God’s wide-angle lens

wood 2I don’t mean to sound like an old time horse trader, but I have been summarily blessed with good teeth.  If you are not one of those in my camp, then you know that’s not something to be taken for granted, period.  In fact, one dentist once told me that the thickness on the enamel of my choppers is only about one in 100,000.  Translated, that means I have really no viable excuse of any cavities.  But I have a few, cavities that is.

Which means I’ve taken my teeth for granted….

Until now.  This year I had to get my first (hopefully only) “crown” for a fractured tooth.  OUCH to both the process and the bank account!

I’m thinking of an older friend from church many years ago who had saved a sum of money for some dental work, when she unmistakably heard her Lord tell her to give it to someone.  All of it. 

WHAT?!?  But, Lord?!!  (We’re all really good at “but, Lords”.)  She did, however, obey, and of course, the money returned back to her very quickly, from an unexpected source, and if I Continue reading “God’s wide-angle lens”

…and turning to the white pages (or, beyond John 3:16)

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280For those of us who have had the privilege to be exposed to the Bible most of our lives, we’ve probably memorized John’s verse that still shows up at football games (John 3:16), and highlighted passages like Paul’s definition of love (1 Corinthians 13).  After bravely skimming over Leviticus’ regulations on infectious skin diseases, we may have even ventured into the Old Testament faves like David and Goliath, and Isaiah’s “unto us a Child is born”.

But then there’s Ezekiel…(sigh). 

Zeke and I go way back.  Can I just say here at Continue reading “…and turning to the white pages (or, beyond John 3:16)”

Dog’s best friend…a kitten??

I made three mistakes this morning.  Well, probably more than that, but three that I will relate in print.  A stray neighborhood kitten boldly waltzed up to me as I came out to my patio.  I couldn’t help but pick him up (aw, so cute, etc…).  Holding him in my lap, I gently introduced him to my big black 60-pound dog, Buckley (also a rescue, I might add) and then supervised closely as they actually got to know each other, timidly but definitely.  As they picked around each other, I decided to name him Viking (Vik for short) in honor of our new grandchild in Norway. 

Then I fed him. 

Okay, so that’s probably more than three mistakes.

Obviously, it took a little mediation to launch this canine/feline relationship.  Buckley has a tender heart, but is blustery and weighs about 58 pounds more than Vik.  Vik, even as a kitten, has retractable claws.  And honestly, though I was out here this early Sunday morning to pray for the church, I’m thinking instead that perhaps God wanted to do the talking…about His family.  Specifically:

  1. Some of us are big and blustery, some of us are quiet and timid. When we come in contact with each other, there are times we could benefit from some mediation.  

“Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News.”

  1. Relationships can get inconvenient, especially when boundaries are still being defined. There seemed to be a few times that Vik needed a time-out from my bluster-Buck. He spent a few minutes under a rake, up on the patio wall, and of course, on me. 

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

  1. Diversity was God’s idea to begin with. Please forgive the mixed metaphor, but not all the plants in my garden are self-pollenating; they need a little help to produce fruit.  In similar fashion, Vik can go places and do things that Buck cannot, and vice versa.  In short, we need each other to accomplish God’s plan. 

“But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.  How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.  The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’”

Buck has already been looking for his new friend the few times he’s been out as the day progressed.  The little bowl sits ready for some fresh milk if Vik shows up tomorrow. 

(Kinda hope he does.  We have plenty of mice in the area.) 

 

Philippians 4:2,3; Ephesians 4:32; 1 Corinthians 12:18-21  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.

The Wisdom of Wildflowers

garden lastI think this is called Spiderwort.  Such a weird name for such a cool plant, as I was not aware that spiders have warts—sounds like something out of Harry Potter or C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters.  It grows wild here in Missouri; you’ll find it along country roads or railroad tracks.  Since I have some in my own garden, I observed its fascinating property of opening in the cool of the morning, and closing up shop in the heat of the day.  Check it out:

It’s like this little wildflower knows its limitations and adjusts accordingly to keep itself safe and therefore more productive (and beautiful, I might add.) 

If only I had such intrinsic wisdom….

Dr. Henry Cloud, in his brilliant book, Changes That Heal, also speaks Continue reading “The Wisdom of Wildflowers”

Who’s minding the gate?

IMG_20150103_172451138We had a break-in a year ago.  Well, not really a break-in.  More like a stumble-in.  Bob and I were watching TV on the couch one evening when we heard a noise in the kitchen.  Some poor soul just ran right in after…, well, it’s a long story.  All was taken care of, police, ambulance, and thank the Lord for good neighbors.   

I say it wasn’t a break-in since we hadn’t locked our back door. (Duh.)  Even though we both grew up in a big city, we tend to take for granted the relative safety of our wonderful small Midwestern town.  So, really, our fault.  Lesson learned, but like Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story…

I’ve been plowing about in the Old Testament books of Chronicles.  Unfortunately, they have acquired a reputation that puts them decidedly among what some call the “white pages” of the Bible, i.e., the edges of the pages are white because they are seldom touched.  The past few years I’ve been trying to discipline my reading Continue reading “Who’s minding the gate?”

Why Wait??

(full read at dawnlizjones.wordpress.com)

I am quickly becoming of the opinion that there is no better way to celebrate than to have friends over into the garden.  So far, I have had a small family reunion dinner, my oldest daughter’s “Skype” bridal shower (she was in California and one sister was home in Missouri, and the other sister was in New York City—hurray for technology!), a private evening bistro with my husband and his poetry, and a bluegrass birthday party.  One day, I thought I would ask a few girlfriends to come over for an “open air” breakfast in the late morning.  Two of these ladies are quite accomplished and creative gardeners, and my spot of earth was far behind what they have mastered.  In fact, there was still dirt laying around in various spots from fixing some of the stones in my yard.  But is a garden ever truly completed?  I tend to think that, since it is made of living things, then a garden must be viewed itself as a living organism, ever changing, ever challenging, fluid as opposed to finished.  It would be a shame to put off entertaining until I had enough…enough what?  Enough flowers, enough bird feeders and butterfly attractions?  And what for?  To impress them?  Not on my budget or expertise!

I wonder how often we fall into the same restrictive and lock-step way of thinking in other areas of life:

  • Can’t have the boss (or pastor, or in-laws, or fill in the blank) over until the house is big enough.
  • Can’t have children until we can pay to put them through college.
  • Can’t take a vacation from my job until the next deal is closed.
  • Can’t give money to my church until I get a raise.
  • Can’t play with the kids until the dishes are done. (Oh, I beg of you not to make that mistake!)  
  • And here’s the really big one: can’t tell someone about Jesus until I get my own spirituality together.

Our can’ts are camouflaged as responsibility, when in reality they may be precariously postponing what is really important for what is merely urgent (at best), or selfish (at worst).  Please don’t get me wrong; boundaries—whether they be relational, emotional, financial, to name a few—are important, but so is our choice of who (or Who) is Master of the garden gate.  I need to remember the story of Mary and Martha, two of Jesus’ good friends.  Martha was concerned with preparing to entertain Jesus, and Mary with actually entertaining Him by sitting attentively at His feet.  Who was being most productive?  Would Martha’s house ever be “good” enough to entertain the Son of God?  And yet, when the opportunity was presented, she was in danger of missing out on the best house guest ever!  Obviously, Jesus did not expect perfection (by cultural expectations) before making Himself gloriously and generously at home.

  • I would hope that the people with whom I associate will choose to identify me by my character, rather than by the square footage of my property. Let me honor God with the property of which I am His steward, and leave others’ opinions up to Him.
  • Certainly we have financial obligations to our people, but care must be taken to not overburden ourselves with future concerns over which we have little or no control.
  • Someone who is married to his job can find his marriage to his spouse dissolve without him being aware of it until it is too late. A vacation doesn’t have to be a long expensive undertaking, but a regularly planned evening away—ALONE—can bring health and vitality into not only a relationship, but also into the job as well. And a caution to stay-at-homes: this means you, too!  Check the chatter about the kids with your coat at the restaurant and focus on some exclusivity with your one and only.
  • We somehow feel that giving money to God is a chore, like getting our teeth pulled. We have to psych ourselves up for giving what we think we can’t afford, or for beating back the guilt feelings when we don’t. An Olympic diver doesn’t start learning his craft by jumping off the high dive.  Start small.  It’s okay to ask God to increase our salary, but I should ask Him to increase my giving first. 
  • Yes, dishes need to be done, and we are not to use any excuse for a slovenly lifestyle, but that whole “cleanliness is next to godliness” is not in the Word of God. Our children are a gift from the Lord, more than our dishes. They need us to let them know that in very tangible ways, and the most important is giving them of our time.
  • And, of course, the perfection of our lives is not the witness that Jesus is looking for. It is the consistency of love, and constancy of attendance on Him, of sincere repentance with corresponding behavioral decisions. It is His perfection of character that engulfs the flaws of mine.  Good grief!  How can I adequately bear witness and represent a Holy God!?  To feel any remnant of adequacy to this task is the epitome of pride and hubris.  No, I must not wait until I esteem myself a “better person”, and wholly rely on His Holy Spirit’s adequacy within me.

What opportunities are presented to us today? I want to be extremely careful to not allow them to pass by because of short-sighted nonsensical statements that include “can’t…until.”  On the contrary, I want to challenge myself to evaluate every self-imposed restriction that would threaten to put off what would bless someone—

—and many times that someone turns out to be me!

 

 

The Mighty Wonder Buck

The Mighty Wonder Buck is learning at a fairly enjoyable rate.  The other day I was able to take him to a newly refurbished town park and actually let him off the leash!  I call the park “refurbished” because it has been closed for 20-plus years, and has recently been reopened by the efforts of mountain-bike enthusiasts who have teamed up with the city to make some sizeable improvements.  This particular park is a largely wooded area, fenced in by ancient barbed wire (of questionable efficacy), and includes the boundaries of the historic Deepwood Cemetery (established 1869), an active railroad track, and grazing cattle on one side and fairly impressive bluffs on the other. Various parts of the park lay under water when it rains, or is at best soft and muddy for days afterward. The biking/hiking path that has been transposed upon this small sample of local geography winds its way through a small creek (three times) as it takes the participant up, down, over, and through woods and rocks on what is mostly hard pack hidden by leaves and punctuated by tree roots.

In other words, it’s hilariously fun!

And especially fun if you’re a dog like Buckley, with Labrador blood coursing through your canine veins.  Once he and I reached the park, walked over the sturdy wooden bridge, and hiked back into the woods to the fork in the path, I just had to venture taking him off the leash.  He had his multiple identification tags jingling on his very secure collar, so at least if he did run off, some kind soul might be able to expedite his return.  The sound of his tags also gave me some assurance of his whereabouts.

And off he did go!  Dog heaven!  What a joy, a real joy, to see the Buck do what he was created to do—run!  What an athlete!  What grace and agility!  All of his senses were keenly engaged in this outdoor environment, and he was absolutely loving it, absolutely loving life at this very moment.

There were, however, a few things to consider.  For starters, it was very important that he learn to stay clear and on this side of the fence.  The barbed wire was dangerous, and even though Buckley was well able to squeeze through and back again, it would eventually cause him harm, even without him knowing it at first.  That night at home, in fact, it was my husband that noticed the Buck had been bleeding from some thankfully superficial lacerations to his underbelly, obviously procured when slipping through the fence.  Thankfully, also, it only took twice for me to give the command concerning the fence; the third time, as he approached it, Buck looked at me, and when issued the “no”, he obediently took off in the other, safer, direction, thus sparing himself further harm, even though he might not as yet been cognizant of the self-injury he had already inflicted.  Good choice!

Secondly, as I walked along the path, very consistently staying on my predictable course with my predictable speed, (which is considerably slower than my dog’s), I occasionally called for Buckley to come to me, purposefully interrupting his activity and calling for his interests to acquiesce to mine.  This willingness to be immediately obedient is extremely important if a dog is to be trusted off the leash.  And my consistency on the path is important for him to feel safe, knowing where I am at all times.  He is allowed to range freely, but only within the sound of my voice.

These two thoughts bring me to a clearer understanding of our dealings with God, as our Shepherd and personal Handler:

  • First, we must learn to recognize and accept the boundaries that God has for us, since they are for our good and protection. We may think that we can squeeze “through the fence” and back again at will and remain unscathed, but we delude ourselves. Eventually, the lacerations from the barbed wire of sinful choices will become apparent, and sometimes to others before they are even clear to ourselves.  We must be responsive to God’s loving “no”, and turn to enjoy the full expanse of the area He has provided for us to enjoy, rather than seeking what He has wisely forbidden.
  • Secondly, Jesus walks a consistent path of love. His truth is knowable; His commands are not burdensome and His assistance is always immediately available. Around this path He graciously gives us much room to range and explore, as long as we stay within the sound of His voice and come immediately when called, even at what we first perceive to be our own inconvenience.  Just as I would reward Buck with a small treat simply for obeying, which is in itself the true lesson, and send him on his way again, so God is interested in our obedience for obedience’s sake, for He knows the success of all other assignments rests on this imminently important life skill with Him.  We must become trustworthy to His Voice.

As with many progressive community movements, certain “improvements” preclude other freedoms.  This particular park is no longer open to dogs not on leashes.  As a recreational cyclist myself, and based on the level of cycling difficulty with the pathways in this one area, I not only understand, but sorrowfully acquiesce.  That is, Buckley and I just don’t go there anymore.  In its place, however, we have found a private area that has creek paths, fallen trees, and plenty of forested fun, and that without all the fences and barbed wire as much as before!  Plus, now that Buck has proven himself to respond to my voice and command, he has increased space to explore his talents.

Perhaps that’s what God has in mind for us also…

#dogs #Godsvoice #fences

(excerpt from God Loves Dogs, by Dawn Jones)