Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yes, spelling counts

I'm feelin' quizzy today... How about you??


1.  Who worked seven years to earn a wife?
a. Isaiah
b. Abraham
c. Jacob
d. Joshua

2.  What was the mountain of the Lord?
a. Sinai
b. Zion
c. Nebo
d. Moriah

3.  On what day of creation was man created?
a. First
b. Second
c. Third
d. Sixth

4.  How many windows were in Noah's Ark?
a. Zero
b. One
c. Fifty-two
d. One Hundred

5.  Which apostle was shipwrecked three different times?
a. Paul
b. Peter
c. Philip
d. James

6.  The sun stood still while Joshua's army destroyed what people?
a. Amorites
b. Midianites
c. Egyptians
d. Philistines

7.  Which apostle denied he knew Jesus?
a. John
b. Thomas
c. Judas
d. Peter

8.  Who saw a rainbow in the sky?
a. Adam
b. Moses
c. Noah
d. Abraham

9.  Who was David's oldest brother?
a. Jonah
b. Eliab
c. Joel
d. Agrippa

10.  What name is shared by thirty-three people in the Bible?
a. David
b. Zechariah
c. Daniel
d. Haggai

How many do you know?  And if you don't know the answers, do you know where to find the answers?  No fair using the internet.  But I'll bring you the answers tomorrow!

~ "Let us test and examine our ways
   and return to the Lord!" ~
Lamentations 3:40
~

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Closer Look at Psalm 107

Some thoughts I thought...

"They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way
They found no city to dwell in
Hungry and thirsty
Their soul fainted in them."
(verses 4-5)

Read that again.  You see all the problems going on there?

1) Wandering in the wilderness
2) In a desolate way
3) Finding no city to dwell in
4) Hungry
5) Thirsty
6) Their soul fainted in them

Things are piling up here.  Wandering in the wilderness is bad enough, but they were in a desolate way, too.

Desolate: (adjective) - 
feeling or showing misery, unhappiness or loneliness

You can wander, even be lost, without necessarily being miserable.  I know; I do it all the time.  They were lost and miserable.

Verse 4 also tells us that they found no city to dwell in.  At first glance, this seems like a repetition of "wandering in the wilderness," but I think it's important that it's specified.  Taken together, it could mean that they were on their way to someplace specific, but they were lost and couldn't find it.

Or, it could mean that they didn't know where they were headed, and no matter which direction they headed, there was nowhere for them to dwell.

Or, it could mean that they did come upon cities, but  none would give them shelter, forcing them to continue wandering.

Okay, now add problems #4 and 5 ~ they are hungry and thirsty.  That makes every situation worse, doesn't it?

And then problem #6, the worst one of all:  they lost hope.  There's just nothing sadder than someone who's lost hope, is there?

But then look at verse 6.  Help is on the way!

"Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and He delivered them out of their distresses."

Now, I have a couple of thoughts here:  first of all, what took them so long??  It says "Then they cried out..."  Why then?  Why not sooner?

My other question is about part B of that sentence: "He delivered them out of their distresses."  I wonder what exactly that means.  They had several distresses.  Did He solve all of their problems all in an instant?

I doubt it.  Not that He couldn't.  He's God.  But that's just not how He normally works.  He doesn't just give His children easy paths and perfect lives.  So what did He do?  Which problem did He solve?

Verse 7 implies that He solved their navigational issues: "He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city for a dwelling place."  But He didn't cause them to stumble upon a clear, cool stream, and He didn't direct ravens to bring them food.

My belief is that He directly, or immediately, took care of one or two of their problems, and then the others took on a proper perspective.  Like, have you ever participated in the conquering of a pinata?  You're blindfolded and holding a weapon.  You know your task, but then someone turns you in a few circles, and then you don't even know which direction to start.

But then, they give you that little push, you know?  Yes, you're dizzy and blind, but at least you know which way to go.  That's how I picture God's children in this psalm.  Maybe they're still hungry and thirsty, but they are no longer without hope.  They've been given a push in the right direction, and they can move forward confidently.

When I was about 12 years old, I caught a sting-ray off the coast of North Carolina.  It came about rather suddenly.  I think I had just been playing in the sand with one of my sisters, when my dad asked me to hold his fishing rod for him for a minute.  So I stood up and grabbed it.  I think he was just going to the cooler to get a drink, but in that short time, something bit.  I hollered to him that I had something, and to come help me, and he came hurrying over.

But he didn't do a thing to help me.  He wanted me to make the catch all by myself, so he came near and gave me helpful advice, and encouraged me, without ever taking the rod from me, which is what I had meant by, "Help!"

Now of course, when it turned out that it was not a fish, but a sting ray, he was apologetic.  He hadn't known I was pulling in something so heavy.  But I did it.  I succeeded, and he helped.  Just not in the way I had anticipated. 

God came near to His children when they cried out.  They still had work to do, even difficult work.  But He restored their hope.

So, how are you today??

~ "Oh that men would give thanks to the Lord 
for His goodness!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
and fills the hungry soul with goodness." ~
Psalm 107:8,9
~

Monday, April 28, 2014

Psalm 107

We read a beautiful and uplifting psalm in church today, and it stayed with me throughout the day, so I wanted it to be your focus, too.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord,
for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
And gathered out of the lands,
From the east and from the west,
From the north and from the south. 

They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way;
They found no city to dwell in.
Hungry and thirsty,
Their soul fainted in them. 
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He delivered them out of their distresses.
And He led them forth by the right way,
That they might go to a city for a dwelling place.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness.

(Psalm 107:1-9) 

Amen!
~

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Caught in a Pickle

"he will be chased"
Job 20:8

Today was a Saturday in April, which means I got to attend a Little League baseball game.  And what a glorious spring day we had on which to enjoy it!  White clouds, blue sky, mid-60's, and the ocean off in the distance. 

Breaks my heart that it's forecast to be in the 90s next week...  
But I digress. 

One of our players got into a rundown* between third and home during the game, and as the boys on the opposing team played their game of tag, I explained to my daughter ~ who really only tolerates baseball ~ what the runner's goal is during a rundown.

* For any others who might not know what a rundown is:  it's when a runner gets caught between two bases and two or more fielders work together to try to tag him out.  The runner, meanwhile, is trying to outsmart them, and make it safely to either base, without being tagged.  

Fun fact:  a rundown is also called a pickle.

The runner obviously wants to avoid being tagged out, but odds are that he's not going to get out of his situation successfully.  For starters, it's two (or more) against one, and they're closing in.  His only hope is a throwing error on the part of an infielder, or that he's agile or sneaky enough to evade being tagged as he runs past the guy holding the ball.

So he's thinking about his own destiny of course, but more than that, he's thinking about the runners behind him.  And he knows that his job is not just to try to avoid being tagged out, but also to stay in the rundown long enough for the runners behind him to advance to their next base.  That way, if he gets tagged out, at least his teammates will have benefited.

Isn't that a wonderful way to approach a tricky situation?  Why not try it the next time you're not sure which is the best way to go?  Keep praying, keep trying to move ahead, keep trying to solve the problem the best you can... but be thinking about someone else in your life, and how they might benefit.  Maybe there's someone in your circle of influence who might be blessed by how you handle the pickle you're in.  So take your mind off your troubles, and see what you can do for someone else's troubles!

~ "let us pursue the things which make for peace
        and the things by which one may edify another" ~
Romans 14:19
~

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Keeping secrets ~ from everyone but Him

"a secret message"
Judges 3:19

I have a secret.

Well, it's not really my secret; it belongs to a friend of mine.  We were chatting last week, and she asked me to pray for a situation in her home.  And she asked me not to tell anyone.  Which, of course, goes without saying for a lot of sensitive conversations and prayer requests.  Women sometimes talk about very close-to-the-heart issues.

Normally I don't think it's a big deal to hold something in confidence.  By that I mean it's not hard for me to do so.  It would be easy enough for me to say that it's because I'm not the gossiping type ~ but I guess most women would say that.  I think it's true, but the other fact is that I really don't have anyone to tell.  My circles of friends are fairly small, and pretty much revolve around church friends and Bible study friends.  Neither of those groups know each other, and when I do see them, I'm there for church or Bible study, and there's just not that much time for chatting.  So any secrets stay secret.

But every once in a while, I'm handed a secret that's a burden.  Like this one.  And the problem is the weight of it... the grief it gives me.  I'm aching for my friend, and I feel like if I could tell my husband, or another close friend, then they could be praying, too. 

It's not necessary, of course.  God doesn't ignore prayer requests while waiting for a bigger crowd to join in.  And I'm probably not the only one in whom my friend has confided.  But if I am the only other person that knows my friend's secret, then God is treasuring the prayers of two.

I feel honored that my friend feels I'm "worthy" of her confidence.  And I feel loved, knowing that God hears our hearts and cherishes our prayers.  And I feel grateful, that it was part of His plan for us to share our prayer-burdens with others.


But mostly, I feel a sweet, joyful responsibility for my friend's supplication, and I continually lift it to Him.


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

Friday, April 25, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

"Now I trust you will understand,
even to the end"
2 Corinthians 1:13

I'm thinking about endings today.  And how they affect beginnings.

Two recent experiences got me on this thought process.  One was an article about Andrew Jackson, in an old magazine.  I long ago threw away the magazine, but I had torn out the article and saved it.  When I came across it a few days ago, I decided to read it again. 

The article was about Andrew Jackson, but in the context of John Quincy Adams.  Jackson and Adams vied for the presidency in 1828, and the article focused on their differences, and how much "the people" (read: "average man," and as opposed to just lawyers and "learned" men) should be involved in politics.

But when I got partway through the article, I realized I hadn't saved the whole thing.  It ended mid-sentence, and I was missing a good-sized portion of the article.  So I went online to the magazine's website, and found what I was missing in their archives.  And having the rest of the article gave me insight that changed the point of the article.  When I started it, I thought it was about both Jackson and Adams, equally.  But as I read through to the ending, I realized it wasn't.  I understood the whole article better, because I had the conclusion.

photo credit: history.com
The other thing that happened was a conversation with my dad.  We were talking about the Diary of Anne Frank, which my son is currently reading for school.  My father happened to mention that he never read it, which surprised me, as he's very well-read.  So I encouraged him to read it, but he kind of shook his head, and said he thought that probably wasn't going to happen.

The conversation took a turn then, so he never actually said why he doesn't want to read it, but I know why.  It's because of the ending.  It's just too hard, knowing what's coming.

{Which, frankly, I can completely understand.  
But the optimism and joy in her words and attitude 
make it worth it to me.} 

photo credit: annefrank.org.uk
The ending makes a difference.  Knowing the ending can change everything.  It enlightens and gives context.  And yes, sometimes it's a lot to take in.  Knowledge can be burdensome.  But anytime we are given that knowledge, it's for a reason.  It's part of the gift that is wisdom.  And we have a responsibility to learn everything He teaches us.

~ "In those days and at that time
I will cause to grow up to David
a Branch of righteousness;
He shall execute judgement
and righteousness in the earth" ~
Jeremiah 33:15
~

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blessed Reminders

"Blessed are you of the Lord!"
1 Samuel 15:13

"Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him."
Psalm 2:12

"Blessed are those who dwell in Your house"
Psalm 84:4

"Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
who seek Him with the whole heart!"
Psalm 119:2

"Blessed are all those who wait for Him."
Isaiah 30:18

"Blessed are the poor in spirit"
Matthew 5:3

"Blessed are those who mourn"
Matthew 5:4

"Blessed are the meek"
Matthew 5:5

"Blessed are the merciful"
Matthew 5:7

"Blessed are the pure in heart"
Matthew 5:8

"Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
Luke 11:28

"Blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have believed"
John 20:29

"Blessed are those who do His commandments"
Revelation 22:14

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

For Love of a Snail

"he leaves a shining trail behind him..."
Job 41:32

I went for a walk with my sweetie the other day, on a trail near our home.  It's a place of loveliness, with trees and flowers galore.  We saw birds and butterflies and plenty of lizards.  We also saw a momma duck, and a daddy duck, and two ducklings playing tag nearby. 

And we saw a snail. 

In earlier times in my life, I might not have noticed the snail.  After all, it's just a snail.  It's not furry, or soft in any way.  It doesn't have a face that attracts attention, or even eyes that can evoke feeling. 

Like this guy:

photo credit: shrek.wikia.com

The snail that I saw was crossing the trail, veerry slowly..... The sun was hot, and he had a long way to go, and I was a little worried about him, with all the walkers and joggers and cyclists on the trail.  So I carefully picked him up and moved him across, putting him down in the shade, so he could finish his journey in safety.

You see, I have a daughter who is exceptionally, extraordinarily compassionate.  Even overly compassionate, if there is such a thing.  For as long as I can remember, any creature that somehow made it into our home, has made it out alive.  Spiders, crickets, June bugs, the occasional bee, and yes, the lizard and the bird that found themselves in our house, have gently been escorted out.

{The exceptions are ants, who are gunning for our food, 
and the cockroaches who invaded one summer.  Those I killed.  Dead.}

And the reason for all of this mercy, is my sweet daughter.  Out of deference to her sympathetic heart, all of us have taken to relocating the critters in our house.  And a snail whose minutes might have been numbered, found himself in the shade, and within easy reach of the grass.

My daughter's extreme compassion is unusual in our family.  I mean, we're all nice people, but I never used to have any qualms about squashing spiders who invaded.  And I wonder if maybe her compassion is one of the ways that she's most like God.

We all are like Him; designed in His image.  And yet we can be very different from one another.  I love that ~ that we're all like Him in some way, without necessarily being like each other.  So maybe the way she's got my eyes, and her father's artistic talent, and her aunt's hair ~ she's got her heavenly Father's mercy.  Maybe our strongest quality is the way in which we are most like Him.

None of us are perfect.  But we don't have to be, to be like Him.  My sweet girl's consideration of others, and my husband's creativity, and my son's unending joy, are more than just characteristics of the people I love.   They are characteristics of the Lord I love.

~ "So God created man in His own image;
   in the image of God He created him;
        male and female He created them." ~
Genesis 1:27
~

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Up

"...from whence cometh my help"
Psalm 121:1

One day a few months ago, I had the blues.  For no apparent reason.  As sometimes happens.

I mean, sure, there were things I could point to in my life that I wished were different, but those things had been the same the day before, and the week before that.  Why were they suddenly overwhelming me?

I knew the solution for my mood lay in reaching out to God.  But somehow I felt too weak even for that.

I thought about picking up my Bible, but I didn't know what to read.  And I didn't even want to think about making a decision.

I thought about listening to some worship music, but I didn't know what song to choose.  I was caught in a miasma of apathy.

I don't remember what I did instead.  Knowing me, I probably turned on the TV to distract myself from my woes.  Or ate something unhealthy.

But later that day, I had to drive one of my kids somewhere.  And after I had dropped them off, and was in the car alone, I turned my ipod on.  And the song that came on pointed out my mistake earlier in the day, when I hadn't known what to do.

The song is by a wonderful group called Leeland.  I didn't even really notice the verses, just the chorus, which was very simple, but also repeated several times, apparently for thick-headed people such as myself...  And on hard days since then, when real or imagined circumstances grow too big for me to face, those words come back to my mind.

And what are those words?  Simply these...

Come on, come on, lift your eyes up
Lift your eyes up to the hills

I had forgotten how simple it is.  How tiny that first step needs to be.  Lift your eyes up.  Direct your focus, your thoughts up and away.  And everything else in your heart and mind will fall into place.  The things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace. 

~ "Unto You I lift up my eyes, 
     O You who dwell in the heavens" ~
Psalm 123:1
~

Monday, April 21, 2014

Can't go wrong with cream cheese frosting

"You shall offer up a cake"
Numbers 15:20

How was your Easter?  Family?  Food?  Filled with gratitude?  I hope all of the above.

We went to church (of course) and then to my folks' house for dinner.  Ham, which of course is practically required, and was sooo delicious.  And cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and candied carrots and crescent rolls. 

We all kind of split the cooking, sort of going with our specialties, but dessert was an experiment on my part.  A recipe I read about that called for angel food cake mix, and crushed pineapple.  That's it.  Just combine the two, stir and bake.  We ate it with strawberries and toasted coconut, all of which is a great combination.

It reminded me of a cake I haven't made in a long time ~ something I learned when I was in elementary school, and then became "famous" for.  {Please know that I use that term very, very lightly.}

It was called a "Hawaiian Wedding Cake" and it was this wonderful creation that called for crushed pineapple and coconut and crushed pistachios.  And a cream cheese frosting.  So yum.  I made it for a cooking competition at school, when I was in 8th grade.  I won for my division, so I got to enter it in the countywide competition, and won there, too.  I still have the trophy, to amaze my friends and impress my relatives. 

{It's either that, or I keep telling the story of the sting ray I caught 
when I was fishing off the coast of North Carolina.  When I was twelve.  
Those are my two biggest claims to fame.  Sad, I know...}

Anyhow, this wonderful cake that won prizes and adulation had a flaw.  A fairly substantial one.  Because our oven wouldn't heat properly, the cake didn't rise on one side.  It was cooked all the way through, but there was a definite slope from one side to the other.  (This cake is cooked in a 9 x 13 pan, so it was hard to miss the slope.)

So my mother had the genius idea to simply frost a little extra on the low side.  It made it nearly impossible to tell that there had a been a problem with the the cake.   Unless, of course, you cut it.  Which, of course, the judges did. 

But either the judges cut it on the other side, or the cake was so delicious they didn't care that it was crooked, because ~ hello, did I mention my trophy?  And for years, my family joked that the way to solve any problem was just to add more frosting on one side.  A little extra frosting can be the answer to anything!

This is the effect of the Jesus in our lives.  This is the beauty of the Holy Spirit in us.  He fills in the holes, strengthens our weaknesses, and smooths out our flaws.  He protects others from us, more than we know.  Have you ever apologized to someone, maybe for being short-tempered or something, and had them say, "I didn't even notice."  That's Him.  And He protects you, too, from people and situations around you. 

Not all the time, of course.  We are flawed, and short-tempered, and thoughtless, and we are sometimes going to hurt others, and sometimes be hurt by them.  But we'll never know all the ways He makes us better than we are, simply by our being in Him.

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

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Beautiful Blessings

"whatever things are lovely"
Philippians 4:8

I play mah-jongg.  Online.  It's probably nothing like the real thing, but it gives me something to do with my hands sometimes. 

I used to play solitaire, like normal people, but my daughter introduced me to the game (while we were standing in line for a ride at an amusement park) a few years ago, and something about it appealed to me, so when we got back home, I found a version I could play on my computer.

One of the things that's fun about it, is the pictures on the tiles.  There are standard pictures, that are on the tiles people play with in real life:


Aren't they lovely?  Plus there are other symbols, interesting looking Asian ones.  And even more fun, on the online website, there are "themed" versions of the game:  winter, Christmas, St Patrick's Day, Independence Day, etc. 

Lately, when I play, I've been playing the "Easter" version, and can I just say: the symbols on the tiles are so pretty.  Vivid butterflies, brightly colored jelly beans, several varieties of flowers, birds, rabbits, rainbows, and the like.  And I'm enjoying how delightful everything is.

And today I thought about all these beautiful things, in the context of Easter.  Life, color, beauty... They just seem perfect in light of Jesus' sacrifice for us, and the promises that come with it.  

All things lovely...
     All things pleasant...
          All things joyous...
               All things fulfilling...
                    All things good and beautiful...

Are ours, only in Him.

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!

~ "Arise, shine;
    for your light has come!
   And the glory of the Lord
      is risen upon you!" ~
  Isaiah 60:1
~

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Seeing what you want to see

"What do you see?"
Jeremiah 1:13

I have a poster hanging in my bedroom.  On my closet door.  It's a map of the southeastern portion of Africa.  I don't have any particular interest in the art or culture of Africa ~ well, no more than I do any other area of the world ~ but this poster isn't about art.  It's about geography.  Or maybe topography.  Or hydrology...

I got the poster out of an old National Geographic magazine.  Several months ago I got a stack of the magazines from a friend, and when I come across one of the posters, I hang it up on my closet door, so that we can study it for a while. 

The poster is entitled, "Africa's Great Lakes," and it's very interesting.  And rather pretty.  The land is a lovely shade of green, and the topography is indicated in other shades of green.  And there's lots of interesting information in the margin.


But you know what I see when I look at that poster?   Lakes.  And that fascinates me.  Because the lakes are hardly the most noticeable part of the picture.  They're practically a non-color, and believe me, I'd much rather look at something colorful.

But the power of suggestion is very, well, powerful.  The subject of the poster is lakes, and the lakes are what I find myself studying.

We often find ourselves drawn to what we're told to.  Sometimes directly, sometimes subtly.  And that can be either a caution, or a joy.  Depends who's doing the suggesting.

I think the lesson is:  know your source.  The Bible talks a lot about things like love, peace and forgiveness, don't you think?  So maybe we should be looking for those at every opportunity.

Heading into work?  Look for joy. 

Got a meeting at church with that woman who dominates everything?  Seek love.

Having to deal with a situation that makes you anxious?  Claim His peace.

We tend to see what we look for.  Be on the lookout for Him, every day in every situation, and you'll find Him.

~ "I love those who love Me,
and those who seek Me diligently
     will find Me" ~
Proverbs 8:17
~

Friday, April 18, 2014

To play or not to play

"Therefore I will play music before the Lord"
2 Samuel 6:21

We went to a friend's house for dinner a few weeks ago.  We had a great meal, and wonderful conversation. 

We mostly just sat talking, and laughing; enjoying each other.  Watched a little TV, too. 

One thing that didn't happen, was piano playing.  That's not really a surprise; how many people do that when they visit with friends?  I mean some, to be sure, but it's hardly to be expected.

But our friends have a piano.  And I have a daughter who plays piano.  Frequently.  And at the time of our visit, it had been several days since she had played.  A combination of homework, household chores, volleyball and sickness had kept her from sitting down and tickling the ivories.

So when I walked into their living room, and saw that piano, I briefly wondered if my girl was missing the piano.  And I even thought of suggesting that she play theirs a little bit.  She probably would have loved that, as our piano is not quite in tune.  And I don't even mean playing us all a tune, just sitting down and playing some of the things we love, while we sat out in the other room and talked.

But I knew she wouldn't play with all those people there.  She sometimes hesitates to play, even with just me in the room.  Either she's that private, or has that little confidence in her playing.

It makes me a little sad, though.  Her ability to play the piano is a gift.  I can't do it, or if I do, I struggle to get out Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or some such.   And yet she doesn't really want to share her gift. 

Why are we like that?  Many of us are.  I think we see others who are better at something we're pretty good at, and it skews our perspective. 

I know sometimes we truly aren't aware of our gifts.  But I'm not talking about those circumstances.  I'm talking about when we deliberately ~ albeit for what we think is a good reason ~ hide our gift from others.  I'm not sure it's outright sin.  I think more than anything, it's fear.  Or a lack of faith, or maybe a lack of appreciation for how He has gifted us.  Which, of course, are sins, now that I think about it. 

Maybe growth is good enough, though.  Maybe He sees that little by little, we are growing in our confidence.  And even if He knows that it will be many years before my daughter is comfortable playing in front of people, maybe it's enough that He knows it will bless someone someday.  After all, He sees all of us as we will someday be. 

~ "He who has begun a good work in you
     will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" ~
Philippians 1:6
~

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The right message at the right time. Just for you. And me.

"an apostle of Jesus Christ"
1 Peter 5:1

One of the things I enjoy when I study the Bible is comparisons.  Looking at one aspect in several places, and finding similarities or differences that stand out to me, and then wondering about or analyzing those aspects. 

Recently I was reading 1 Peter, and something happened to catch my eye.  His introduction.  In the first sentence of that letter, Peter identifies himself only as "an apostle of Jesus Christ."  It's such an astoundingly simple way to acquaint himself with his audience. 

A few chapters later, in 5:1, Peter refers to himself as "a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed."

Why these words?  Why these things about himself?  There was so much he could have said.  He was one of the first disciples called by Jesus.  He was with Jesus for three years, eating and sleeping with Him, hearing His teaching, seeing His miracles firsthand.  His feet were washed by Him.  He was present on the Mount of Transfiguration.

And yet: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ."

Methinks that maybe further introduction wasn't necessary.  Maybe Peter's reputation preceded him.  But whether or not that's true, didn't matter.  This was the introduction that was perfect, for this audience, in this letter. 

There are a lot of letters in the New Testament.  And I love that Peter, or Paul, who wrote so many, didn't just send the same letter to all the recipients.  They could have.  Their words, which bless us all now, would have blessed everyone in their day, even if they had just kept circulating one great letter.  But they wrote, as led by the Holy Spirit, letters with very specific messages. 

It's a good reminder, when I sit down to read the Bible, that what's waiting for me on any particular day, is exactly what I need.  Each part of it, written just for me, just for now. 

And you too, of course.  Every day.  Just what you need.

~ "My God of mercy shall come to meet me" ~
Psalm 59:10
~

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

To Know Him is to See Him

"among my family"
Genesis 24:41

My sister and her family were in town last week, and every time they visit, they try to do some touristy things in Southern California, so that my nephew can enjoy seeing and doing new things. 

On this trip, one of the things they did was whale watching.  And my daughter went with them, because she's studying Marine Biology in school this year.  My brother-in-law took copious pictures of course, because whales and dolphins are beautiful, and my nephew is adorable. 

And while I was looking through the pictures, I noticed something fun.  Many of them were my nephew looking out at the water, with his back to the camera.  Some of those times he was with my daughter, and despite the fact that neither of them were looking at the camera, I knew immediately who they were. 


I know their details so well, that even though there were sixty-some-odd people on that boat, I knew these two.

Now, of course, you're saying, "Naturally you recognize those people, because of course your brother-in-law was taking pictures of people you know.  Why would he take pictures of strangers?"

But then I show you this one:


See that dolphin?  That was the point of my brother-in-law's photo.  But there are also four people in the picture.  Three of them are strangers to me, and one is related.  You don't know which one.  I do.

Well, you might know, too, if you're also related.  Which a couple of you are.

The point is that those I love, I know.  I know them well.  I know their voices, their body types, height, etc.  I can pick out my boy when he's out on the baseball field with eight other boys, and I know my daughter's walk coming down the hallway. 

There's an old Jewish proverb that says that disciples should follow their rabbi so closely, that they would be covered with the dust kicked up by the rabbi's feet.  Don't you love the visual there?  Don't you love the idea of being so close to Jesus that you know Him at a glance?  That you could pick Him out in a crowd?

That's a lot of what reading the Bible does for us.  We get to know Him in those pages ~ whether Old or New Testament.  Then we recognize His truth when we hear it, and we are conscious of His ever-presence with us. 

When I look at those pictures, and see people I'm crazy about, I feel happy inside.  I feel love.  This is the gift that relationships are for us.  This is the same feeling we should have when we remember His love for us, and His nearness.  He knows us.  We should know Him, too.

~ "the world neither sees him
nor knows Him;
but you know Him,
for He dwells with you
and will be in you" ~
John 14:17
~

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Beautiful from the Inside Out

"... and a diamond"
Exodus 28:18

I met a friend for breakfast a few weeks ago. 

It wasn't great. 

The breakfast, I mean.  It was a disappointment.  It was a quiche, but it tasted like they had prepared several of them first thing in the morning, and it had been sitting around. 

But that's okay.  Lesson learned.  I just won't order that again at that restaurant.

My visit with my friend was lovely.  We met several years ago in Bible study.  She now attends a different class than I do, but the friendship has remained.  Best kind, right?

She's a funny kind of person, my friend.  She has a quirk, sort of.  A quirk I've seen in quite a few of my other friends. 

Which makes me wonder if maybe it's me who's quirky....  I've got to give that some thought. 

Anyhow, the thing about my friend is that she often wears a sweatsuit when getting together with friends.  It's not because she just left, or is headed to, the gym.  On the contrary, this isn't even the kind of sweatsuit you'd wear to the gym.  It was one of those rather nice sweatsuits.  Maybe they call them "lounge wear"?  Or "resort wear" or something?  I'm hopelessly out of touch when it comes to fashion...

I feel like I should wear something nice when I go out of the house.  I mean, not fancy or dressy, necessarily, but I just have my hang-around-the-house clothes, and my be-seen-in-public clothes.  And ne'er the twain shall meet.  After all, I don't want to wear out my nice clothes or risk getting them dirty by wearing them around the house. 

But here's the thing:  though my friend had on her incredibly casual sweatsuit, she was also wearing her unbelievably beautiful diamond wedding ring.  Of course she was.  She's married, after all; she wears it all the time.  But it seemed so incongruous with her clothes. 

Incongruous, but in a good way.  I somehow just loved the way her ring seemed even more lovely, being set off by clothes that were mostly unremarkable (although I've certainly managed to remark quite a bit here).

But more than that, I loved the reminder that how we look on the outside changes ~ over the years and day to day.  We grow old, with the wrinkles and gray hair (or no hair) that goes along with that.  Or we dress to paint the house, or clean the garage, but still wear that gorgeous diamond ring that we got on our wedding day.  Our identity does not change.  Our love does not change, just because we can't do justice to our jewelry.

And worthy of a diamond ring, is how our Savior sees us.  All the time.  Whether we're grimy and muddy, or dressed to the nines.  We are His.  And we are beautiful.

~ "as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
    so shall your God rejoice over you" ~
Isaiah 62:5
~

Monday, April 14, 2014

Peace is in the details. Or lack thereof.

"not knowing what had happened"
Acts 5:7

We had movie night at our house the other night.  Nobody had practice to attend, nobody had any games that night, nobody had any obligation to be anywhere.  So we made dinner and ate in the living room, as we enjoyed a movie together.

We had a little trouble narrowing it down, but when the Apple of my Eye picked a number between 1 and 5, the movie he had selected was "Apollo 13".  One of my favorites.  And I haven't seen it in years, so it was fun to watch it again.

I first saw the movie in the theater, and for the most part, did not know what to expect.  I was a wee babe when the events actually happened, so I was pretty much watching it play out for the first time.  I was anxious and confused and elated, and all those things a movie is supposed to make you feel.

And what makes it such a great movie, is that I still feel those things, every time I see it.  I mean, I'm less confused now, because I understand the technical stuff better.  I've read Jim Lovell's book, "Lost Moon," and there are some great details that add amazing depth to the movie.

And yet, though I now know what to expect, my heart still races at certain points, even though I know they're going to make it.  I feel the same anxiety when watching something like the movie "Lincoln".  I find myself hoping that what I know is going to happen, won't happen.

Anxiety is not of God.  Trust is what God wants for us.  And peace.  And yet life provides us with plenty of opportunities to worry.  Sometimes it's because we don't know what to expect.  And sometimes it's because we know exactly what's coming.

But the important thing to remember is that He knows.  He has a plan for each of those He has called, and we can rest in knowing that nothing is accidental.  Nothing is unexpected. 

The world will tell us that there are plenty of reasons to be worried.  But we only need one reason not to be. 

~ "As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him" ~
2 Samuel 22:31
~

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Woodpeckers and Apples

"a tree...
that brings forth fruit
it its season"
Psalm 1:3

It's Spring in Southern California.  Which means it was over 90º a week ago, and is forecast to be 64º tomorrow.  Variety is the spice of life, right?

The other day, while we were out in the backyard appreciating our woodpecker, who had come to visit, my daughter pointed all the apples starting to appear on our tree.  Two more signs of Spring. 


I know on most apple trees, the emergence of apples would not signify Spring, but on our tree, that's how it works.  We get our apples in the hottest part of summer.  Weird.

Anyhow, here come the apples.  And there appear to be a lot of them this year.  We just never know from year to year how many to expect.  Most years, our crop is just the right amount for us to have a constant supply of apples, homemade apple sauce, and fresh apple juice for a few months. 

But some years we have more apples than we can handle.  This results in a mess in our yard, because many of them are too high for us to reach, even with the long-handled picker.  So they hang there in the sun until they bake, and then they hit the ground with a splat.  Messy.

A few years ago, we barely had any crop at all.  We do nothing to help the tree, and never have, so I don't know what was different that year.  I do know that I had friends whose fruit trees also gave noticeably less that year, so maybe it was a rain thing, or a pollen thing.  I don't know.  It's embarrassing how little I know about plants and trees.

Seasons are different, sometimes with no explanation.  I'm comforted by that knowledge.  It reminds me that when I'm in a less-than-productive season, it's okay.  It happens.  Sometimes I can pinpoint the reason (like not enough rain); other times I can't.  The good news is it doesn't mean I'm not still growing.  And seasons of amazing fruitfulness are ahead!


~ "Blessed is the man...
whose delight is in the law of the Lord...
He shall be like a tree
planted by the rivers of water,
that brings forth its fruit in its season,
whose leaf also shall not wither" ~
Psalm 1:1,2,3
~

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Comeuppances. And other warnings.

"whatever a man sows..."
Galatians 6:7

I had an interesting collision of ideas today.  One was a quote from C.S. Lewis.  The other was a Bible verse.  Together they illuminated one another, and gave me a somewhat unpleasant insight.

The Bible verse was from Proverbs 1.  Verse 10 says, "My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent."  Then there are a few verses underscoring that directive, and giving a few examples.  Then in verses 18 and 19, there's the "why" part of the statement:  "(Sinners) lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives.  So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners." {emphasis mine}

So, the idea is sort of along the lines of, "you bring your own destruction on yourself," right?

Then there was the quote from C.S. Lewis... "There are only two kinds of people in the end:  those who say to God, 'Thy will be done'; and those to whom God will say, 'thy will be done.'"  Kinda the same idea, isn't it?

Sort of "name it and claim it," but in a punitive way.

When I was a kid, I used to love reading books by Beverly Cleary.  One of her characters was a boy named Otis Spofford, who was a troublemaker in class.  In one book, he continually shot spitballs at the girls in class, until his teacher told him if she caught him again, he'd get his "comeuppance".  He was worried, but intrigued at the same time.  What could that mean??

Well, his curiosity won out.  He shot another spitball.  And his punishment was to sit on a stool in the back of the classroom, and shoot spitballs into a trashcan.  Over and over and over, until he couldn't stand it anymore.  His crime became his punishment.

It's a sobering warning.  Be careful of what you love.  And be very careful of what you love more than you love the Lord.

~ "even as they did not like to retain God 
in their knowledge,
God gave them over to their corrupted minds" ~
Romans 1:28
~

Friday, April 11, 2014

Flowers and Dirt

"trampled down like mud"
Micah 7:10

These pictures aren't great.  I took them with my phone.  So I hope you can see them okay.


I took these at a baseball field a few weeks ago.  We were visitors there, and it's not a field we've played at before. 

You see the dirt-y part of this picture?  It's a pathway from a practice area, to the field itself, going around an equipment shed.  Our kids trampled across this area when it was their turn to take the field, and it was obvious from the patchy grass that we were far from the first team to do so.  Clearly the grass has trouble growing there.

But what's harder to see in that picture, in the lower left-hand corner.  See them?


Lovely little lavender flowers!  I saw them and smiled to myself, and pointed them out to my husband, "Look at those amazing flowers that insist on growing, despite all the cleats that parade through here!"

And immediately two words came to mind:  buffalo wallow.

A buffalo wallow is a natural depression in the topography of the prairie that would collect rain.  The water would draw buffalo, to drink, and to bathe.  Over the years, this depression would grow, holding more water and attracting more wildlife.

Here's the wikipedia photo:


When I was a kid and read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Laura tells the story of her youngest sister, Grace, wandering away from their home when no one was watching.  The rest of the family split up to search for her on the vast prairie.

Laura was the one who found Grace, sitting in an old buffalo wallow that was filled with violets.  Laura had never seen anything like it before, and when her Ma asked her, "Where did you find her?"  Laura found herself at a loss to describe the beautiful, fragrant hollow place.

How's that for a stellar quality photo?   Direct from my personal copy of "By the Shores of Silver Lake"
"Masses of violets blossoming above low-spreading leaves.  Violets covered the flat bottom of a large, round hollow.  All around this lake of violets, grassy banks rose almost straight up to the prairie-level.  There in the round, low place, the wind hardly disturbed the fragrance of the violets... 'Pa, could it be a fairy ring?  A place like that couldn't just happen, Pa.  Something made it.'"

Pa explained to Laura how the hollow was formed, and there was such irony in those massive, ungainly creatures being a part of that delightful place.  Life and beauty emerged.

I don't know if those little lavender flowers appeared because of all those boys' cleats, or in spite of them.  But I was reminded that lovely and fragile often win out over heavy and strong.  And I was reminded to persevere in the mud, because the flowers are coming.

~ "Love bears all things,
  believes all things,
  hopes all things,
     endures all things" ~
1 Corinthians 13:7
~

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Safe at Home

"where would we go?"
John 6:68

My nephew ran away from home today.

Well, not really "home".  They live out of state, but they are here visiting.  So really, he ran away from my folks' house.

He's young.  Young kids do this sometimes.  I think he disagreed with my sister on whether or not it was time to stop playing his computer game.

My son was sitting out in the living room, near the front door, and then came into the family room where the rest of us where, and informed my sister that her son had just left the house.

So she got up and calmly walked after him.   She went out the front door, and looked in a couple of directions until she saw which way he had gone.  (My folks live on a corner, so there are a couple of options.)


But once she saw him, she just stood where she was, watching him.  And while she watched, he stopped, and turned around to come home and saw her standing there waiting for him.  He walked to her, and simply said, "I can't do this."

His meaning was clear.  I can't leave.  I can't run away.  I can't live without you and Daddy.  And the realization didn't take him long.  While he had his Pooh Bear, his jacket, and a spare pair of socks, he didn't have food, or money, or any knowledge of where to go.

Like the prodigal son, or Peter when Jesus asked him if he wanted to leave, there comes a time when we have to decide which way we're going to go.  And I don't mean left or right, or north or south.  I mean towards or away.  He offers, and we choose.

To choose Him is to choose life.

~ "I have set before you life and death,
blessing and cursing;
therefore choose life,
that you may live" ~
Deuteronomy 30:19
~

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Multiplying our Efforts

"be fruitful and multiply"
Genesis 1:22

I read a wonderful, inspiring article in a magazine the other day... The article as a whole was about young people excelling in their fields in some way.  None of them were famous, just doing their part to make the world a better place.

The one that intrigued me was a mathematician.  Math comes naturally for her, I think, but she also got a bit of a head start on her education.  She has a big sister who, when they were young, would come home from school and teach her little sister everything she had learned.

I like that part of the story, because that's how I learned to read when I was three.

Anyhow, there was a quote from her, that said, "My sister taught me addition and subtraction and multiplication and division, so by the time I got to school, I knew it all, and when we'd do the times tables, I was just focused on doing it faster than anybody else.  I already had the information, so it just got me to focus on excellence."

I just love those two sentences about focus.  The challenge that the other kids had ~ doing their times tables ~ was not a challenge for her.  So she devised a new challenge for herself:  speed.  And when learning the information was done, her focus became excellence.  A beautiful goal, indeed.

A lot of people seem to rest on their laurels, whether by conscious decision or not.  Either they set a goal, and then coast once they've achieved it, or they just aren't the striving type.  Each day, or each task, or each season of their life is characterized by "satisfactory". 

That's not God's way.  He intends for us to grow, and we don't grow from the same old challenges, the same old obstacles.  So maybe it's better that we decide to stretch ourselves to new achievements.

And to me, the most important lesson in this is that demanding more of myself doesn't necessarily mean bigger and better obstacles to overcome.  Sometimes ~ maybe most of the time ~ it just means going through my routine, doing my normal thing, but with a focus on excellence.   As Helen Keller said, "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble."


~ "Well done, good and faithful servant;
    you have been faithful over a few things,
        I will make you ruler over many things." ~
Matthew 25:23
~

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Captured Memories

 "my son"
2 Timothy 2:1

You see this boy?


Yeah, me neither.  But he's back there; trust me.  Love that kid. 

You see this woman?


Yes, she's a woman, though she might look like a kid from here.  She does up close, too.

I don't know her name.  {Actually, I just can't remember it.  I only heard it once.}  But she has been in and out of my life for years.

Every year of Little League, on the first day, there's a team photo taken.  We get a couple of wallet-sized pics of my smiling boy with his bat in hand, and a 5x7 of the whole team in their brand-spanking-new uniforms.  {Enjoy the white... it's not gonna last....}

But then, partway into the year, this lovely young woman appears at a Saturday game and spends two hours taken dozens and dozens of pictures.  Action shots, as opposed to the sweet but sometimes stilted posed photos.

This was many, many moons ago.  Still so much fun for me to look at!

These are some of the best photos I have of my little ballplayer.  While the photos of him in action are awesome, as his momma I'm absolutely crazy about the candid expressions she catches:  concentration, lightheartedness, joy, effort...

A wee bit taller, and still just as serious about his baseball!

I'm so grateful for her work, in the sun, wearing a helmet the whole time, running around to different spots on the field to get a variety of angles, and everyone's faces.  She works hard, and I am blessed.  And I'm sure I'm not the only one.

The pants are not-so-much white anymore....

It's amazing, isn't it?  The lasting impact that people can have on our lives, with only the briefest of connections.  She's just doing her job, and I happily pay a reasonable fee for memories I will cherish forever.

See that adorable game-face? 

I actually had an occasion to talk with her this year.  Though she works hard during the game, when there was a pitching change, she came near the fence to stand in the shade for a few minutes, and I made conversation with her, telling her how much I love her work.

We don't always have the opportunity, or the wherewithal, to thank those to whom we are grateful.  I was glad to have the chance.  I love that we can be grateful not only to Him, but also those through whom He blesses us.



~ "For what thanks can we render to God for you,
for all the joy with which we rejoice
for your sake before our God" ~
1 Thessalonians 3:9
~

Monday, April 7, 2014

Diamonds in the Rough

"precious stones for beauty"
2 Chronicles 3:6

So we went on a field trip the other day.  Drove out to Carlsbad.  Not to see the beautiful-but-overpriced flower fields, and not to visit the fairly-expensive-but-worth-it Legoland theme park.  No, we were visiting the free-even-though-the-items-in-this-building-cost-millions Gemological Institute of America.

The GIA was founded in the early 1930s by Robert Shipley, a jeweler who realized that there were no standards used to evaluate or grade gems.  They educate, train and research in 14 countries around the world.  Their headquarters is in Carlsbad.

It was very interesting.  The kids got to do some of the things that gemologists do ~ performing scratch tests to figure out where different gems fall on the Mohs hardness scale... closely examining gems under a microscope and a jeweler's loupe, looking for inclusions (such as an air bubble, or an insect in amber)... and using a penlight to identify phenomena (an example of which is the rainbow colors you see when light shines on an opal).

It is truly remarkable the variety of beautiful and valuable minerals in and on the earth.  It was a lovely and educational day, to be sure.

But you know I learned about more than just gems.  I was reminded about something special about God, too.  And here's how that happened...

We were taught that almost all gems are minerals, but very few minerals qualify as gems.  To be a gem, a mineral must be three things: rare, durable, and beautiful.  The "beautiful" caught my interest.  What exactly is beautiful?  Beautiful as defined by whom?  And what about the fact that the standard of beauty changes through the years?

At this point in the presentation, the speaker showed a slide that had a beautifully polished diamond...

photo credit: gia.edu
... alongside several rough diamonds of slightly different colors...

photo credit: gia.edu
And the instructor asked the kids how many of them saw beauty in the unpolished diamonds.  Most of them raised their hands.  I didn't raise my hand, but I certainly agreed with them.  And then the instructor agreed with them, too ~ but with a reason that gave me pause.  She said, "How many of you think that one or two of those unpolished diamonds are beautiful?  Me too.  I think they're beautiful because they are going to become this -->" and she pointed to the polished diamond.

I disagreed with her there.  I think the unpolished diamonds ~ and other gems ~ are beautiful, interesting, appealing... just as they are.  Sure, the polished diamond does things with light and color that are unlike anything else, but they don't have a patent on beauty, ya know?

But what I loved about her remark was that it made me think of God.  Of how He sees us.  There can be no better description of us than "diamond in the rough".  Beautiful to Him, just as we are... and yet He knows what we are becoming, and how the closer we grow to Him, the more of His light we reflect.  The gemologist who was teaching us saw the beauty in what that diamond would become.  The beauty of potential.  Just as we are unpolished gems, in the hand of the Master.


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

Sunday, April 6, 2014

When Peace is (Slightly) Lost

"live peaceably"
Romans 12:18

I had a bit of disagreement with my lovely daughter the other day.  Very little.  Well, brief, but loud.

We were on a field trip, and got (slightly) lost.  Really more frustrated than lost, because the road was under construction, and now we had to go back through it, and make u-turns, and left turns, and it was not going to be efficient, and we were hungry!

My daughter had the Garmin, and I had the directions, which had lied to us and were now useless.  But I also had a slight familiarity with the area, and enough experience with being (slightly) lost to have an idea of how to solve the problem.  So we were on fairly even footing.

But we were both frustrated and confused (and did I mention hungry?)  And then she said, "Calm down, Mom," which made me even uncalmer.

Now, I should tell you that most of the time, when my girl says, "Calm down, Mom," I do.  And she does, when I say it to her.  We recognize each other's moods, and know each other's "buttons" and can generally bring perspective to one another in the midst of emotion.

But in this case, I knew she was just as frustrated as I was.  The only difference was that my frustration is generally louder than hers.  So when she said, "Calm down, Mom," I said something like, "You calm down!  Why do I have to calm down when you're no calmer than I am??"

And then of course I apologized, and she apologized, and we both calmed down.  Which was best for everyone.  But later that day, and for the next couple of days, I kept wondering the same thing.  Why was she telling me to calm down?  She had to recognize that she was uptight, too.  Why tell me to relax?

In retrospect, I think that it wasn't that she was scolding me, per se.  I don't think she was telling me; I think she was asking me.  I think, knowing her, it wasn't advice, it was what she needed from me.  I set the tone, being the mom, and my frustration was making her worse.  I'm not sure she knew it consciously, but whether she did or not, my calming down would be the first step to her calming down.

Romans 12:18 says "As much as is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men."  I love that verse.  It acknowledges that sometimes it's out of our control; that we can't always be at peace with others.  In a way that takes the pressure off.  But at the same time, it tells us that we do have some responsibility.  We can have some impact on those around us.  And my sweet girl's frustration level rising, was an indicator that I wasn't doing all I could to keep peace in the car.  That's what she communicated to me, though it took me a minute to respond appropriately.

Peace is never really that far away.  God wants that for us.  My girl and I both wanted it, and needed it.  I was a little slow to do my part in her peace, but it wasn't far away.

~ "I will give peace and quietness" ~
1 Chronicles 22:9
~