changes might be just what you need to make things seem brighter.

How do things look in your life?  And which way are you looking?  

~ "The sun shines ever brighter
   unto the perfect day" ~
Proverbs 4:18
~

Friday, July 19, 2013

In the Morning, In the Evening...

"in the cool of the day"
Genesis 3:8

I am not a morning person.  That needs to be said up front.  The longer I'm allowed to sleep, the better.  I wake up more focused, and more energetic and maybe even more pleasant.  But I guess I'm not the one to ask about that...

It's especially true in the colder months, when the bed is warm and cozy.  But it's still true in the summer.  It's one of the dangers of having a TV in the bedroom ~ the temptation to just lie there, informed or entertained by whatever I might turn on. 

But even though I'm still not a morning person in the summer, it's different somehow.  When the weather is cold, I'm inclined to go right from my bed, to the couch with a blanket, and as soon as my mind wakes up a little, I get right into reading the Bible, or my Bible study.  But in the summer, I know it's going to be hot later, so I'm eager to get started on things I won't want to do later, like laundry or vacuuming or housecleaning.  I know me, and when it gets hot, I don't want to do much.  Even my brain can't be relied upon to excel at concentrating.

{Yeah, so I guess I'm not a morning person, 
and I'm not a "hot afternoon" person.  
But the rest of the time, I'm awesome!  Really!}

My plan, on the hot days, is to "accomplish" stuff in the morning, when it's cool, and then reserve the hot part of the day for reading or writing ~ something where I don't have to move very much.  But it often doesn't happen that way.  I end up running errands or watching TV with the kids or reading something.  Maybe the Bible.  But not always.  It's kind of a hit-or-miss, decide-at-the-time, go-with-the-flow kind of thing. 

Not a great plan.

And I got to thinking about the line in Genesis about the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.  Doesn't that sound so wonderful and peaceful?  But I think it's not necessarily about the cool of the day; it's about the best of the day.  Whenever that might be.  First thing in the morning, right after work; when it's cool; when you're not distracted; when you're in the tub; right before bed; when the baby is napping...  

I don't know why Adam and Even didn't walk with Him in the hot of the day, but I picture it like now, and who'd want to go walking in the hottest part of the day?  So why would I think that the worst part of my day is the time I should give Him?  Whether that "worst" part is when I'm hot, or busy, or in a rush or whatever, it's insulting to not make time for Him at all, and it's insulting to give Him my "leftover" time. 

Of course He's with me always, and of course I can cry to Him when things are at their worst.  But I think there's so much potential for growth in prayer, and in His Word, when I'm at my best. 

In the cool, in the calm, in the quiet,
     I will find Him waiting for me.

~ "My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up" ~
Psalm 5:3
~

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Loving His Letter

"do you not know what the Scripture says"
Romans 11:2

Another quote today.  A friend of mine gave me a book of quotes recently, and I'm being inspired!  

Which was probably the point of the book, after all.

So here's today's offering.  This was written by British politician and author, Viscount Alfred "Duff" Cooper, (1890-1954) in a letter.  I don't know who he was writing to, but it's part of the fun of wondering, I think.  Anyhow, he wrote:

"Don't write too legibly or intelligibly as I have no occupation so pleasant as pondering for hours over your hieroglyphics, and for hours more trying to interpret your sayings.  A clearly written, simply expressed letter is too like the lightning."

Now first of all, isn't that beautiful?  I'm assuming this was a letter to his wife (or his sweetheart, before he had a wife) and I just love the idea of him poring over letters he had received from her, drinking in every word and implication, studying her handwriting and the special way she signed her name.

Makes a person wonder if romance even exists anymore, doesn't it?

Which, of course, it does; it just looks different than it used to. 

The reason the quote caught my mind was that it's exactly how we should feel about Scripture.  I mean, that's exactly what Bible study is supposed to be about, whether it's individual or corporate.  Parsing phrases, looking up the original language, comparing translations, meditating on words, looking up geography, using a dictionary even for words you already know.  

And no complaining about books or sections that are "too hard".  The "hard" parts are not hard; they are simply waiting to reward our efforts to deeply understand them.  If you think it's too much like deciphering, then great!  Start deciphering!   There should be, for us, no occupation so pleasant as pondering His Word for hours. 

If you don't feel that way about the Bible, ask yourself if maybe you're not approaching it the right way.  Trying seeing it as a love letter.  Because it is. 


~ "Search from the book of the Lord and read" ~
Isaiah 34:16
~
photo credit: wikimedia

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bon Appetit!

"the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, 
  the onions and the garlic"
Numbers 11:5

I read a great quote recently.  Actually, I've read a lot of great quotes recently.  There's nothing better than a great quote, so I find them wherever I can!

This one was from Susan Wiegand, author of Cooking as Courtship, which I must confess, I never read.  I've never even heard of it, actually, so this isn't an endorsement by any means.  I just happened to come across this quote, which I do recommend...

"Oddly, it is not real cooks who insist that the finest ingredients are necessary to produce a delicious something... Real cooks take stale bread and aging onions and make you happy."

I think the reason this struck a chord with me is that I love doing that in the kitchen.  I love making a delicious and nutritious dinner out of what we have, especially when what we have doesn't seem like it's going to come together as a meal!

Are you familiar with the TV show "Chopped" on Food Network?  It's a competition wherein four chefs are given a basket of unusual ingredients that seem like they are not going to work well together.   For an appetizer, an entree and a dessert, they are given a limited amount of time to create something that will impress the judges, and earn them the $10,000 prize. 

And as impressive as that might seem, housewives everywhere do it every night. 

The spiritual connection here is simple ~ it's what God does, too.  He takes eleven weak men and sends them out to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  He uses weak humans to do amazing things in the lives of other weak humans.   He takes the pain and mistakes and troubles in our lives, and uses them to grow and perfect us.  Romans 8:28.

But here's another spiritual challenge for each of us to think about:  "Am I doing this in my life?"

It's the thought behind, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade".  Or "bloom where you're planted".  There is no challenge in doing a lot with a lot.  The challenge is in doing a lot with not very much.  Are you doing that?

Take a look at the goods and bads in your life and ask yourself, "What good can I make from this?" 

Then take what God has allowed in your life, and make something of it.  Grow closer to Him.  Edify others.  Be blessed, and be a blessing. 

~ "A little that a righteous man has
      is better than the riches of many wicked" ~
Psalm 37:16
~

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Made With Love

"fearfully and wonderfully made"
Psalm 139:14

This is me.

I'm the tall one.  The little one looks a lot like me, if a bit jaundiced...



The small one is sort of a "mini-me".  My Amazing Boy bought it for me at the Lego Store in New York City.  Apparently, there are little bins full of varied body parts, and you can select pieces to create a personalized version.  So he bought one for me, and one for his sister, my Awesome Girl.

They are cleverly designed, in the way they represent each of us.  And, of course, I look a lot like my sweet girl in real life, but our "miniatures" have enough differences to look different from one another, and yet still like each of us.  My boy did a good job with his "designing".

And my mom, who was also on the NY trip, said he had a ball doing it.  She said he was crouched down in front of these bins for several minutes, carefully and gleefully combing through the parts, choosing the ones that would best represent my daughter and me.   

I just loved that picture in my mind, of my sweet boy getting such joy out of this task.  He was so excited to present us with these "souvenirs" when he got home, I could just imagine how much fun he had putting them together.

Isn't that a wonderful picture of God, and His love for each of His children? 

"You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother's womb"

Taking joy, in the person He was creating, knowing each of us intimately. 

"You know my sitting down and my rising up...
You comprehend my path and my lying down"

Our strengths and our weaknesses...

"O Lord, You have searched me and known me...
You understand my thought afar off"

Our past and our future...

"in Your book they all were written,
the days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them"

And if my son had fun creating "me," how much more my Father?

Now go read Psalm 139.
~

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Giant Lesson

"every man at his best"
Psalm 39:5

Something good happened the other day, to someone bad.  

I'm kidding; he's not really bad. 

The "he" is Tim Lincecum, pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.  And he's only "bad" if you are, like me, a Dodgers fan. 

The good thing that happened was that he threw a no-hitter.  Pitched all nine innings without giving up a hit.  He gave up a few walks, I guess, otherwise it would be a perfect game. 

I rarely ~ or never ~ root for the Giants.  But we were watching TV last night, and got word of the no-hitter in the 7th inning, so we tuned in for the rest of the game.  They don't happen a lot, so it's exciting to see. 

And the funny thing is, you start to root for the pitcher, no matter where your allegiance might lie normally.  Several years ago I attended a Dodger game where the Dodgers were no-hit, and by the 9th inning, I found myself rooting for the opposing pitcher. 

But here's the other thing that's cool about a no-hitter:  it almost always includes a few amazing defensive plays.  There's just something about seeing how well their pitcher is doing, that makes a team all give it their best.  It's probably partially about not wanting to be the one that messes up the streak, but I think it's also because watching someone excel makes us want to excel, too.  Especially when it's someone we're working with. 

I like this from two aspects:  the challenge of being my best in order to bring out the best in others; and noticing and appreciating the excellence in those around me, and letting it inspire me.  

~ "let it be for the edification of the church
that you seek to excel" ~
1 Corinthians 14:12
~

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Loving What's Loveable

"as I have loved you"
John 15:12

I had an interesting conversation with one of my sisters last week, via email.  We'd been discussing parenting, and some of the difficulties involved in being a good parent, particularly when your kids aren't appreciative or cooperative or obedient. {We weren't talking about my kids per se, or her kids; just kids in general.}

And my sister told me about a book she read recently, on parenting, that talked about a mom whose son was "out of control".  I don't know if he had a drug problem or what, but there was a lot wrong.  A lot of things to make a mom angry or frustrated or ready to give up.  He would disappear for days and when he got home, he'd be a mess and she'd yell at him to get his act together, etc.

So one day, when he arrived home, she said, "Good breathing, son!"  He looked at her funny and asked what she meant by that, and she replied something like, "I'm glad to see that you're still alive."  And he came over and kissed her on the cheek.

I just love the concept of finding something to praise, in a life where there's very little to praise.  It's the knowledge that there is always something to appreciate about those in our lives.  Even those who are driving us crazy in some way.  Or many ways. 

We're much more interested in pointing out the speck in the eyes of others, than we are in seeing the plank in our own.  Frankly, it's just easier.  Especially when their failings and flaws are hurting us.  Repeatedly. 

That woman's son was making a lot of mistakes.  But he managed to stay alive.  He managed to recognize that a place of refuge existed, and he managed to find his way there.  In a life that was falling apart, these were achievements, and his mother made the decision to recognize that. 

I think that's a beautiful example of unconditional love.  Not blind love, mind you.  She was still very aware of his mistakes.  But she'd spoken up about those many times before, to no avail.  Perhaps she recognized God's unfailing love and forgiveness in her own life. 

God can accomplish a lot through love.  And there's no greater act of love than Jesus' death on the cross.  But He can illustrate His love through us, too.  So what are you waiting for?

~ "the kindness of God
     leads you to repentance" ~
Romans 2:4
~

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hello, dolly

"He heals the broken"
Psalm 147:3

My folks' have just gotten their kitchen redone.  New floors, counters, appliances, cupboards, the works.  It's exciting to watch it come together, to see something new where something old had been.

There was a lot of work to be done, before and after.  We helped them empty their cupboards and find places elsewhere in the house to put the boxes.  And we helped them clean out the garage a little to make room for the new appliances, which needed a place to sit until it was time to put them in the kitchen. 

So a few Saturdays ago, we were all out there working, moving things in the garage, and throwing some stuff out.  And we came across a collection of clothes and toys from when my sisters and I were very, very young.  The kind of stuff a mother saves....

This is one of the things we discovered.


It wasn't at all familiar to me, but my mother tells me it was mine.  Frankly, it looks a little gruesome to me.  Distorted.  Can you see the way the neck is twisted, and the upper body is sort of contorted?

But the thing is, I loved it.  As a matter of fact, my love is the reason it looks that way.  My mother tells me I used to carry it around constantly ~ apparently tucked under my arm.  Obviously I loved it enough to want it near me, but not enough to be gentle or caring with it. 

Well, I was young.  What are ya gonna do?  And despite how it looked, I loved it. 

It was a funny little reminder to me of how much God loves us.  No matter how twisted, or mangled or distorted we might be.  He looks right past our weaknesses and flaws.  It's not that He doesn't know they are there, but they don't factor in to His love.

Unconditional love.  Can you feel it?

~ "Yes, He loves the people" ~
Deuteronomy 33:3
~

Friday, July 12, 2013

And All The Rest



I did an unexpected word study this afternoon.  I was cleaning up some papers on my desk, and found an unfinished chapter from the Bible study our church did last summer.  So I decided to finish it.

The section I was working on was on the concept of rest, and probably would have been very welcome during the school year, when my busyness with school, sports and Bible Study reach their peak.  But hopefully I can be reminded of the lesson when my schedule heats up again.

The instructions in the study were to look up a few verses on "rest" and "write down what you discover."  I love those guidelines.  It really allows me to let the Holy Spirit guide what I see, not what the author of the study is looking for, you know?  Most studies have a purpose, but sometimes it's fun to just let your mind wander where it will.

As I started looking at these verses, I began to be more and more interested in all the spiritual angles of resting.  So I thought I'd share them with you.  It's a topic I've looked at before on here, but there's just something about a whole phalanx of verses comin' at ya, to really make you open your mind to a new understanding.

So, with that introduction, here are some of the ways, truths and meanings I discovered about rest ~

Where...

"rest yourselves under the tree"
Genesis 18:4

Why...

"He saw that rest was good"
Genesis 49:15

How...

“Rest and be still!"
Jeremiah 47:6

When...

“This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest"
Exodus 16:23

in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest"
Exodus 34:21

What kinds...

"... make them rest from their labor!”
Exodus 5:5

"but the seventh year you shall let the land rest and lie fallow"
Exodus 23:11

"on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest"
Exodus 23:12

"the Lord gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve"
Isaiah 14:3

"They shall rest in their beds"
Isaiah 57:2

Where it comes from...

I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:14

It is for Him...

"a Sabbath of rest to the Lord
Exodus 35:2

It is for us...

"a sabbath of solemn rest for you"
Leviticus 16:31

He'll force it if He must...

"as long as... you are in your enemies’ land;  the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths... for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it"
Leviticus 26:34-35

"I... have caused you to rest from all your enemies"
2 Samuel 7:11

It has many facets...

"He gives you rest from all your enemies round about"
Deuteronomy 12:10

"But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side"
1 Kings 5:4

It must be found...

"The Lord grant that you may find rest"
Ruth 1:9

It must be sought...

"we have sought Him, 
and He has given us rest on every side”
2 Chronicles 14:7

But it is sometimes not to be found...

"among those nations you shall find no rest"
Deuteronomy 28:65

It comes with inheritance...

"for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you"
Deuteronomy 12:9

... and land...

“The Lord your God is giving you rest 
and giving you this land"
Joshua 1:13

It was given to Israel...

"the Lord had given rest to Israel"
Joshua 23:1

It is a choice...

"the man will not rest 
until he has concluded the matter this day"
Ruth 3:18

It is to be without war...

"he had no war in those years, 
because the Lord had given him rest"
2 Chronicles 14:6

He gives generously...

"So the land had rest for forty years"
Judges 3:11

We rest on Him...

"O Lord our God, we rest on You"
2 Chronicles 14:11

We rest in hope...

"my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; 
My flesh also will rest in hope"
Psalm 16:9

It is for the weary...

"there the weary are at rest"
Job 3:17

Sometimes it is found away from where we are...

“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! 
I would fly away and be at rest"
Psalm 55:6

It is His...

"I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.'”
Psalm 95:11

It saves...

“In returning and rest you shall be saved"
Isaiah 30:15

It is for our souls...

"Then you will find rest for your souls"
Jeremiah 6:16

It must be entered into...

"So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’”
Hebrews 3:11

It requires diligence...

"Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest"
Hebrews 4:11


It is a choice.  A privilege.  A need.  A gift.  It is to be earned.  And not taken lightly.
~

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Juice of Life

"you should not delay to offer...
your juices"
Exodus 22:29 

See this?


It's a juicer.  Or more appropriately, a citrus reamer.  It used to belong to my grandmother.  I remember that, because years ago when my mother became aware that I needed one, she said, "Here, you can have this one.  But it used to belong to my mother, so don't break it."

Believe me, every time I get it out of the cupboard, I grip it tightly.


Isn't it beautiful? 

I had washed it the night before, so it was just sitting on the counter waiting to be put away, and I just thought it was so lovely in the morning sunlight.  All those sides and angles  catching and refracting the light. 

But then I remember the job of this tool.  To ream. The fruit is pressed down hard on the tip, and then it is forcefully ground, in a twisting motion.  Seeds, pulp and juice are all dislodged.  Everything the fruit has to offer is extracted.  It's rather a violent act, although I guess that's somewhat appropriate in a room where things are beaten and whipped. 

A reamer accomplishes a great deal for its size.  And it does so forcefully.  And yet, in its own way, it's a work of art. 

There is beauty in the work that God is doing in us.  We feel like we're being scraped and scoured and rubbed raw.  We think we have nothing more in us to give.  And yet He's not done. 

The things that "ream" us are beautiful and intricately designed to do the job.   People, events, long-running circumstances, all are used by Him to bring out everything in us ~ the good and the bad.  The good to be a blessing to ourselves and to others, the bad to be discarded, leaving us just a little bit more like Him. 

It's often painful, but like so many difficulties in life, it's all in the perspective.  And maybe the only way to see the beauty is to see it in His light.

~ "You shall be like a tree
planted by the rivers of water,
that brings forth its fruit in its season" ~
Psalm 1:3
~

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Expected Unexpected

"out of the ground 
the Lord God made every tree grow 
that is pleasant to the sight"
Genesis 2:9

There's a tree growing in our front yard.  Well, actually there are four.  Well actually, that's not true either.  We have four trees in our front yard, but only three are growing there.  One is just standing there, standing in perpetual tribute to winter.  

How's that for a light-hearted view of a dead tree?

Two are Birch trees.  I love Birch trees, with their white bark and delicate leaves.  One is a Red Ash, which we bought because it was a good price, and because baseball bats are made from Ash trees, and we love baseball.  It's the tallest tree we've got, although you probably wouldn't find the height all that impressive.  But we planted it ourselves, so its health and height are personal to me.

The fourth tree is not with the others, because we didn't plant it.  And I'm not sure what kind of tree it is.  It just sprouted at some point.   

In other words, it's a weed. 

Our neighbors have one in their yard, too, that they didn't plant.  I guess whatever kind of tree it is, it grows well here.  Or there was one in the area in the past, and its seeds are still viable.  And for some reason, instead of yanking the one in our yard, we've let it keep going.

A weed, to you and me, is unwanted, unplanned.  Something that's not in our overall scheme.  If we give weeds any thought at all, it's how to prevent them.  But every plant that exists, God created.  He knows each of them, and He knows where they're going to grow.  And He always has.

We try very hard, in lawns and in life, to prevent and eliminate the unexpected.  But often we're so focused on controlling the world around us, that we're not appreciating what God has brought.  We think only thing the things we've orchestrated should be part of the mix.  But just because we didn't know it was coming, doesn't mean it shouldn't be part of our life.

Go with the flow. 

Live and let live. 

Bloom where you're planted. 

And let a few things that you haven't planted, bloom, too.


~ "Be still,
   and know that I am God" ~
Psalm 46:10
~

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Life is a Fraction

"solve and explain it to me"
Judges 14:12

I did some school with my Amazing Boy this morning.  We slow down and get a little lazy during the summer, but we try to keep learning.  Couple of days a week, and plenty of reading.

So I gave him some math review to start with.  He finished everything in this year's textbook, but I had some worksheets left over from earlier in the year.  Great way to make sure he still remembers what he knew several months ago. 

But these particular worksheets don't have an answer key.  So I have to do the work myself in order to grade them.  I was thrilled that he breezed through it, but I still had to check, ya know?  And I'm pleased to say he got them all right.

But as I pondered 7/8 minus 2/3, it occurred to me that it's positively ridiculous that the answer to that problem is 5/24.  I mean, 7 minus 2 equals 5, but you look at those denominators, and one's an 8 and one's a 3 and where the heck does that 24 come from?? 

You have to understand the steps to understand the answer.  The 8 and the 3 need to change, but that's not readily obvious.  And if you don't know the procedure, you'd just look at all those numbers and not have any idea how to make something logical out of it. 

Life, my friends, is a fraction.  You are 7/8.  That thing that's going on in your life is 2/3.  God's gonna make it equal 5/24, and you have no idea how.  It's just not gonna make sense on the surface, and it can be hard to see how this is going to work out for good.  If you analyze it and pray over it and research the Scriptures, you might be able to see what He's doing ~ but maybe you won't. 

Be happy either way.  Be excited for those times you see what He's doing in your life, and why.  And when you don't, revel in the gift of faith. 

~ "The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?" ~
Psalm 27:1
~

Monday, July 8, 2013

Learning not to doubt

"why do doubts arise in your heart?"
Luke 24:38

Something scary happened to me the other day.  A conversation.  A very brief conversation.  With a very good friend.

The problem?  She asked me for advice.

I know, right?  Some people....

Now, really, I don't mind giving advice.  Who minds sharing their wisdom, right? But the subject on which she wanted advice is homeschooling.  Hence the fear.

I love homeschooling.  I feel very strongly about it, and I've been doing it for years.  But it's never been something I've been comfortable guiding others in.  There are so many ways to do it, all of which are good, and all of which depend on what's right for your child.  So I've never wanted to come off as some sort of expert, or know-it-all.  All I know is what books and methods are right for my kids, and for me. 

But there's another reason I'm reluctant to be any source of council or wisdom on this subject. 

Doubt. 

I know a lot of homeschoolers.  Only a small percentage of the nation's students are homeschooled, but in any given region, it's not hard to find them.  Support Groups, and other organizations exist to provide, well, support.  So I've come to know several families in our area, and become friends with many moms.

And bar none, no matter how strong they feel about homeschooling, they all acknowledge there are times when they feel doubt, not about what they're doing, or why, but about how.  Books, curricula, methods... there are so many options.  So there's plenty of room to wonder if you've chosen the best ones.  Talking with other moms can make that worse. 

But whether you homeschool or not, I don't doubt you've battled with doubt.  (See what I did there?)  And I think the places where we're most vulnerable to doubt is any areas where we're different from others.  Any decisions we make that go against the norm.  Because being different will always garner scrutiny, questioning, and guilt.

But then I realize that guilt is brought on by a feeling of not doing what one should; not meeting the standard. 

Which begs the question:  whose standard is it?  Whose expectations am I fearful I'm not meeting?

It's quicksand.  Comparison to neighbors, friends, our culture, heck even our world, is a bad idea.  It's dangerous. 

And it doesn't mean I ignore the world's standards when it comes to education.  Things like grades and GPA mean something in our society, and I owe it to my kids to enable them to compete in the world in which they are living.  But how I do that is between my family and God.  Guilt is not from God.  Conviction is from God. 

Doubt is a reminder to ask Him again ~ and again and again ~ if I'm on the path He wants me on.  There's always the chance He needs me to change something.  But if there is, I need to hear it from Him, not from others, and not my own insecurities.

~ "All the people were very attentive to hear Him" ~
Luke 19:48
~