Monday, September 30, 2013

Because He said so

"He has spoken"
Genesis 18:19

Well, it's Autumn, and I'm celebrating baseball.

Partially because the playoffs start this week for Major League Baseball, and my Dodgers are in the post-season.  That's exciting.  I always watch the playoffs and the World Series, and I always enjoy it, but it's even more fun when my team is in the hunt.

But I'm also enjoying that after having the summer off, my Amazing Boy is playing baseball again.  Fall Ball, it's called around here.  It's Little League, but more relaxed.  It's more of a learning experience for boys that need it, and just some extra playing for those who don't. 

Case in point re: learning ~ the coach of one team came out in the middle of an inning to explain to the pitcher why he had just been called for a balk.  Batter's standing there at the plate, waiting for the next pitch, but no one batted an eye {so to speak} at the delay, cuz it's Fall Ball.

Case in point re: extra playing for those who love baseball ~ my Amazing Boy.  I'm not saying he's perfect, but some of these boys look like they're pretty new at the game.

Plus, at this age (13) things are about to change.  The rules get to be more like the majors, and the distances between the bases, and between home plate and the pitcher's mound, increase.  So this is a good time for the boys to start to experience that.  

Well, I told you all that so I could tell you this:  halfway through the game, the umpire had to make a difficult call, and on any difficult call, someone's gonna disagree.  The play was over by second base, so I couldn't hear very well, but I think the player that didn't get the call was trying to convince the ump that he had made the wrong call.  That the runner was really out.  Or something.  And from the stands, the boy's mother called out to her son, "The umpire is always right!"

I kind of laughed at the interesting truth of that statement.  Because of course it's not true.  Umpires are not infallible.  But when they make a decision, it's final. It's almost like rightness resides with them, and by virtue of their saying it, it becomes right.  And that led me to starting thinking about that powerful statement of umpires and parents everywhere:  "Because I said so".  That was not a statement I heard very often as a kid.  My mother was in the habit of explaining things, not just insisting on them.  But the authority still needs to be understood by kids. 

In Deuteronomy 11, God makes a proclamation that I've long thought could have been shorter than it was:  "you shall keep every commandment which I command you today..."  It's a powerful sentence, isn't it?  It's got the word "command" in it twice, really.  And I feel like, if God ever said it to me, I'd meekly reply, "Yes, Sir."

But it's not a commandment that stops there.  He goes on to tell us the "why".  And the "why" is a promise ~ "that you may be strong and go in and possess the land which you cross over to possess."

Though He could have just told them "what," He also told them "why".  And He does the same for us.  He has promises waiting for us, just as He did for the Israelites. 

We shouldn't need a reason to obey; to do what's right.  But He wants us to experience the blessings of obedience.  And He wants us to know what they are.  And seeing the fulfillment of promises already in our lives, it should be no great stretch for us to eagerly obey in the future!

~ "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man's all." ~
Ecclesiastes 12:13

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and a touch of George Washington

"This is the history"
Genesis 2:4

Long but interesting day today.  And a fun family day.  We drove to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley California.  The kids and I have been there before, the Apple of my Eye never has.  (A full-time job makes it hard to join the family on field trips!)

It was several years ago the last time I was there, though.  It's an awfully long drive from our house, through plenty of LA traffic.

We went there for two reasons, really, neither of which really had anything to do Reagan, surprisingly.  Well one sort of did...

The one that sort of had to do with Reagan is Air Force One.  I say "sort of" because he was one of several Presidents to fly in that aircraft.   Not to mention all the other Presidents that have flown in the Air Force Ones that are almost exactly like this Air Force One. 

{Yes, I Know That Grammatically-Speaking, 
The Word "President" Should Not Be Capitalized 
Unless It's Part Of A Title.  
But I Think It Looks Better Capitalized.  
And I'm The One Doing The Typing.}

So it didn't have to do with just him.  But it's at his Library, so there ya go.

Photo credit:  The Apple of my Eye.  Or maybe this was taken by my Awesome Girl.  Not sure...

The other reason we went was for the exhibit the Library was hosting about President Lincoln.  My major in college was American Studies, and my emphasis was the Civil War, so I've long been a Lincoln scholar.  I've read books, I've watched movies, I've taken classes, I've been to museums and monuments and historic homes. 

And yet, for all the Lincoln I've studied, and all the papers, photos, paintings and artifacts I've seen, I was pleased to see a few things today, that I've never seen before. 

For instance, there was a painting of a lovely young Mary Todd.  I have a soft spot in my heart for Mary Lincoln.  She was a far-from-perfect, but very complex woman.  And she lived a difficult life, in a difficult era.  So I think she gets a bit of a bad rap.   And many of the photos and portraits you see of her don't do much for her.  Her stature and weight, and the fact that no one smiled for pictures in that time can lead us to believe she was cranky, or cause us to wonder why Mr Lincoln married her. 

Like this one:

Photo credit: I found this on - It was taken by Matthew Brady

But look at the painting I saw today:

Photo credit: ~ This was painted by Mrs Lincoln's niece

I know; she still looks a little dour here, but I also think she looks lovely.  The lace of her dress, and her hair down, seem to soften her a little. 

There was also this piece of art, done in 1866, I believe:

I don't know how well you can see that, but it is George Washington welcoming Mr Lincoln into heaven.  Isn't that interesting?  I'm quite sure I would have remembered that, if I'd ever seen it before.

And then there's this:

This is the pen that Lincoln used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.  And to be totally honest, I can't be sure I never saw this before, but if I have, I've forgotten about it. 

I wonder why we ever get to feeling knowledgeable or expert on things, when there's always more to learn, and when we're always in danger of forgetting what we've learned.  I guess it's because, when we compare ourselves to someone else, we can find someone who knows less than we do, and that makes us feel elevated. 

But I'm also reminded of the fact that there's always more to learn.  Scripture talks a lot about knowledge, and I love knowing that as I study His Word, I'm learning more about Him, and about myself, and others. 

I also love knowing that I'll never learn it all.  I can study a book, and then years later study it again, and have it be a much different experience, because I'm not who I was.  Or my situation is different, and my need for understanding has changed.  "Seek, and you shall find," He said.  But you know what is even better?  Seek more, and you will find more!

~ "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
   and knowledge of the Holy One is insight" ~
Proverbs 9:10

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Living cleansed in a germy world

"cleanse your hands, you sinners"
James 4:8

I went out in the backyard today, to talk to a friend on the phone.  The weather's been so beautiful lately, and we have a porch swing hanging from our patio cover, so it's a nice place to enjoy. 

And the dog followed me out, as she normally does.  She likes to see if there are any neighboring dogs or cats to bark at.  Or maybe she'll run down the side yard to the gate, and watch the sidewalk for a few minutes, to see if anyone has the temerity to walk down the street. 

Or maybe she'll find a tennis ball and play with it a little.  She prefers to have one of her people play fetch with her, but I don't really do that.  It's a game that the Apple of my Eye plays, primarily, and when he's at work sometimes the kids play with her.  The most she'll get from me is my kicking the ball for her, if she drops it at my feet.  But even that's hard to do, because she'd rather be chased a little than just drop the ball and make it easy for me.   And chasing wasn't going to happen, cuz I was on the phone. 

I sat, chatting and swinging, and she wandered around the yard, sniffing and exploring.  But when I hung up, and stood up from the swing, I realized I hadn't heard her bark at all, which is unusual.  After all, it's her second-favorite pastime, after playing ball...  And then I realized I had been hearing her scuffling around in the leaves, which is also unusual.  Most of our backyard is patio; there's a relatively small amount of planting area, so for her to spend time there, she has to have a reason. 

So I went looking for her, and found her standing in the planter, behind the barbecue.  She was just standing there looking at me.  I asked her what was up, and walked a little, closer, and still she just stood.  Then after a minute of looking at me, and deciding she didn't feel like following me quite yet, she looked back down at what was apparently the reason she was so interested in the garden ~ a small, dead rat. 

I really don't think she killed it.  That's not her style.  The neighbors have three cats, and that's really more likely what happened. 

{We have a kitty too, of course, 
but she rarely goes outside.
And killing a rat is not her style, either.}

So I called the dog to me a couple more times, and she followed me inside.  And I went to my Amazing Boy and asked him to take care of it so that the dog would be able to go outside without my having to worry about her nosing around it.  And he bravely did so. 

{Cuz, ya know, ew.}

When my son came back in, I told him to wash his hands.  I mean, I knew he hadn't touched the thing; his hands were far away, at the end of a long shovel handle, but still:  ew.

And then I washed my hands too.  It felt kind of silly.  All I had done was look at the rat.  But somehow, I guess I figured that I'd been near my boy, and he'd touched the shovel that touched the rat. 

I knew that there was no compelling reason for me to wash my hands, except that I'd been reminded that life is sometimes dirty, and gross, and germy.   We need to wash our hands frequently to rid ourselves of what we've been hanging around.  Even if we think we're clean, there's a good chance we have touched a doorknob or a shopping cart or a gas pump with more bacteria on it than we want to think about. 

It's the same with our spiritual cleanliness.  Leviticus 5:17 says, "If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity." 

Or, in more common parlance:  "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."

We wash our hands automatically at certain points of the day, when we know we need to.  But we also do it even if we're not sure ~ say, when we're getting ready to eat, or if we were going to hold a friend's newborn.  Sometimes we wash just in case.   

And maybe we should take the same approach to repentance.  We need to acknowledge sometimes, that He is so holy, and so perfect, any sin is offensive to Him.  Even the small ones, and even the inadvertent ones. 

The good news is, a clean conscience is as easy to acquire as clean hands. 

~ "For whoever shall keep the whole law,
and yet stumble in one point,
he is guilty of all." ~
James 2:10

Friday, September 27, 2013

The chicken or the egg? Doesn't matter. They both came from Him.

"cook the meat well,
     mix in the spices..."
Ezekiel 24:10

I made something new for dinner last night ~ chicken satay.  I think it's Thai, but I'm not sure.  I've never had it before.  And I've never had a bit of Thai before.  But I stumbled on the recipe yesterday afternoon, and I realized I had all the ingredients for it, so I decided to give it a shot.

And it was great!  It was several steps, but easily done in a logical fashion to ensure everything was ready at the same time.  I had to make a marinade for the chicken, and then let that sit for awhile.  In the meantime I made the sauce that would go over the dish at the end, and I set that aside.  Then when the marinated chicken was ready to cook, I did that while I made the coconut rice.

My Amazing Boy came to help me, because it was rather like three different recipes I had to follow:  the marinade, the sauce, and the rice.  And when it was all done, we had created something delicious.

Several years ago, in a discussion a Bible Study, one of my friends made the interesting point that since we are created in God's image, we are created to create ~ a point I think I've celebrated before in this forum.   I love knowing that.  I love knowing that the joy we get out of creating brings us a little closer to Him.  Like maybe we get a glimpse of how He feels about what He has created.

But in a way, I didn't really create anything.  At least, I didn't create out of nothing, the way God does.  Really what I did was mix, combine, and assemble.  I can make a sauce, but I used things like oil, garlic, sugar, and salt.  I got all those from Him.  

I could build a building, but the raw materials would have to come from Him.

I can write, but language ~ sounds, letters, words... they were His idea. 

Literally, I can do nothing without Him. 

CS Lewis makes a beautiful point, using the comparison of a child going to his father, and asking for money to buy the father a birthday present.  The father would, of course, give the child some money, and would be pleased with whatever the child gave.  But at the same time, the father would know that he was instrumental in what the child had accomplished for him. 

Anything I do, I do through the Lord.  Anything I do for Him, comes first from Him.  The desire, the idea, the ability...  All I'm doing is combining, mixing, or assembling, to come up with the finished product. 

I think He loves seeing us create.  He loves watching us make use of the brains and abilities He has given us.  But I would imagine He also gets tired of being ignored or forgotten by us.  When we're proud of what we've accomplished, we are keeping for ourselves the glory that belongs to Him.  Makes me want to thank Him for all the ways I see His hand in my life, and all the ways I don't see.

~ "His hand upon me,
       all the works of these plans..." ~
1 Chronicles 28:19

Thursday, September 26, 2013

But next time without the bleu cheese

"I am there in the midst of them"
Matthew 18:20

I went to lunch with a friend of mine today.  We go to church together, and we've known each other for years.  She called the other day out of the blue, and invited me to lunch, so we picked a day.  Today.  California Pizza Kitchen.  I had the caramelized peach salad.  It was pretty good, except I forgot to ask the waitress to have them leave off the bleu cheese crumbles, so I had to work around those.  But, you know, life happens.

Okay, now forget about that friend for a second.  I'll get back to her, I promise. 

I have another friend at church, whom I have also known for years.  We see each other nearly every week, of course, but I get together with her three or four times a year for lunch or brunch or coffee or whatever.   Those conversations are always deep and spiritual.  I mean, we get caught up on what's going with our kids and stuff like that, but then one of us will say, "So, what's God doing in your life?"  And then the discussion gets serious.

It might be something exciting that God is building in our lives, or a ministry opportunity that is opening up, or a trial that we're walking through.  There may or may not be tears, because after all, we're women, but there will for sure be soul-searching, shared wisdom, and encouragement.  They are always enjoyable, fruitful times.

Interestingly enough, my lunch today was exactly like that.  And nothing like that. 

The conversation was pleasant and marked by laughter at frequent intervals.  We talked about lice and horses and Boston and beauty pageants and Pierre L'Enfant and the Fibonacci sequence.   Among other things.   It reminded me that conversations don't have to be deep to touch the heart.   What are lighthearted chats for, after all, but to lighten the heart?  I left with no more answers than I'd come in with, as far as what God is doing in my life, but I left smiling, and encouraged, remembering that He's in control, if I'll let Him be.

The truth is, there is depth in simplicity, and God can work through even lightweight times in our day.  And I think those are the times we are least likely to see Him working, because there are no lightning bolts or Red Sea partings.  But He's there, nonetheless, wherever two or more are gathered in His name.

~ "that I may be encouraged together with you 
    by the mutual faith both of you and me" ~
Romans 1:12

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

In His Image

"In the image of God He created them;
male and female He created them"
Genesis 1:27

I spent quite some time today, working on a project.  It was a PowerPoint presentation for a group I belong to, and I had to choose the wording, then work it out onto the right number of slides, and then choose a background for each slide.  Then I had to select the right font, type size, and color for the words, to make each of them readable with their background.

When I was done, I was quite happy.  I felt it looked and would flow the way I thought it should.  So I titled it and sent it off to the person who needed it.

The problem was, someone else was in charge of the speaking that would be going along with the visuals I put together.  And a third person was in charge of the computer from which the PowerPoint would be shown.  All I could do was hope that between the two of them, they moved at the right pace, knew how long to pause at each slide before moving on to the next.

I guess, basically, all I could do was hope they did justice to the beautiful thing I had created.  That they would make my hard work worth it.

Can you guess where I'm going with this?

I'm just wondering how often God feels that way with me.  Say, for instance, with my children.  God has created these awesome, amazing people, and He has entrusted them to a couple of weak, flawed, well-meaning parents.

{No offense to the Apple of my Eye.  
He already knows we're flawed.}

Or maybe God even thinks it about you and me.  He has created us intricately and uniquely.  We have gifts and blessings to offer, that are unlike anyone else.  What are we doing with those?  Are we serving?  Are we sharing?  Or are we hiding our light under a bushel?

You are His masterpiece.  He knitted you together, thoughtfully and lovingly, taking care and time.  And then He gave you life.  And then He gave you free will.

What you do with His creation is up to you.  

~ "For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand 
that we should walk in them." ~
Ephesians 2:10

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


"a light to my path"
 Psalm 119:105

I had a wonderful opportunity, this past weekend, to spend some quality time with my Awesome Girl.  Our church had their annual women's retreat, up in the mountains, and this year we were both able to go.

It was a treat, because for the past few years, my schedule has not allowed me to go.  This year, when I signed up, the organizer asked if my daughter wanted to come, too.  I hesitated, because I was pretty sure that paying for two of us wasn't in our budget, but the organizer said that people in the church had donated money for anyone who couldn't afford to go, so she could be scholarshipped.  Seemed like the kind of circumstance God arranges, so I said sure!

We enjoyed the drive together, with her playing the dual roles of navigator and deejay.  And then, for some reason, the woman who was supposed to share our cabin with us was not able to make it, so we had the place to ourselves.  It made for a very relaxed weekend, with the two of us able to either ignore or enjoy each other ~ whichever we were in the mood for! 

The retreat location was a few hours from home, in a mountain community that has been built for this purpose.  They do family camps in the summer, and retreats and conferences throughout the year.  There are activities, several dining halls, and diverse facilities for sleeping, from small cabins to large rooms that sleep a dozen or more. 

And there are a plethora of birds, frogs and butterflies to photograph, which we did in our free time on Saturday.

And there was also a beetle.

A big beetle. 

But after the sun went down, you really remembered that you were far from civilization.  It was a five-minute walk from the dining hall to our meeting room, and another five-minute walk from there to our cabin, and at night, those pathways were pretty dark.  The moon was good-sized both nights, but we really needed the flashlights we had brought.

Well, actually, I had brought a flashlight.  A strong, tough Maglite flashlight that will both shed light on your path, and enable you to threaten the bear that's coming towards you.  Or, you know, the beetle.

{I'm kidding.  Don't threaten bears with flashlights.  
Stay away from bears.}

 She had brought her iProduct, which actually has a flashlight app.  Amazing.  Is there anything those gizmos won't do?

But we noticed something interesting about those two flashlights.  They were both good.  Bright and powerful.  But mine was a much more focused light.  A smaller circle of light, if you will.  Hers was a larger circle, less concentrated.  Mine enabled us to see our feet, and a little farther down our path, and hers let us see the bushes on either side of us.  Both valuable, and helpful to us.

It made me think of today's highlight verse, in Psalm 119.  I've always loved the wording of this verse, because it's one of those verses that seems repetitive, until you really look at the wording.  "Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path."  You could gloss over that line, and just think it was two ways of saying the same thing, but it's not.  If you're traveling a tricky road, it's two different things to be able to see the path right in front of your feet ~ right where you're about to step ~ but also to be able to get an idea of your surroundings.  Not much, mind you.  I don't think that's what God wants for us.  He wants us to trust Him for most of what's going on around us.

But He does reveal enough for us.  He shows us what we need to know.  And He does that through His Word.  But we have to read it, and we have to ask His Spirit to open up our understanding.  And then we'll see what we need to see, and know what we need to know.

~ "love the Lord your God
      and walk always in His ways" ~
Deuteronomy 19:9

Monday, September 23, 2013

We Are Family

"His special people"
Deuteronomy 26:18

I spent a very unusual day today.  In a good way.

Remember my aunt that died a few weeks ago?  Today was her memorial service.  It wasn't a funeral, per se, but a gathering of those who loved her, and those who loved those who loved her.

My parents hosted (it was my father's sister who died) but there were so many who contributed to the day.  My cousin and his wife brought photos and mementos to display, my sister bought several potted plants to beautify the house and yard, someone else brought orchids for all the tables, and many, many other someones brought food.  Cold cuts, rolls, fruit, veggies, coleslaw, pasta salad, baked beans, drinks, pie, cake, and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting.

Oh, and my father and my uncle barbecued burgers and dogs. 

Did I mention there was a lot of food?

And there was candy.  Apparently my aunt loved candy, so there was a "candy bar" set up, with several varieties that she loved, and there were baggies so everyone could take home a bag.  I've seen this done at weddings, but never at a memorial service.  It was very fun.

The event was special for a couple reasons ~ it was fun for all of us to get together.  I don't see these cousins very often, so it was nice to see them again, get caught up, and appreciate how big their kids have gotten.

It was also special to be celebrating my aunt.  Candy that she had loved, samples of her artwork, photos, mementos of different parts of her life.  It was fun to get glimpses of her as my cousin's mother, and my father's sister.

I was really tired for a lot of the day.  Not sleepy really, but I'd been out of town for a few days with my Awesome Girl, so I'd been out of my routine.

And my knee hurt.  I think that a couple days ago I tweaked it or twisted it, and any time I tried to bend it, it reminded me that it was there, you know?

But I wasn't really thinking about my issues for most of the day.  I was helping my mom in the kitchen, and helping my cousin get the food out, and introducing myself to people I didn't know, and chatting with people I did know.  And I realized, at the end of the day, how difficult it is to think about myself, when I'm thinking about someone else.  I mean, I wasn't talking about my aunt all day, but every conversation I had was because of her.   She was, in a way, in the backyard, and in the family room, and in the kitchen, and in the living room.  She was in photos and in fun bags of candy, and in her beautiful paintings. 

Family is about connections.  It's about what we have in common... what we share.  It's easy for me to believe that God can work events in my life out for my good, and the good of everyone else involved, if they are living in obedience to Him.  But it's nice to think of God working out the people in my life, too.  It's nice to think that He doesn't just bless us through people who cross our paths for a season, but also through those with whom we share those connections of family. 

For better or worse, our families are a big part of why we are who we are.  But the family we are born into is not an accident.  Just another part of His plan for us. 

~ "So now faith, hope, and love abide,
    these three; but the greatest of these is love" ~
1 Corinthians 13:13

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Few More Thoughts on Quiet Time

"a solitary place"
Mark 1:35

So, have I gotten you thinking about the concept of Quiet Time?  What it means?  Why it's important?  Well maybe it’s time to have some Quiet Time and talk to God about your Quiet Time.

What would He say to you about your time with Him, if you asked Him?  Now is the time to ask Him.

Do you meet with Him every day?  Almost every day?  Once in awhile?

If you meet with Him regularly, is your time with Him genuine, or are you in a rut?  Is it about the routine, and feeling good that it’s done for the day?  Or is it about hearing what He wants to say to you?

What does He say to you in your Quiet Time?  Do you meditate on it during the day?

Have you told Him what He wants to hear from you?  Do you praise Him, confess to Him, ask Him for guidance?

What do you think He would have you do differently?

In the Parable of the Sower, the seed grew when it fell on prepared soil.  Prepare your heart at the beginning of your Quiet Time.  Ask the Holy Spirit to open your ears, and your heart, to Him.  Close your eyes and bring your thoughts into the presence of His throne.


Speaking to Him and Listening to Him go hand in hand.  Both are necessary ingredients in your Quiet Time, but you may find that one or the other is easier for you…  

While Praying, you run the risk of monopolizing the conversation, or thinking of Him as your problem-fixing genie.

While Listening, you run the risk of hearing your own thoughts or desires, not His words to you; or being distracted by your to-do list.

This is the part of Quiet Time 
most likely to be skipped! 

Praying and Listening might come before Reading and Writing.  You might have questions for Him, or struggles you are bringing to Him, and then look to the Word for responses. 

Or you might Read and Write first, then sit quietly, discussing with Him what He said in His Word, and how He wants you to apply it to your life.

You might “Pray the Scriptures” – taking passages that are particularly meaningful to you, and praying them back to Him.

Is there anything He would have you do differently?


Read a spiritual biography, or a devotional, but don’t let anything take the place of reading the Word.

Read Scripture every day.  Such as:

~ Annually read the whole Bible, 
               or the New Testament

~ Read a Psalm or a Proverb everyday

~ Go through a book of the Bible every month, reading a chapter of that in the morning, and a Psalm every night before bed.
~ If you read a devotional, it probably is based on a specific Scripture.  Go to that verse, and read the entire chapter in which it’s contained.  God didn’t intend for His Word to be read one sentence at a time….

~ Read passages associated with issues He has brought to your mind ~ ways in which you need to be transformed to fully please Him.

What might He want you to do differently?

Writing is a valuable and productive ingredient in Quiet Time.  Whether it’s a life journal, a prayer journal or your own commentary on Scripture, writing will help you remember, and apply what He has said to you during your Quiet Time.

If journaling is hard for you, resolve to write a whole page every day, even if you feel you’re not writing anything of substance.  Allow yourself to be honest, especially with respect to sin. 

If you’re not sure what to write, consider:

~ Writing your prayers to Him

~ Writing your insights from meditating on Scripture

~ Writing your confessions of sin

~ Writing your frustrations and fears

~ Writing your dreams and desires

~ Writing your lessons from successes or failures

~ Writing your praise and worship to Him

What might He have you do differently?

~ "Now in the morning, 
having risen a long while before daylight,
He went out and departed
to a solitary place;
and there He prayed." ~
Mark 1:35

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Time for Praise

... Because there is none good but Him...

~ "Why do you ask me about what is good?" 
Jesus replied.  
"There is only One who is good." ~
Matthew 19:17

... Because He is always with us...

~ "Where can I go from Your Spirit?  
Or where can I flee from Your presence? ~
Psalm 139:7

... Because He is mighty in battle...

~ "Who is this King of glory?  
The Lord strong and mighty, 
the Lord mighty in battle." ~
Psalm 24:8

... Because He is dependable...

~ "if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, 
for He cannot disown Himself." ~
2 Timothy 2:13

... Because He is the Rose of Sharon

~ "I am the Rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys" ~
Song of Solomon 2:1

... Because He is our Witness

~ "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit 
that we are children of God." ~
Romans 8:16

... Because He is King

~ "The Lord is King forever and ever" ~
Psalm 10:16


Friday, September 20, 2013

You can only find it if it's been lost

"my money has been restored"
Genesis 42:28

I found something in the pocket of my jeans the other day.  Just a few dollars.  It's summer (as you probably know) so I haven't been wearing my jeans every day.  Or really, any day...

It's so exciting to find money you'd forgotten about, isn't it?  It's only happened a couple of other times in my life.  I think I just keep better track of my money than that.  But when it happens, you get a little jolt of excitement, ya know?  It kinda feels like it's a gift; as if it wasn't your money to begin with.  Which it was. 

So I'm all excited to have found a gift in my pocket, when I start thinking about one of my pet peeves when it comes to the Apple of my Eye.  And I'm sure you can guess what that is.

He leaves stuff in his pockets.

Over 23 years of marriage, many are the times when I find something shredded in the washing machine, or on the floor of the laundry room, or rattling around in the dryer.  Drives me crazy.

You might ask ~ because people have ~ why I don't just check his pockets before I put his pants in the washer.  There are two reasons.

First, he doesn't really do it all that frequently.  Like, just often enough to make me roll my eyes and think, "again?"  But not often enough that I ever gotten in the habit of checking. 

And the second reason I don't check his pockets for him is:  I don't want to.  After all, who knows what might be in there?  Used Kleenex?  Chewed gum (but in a wrapper, of course)?  Snips and snails and puppy dog tails?

Money is good.  Snips and snails are not.  But the crime is the same.  Forgetfulness.  Thoughtlessness.  Whatever you want to call it.  Just because I forgot something "better" doesn't mean I'm off the hook.  As a matter of fact, it could be argued mine was worse, because I neglected something valuable.

Again I'm reminded that when I point a finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at me.

~ "For with what judgement you judge,
you will be judged;
and with the measure you use,
it will be measured back to you." ~
Matthew 7:2

Thursday, September 19, 2013

More Thoughts on Quiet Time

"quiet and peaceful"
1 Chronicles 4:40

September is one of my favorite months of the year.  I love the beginning of autumn, with the cooling weather, the aspects of the new season, and a new beginning.  To me, it's "the other New Year", as the it's the new school year, and a new year of Bible Study.

So I try to approach this time of year the same way I do January 1st.  Resolutions, I guess.  New determination, new opportunities, new routines.

I thought about that the other day when I came across that piece I had written about having a Daily Quiet Time. It's something I strive for, but so often life gets in the way.  Sleepiness... busyness... forgetfulness... selfishness...  They are all symptoms.

Jesus modeled prayer time for us.  He said it when He told us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."  And in Ephesians 6, we are told to put on the armor of God.  The pieces include the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the sword of the spirit, and the shoes of peace.  But verse 15 does not just say "put on your gospel shoes"; it says "having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace..."  We need time with God every day, so that we are prepared for the day.

Do you know the story of Apollo 13?  The spaceship had been damaged in an explosion, and they were trying to get everything to work together so that they could return to earth safely.  The explosion had blown them off course, so they had to correct that, and because they could fire the engines for only a short time, they only had one burn to line them up correctly.  The moon is approximately 217,614 miles away from earth.  At that speed, being only two degrees off course would result in their missing the earth by 11,121 miles.

The farther we go when we're off course, the farther we have to come back to His will.  Meeting with Him every day enables us to make the correction when it's still only a 2 degree correction!

2 Chronicles 15:2b says "The Lord is with you while you are with Him.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you."  But if we stop seeking Him, we will not find Him. 

How we accomplish time with Him is not the important part.  As I mentioned the other day, reading the Bible can happen in a boat, with a goat... in the rain on a train.... or in a box with a fox.  Here, there, everywhere.   But since few of us have goats or foxes, what does that mean?

It means in your bedroom, in your bathroom, in your car, in your yard... you decide.  He'll meet you there.

I have had my Quiet Time in lots of different ways over the past several years.  Part of the problem, for me, is that I don't like mornings.  But it's hard to argue with those who say Quiet Time should be done first thing in the morning.  After all, Jesus rose while it was still dark, and even though it wasn't a commandment, it's never a bad idea to imitate the Creator of the Universe.

So what does "first thing in the morning" mean?  Before you've even gotten out of bed?  After you've had your morning coffee, after your husband has left for work or your kids have left for school?

What if it's not in the morning?  What if you take time on your lunch break, or when you get your child down for their afternoon nap, or before bed?

All good.  But don't find time, make time.  And if that time didn't work for you today, try it again tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next.  Don't give up on something because it doesn't seem to work.  You couldn't walk the first time you tried, either.

Everyone is different, and every one is different everyday.  I tell my kids:  when the Holy Spirit reminds you, respond!  If you have to finish what you're doing, okay, but don't let yourself forget!  Tie a string to your finger.  Put a pencil behind your ear.  Put your thumb on your nose.

Then, when you sit down with Him ~ then what?  Listen to some worship music?  Sit in silence?  Read your Bible?  Write in a journal?  Write your prayer requests and answers? 

And how long?  5 minutes?  20 minutes?  An hour?

Years ago, when I first started trying to make this a routine in my life, I wanted the answer to all these questions from one of the spiritual giants in my life.  But when I tried on what was perfect for them, it didn't fit me.  So I prayed, and God responded:  Just Do Something. 

Best advice I ever got.  Zechariah 4:10 ~ "Do not despise the small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin."

Think of Quiet Time as something very, very important, but in which there's no pressure at all.  The how, the when, the where, and the how are not the issue.  The what is.  And more importantly, the why

He is why.

~ "Evening and morning and at noon 
  I will pray, and cry aloud,
     And He shall hear my voice" ~
Psalm 55:17 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Who knew?

"all the treasures 
of wisdom and knowledge"
Colossians 2:3 

My dictionary is over 2000 pages.  I have four Bibles, including a Study Bible, a concordance, a biographical dictionary, and a copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.  These are just a few of the books on my reference shelf, and that is just one of my shelves.  I own many books, and only a small fraction of those are fiction, because I like truth.  I like facts.

I know a lot of facts, some of which are trivial:  I know the name of the horse that Robert E. Lee rode in the Civil War. I know the name of the man who sculpted Mount Rushmore.  I know how high the Washington Monument is.  All fascinating, but none of it would I consider “God’s wisdom.”

I also know facts that are important.  I know my blood type.  I know my daughter is allergic to shellfish.  I know what a red light means.  I know what Jesus’ death on the cross means.

While I like facts, what I like more are answers.  I can be inquisitive, tenacious and curious to a fault.  I do not easily give up if there’s something I want to know.  British novelist Lawrence Sterne said, “the desire of knowledge is like the thirst of riches; it increases ever with the acquisition of it.” 

I wonder a great many things, and I have a great many questions, as my patient husband can attest.  Some of them are frequently asked questions, such as “why did that bad thing have to happen to that good person?” and “did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone?”  but I also wonder: “what was Jesus writing in the sand?” and  “why is the pit in an avocado so big?”

My problem is that some, probably most, knowledge, is not ours to learn.  God withholds more information than we can possibly fathom, much of it, I suspect, because our finite minds cannot possibly fathom it.  Isaiah 28:13 says, “But the Word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept; line by line; here a little and there a little.”

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all.”  But when I ask for wisdom, am I asking for God’s wisdom?   There is a great deal of wisdom in this world that God considers foolishness.  Do we recognize it when we see it?   We’re surrounded by information, but we’re starving for knowledge.  All the things we know add up to how little we really know.  Ronald Reagan once said of someone, “It is rude and ungentlemanly to bluntly call them ignorant.  They just know a great many things that aren’t true.”  

English Biologist, Thomas Henry Huxley said “the great end of life is not knowledge, but action.”  Perhaps when he wrote that, he was thinking of James 1:22, “Be doers of the Word, not hearers only.”  Perhaps some knowledge is withheld until we have done God’s work with the knowledge He already gave us.  Sophocles said, “knowledge must come through action”.   And Oswald Chambers wrote, “God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already.  It is not study that does it, but obedience.  The tiniest fragment of obedience, and heaven opens, and the profoundest truths of God are yours straight away.”

Parenthetically, I also found this quote from Huxley, “if a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has enough to be out of danger?”  Another good question to ask God…

If we could comprehend God, He would cease to be what He is.  The ignorant cannot even understand the wise, much less the perfection of God.   Romans 11:33 says, “Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”  

And that’s really all I need to know.

(And by the way, Robert E. Lee’s horse was named Traveler; Mount Rushmore was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum; and the Washington Monument is 555 feet high!) 

~ "For the earth will be filled 
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, 
as the waters cover the sea" ~
Habakkuk 2:14

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sure Footing

"my foot stands in an even place"
Psalm 26:12

I went on retreat recently, with a women's group, and we were blessed to go not to a hotel or an impersonal retreat center, but to a lovely large home in the mountains.  I mentioned it last year around this time.  It's a vacation home, essentially, owned by some friends of mine, but they actually bought it and renovated it for the purposes of renting it out ~ at rock bottom prices ~ to Christian groups, as a retreat center.

The architecture of the house is very interesting.  When you pull into the driveway, you immediately have to make a decision.  You can stay at the level of the street, and park in the little offshoot to the driveway, or you can continue down the hill to where the driveway ends.

Because the house is built on a hill, both of these options will lead you to a "front" door of the home.  I guess you'd call it a split-level, but I've never seen one like this.  The bottom floor is the main floor, having the kitchen, family room and dining room, but both floors are on ground level, in their own way.  It's really a beautiful job of working with the topography of the mountainous area. 

It's a rather steep hill, outside.  There's an apple tree on the property, but you better have good shoes on, because it's a bit of a slip-slidey affair to pick apples.  But inside, of course, are perfectly level floors.  Well-designed, well-built.   And as I looked out the window and appreciated the view for a few minutes, and then looked back down at my Bible, the verse my eyes rested on was today's highlight verse, Psalm 26:12 ~ "my foot stands in an even place"

How miserable it would be to live in a house where one constantly had to watch one's footing!  To never be able to let down your guard against slipping and tripping.  And how joyful to know we can have the peace of sure footing.  This is the promise.  Knowing His will on earth, and in our hearts, keeps us from wondering, and wandering.  It's not just knowing where we stand, but how

~ "God is my strength and power,
      And He makes my way perfect" ~
2 Samuel 22:33

Monday, September 16, 2013

Answers Revealed

"where can I find help for you?"
2 Kings 6:27

So, how'd you do?  It's not easy, so if you got them all, I'm very impressed!

Here are the answers:

There are 30 books of the Bible in this paragraph.  
Can you find them?  
This is a most remarkable puzzle.  
It was found by a gentleman in an airplane seat pocket 
on a flight from Los Angeles 
to Honolulu, keeping him occupied for hours.  
He enjoyed it so much that he passed it on to some friends.  
One friend from Illinois 
worked on this while fishing from his johnboat.  
Another friend studied it 
while playing his banjo.  Elaine Taylor, a columnist friend, 
was so intrigued by it 
she mentioned it in her weekly newspaper column.  
Another friend judges the job of solving it so involving, 
she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves. -->
There will be some names that are really easy to spot.  
That's a fact.  Some people, however, 
will soon find themselves in a jam, especially since 
the book names are not necessarily capitalized.  
Truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced 
to admit it usually takes a minister or scholar 
to see some of them, at the worst.  
Research seems to show that 
something in our genes is responsible 
for the difficulty we have 
in seeing the books in this paragraph.  
During a recent fund-raising event, 
which featured this puzzle, 
the Alpha Delta Phi lemonade booth 
set a new sales record.  
And the local paper, The Chronicle, surveyed 
over 200 patrons, who reported that this puzzle 
was one of the most difficult they had ever seen.  
As Daniel Humana humbly puts it, 
the books are all right there in plain view, 
yet hidden from sight.  
Those able to find all of them will hear lamentations 
from those who couldn't see them.  
One revelation that may help is that books 
like Timothy and Samuel 
may occur without their numbers.  
Also, keep in mind that punctuation and spaces 
in the middle are normal.  A chipper attitude 
will also help you to compete really well 
against those who claim to know the answers.  
Don't be frustrated.  
There is no need for a mad exodus
there really are 30 books of the Bible 
lurking somewhere in this paragraph, 
waiting to be found.

I like quizzes.  All sorts of quizzes.  I like the challenge, I guess.   But this particular quiz intrigues me in a couple of ways.  First of all, the wording is so odd in places, making it obvious that the author had to phrase things a certain way in order to achieve the letter pattern he or she needed.  So I think it's interesting that those clues point us to the place, but we still have to actually locate the book name.

Then there are other places where the book name is obvious.  Say, "Exodus," "Lamentations," and "Chronicles".  For those, you only have to be familiar with the names of the books, and they'll jump right out at you.

But then there are also the ones that just won't be found.   At least, I hope that happened to you, too.  I know the books of the Bible, and I've been speaking and reading the English language all my life.  I had to study this puzzle word by word, and letter by letter before I could find them.  The reason is that the letters are doing a different job.  The "lemon" in "Philemon" is disguised as lemonade.  We have to empty our minds of the surface meaning, to look for what the author wants us to find.

And surprise, surprise ~ sounds a lot like the Bible, doesn't it?  There is much wisdom in there, but it's not always easy to see.  We have to read, and cross reference with other verses in Scripture, and then study and read some more and ponder and pray, pray, pray.  After all, understanding comes from Him.

So don't give up.  The answers are there, and totally worth finding!

~ "you will seek Me and find Me,
when you search for Me with all your heart" ~
Jeremiah 29:13

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Different Kind of Quiz

"I will question you, and you shall answer Me"
Job 38:3

I can't take credit for this, but it's a fun challenge.  How many can you find?

There are 30 books of the Bible in this paragraph.  
Can you find them?  
This is a most remarkable puzzle.  
It was found by a gentleman in an airplane seat pocket 
on a flight from Los Angeles 
to Honolulu, keeping him occupied for hours.  
He enjoyed it so much that he passed it on to some friends.  
One friend from Illinois 
worked on this while fishing from his johnboat.  
Another friend studied it 
while playing his banjo.  Elaine Taylor, a columnist friend, 
was so intrigued by it 
she mentioned it in her weekly newspaper column.  
Another friend judges the job of solving it so involving, 
she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves.  
There will be some names that are really easy to spot.  
That's a fact.  Some people, however, 
will soon find themselves in a jam, especially since 
the book names are not necessarily capitalized.  
Truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced 
to admit it usually takes a minister or scholar 
to see some of them, at the worst.  
Research seems to show that 
something in our genes is responsible 
for the difficulty we have 
in seeing the books in this paragraph.  
During a recent fund-raising event, 
which featured this puzzle, 
the Alpha Delta Phi lemonade booth 
set a new sales record.  
And the local paper, The Chronicle, surveyed 
over 200 patrons, who reported that this puzzle 
was one of the most difficult they had ever seen.  
As Daniel Humana humble puts it, 
the books are all right there in plain view, 
yet hidden from sight.  
Those able to find all of them will hear lamentations 
from those who couldn't see them.  
One revelation that may help is that books 
like Timothy and Samuel 
may occur without their numbers.  
Also, keep in mind that punctuation and spaces 
in the middle are normal.  A chipper attitude 
will also help you to compete really well 
against those who claim to know the answers.  
Don't be frustrated.  
There is no need for a mad exodus; 
there really are 30 books of the Bible 
lurking somewhere in this paragraph, 
waiting to be found.

Answers tomorrow!

~ "You search the Scriptures,
for in them you think you have eternal life;
and these are they which testify of Me" ~
John 5:39

Saturday, September 14, 2013

It's amazing what we can hear when we're quiet

~ Years ago I wrote years this piece, on the importance of having daily quiet time with God.  I stumbled on it recently, in the deep recesses of my computer, and I thought I'd share it with you. ~


Because Jesus prayed. 
In the morning, in solitude ~ Mark 1:35, 
        Luke 5:16

For His Disciples ~ John 17:11

For all Believers ~ John 17:20-21

He prayed to praise ~ Luke 10:21

He prayed to thank ~ Mark 14:22

He prayed in agony ~ Luke 22:44, 
        Matthew 27:46

He prayed His Father’s will ~ Matthew 26:39

He prayed to show us that we should
         and He prayed to show us how.

         Anywhere you’d eat green eggs and ham

         Don’t get caught up in the “where”.   
                  He’ll meet you wherever you are.

         Daily Quiet Time should be Q.U.I.E.T.

         Let the Holy Spirit prompt you 
                  to take advantage 
                  of the quiet in your life!

         Just. Do. Something.

         Talk…. Listen…. Read…. 

         Write… Sing... Play...

Variety can be distracting, 
         routine can be a rut… 
                  be led by the Spirit!

~ May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~
Psalm 19:14