Monday, March 31, 2014

God is Nigh

"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found"
Isaiah 55:6

We watched the Dodger game on TV this evening.  That might not seem remarkable, but all of a sudden, this season, watching them on television is going to be the exception, not the rule.

There used to be a TV station in Southern California that showed every game.  Except for the odd game on ESPN.

But sometime in the off-season, the Dodgers acquired their own TV station, and now that's the only way to see games.  Except for the odd game on ESPN.

And unfortunately, our cable company does not offer the Dodgers new station.  So watching them is not even an option for us.  Except for the odd game on ESPN. 

Tonight was one of the games broadcast on ESPN, and I was soaking up every minute of the game, knowing I'm not going to be seeing very many of them this season.  And I thought of how important it is to enjoy things, because we can never be sure we'll always have them to enjoy.  As a matter of fact, there is nothing that we will always have to enjoy.

It was a bit of a warning to me; a reminder of Isaiah 55:6, "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found.  Call upon Him while He is near."

Proverbs 1:24 says "I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded," and in verse 28, "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me."

He is nearby.  Call on Him.  Enjoy what you have while you have it.


~ "Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice
and opens the door,
I will come in to him and dine with him,
and he with Me." ~
Revelation 3:20
~

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kindled by the Light of the Son

"fan the flame"
2 Timothy 1:6

I got off on a bit of a tangent the other day, while doing Bible study.  Does that ever happen to you?  You go to look something up, and you see something that makes you curious about something else, and then you look that up, and then the next thing.  I do it with the dictionary, too.  Sometimes I forget what word I was originally looking up, because I get so curious about nearby words. 

So I found myself looking up different uses of the word "fire" in Scripture.  It's a word that is used frequently in Scripture, but in a variety of ways.  We see in Leviticus, for example, it is the way by which an offering is made to God ~ "The sons of Aaron the priest shall put a fire on the altar, and lay the wood in order on the fire... and the priest shall burn on the altar a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.

In Exodus, an Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. (Exodus 3)

God tells us that He Himself is a "consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 4), and He led the Israelites in the desert as a pillar of fire. (Exodus 13)

Zechariah tells us that fire is how we are made perfect ~ "I will bring them through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested."

1 Corinthians says, "each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it... it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test each one's work."

And then, of course, there's the powerful reminder of John the Baptist's promise in Matthew 3:11, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."

And that promise was indeed fulfilled.  You know the dramatic story of Jesus' followers, in the Upper Room, waiting, as Jesus had instructed them.  "And there came a sound from heaven, a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the whole house.  And there appeared to them tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2)

Which leads to 2 Timothy.  Chapter 1.  Verse 6.  Good stuff.  "I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you... therefore I remind you to fan the flame of the gift of God which is in you... for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind."

This one that is so beautiful to remember when you're feeling weak.  When you feel like your embers are almost out, strength is not far away.

Fan the flame of your gift...  How do you do that?  First of all, you use your gift.  Any athlete will tell you that exercise makes a muscle stronger.  We grow stronger being where He wants us to be, doing what He has called us, and gifted us to do.

Secondly, you do that through fellowship.  God has created wonderful, amazing people around you, whether your family, your friends, your church... He provides support, wisdom and unconditional love, but sometimes we have to reach out for it.

And of course, prayer and reading the Bible.  There's strength in them thar pages.  Comfort.  Knowledge.  Reassurance.  The Holy Spirit will bring to our remembrance everything He has said to us.  How's that for a promise?

~ "The city had no need of the sun 
or of the moon to shine in it,
for the glory of God illuminated it.
The Lamb is its light." ~
Revelation 21:23
~

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Super Heroes

"comfort one another"
1 Thessalonians 4:18

I sat on the edge of my son's bed yesterday, and noticed something on his floor.  It was a magazine article that I had given him a few months ago, thinking he might enjoy reading it.  He did, so naturally it was on his floor.*  That's how I know it had some value for him.  'Cause if he wasn't interested in it, it would have been in the trash.

{* He's thirteen, after all.  
His floor's not exactly spotless.}

It was an article from a some science-y magazine, I can't remember which one.  And it was about superheroes, and why we love them so much.  Batman, Superman, Captain America ~ there's never been a time when superheroes have not been popular.  They appeal to our desire to transcend ordinary.  They inspire us.  They show us examples of "coping with adversity, finding meaning in loss and trauma, and using our strengths for good." 

The reason I noticed the article on his floor was because I was sitting on the edge of his bed, looking down.  And the reason I was in that position was that I was comforting my teary-eyed thirteen year old boy.  And the reason for that, is that our dog died a few days ago.  Only two weeks after the death of our kitty.  


It is sad to lose a pet.  And this is really the first time the kids have had to experience it.  They were too young to remember the last time we said good-bye to a pet.  And to lose both our sweet companions, within a matter of days, is heart-breaking.  Both losses were relatively unexpected ~ though we had a few days to realize they were slipping away, both animals were on the young end of old. 

In the past several days, though I have sat with each of my kids, handing them kleenex and trying to find words to say to them, I have also watched them comforting each other.  I have seen them carry on with things that had to be done, though they wanted to do nothing more than stay home.  I have experienced each of them comforting me, when I was the one succumbing to tears.  I have seen each of them exhibiting strength when I know they are feeling weak.

And I sat there on the bed with my arm around my boy, looking down at the floor, and I saw that article about superheroes, and I realized how very proud I am of my kids this week.  And I know there are kids all over the world, who have been through worse than this.  That's the beauty.  That there are difficult circumstances facing ordinary folks, and people rise to meet the challenge.  They ride out the pain in their lives ~ loss, disease, trauma ~ and grow in the midst.  And they ignore their own grief to turn their attention to someone who needs it more.

Hero: (noun) a person admired for courage or other noble qualities
Super: [adverb (as submodifier)] especially or particularly

Here's a hope that you'll take some time to recognize the super heroes in your life, and thank God for how He inspires and strengthens you through them.

~ "May He send you help from the sanctuary,
and strengthen you out of Zion" ~
Psalm 20:2
~

Friday, March 28, 2014

Therefore

"Therefore, since..."
1 Peter 4

I noticed something interesting the other day, in 1 Peter chapter 4.  We're currently studying Peter's letters in Bible study.

What I noticed has to do with a very key word in Scripture.  The word "therefore". 

"Therefore" is a great word.  It's loaded with meaning, but that meaning is nothing you can find in the dictionary.  The meaning has to do with the context of the writing; information that comes before or after the "therefore".  So it's a reminder to us that we're about to be told what we should do, or what we should say, or what we should know, based on what we've just read.  So as has been said, you have to ask, "What is the 'therefore' there for?"

It happens a lot in the epistles.  Those guys wrote in some really long, run-on sentences, and often the whole letter is just one or two thoughts; one or two main points that Paul or Peter or James wanted to communicate to their readers.  That's why it's good to read the whole letter in one sitting, and then go back and parse it.  As I tell my kids, find the subject and verb of each sentence, and then go from there!

So I noticed Peter's use of the word "therefore" in chapter 1, and for some reason I got curious about Peter's use of the word, and found that he had used it thirteen times in his two short letters.  Now, I didn't really go to the trouble of comparing the epistles, so I don't know if he won some sort of contest, but it still fascinates me.

But the one that stood out to me is in chapter 4 of 1 Peter, because that chapter doesn't just begin with "therefore," but with "Therefore, since..."  And you don't have to look backward over the previous chapter to find the basis for what he's about to say, because he goes on to say, "Therefore, since Christ --"  Now if that doesn't get your attention, I don't know what will.  Christ did something, so we need to do something.

And then Peter's sentence continues with the next powerful word ~ "Therefore since Christ suffered..."  I read this week that these are three of the most important words in the Bible:  "Since Christ suffered..."  because everything in your life as a Christian comes from that fact.

Pay close attention to the "therefore's".  Each one will lead you to a new realization of what He expects of you, based on what you know.   So, what is He expecting of you?

~ "He died for all,
   that those who live 
   should no longer live for themselves,
   but for Him who died for them
       and rose again" ~
    2 Corinthians 5:15
~

Thursday, March 27, 2014

But keep the faith of a child

"solid food belongs to those who are of full age"
Hebrews 5:14

The homeschool support group that we belong to posted an interesting field trip a few months ago:

Come join us for a fun-filled day
as we introduce you to Beatrix Potter!

Your student will be able to bring him their
very own book, colored by them!

Experience an introduction to drama
through dressing up!

Lunch will be provided 
and you will meet Beatrix Potter!

Doesn't that sound like fun?  Now, if I tell you that I am a huge fan of Beatrix Potter and her works, you might understand that I had a little pang upon reading this announcement.  You see, the program was aimed at pre-schoolers and young elementary, and my children (and I) are too old to attend.  And even if we could attend, my children (and I) would probably find it a tad dull.  Coloring and dress-up no longer challenge my kids' imaginations (although they both excel at and enjoy drawing!).

I was a little sad for when something like that would have been fun and educational for my kids, but I'm also so thankful for who they are now.   So smart and so challenging as young adults (challenging in an intellectual way, not in a "What am I gonna do with these kids?" kinda way)

And as much as I love Beatrix Potter's books, it's hard to say how much I would enjoy the day.  I mean, I would love to chat with Beatrix Potter, and find out more about her, but this would be an actress, of course.  And frankly, like my kids, I would probably find myself bored.  If I had taken them when they were younger, then I would have been enjoying the day through their eyes.  But now, for all of us, there would not be enough to stimulate our minds.  

Simple is good.  And sometimes it's a nice respite.  But in general, we need to challenge our minds.  We need to "graduate" from trials and struggles, and be tested in new ways.  Deeper study of His Word, richer faith, stronger love of our neighbor...  The more we grow in Him, the more "nutrition" we need.  Hebrews 5 says, "everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word or righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age."

We need to dig deep and engage fully in our walk, growing in His image, and in the fruits of the Spirit.  And hopefully, the more we learn, the more we'll love to learn!

~ "When I was a child, I spoke as a child,
  I understood as a child, I thought as a child;
     but when I grew up, I put away childish things" ~
1 Corinthians 13:11
~

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Amazing, Colorful Grace

"the manifold grace of God"
1 Peter 4:10

I read the coolest thing today.  Well, several cool things that added up to something really cool.

First, I read this verse in 1 Peter:  "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 

Next I read the dictionary definition of "manifold".

Then I read the Greek word used in that verse.

Here's the culmination of those interesting tidbits:

Manifold.  Adjective.  Old English origin, meaning "many and varied... of numerous kinds... having countless features or forms... multiplied".

In the Greek:  poikilos, meaning of various sorts, or various colors.

Now, think about what grace looks like.  It's a gentle word, isn't it?  Partially because of the meaning, and partially because of that soft C sound.

Grace...

It's feminine sounding, which is probably why it's so easily used for a girl's name.  And it's a simple word, only one syllable.  And the color of the word "grace" is a soft yellow.

But manifold grace, well that changes everything.  Now it's not simple; it's complex.  It's many and varied.  Grace from me to you doesn't look like grace from you to me.  Grace is moving and active... kindness and goodwill extended out in many directions.  The word grace comes from the Latin for "grateful".  Manifold grace is gratefulness, multiplied.

And the color?  If "grace" is a soft yellow, then manifold grace is an explosion of color.  It's God's grace, though a prism.  It's God's light, reflected in you, in a thousand different directions.  And He is glorified.

Now, isn't that cool?


~

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Psalm 100

A Song of Praise for the Lord's Faithfulness to His People

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Make a joyful shout to the Lord,
all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.

Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us,
and not we ourselves;
We are His people
and the sheep of His pasture. 

Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
and into His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him,
and praise His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures
to all generations.

Amen.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Day for Beauty

I saw something beautiful today, on my way to the grocery store. 

So I thought I'd share some beauty.

This is the day the Lord hath made. 

Be blessed today.

~ "He has made everything beautiful in its time" ~
Ecclesiastes 3:11
~

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Crock Pot Miracles

"Heap on the wood, kindle the fire,
cook the meat well, mix in the spices"
Ezekiel 24:10

We had a great dinner tonight.  Pork roast.  Or pork butt.  Or pork shoulder.  Or is that the same thing as pork butt?  I've never understood that...

So anyway, we had a hunk of pork tonight.  But it was a great meal, because it was sort of "all hands on deck".  I love those.  All of us in the kitchen, each preparing one part of the meal.   The pork I had put in the crock pot, with some potatoes, onions and apples.  Sauteed cabbage (one of my daughter's favorites), asparagus, and homemade french fries. 

One of the challenges when I'm thinking about dinner each night, is my energy level.  What kind of day have I had, and am I up to creativity and extra effort?  Or do I need for that dinner to be spaghetti and a jar of sauce from Trader Joe's?

A few months ago, I was giving my son a hard time one night after dinner.  I think I asked him help me with something, and said something like, "after all, I made you dinner."  And he jokingly replied, "Oh big deal.  All you did was dump stuff in a pan!"  Which was true.  But it kinda got me thinking. 

Some nights, dinner might be easy.  But I still have to take the responsibility for putting it on the table.  I have to work with what we have, and how much time I have to make it (taking into account what time I get my act together to get it started, and whether or not someone has practice that evening, etc.)  But truthfully, I would expect less appreciation on a night when all I did was boil water and dump spaghetti in, than on a night when I made something complicated.

And I wondered how often I treat God the same way.  Do I under-appreciate Him because what He does is easy for Him?  After all, it only takes a word from Him to create a universe, but He's the reason the sun comes up and my heart keeps beating.  Nothing I can do about those ~ I need Him.

Everything He does is beautiful and miraculous.  His gifts to us are every day; sometimes overwhelming, but mostly small and seemingly insignificant.  But just as my kids need to eat every day, whether a crock pot did all the work or not, we all need God's hand in our lives, every hour of every day.  And it's all awe-inspiring.

~ "The Lord is with me
      as a mighty awesome One." ~
Jeremiah 20:11
~

Saturday, March 22, 2014

You are more powerful than you know

"So the king gave the command,
and they brought Daniel
and cast him into the den of lions...
Then the king arose very early
in the morning, and
went in haste to the den of lions...
Then Daniel said to the king,
'My God sent His angel
and shut the lions' mouths,
so that they have not hurt me.' "
Daniel 6:16, 19, 22

"the prophet...
who through faith...
stopped the mouths of lions"
Hebrews 11:33

Interesting dichotomy there, isn't it?  Daniel says that God shut the lions' mouths, but Hebrews says Daniel was responsible.  Who gets the credit?  Who do we believe?

Simple.  The power lies in the faith.  It's like: our faith is the hose, and God is the water.  Except we wouldn't even have the hose if God hadn't provided it... 

Did you ever hear that old line from a teammate of Michael Jordan?  The internet tells me it was Stacey King (and I have no choice but to believe the internet, because I know next-to-nothing about basketball).  Anyhow, King scored one free throw in a game in which Jordan scored 69 points.  Sixty-nine points!  And King said afterward that he would always remember that as the night that he and Michael Jordan combined for 70 points.  

This is each of us, working with God.  Your faith puts God's power into action in your life.  He doesn't need your help, but He desires it.  And it is such a blessing to be even a small part of what He does!

~

Friday, March 21, 2014

Motive, Means, and Opportunity

You know what's an interesting Bible verse?  Philippians 4:10. 

It's interesting in that it comes between verses 8 and 9, and verse 11. 

Tens tend to do that, you know, come between nines and elevens...

Philippians 4:8 and 9 are a couple of very powerful, beautiful verses. 

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true,
whatever thing are noble, 
whatever things are just, whatever things are pure,
whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report,
if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -
meditate on these things.  
The things which you learned and received
 and heard and saw in me,
these do, and the God of peace will be with you."

You know those verses, right?  Good stuff. 

And how about verse 11:

"Not that I speak in regard to need,
for I have learned in whatever state I am,
to be content..."

Another verse we should all have memorized.  And put into practice. 

But in between is verse 10, and it's a favorite of mine. 

"But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now
at last your care for me has flourished again;
though you surely did care,
but you lacked opportunity."

Paul was simply thanking the church at Philippi for monetary gifts they had given him in the past, and acknowledging that there had been a season in which they had not been able to financially support him in his ministry.

But the words that stood out to me, years ago, were: "you lacked opportunity".  It reassured me that there are, indeed, times when we simply are not in a position to show compassion or support to someone the way we wish we could.  That's not to say there's not any way to care for someone, just maybe not the way we wish we could.  And it impressed upon me the urgency ~ the obligation, almost ~ to take advantage of the opportunities when they come. 

I thought about this verse recently, when I read an article about a doctor named D. Holmes Morton, living in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, where he runs a clinic called the "Clinic for Special Children". 

Years ago, Dr Morton was asked by a friend at a Children's Hospital in Philadelphia to look at the case of a young Amish boy who had been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.  Dr Morton realized that diagnosis was incorrect, and helped develop a test that would identify the affliction, called GA-1, in younger children, who would then be treatable. 

The Amish and Mennonites are afflicted by a high incidence of hereditary diseases, many of which are fatal.  But if they are caught early, they can be treated.  So Dr Morton and a colleague visited families, collecting urine and blood samples, and identifying and then treating several people with the genetic makeup that would lead to some of these diseases.

Though the Amish have no hesitation trusting doctors and hospitals to help their children, Dr Morton believed that the best way to study and care for these children is where they live, so he opened his clinic near them.  It was built in 1990, in one day, by dozens of Amish and Mennonite carpenters, farmers and construction experts.

Dr Morton has not only the necessary expertise in medicine and genetics, but an interest in, and compassion for, children in rural communities.  And he respects their lifestyle.  I don't know that there are a lot of people who don't respect the lifestyle choices of the Amish or Mennonite communities, but sometimes being different is hard.  He says he was "deeply affected" by the Amish belief that disabled children are "sent by God to teach us how to love."  And in turn, Dr Morton and his team have earned this community's appreciation for his work, his sensitivity, and his passion.  

He saw an opportunity.  He had the ability, he had the knowledge, and he made this calling his life's work, because he had both opportunity and compassion.  What a difference we can make, when God gives us the opportunity.
~

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Colossians 3:16

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
in all wisdom,
teaching and admonishing one another
in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord"
Colossians 3:16

This is such a beautiful verse.  It has such lovely words in it:  richly, teaching, grace and hearts are all words with a beautiful feel to them.  But the emphasis of the verse, to me, is about song, so the words that highlight that stand out especially, not only for their look and feel, but also for the wonderful depth of their message. 

First of all, the kinds of singing:  "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs".  At first glance it seems like the same thing, but together they convey the ideas of praise, repentance, acknowledgement and thanks ~ everything a song to the Lord should be.

Next, the way to sing:  "with grace in your heart, to the Lord".  Singing can be so pleasurable sometimes, that I can find myself enjoying the melody, or the rhythm, and forgetting that it's meant to be for Him.   By the same token, I can find myself getting all the words right, and hitting all the notes, but with my mind elsewhere, missing that grace that Paul mentions.  I like this reminder.

But my favorite angle to this verse is the idea of together.  The ideas of teaching and admonishing imply that there has to be someone learning and hearing.  Plus the words "one another," and the plural of "hearts".

Have you ever done any karaoke singing?  I've mostly only seen it on TV, but I was with a group of friends a few months ago, when the hostess brought out her family's karaoke machine.  Now, it was a good-sized group of women, of all personalities, so of course there were some who took to it readily.  Some people are just comfortable in the spotlight, ya know?

But most of the others would only venture to take mic in hand, if someone else did with them.  A sort of "safety in numbers" thing, I guess.  The other thing that mattered to the "shy" girls {which included me; I was incredibly reluctant} was what song they "performed".  I said no to the cajoling for quite awhile before realizing the songs included Broadway.  I'm not much for current music, but I love a good musical!  So I agreed to do one song with a friend.  And it was fun.  And I'll probably never do it again.

Alone, or with others.  Singing solely for Him, or leading others in worship, there is joy in song.  There is repentance and soul-searching.  Sing with grace, and sing in your heart, to Him.

~

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Caught in the Storm

"On the same day, when evening had come, 
He said to them, "Let us cross over to the other side."
Now when they had left the multitude, 
they took Him along in the boat as He was.
And there were also with Him other little ships.
And a great windstorm arose, 
and the waves beat into the boat, 
so that it was already filling.  
But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow.
And they awoke Him and said to Him, 
"Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?"

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, 
and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!"
And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.  
But He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? 
 How is it that you have no faith?"
And they feared exceedingly, 
and said to one another, 
"Who can this be, 
that even the wind and sea obey Him?"
Mark 4:35-41

I love this story.  I love how He wasn't worried at all, and they were freaking out, even though the Savior of the world was right there.   I love the illustration of His power, and the strength of His Word.

But you know what I realized recently?  This line right here:  "There were also with Him other little ships."  Verse 36.   There were other boats there in that storm!  Smaller boats!  And if the men in Jesus' boat were frightened, what must it have been like for those in the other boats?  How close were they to His boat?  Did they wonder why He wasn't doing something?  After all, they didn't know He was sleeping. 

Or did it even occur to Him that He could do something?  Did they just think they were doomed?  Maybe if they'd only see Him heal someone, maybe they wouldn't realize His power over the universe. 

Many years ago, I came to a place of knowing that if being in the midst of the storm was where Jesus was, then that's where I'd want to be.  Storms can be frightening when we're in them, but we should want to be wherever He leads us. 

But sometimes we're more "caught" in a storm, you know?  We feel like collateral damage when He's doing a work in the life of someone we love, even when the end result of that work is amazing and miraculous. 

I guess the trick is to just hold on.  The reason those little boats were out there was because they wanted to be near Him.  They wanted to hear Him.  So trust that being near Him is enough, and just hold on until the storm stops. 

After all, the wind and the sea weren't the only ones to whom He said, "Peace!"

~ "Peace I leave with you,
   My peace I give to you;
   not as the world gives do I give to you.
    Let not your heart be troubled,
        neither let it be afraid." ~
John 14:27
~

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

the little yellow flower

"a flower of the field"
Psalm 103:15

I pulled a weed the other day.  And then sort of wished I hadn't. 

I did it rather absent-mindedly.  It was in the front yard, in the planter right next to the driveway.  I was out front saying good-bye to my sweetie, and I glanced over at what's normally a weed-free planter, with one succulent in the middle, but there was this weed in there, so I gave it a quick yank, returning the planter to weed-free.

Then I looked at what was in my hand, and saw that it was more than just a weed; it was a wildflower. 

Now you might be of the opinion that a wildflower is just a weed with a flower on it, but that would be cynical of you.  Besides, there's more to the story... 

The weed came completely out of the dirt, root and all, and the whole thing measures eighteen inches in length.  One stem, with one flower on it.  That's all.  But eighteen inches tall! 

And even more interesting:  of that eighteen inches, the root system was a little less than three inches.  And the flower?  A little yellow flower, smaller than my pinkie nail.  That's it.   

I really don't know why this struck me so deeply.  Somehow it made me think of the rose in one of my favorite books, Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince.  A sweet, delicate unassuming flower, of whom the little prince said, "If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars.  He can say to himself: 'Somewhere, my flower is there...' "

Such a sweet book...

The little flower went almost unnoticed by me.  I didn't even think to take a picture of it until long after it had died, and now I have to substitute a photo of a different yellow flower... 


But I kept thinking that maybe there was something to learn from that wildflower...

I don't know if the lesson is about the length of the root in relation to the stem.  Three inches of root was enough to hold 15 inches of stem above ground.  God wants us firmly rooted in Him, and we can then accomplish much.

I don't know if the lesson is about the length of the stem in relation to the size of the flower.  It seemed like a tiny flower for all that stem.  But that's part of what made it seem so sweet and delicate to me.  It didn't have much to show off, but it held its beauty up proudly.

Or maybe it was about the existence of this one solitary weed in what's normally a somewhat inhospitable environment for weeds.  I don't know how it grew so tall without my seeing it, and pulling it before it had a chance to flower.  Maybe the lesson is about perseverance. 

Or maybe it's just about appreciating beauty, and being teachable enough to not let one tiny yellow lesson go unlearned.

~ "Out of Zion,
the perfection of beauty,
God will shine forth" ~
Psalm 50:2
~

Monday, March 17, 2014

Forgiving the 491st Time

"... as we forgive our debtors..."
Matthew 6:12

I got angry with one of my family members the other day.  One of those sweet wonderful people that I love to have near me, and who can, for the most part, do no wrong.  Mostly.


The thing is, I felt my anger was justified, as much as anger can be.  The offending party had committed the crime numerous times over weeks or months, and I had responded each time by asking said party to cease and desist in the action.  Numerous times.  But always kindly and gently.

And then, a few days ago, whether it was because the weather turned hot, or because I'm not feeling well, or because I was hormonal, or because Mercury was in retrograde,* I raised my voice on the issue.

{ *Kidding.  I don't even know what that means, 
and whatever it means, I don't believe it.}

Well, the defendant reacted in a rather offended way.  The prevailing opinion was as if I was enormously overreacting to what was a fairly small crime.

Which maybe I was, because maybe it was.  But do the continual repetitions of a small infraction add up to one large wrongdoing?  Because if so, I was completely justified in my anger.  I felt that because I'd reacted too mildly in the past, the culprit hadn't taken me seriously, and felt free to repeat the misdeed.  But my being repeatedly mellow didn't make the misconduct okay.

I take a couple of lessons from this.  The first has to do with me being the "judge".  I think about Matthew 18, when Jesus said to forgive "seventy times seven".  Now, it doesn't mean that parents, or teachers or employers should never give consequences for wrong actions, but neither do I think it means that my irritation or anger should increase exponentially until I explode.  Forgiving means I should return to my "baseline," if you will, and that every time someone "sins against me" should feel like the first time.  Apparently I need to work on that.

But the other lesson for me has to do with me being the "sinner," and how many times I commit the same sin, and how long God has to wait for me to realize and apologize.  The fact is, that just because God takes His time to make His displeasure known on something, doesn't mean He's okay with it.  He didn't punish Mary Magdalene, or Solomon for having all those wives.  Or Lot's daughters.  (Genesis 19.  I'm not going to talk about it here.)  Or King Saul when he consulted a medium.  Or Rahab for prostitution.  The commandments are in the book, and ignorance is no excuse.

Sometimes He just let natural consequences take care of the punishment.  Other times the retribution was coming, but in His timing.  Still other times, as with Mary Magdalene, mercy reigned, and He just forgave. 

I am both in a position to forgive, and of needing forgiveness.  Which pretty much brings me back to the fact that I'm not sure my anger is ever justified.  Choose mercy.

~ "Neither do I condemn you;
      go and sin no more." ~
John 8:11
~

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Following the Rules

"we have an Advocate"
1 John 2:1

Interesting scenario at my girl's volleyball tournament today.  Something completely new to us, and most of the other parents, too.

It was early in the girls' second match.  We had missed the first one because my son's baseball game went into extra innings, so we had barely arrived and settled into our seats as the match began.

And then, just a couple of plays later, the match stopped.  Our girls, at the instruction of their coach, lined up on the service line as he filed an official protest on the game.

I'm not entirely sure what had led up to this, but the reason seemed to have to do with several bad calls in a row, including in the first match.  I did see one call, which was out-of-bounds, even though the line judge called it in.  The ref ignored her completely, and made the call himself, I guess.

So our girls stood and waited next to their coach, and the other team stood and waited, and the parents sat and waited, while the referee made a phone call to his superior to find out what to do.  A few minutes later, the supervisor appeared on scene to iron the whole thing out.

Eventually the situation was resolved by simply replacing that ref with another one, but the whole thing got me to thinking.

First of all, I was grateful to God for the coach we have.  I didn't know what was going on today, but I trusted him.  I know that he knows volleyball, and I know that he's got our girls' backs.  He's not a hothead, by any stretch of the imagination, so I could trust that he must have felt strongly that it was in the girls' best interest to make a stand.

But I was also very aware of role of referees in our lives ~ judges, if you will.  I mean, we are going to have to abide by rules, in a lot of areas of our lives:  traffic rules, company rules, and yes, the rules of the game.  But how a judge interprets those rules can change everything.  And we can be at their mercy, if they are unfair, or even wrong in how they apply their judgement.

The Bible tells us that He is our Judge, and our Mediator, too.  I'm grateful that He is completely worthy of our trust, and that He can only be fair.  He is justice and mercy and wisdom, and He is always with us.  And we need Him.  The errors in judgement are ours, and they are frequent, but He is forgiving and understanding, and I find a great deal of peace in that knowledge.

~ "if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, 
  Jesus Christ the righteous." ~
1 John 2:1
~

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Praising God for what I'm not worried about

"sufficient for the day is its own trouble"
Matthew 6:34

What's your biggest worry today?  Your biggest complaint?  

Does it have to do with an annoying family member?  A problem with a co-worker?

Maybe you've got a headache or other irritating health issue.

Perhaps your calendar is so full that you have trouble sleeping, afraid something important is going to slip through the cracks.

Currently my thoughts are on the busyness of the upcoming weekend, and the fact that I'm fighting off a cold.  This while I'm taking medication for dizzy spells brought on by allergies.  I'm also still feeling a little blue over the death of my sweet kitty, a little over a week ago.  And of course, since we're a one-income family, we are never without reason to be in prayer over our budget.  But that's most people, I assume.

I honestly can't say that most of these are "worries" for me.  I'm generally not that type.  But they are things on my mind; things that I wish were different, and things that require prayer.

But the reason these are the things on my mind is because of all the things that aren't on my mind.  We have a roof over our heads, and we all have plenty of food.  Everyone's health is good.  I have a good relationship with my husband and kids, and my extended family.  I live in a country that is blessed, and strong. 

I originally started thinking about this when I was studying the Book of Job in Bible Study.  I read what Job's "friends" had to say to him, and it's hard not to think to oneself how judgmental and sanctimonious they were as they informed Job of all the sins that he had obviously committed to earn such misery.  {Please hear the sarcasm there.}

But in addition to those thoughts, I also kept thinking about how little it must have mattered to Job.  He was in pain, his home and property and children were all gone.  Was he really going to be receptive to a deep, theological debate?  Even if he had something to learn from them, how persuadable can one be when their basic needs are not met, or they are in an emotional state, as Job was?

Job's friends could think about theology, because of all they were not having to think about.  Their homes, their families, daily bread...  I think this, too, about people in war-torn countries, or places suffering from drought, or flooding.  Their worries are far different from those of people whose lives are not in danger.

In much the same way, I am worried about whatever I'm worried about, because it's the most worrisome thing in my life.   What's causing me concern might be significant, but what's not worrying me, is more so. 


~ "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
and whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by waters,
which spreads out its roots by the river,
and will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
and will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit." ~
Jeremiah 17:7-8
 ~

Friday, March 14, 2014

Talking about football while I ignore basketball and wait for baseball...

"without fail they should celebrate"
Esther 9:27

I saw an interesting headline in an issue of Sports Illustrated the other day.  It was a few months old; I don't read them until the Apple of my Eye is done with them, so I'm hardly ever reading a current one.

I tell you all that so I can explain why I'm going to discuss college football, even though it's March, and I should be discussing college basketball, except that I find basketball boring, so that's probably not going to happen any time soon...

I should also tell you that I'm going to talk about USC and UCLA here, and that you can't live anywhere in southern/central California without taking sides in that debate.  So for the record, here's where I stand on that incredibly important and controversial subject:

I really don't care one way or the other.  

There.  I said it.  Truth be told, any time the topic comes up, I just try to carefully thread the needle between USC fans, and UCLA fans.  I have friends on both sides, so I just smile and nod when there's any trash talk going on.

Okay, so the headline I saw was, "When Will USC Be Elite Again?"  And I thought to myself, "Are they not elite?"  I had no idea.  The reason I thought they were an excellent athletic program with a winning football team is because of the pride of the fans.  I see them on the local news when football season is in full swing, wearing their red and yellow (or maroon and gold, or cardinal and sunflower, or whatever the official colors are).  I hear friends talking about which games they are going to, and about the tailgating they are going to be doing, and then I see their pictures on facebook, and they are having a wonderful time.  Everyone looks so happy, I just assume the team is doing well.

And I realized that it doesn't matter to my friends that USC isn't "elite".  They still enjoy the games and the team, and the experience.  The thing is ~ and this is how I feel about baseball ~ it's not all about winning.  My USC friends enjoy their Alma Mater's games, whether or not they win.  (Although of course they'd prefer a win ~ especially over UCLA!)  I myself can attend any baseball game and enjoy it, regardless of whether "my" team wins, and regardless of whether "my" team is even playing. 

It's all in how you look at it.  What's important to you?  What's your standard of comparison?  It's like those people who grew up poor, but didn't realize it.  All they knew is that they were happy.  And you can be happy ~ content ~ in any situation. 

Or you can be unhappy.  Your choice.  How do you define success?  What brings you pleasure or joy?  You can always want more.  Some people do, no matter what.  But if you're only going to enjoy life when your team is winning, then you've got a lot of struggles ahead of you. 

Embrace what's good.  God's on His throne, and you belong to Him.

~ "In Your presence is fullness of joy" ~
Psalm 16:11
~

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Learning the right things, the right way

"you shall teach diligently to your children..."
Deuteronomy 6:7

So there's an exciting day coming in the fairly near future.  Not sure exactly how long... My baby girl, who hasn't actually been a baby for many, many moons, is almost ready to get her Learner's Permit, and start driving.  She's actually been of age for over a year, but she realizes the responsibility that comes with driving, and didn't want to before she felt ready. 

She feels ready now, so she has been studying the Driver's Handbook for several weeks, taking an online class.  We homeschool, and while my kids have taken a few classes outside our home, the majority of learning is done here, and most of the teaching is done by me. 

But while I, as my child's parent, am allowed to teach them pretty much anything (although I acknowledge that I'd be doing them a disservice if I tried to teach them something like physics), the state of California will not allow me to teach them driving.  Obviously my husband and I will drive with them for all the hours they need, but the rules and regs need to be taught by a certified instructor. 

Frankly, it's a little frustrating for me.  The class is expensive, and since I've been driving for thirty years, with a clean record, it seems like that ought to be enough for me to be able to teach my own child.  And then the DMV test would be, well, the test.  If she couldn't pass, we'd have to go over the material again.  Makes sense to me. 

But then I got to thinking that unlike most subjects (Algebra, Grammar, Geography, etc.) if my daughter is not well-taught, lives could be in danger ~ including hers.  And while I don't think that makes me any less qualified to teach my kids how to drive, I do understand that the state of California wants to err on the side of caution. 

It reminded me of Deuteronomy 6, and the commands to teach our children.  And I thought again about why I love homeschooling so much ~ that while my kids are doing all the book-learning they need to, I am also able to teach them so much more.  Instead of them rushing out the door in morning, being gone seven hours a day, and then spending their evenings doing homework, we work on our schedule.  We have breakfast and lunch together, we read and have discussions about what one or both of them is learning.  We have time together, time apart, and time for one-on-one with each of them.  And our faith is part of all of it.  It works its way into our lives in lots of ways: struggles and worries and budgeting and choices.  Morning, noon and night, just as it says in Deuteronomy. 

All parents teach their children, whether they homeschool or not.  Your beliefs and your priorities come out in your own life; in the example you are setting.  And while I may not be the greatest mom or teacher in the world, I know when it comes to my kids' education, the important stuff needs to be done right.

~ "these words which I command you today
shall be in your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
when you walk by the way,
when you lie down, and when you rise up" ~
Deuteronomy 6:6-7
~

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Because really, in a way, we're all disabled

"among them the blind and the lame"
Jeremiah 31:8

I spent some time, last night and today, watching the Paralympics in Sochi.  I've never seen them before.  I guess because I never had access to a network that broadcast them.  I'm a proponent of less technology and fewer channels (and more reading!) but we recently made some changes to our cable package that resulted in a smaller bill, and more channels.  The Apple of my Eye is thrilled to have access to more hockey games than he was able to see before.  And I was thrilled to have access to the Olympics on all the available channels.  And now, of course, the Paralympics.

So far I've watched Cross Country skiing, in two ways:  sitting, for those with no mobility in their legs; and standing, for those with the use of only one arm.  I also watched Sled (or Sledge) Hockey, which was fun to watch because I'm very familiar with the game, having been married to a hockey player for over twenty years.

Then today I watched Alpine skiing.  Fascinating.  Some athletes had the use of only one arm, others had only one leg.  Man, that was something, watching people ski at that speed, going around gates, on only one ski.  I mean, I've done something similar but only because I'm a terrible skier who wibbles and wobbles and can barely manage to keep both my skis on the snow at the same time.  And truth be told, I'm more likely to be the obstacle that other, more skilled skiers are slaloming around, as I slide down the mountain on my back pocket.  

But the most inspirational thing I saw today was the vision-impaired slalom skiers.  So amazing.  Each one had a guide, who left the start gate at the same time, but then skied out in front of them to guide them.  I guess the athlete was able to see their guide enough to follow them, but in addition, the guide was shouting instructions over their shoulder at the athlete.  It was such a wonderful example of working together, and more than that:  of trust.  I don't know what speed is reached by these skiers, but I know I'd be darn nervous if it were me.

I'm so grateful today, for the different ways that God guides us.  I'm thankful for access to His Word, and the people He puts in our lives, that offer Biblical wisdom when we can't do it for ourselves.  And I'm grateful for Jesus' time on earth, and the example that He left, of dealing with haters, or dealing with suffering, or knowing what to do in difficult circumstances. 

The road is not always straight, or smooth, but He never just leaves us to do our best.  But we have to see the best we can, and listen for guidance.  And then we have to put our fear behind us, and give it our all! 

~ "The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
   The Lord raises those who are bowed down;
   The Lord loves the righteous" ~
Psalm 146:8
~

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Just One

"not one sparrow falls to the ground
  apart from your Father's will"
Matthew 10:29

Baseball season is now in full swing {get it??} and the weather has now become Early Summer in Southern California.  I'm hopeful, however, that winter will come back for a visit before it's completely gone.

So last Saturday I found myself sitting in a lawn chair on a beautiful day, delighting in green grass and blue skies and 13 and 14-year-olds enjoying America's pastime. 

And I found myself keeping score.

Now, I love keeping score.  When my family goes to baseball games, I generally keep score.  I guess I just like the numbers, and getting completely involved in the details of the game.  But I am not a regular scorekeeper for Little League.  Partially because I don't think I'd be as reliable as they'd like a team scorekeeper to be.  The Apple of my Eye always assistant-coaches for our son's team, which means if there's a baseball/volleyball conflict in our schedule, I'm with our daughter at her tournament.

But the other reason I've never volunteered to be a regular scorekeeper is that I'm not sure I would be able to do it to their specifications.  I kinda have my own way of making notes.  I'll give you an example of my style, but first here's a crash course, in case scorekeeping is new to you.

Each position has a number.  Pitcher = 1, Catcher = 2, 1B = 3, etc.  So when an out is made in the field ~ say, the batter hit the ball to the pitcher, who threw it to the first baseman for the out ~ that would be marked as 1-3.  A fly out to the centerfielder would be F8.  Fairly simple, right?

But some scorekeepers like a lot more markings in the box.  Maybe a line indicating where in the field the ball was hit; maybe an indication if a runner advanced due to a stolen base, wild pitch or passed ball, etc.  So I'm not sure my way of scorekeeping would be what they want.

Also, I have been known to indicate the circumstances of an out on the basepath this way: "4-5, DBR".  That means that the 2nd baseman threw it to the 3rd baseman to get the runner out, with an assist to Dumb Base-Running on the part of the runner.  My dad taught me that.  But you're not gonna find that in the Official How To Keep Score handbook.  If there is such a thing...

At any rate, it was fun for me to keep score, with my hubby guiding me as to how the team wanted it done.  I like the feeling of notching every at-bat on the score sheet.  I like the idea that every little thing is an accomplishment in some way.  Even a strike-out can be encouraging if the boy swung instead of just standing still.  But there are very few strike-outs, so almost everything is good.

And line by line, box by box, hash mark by hash mark, I watched the game play out.  But it's so much more than just a game.  It's a series of very small achievements.  \ \ \ \ ...  One in the "At Bat" box.  One in the "Hit" box...  Batters come up one at a time, and I was acutely aware of each one.  I was appreciating each one.

Here's my point... My kitty died a few days ago.  She was in our lives for almost ten years, and then suddenly she was gone.  I was with her as she passed, and that evening we buried her in our backyard, under the apple tree.  It was sunset at the time, which was lovely, and as we all stood in the backyard, and I had one arm around each of my kids, I heard a noise above us.  It was the wild parrots who live in our neighborhood, squawking and screeching as they flew overhead.

They show up most evenings when the weather is nice, always around sunset, and often we run outside to try to see them.  They are primarily green, with a little blue and red, so they are really hard to see when they are in the surrounding eucalyptus trees.  So when I get a really good glimpse of them, I'm excited.

I looked up, and there were about six of them, flying low down, easily seen.  I looked up, happy to see them as usual.  But then I thought that even as much as I thrill to hear and see these beautiful, exotic birds, if one of them were missing, I wouldn't know it.  There are as many as 20 of them at any one time, and if one of them died, I would have no way of knowing.  And I felt unexpectedly guilty that I couldn't fully appreciate each lovely bird.

In a way, I think it's for the best.  I'm grieving the loss of my sweet, soft, little companion, and if I had to feel the loss of every critter in my habitat, it would be a weight I could not bear.  And I wonder how He does it.

It leaves me grateful for His knowledge of each of us.  His love for each of us.  You are His beloved, each one of you.  Just as she was mine.


~ "the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Do not fear therefore;
you are of more value than many sparrows" ~
Matthew 10:30-31
~

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Most Beautiful Thing in the World is in the Eye of the Beholder

"for glory and for beauty"
Exodus 28:40

So, what did you think?   Or should I say, "How many things did you think of?"

On yesterday's post, I put out a bit of a challenge.  You can find the post here.

Or, you know, scroll down.

At any rate, the challenge was to think of what you think is the most beautiful thing in the world.   So what did you decide?

Perhaps a rainbow?


Perhaps the purr of a kitty?


Maybe nature in general?


Mayhap a winning lottery ticket?

{Yeah.... I don't have a picture of that...}

Perhaps a loved one?


Peradventure* your favorite meal?
{* I do love that word.}


Maybe a mirror?

{Kidding.}

Your newborn baby?


Rain?


Humuhumunukunukuapua'a?

photo credit: botany.hawaii.edu
Okay, I'll tell you what Mr Birkett said.  And I love his answer.  Not because I think he's right.  What he thinks is beautiful is not at all what I think is beautiful, but I do see his point. 

His answer?

Calculus. 

Yup, calculus.  The branch of mathematics that deals with the finding and properties of derivatives and integrals of functions, by methods originally based on the summation of infinitesimal differences. 

I have no idea what I just said.

Clearly the man loves calculus.  I can understand that.  I love math, too.  Ask my son, 'cause he has certainly rolled his eyes a few times when I've made that statement.  But loving something doesn't necessarily mean that you see the beauty in it. 

I hope that you, like I, take that as a challenge.  Because calculus, to me, just is.  It's like finding beauty in gravity.  Or oxygen.  But we couldn't survive without those, so couldn't those be considered beautiful?

How about friendship?  Understanding?  Shared emotions?  Unconditional love? 

How about black holes?  Sand?  Baseball?  The star-nosed mole?

photo credit: nationalgeographic.com
Yeah, that one's a stretch for me...  But his mother loves him.  And maybe biologists.  And certainly his Creator.

The point is in looking at things with new eyes.  Finding appreciation and giving thanks for the world being just as it is.  Just as He created it.

~ "Give to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering,
and come before Him.
Oh worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!" ~
1 Chronicles 16:29
~

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Most Beautiful Thing in the World

"What do you think?"
Matthew 18:12

The following is quoted from an article in Homeschooling Magazine.  The author's name is Norman M. Birkett.  Enjoy...

"God gave me an unforgettable experience once --"  

Great opening, isn't it?  Any idea what this unforgettable experience might be?  Give it a little thought, and make your guess.

Okay, ready?  Let's continue.

"God gave me an unforgettable experience once, 
    when I was looking out of my window on a flight --" 

Oh, but that's not too terribly surprising, is it?  Who hasn't been awed by the view from an airplane?  I mean other than people who have never been in an airplane... Rivers, mountains, crops, oceans, sunrise, sunset.... it's all gorgeous from up there, isn't it? 

But let's keep going...

"The aircraft was in sunshine, but the sun hadn't yet risen high enough to illuminate the ground.  Below me, I could see a few small clouds, brightly lit, and below that, nothing but inky darkness, impenetrable to me up in the bright sunlight."

Aren't you just picturing it?

"Then, as I watched, the sun rose on the world below me.  We were over the Alaska Range.  When the sunlight touched the highest peak, I saw magnificent mountains appear instantaneously out of the dark void.  The peaks and ridges were brilliant with golden light, and the valleys, though still in shadow, were dimly visible by the reflected light.  In a fraction of a second, the light raced off like fire through dry grass to the northwestern horizon, illuminating more ridges and peaks, bringing a snowy, mountainous world into being out of darkness."

Sounds like creation must have looked, doesn't it?

"After I resumed breathing, I sat there in awe, looking at those mountains, meditating on God's Word, and thanking Him for letting me see such a sight."

It's nice when we remember to give thanks, isn't it?  But then Mr Birkett continues...

"And that was the second most beautiful thing I have ever seen in God's universe."

Hmmm..... Intriguing.

"What was the most beautiful thing?"

Well, now, I'd like to tell you, because if you're anything like me, you're pretty darn curious.  But first I want to give you some time to think about it.  Because I'm pretty sure ~ well actually, I'm completely and 100% sure that anything you could think of to answer that question is not what Mr Birkett thinks.

And I will tell you.  But not quite yet.  I think you'll enjoy all the possible answers you come up with; each one something you consider beautiful.  But you've gotta think outside the box.  Think of things that wouldn't generally be thought of as "beautiful".  Open up your mind to things like, oh, I don't know... mud.  And the beautiful way that water and dirt combine to create something that can both cleanse your pores and cool a pig.

Y'know, that kind of beautiful.

I'll let you know tomorrow what Mr Birkett's opinion is.  Until then, give the question some thinks.  And give Him some thanks.  {See what I did there?  A little wordplay is a beautiful thing, n'est pas?}

~ "Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant,
   and praise is beautiful." ~
Psalm 147:1
~