Applied wisdom

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280I’ve heard the phrase, “patience of Job”, which seems a bit overstated, at least on a cursory first reading of the account.  Not that I would have done any better, and most probably a lot worse.  The idea is that, despite all his suffering, he never let go of God.  Okay, I get that.

Then there’s this one: “wisdom of Solomon”.  As the account reads, God had given Solomon a blank check, and instead of riches and fame, he humbly asked for wisdom.  God was pretty happy about that, and gave the new king riches and fame in addition to the wisdom.  That’s pretty neat. Continue reading “Applied wisdom”

All-time, best-ever, easy way to remove silver tinsel from your Christmas tree!

arrow-2207748_1920Nope.  Got nuthing…

Happy New Year anyway!!

dawnlizjones

 

Superstitious Christianity (or…which rabbit’s foot do YOU prefer?)

wood 2I’ve never been a superstitious individual.  I think black cats are beautiful, I have no problem walking under ladders (unless my husband, Bob, is cleaning the gutters…then I get messy!), and carrying a disembodied rabbit’s foot in one’s pocket is, well…disgusting.

But what if…??

Continue reading “Superstitious Christianity (or…which rabbit’s foot do YOU prefer?)”

Frogs, and other useful tools

IMG_20150103_172451138I rather like frogs; actually, I really quite fancy them.  (No, not to eat!) 

Along with the crickets, they sing me to sleep at night, and keep serenading me in the pre-dawn mornings on the patio before work.  Bob, my biology-professor husband, likes them also, but has a much more practical bent toward them.  Whereas I always want to catch them, pick them up, look at them eyeball-to-eyeball, the prof always says, “leave it alone, it’s a scared little creature”. 

How does he know if it’s scared? (Turtles, on the other hand, right, I know what they do…)  Besides, as far as I’m concerned, one of a frog’s life functions is to let me pick it up.  So there. Continue reading “Frogs, and other useful tools”

Popped strings, and other favorites tunes.

guitarAs a past worship leader, I appreciate, at least in a small degree, the importance and effort that goes into putting song sets together for the congregation.  In the case of contemporary music, there’s rhythm and flow to be considered, as well as your team’s availability for that week, and hopefully prayerful discernment. 

Of course, then I would break a guitar string in them middle of it all, and God shows His sense of humor…Not only does the string almost hit you in the face, but it throws the rest of the instrument out of tune, and naturally it can’t happen during practice, oh no, but during the set, in front of the congregation.

So then there’s life, well planned, even prayerfully so, and then…

…BOOOIIIINNNGGG!  (And usually not in private, right?)

Kinda sounds like this worship leader from a long time ago.  His name was Heman, an ancestor of Ezra, so he’s got an impressive Hebrew pedigree. The note at the beginning of his song reads as follows:

“A song to be sung to the tune ‘The Suffering of Affliction.’”

(…because that would certainly be a go-to for a Sunday morning.)

“O Lord, God of my salvation,
    I cry out to you by day.
    I come to you at night.”

Starts out okay, but kinda plays on that “out of tune instrument” from then on.

“For my life is full of troubles,
    and death draws near.
I am as good as dead,
    like a strong man with no strength left.
They have left me among the dead,
    and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
I am forgotten,
    cut off from your care.
You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
    into the darkest depths.”

ETC, etc, etc…. Then he says this.

“Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love?
    Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds?
    Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness?”

Now, c’mon, how can he talk about God forgetting him (and worse) in one breath, and in the other speak of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness, His wonderful deeds and His righteousness??

Something tells me this is more about Heman reminding himself of God’s goodness, than reminding God to take care of him. Obviously, somewhere in his past, Heman has an intimate history with the Deity of his ancestors, as well as a working knowledge of God’s unchanging character leading up to this personal crisis.  He’s hurting, but not hopeless.  He’s frustrated, but in still fanning the flames of faith.

I find it most informative, and incredibly encouraging, that God has included Heman’s depressing little song of woe in the eternal Word of the Ages, alongside “the Lord is my Shepherd”, and “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, and “those who live in the shelter of the Most High”, and “I will lift my eyes to the hills”.  It allows me to be real with my Father Who art in Heaven, even though His name be hallowed. 

He’s got big enough shoulders to cry on.

But then, there is plenty of reason to dry the tears also.  Because, as Heman’s song shows by its very poetic construction, God’s “unfailing love, faithfulness, wonderful deeds, and righteousness” are in there, smack-dab in the middle of my mucky life situations (“grave, destruction, darkness and forgetfulness”)!

Like Heman’s predecessor and fellow hymn-writer (King David) penned, “yea, though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me…” (Emphasis mine.)

And that’s something to smile about.

late-stage-1431752_1920

Psalm 88:1,3-6,11-12 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

More than a cowboy hat

IMG_20150103_172451138When we formally met the man who was to become one of our sons-in-law, we wanted to give him “the tour” of the small Midwestern town our girls where we live and are girls grew up.  He is Swedish, but had lived and worked in both the Big Apple and sunny Cal.  However, he had not yet been initiated into rural mid-America.  Even so, he liked camo, and he wanted a cowboy hat. 

He came to the right place.

His soon-to-be sister-in-law, (daughter #2), decided it would be a good idea to devise a scavenger hunt throughout the town, hiding clues in places that would take him all over the familiar haunts including the high school, an old abandoned farm tractor who’s final resting place was behind a local grain elevator, a landmark eating establishment with the finest in traditional, heart-stopping American hamburgers and milkshakes, and the like. 

hat-2738831_1920Of course, the end point was a true-to-earth Midwest Farm and Home store, where he got to pick out his own real life cowboy hat. 

Together, they have since put on a similar “treasure hunt” for his nieces and nephews.  There’s just so much fun in watching the kids’ excitement as they follow the clues and find good stuff! 

Which gives me pause to consider that this enjoyment must have its foundation in Someone who similarly enjoys His children searching and finding.

“He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”

There is a thought circulating that if God is so intent on us knowing Him, why doesn’t He just make it easier, speaking more directly, personally, getting our attention more efficiently.   Allowing this new member of our family to look for and find each clue was hopefully causing a greater connection with the town (experientially) and with us (personally).  It took some time and creative energy to put that together!  And he was worth every bit of it.

Granted, God has and still could use an occasional burning bush, talking donkey, or disembodied hand writing on the wall, I suppose.  Those tend to be a bit more compelling, but not necessarily as effective toward His everyday purpose.  Which is…?

Glad you asked.

“And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.”

Eternal life—not just pie in the sky by and by, but true moment-by-moment intimacy with Creator God.  Right now.  Nothing less. 

However, the funny thing about clues is that they are easily missed unless one is actively looking for them.

“The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him.”

We were not about to let our daughter’s loved one miss out on even one clue, as we gathered around him to help him out, (which is a huge part of what God’s family is supposed to be doing with each other as well.)  We knew what we had waiting for him at the end of the ordeal.  crown

And so does God.  Only it’s not a cowboy hat… 

John 15:17; John 17:3  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Pop Quiz!

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280I have a tendency to make improbable things happen, rarely intimated by what others would consider sorely inconvenient or even overwhelming obstacles.  Bob considers it one of the challenging/scary parts of my personality compared to his very ordered/cautious one.  There are several common analogies for this particular trait:

Mover and shaker.

Trailblazer.

He who hesitates is lost.

God can steer a boat easier if it’s not tied to the dock…all that.

Then there’s this one:

Biting off more than you can chew—yep, I know about that one also.  Sometimes, it includes my own foot, if you get my drift.  And things can get messy. Continue reading “Pop Quiz!”

Don’t Give Up. Give More.

Since I have such a penchant for analogies, and I also happen to like fishing, here’s a good one from my neighbor in the Show Me State:

New Hope for Dry Bones

One of the things I love about fishing trout streams is that most of the time I can find a fishing hole and see the fish. Sometimes the stream is loaded with fish in every direction and other times there is a fish here and there. I know that there are usually many more fish than the ones I see but seeing a few tends to make me fish harder and longer.

Unfortunately, lots of that great water full of fish lies in Missouri’s trout parks where there are hundreds of other anglers casting all sorts of things at the fish on any given day between March and October. I’ve seen marshmallows, corn, minnows, worms, giant plugs with three treble hooks dangling from them, trout dough bait, carp dough bait, catfish stink bait, plastic lures in all shapes and sizes and of course, my favorite, fishing flies. Nothing would surprise…

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Table-turning

Underdog_(animated_TV_series)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The iconic Underdog character was birthed from the mind of W. Watts Biggers. I think he intuitively knew our American mindset in this area!

Why am I always rooting for the underdog?  I love David and Goliath stories, and how the tables are turned on the bullies, whether that bully comes in the form of a person or an attitude.  Like this one: Continue reading “Table-turning”

It’s Complicated (Part 3)

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280All of Israel is now up in arms (literally) and ready to rumble against…whom?

NOT against the man who pushed his partner/concubine out the door to be serial-raped by the townsmen to save his own skin.  Nope.  She was merely his property, and this shameful injustice was done to the man, not to the woman.

Eh-hem…

As I mentioned earlier, some unknowing folks might consider this an argument for an estrogen-hating God of the Bible, which is terribly unfortunate, as well as simply unfair and untrue, as (to quote Paul Harvey) “the rest of the story” bears out:

 “Then all the Israelites were united as one man…The entire community assembled in the presence of the Lord at Mizpah…The Israelites then asked how this terrible crime had happened.”

Credit to them for attempting to go the source information, but unfortunately the victim was decidedly unavailable for comment.

“The Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, said, ‘My concubine and I came to spend the night in Gibeah, a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin. That night some of the leading citizens of Gibeah surrounded the house, planning to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she was dead.” 

How convenient that he left out the part about him pushing her out the door to save himself.  This brave soul continues:

“So I cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the pieces throughout the territory assigned to Israel, for these men have committed a terrible and shameful crime.

Now then, all of you—the entire community of Israel—must decide here and now what should be done about this!”

Granted, that’s one way to get their attention, and whip emotions into a frenzy (because that always has a positive outcome).

The men of Israel went to the people of Benjamin (one of the tribes of Israel) and ordered them to give up the men responsible for punishment, but they were refused.  It was decided that rest of the men of Israel would attacked the tribe of Benjamin in retaliation, but beforehand, thought it wise to consult God.

This is where it gets quite interesting.

“Before the battle the Israelites went to Bethel and asked God, “Which tribe should go first to attack the people of Benjamin?”

I love this—“before the battle”.  War and bloodshed were a given in their play book.  Swords were already sharpened and helmets were in place when they went to God.  No humility, no “hey, guys, maybe God’s got a different plan…?  What if we’re not seeing the whole story….??” 

God’s answer is brilliant.  Harrowing, but brilliant.

The Lord answered, “Judah is to go first.”

So…God was in this.  Somewhere, somehow, He was in this orchestrating…something.  Understand also that Judah was the tribe of kings.  King David was from Judah.  Jesus Himself came from Judah.  So for God to put the tribe of Judah in front of a battle was not a mistake.  He was about to make a very big point.  Check it out:

“But Benjamin’s warriors, who were defending the town, came out and killed 22,000 Israelites on the battlefield that day.”

Twenty-two THOUSAND Israelis were slaughtered, Judah at the front!  After God, Himself, told them to go up!  Can we grasp what God was trying to say here??

“They had asked the Lord, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again?”

And the Lord had said, “Go out and fight against them.”

And what does Take 2 get them:

“So the next day they went out again to fight against the men of Benjamin, but the men of Benjamin killed another 18,000 Israelites, all of whom were experienced with the sword.”

Third time:

“The Israelites asked the Lord, ‘Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again, or should we stop?’”

“The Lord said, ‘Go! Tomorrow I will hand them over to you.’”

(Maybe they should have clarified that point the first time?)

And now, they defeated the Benjaminites, leaving only 600 men, and—

 “…the Israelites returned and slaughtered every living thing in all the towns—the people, the livestock, and everything they found. They also burned down all the towns they came to.”

Basically, a whole tribe of Israel was wiped off the face of the planet, along with tens of thousands of other Hebrew men. In painful hind site, you can hear their lament:

“ O LORD, God of Israel,” they cried out, “why has this happened in Israel? Now one of our tribes is missing from Israel!”

That was not a solution.  That was not even the justice they were looking for.  (Although I doubt not that it was part of God’s!  No one can tell me He wasn’t angry about that poor woman!)

What a pathetic waste.

Which is exactly what we get ourselves into when we, the church, start going down the road of “doing our own thing” and mixing our devotion to God with anything else, (which then ceases to be devotion to God). 

We may think this whole scenario began with someone thinking it was okay to use someone else to save himself which ended up destroying an entire tribe of God’s people. 

But, no, it actually started back in a Garden with listening to a slithering enemy whisper, “Did God really say that?”

   …that it’s not okay to treat people like property?                                                                                           

   …that using any gift (including sex) outside of God’s design is a bad idea?                                                                              

   …that the Creator of the Universe doesn’t need my help in rethinking His solutions?

   …that that He, alone, is God, and I should spend my life learning just what that means.

Here, then, are the dangers of syncretism, compromise, and not knowing our Source Document. Of believing in what seems right in our own eyes, even (especially!) within the church.

The church has a King, but the church in America doesn’t generally act like it.  We are under a Government, but we squabble like Congress, getting precious little done, then decide to go on vacation, prepared to leave God’s people bankrupt—bereft of true love, setting up in place our own idols of pride and ephods of offenses.  We consider it more important to be right than righteous, and a dying world sees the Church as pathetic and petty instead of priceless.traveler-1611614_1920

No wonder our own culture sends us into exile.

Judges 20, Judges 21:1 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.