On second thought…

wood 2People who assert that humankind has morally evolved over time must not read the same books I do.  Political intrigue and sharp dissent are nothing new, and unfortunately they find their way into the Church as well. 

Again, not that that’s anything new. 

What I find fascinating, however, is how God uses even our relational disputes to His kingdom advantage.  Case in point:

“After some time Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.’  Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark.  But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work.  Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus.”

Barnabas and Paul were this new religion’s dynamic duo, so their split must have caused no little concern to the higher-ups.  (Thankfully, there was no Facebook or Twitter at that time; one can only imagine…)

Barnabas, who’s name means Son of Encouragement, was well aware of John Mark’s action, his decision to walk away.  It may have even been a true turning-his-back-on-God time of life for the younger man.  Paul didn’t have the emotional energy for such a man, whereas Barnabas was willing to extend a second chance.

So glad he did, too, because John Mark is better know today as Saint Mark, the writer of the gospel bearing his name, and believed to be not only the earliest biography of Jesus, possibly providing information for Matthew and Luke, but is also considered to be the memoirs of Peter.

Evidently, God had a plan for this “backslider”.

In addition, it’s highly possible that Paul learned a lesson from this.  We can see that, as an older man now bearing many scars from persecution and currently in prison for his faith, he finds himself in a similar situation with a runaway slave named Onesimus:

“I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. Onesimus[c] hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.

It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever.  He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.  If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.”

Wow.  Talk about an attitude adjustment!  Like Barnabas, who saw something worth taking another chance in John Mark, Paul sees fit to give this fugitive a blank check with his own reputation. 

However, one stimulating speculation is that this runaway-slave-converted-disciple went on later to become the same Onesimus that history records as the first Bishop of Ephesus.  And this was at a time when Ephesus was an important publishing clearinghouse, gathering and copying and distributing (thus preserving) the writings of the early church, such as the letters of—you guessed it—Paul.

softball-1511264_1920Take home? God can use even our disagreements, (or as my pastor says, “God is more powerful than my stupid”), and second (and third and fourth…) chances can have powerful consequences.

For we are ALL to be sons (and daughters) of Encouragement.

Acts 15:36-39; Philemon 1:10-12,15-17 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.

Say, what??

windsor-castle-1253197_1920Bob has been a little concerned about my hearing.  Of course, when it comes to watching our beloved British shows on TV, we both have to turn up the volume, if you get my drift.  Our very entrenched Midwest American minds don’t always pick up the subtleties of our Anglo-neighbors, and we end up asking each other—

“What did he just say?”

“I dunno…turn it up.”

Neither of us want to miss any of the important plot developments for lack of communication, y’know.

Which is absolutely what could have happened here, but thankfully somebody was listening closely: Continue reading “Say, what??”

Projects take time

IMG_20150103_172451138The most-beautiful-three-and-a-half-year-old on the planet decided to help me do a little crocheting when she and her parents were visiting.  One of her favorite cartoon characters, the brilliant Richard Scarry’s Lowly Worm, was in the process of being recreated in yarn.  Not a terribly difficult project for a 58-year-old grandmother who learned to crochet decades ago (from my grandmother, BTW, only I was a bit older.) Continue reading “Projects take time”

Make mine a double-dip

I just heard the local ice cream truck go down my street singing out its familiar tune to announce its confectionary delights.  This is not altogether unusual…except that it’s December!

Now, that’s what I call optimistic.

Or on second thought, maybe not.  We are a people addicted to pleasure in general, sugar in particular, and c’mon, some things are just never out of season.  I mean, if I can buy strawberries at the local Walmart in winter, why not ice cream?  In fact, why not strawberries on the ice cream? 

Thus, I applaud the ice cream truck in December.

There are other things that seem unusual, unexpected, but are nonetheless always welcome.  Continue reading “Make mine a double-dip”

Ties that bind…or strangle.

IMG_20150103_172451138Several years ago, I read a study synopsis from a well respected site indicating that the most influential power in a child’s life was his parents. (Golly-gee-whiz, I wonder how many man-hours and tax dollars went into that one.)  Of course, ask any of the teachers in my middle school, and they could have told you that.  Better yet, I have a Book that pretty well spells it out from years of experience and Wisdom. 

Needless to say, there are some forces in the Universe that are inherently powerful, for good or evil, and parenthood is certainly at the top of that list.  It’s not that parents can take credit for all the choice their kids make (positive or negative), but their influence is still credibly incredible in some capacity throughout a person’s life. 

So it takes some real courage when a child, even an adult “child”, has to back up and re-evaluate patterns of thinking and doing that Continue reading “Ties that bind…or strangle.”

The Mighty Wonder Buck rides again! And again! And…

picmonkey dogThe Mighty Wonder Buck (A.K.A. The MWB, or Buckley) loves it when I have the car keys in my hand and head out the door; hopes springs eternal in that big black hairy chest of my dog-pound mutt.  A car ride could mean a number of things: to our small town community compost (with all kinds of smells to explore!), to the local farm and home store, or even splashing and swimming at the nearby lake (him, not me, but invariably yours truly gets wet.)

No matter what I’m doing, he’s just good company, and depending on the activity, sometimes he comes home exhausted but tongue-hanging-out-the-mouth happy.  If you’re a dog-lover like Bob and I both are, you know the look.

 

And you would also know that there is nothing unusual about talking to your canine buddy.  Even singing to him.  I mean, he doesn’t know or care if you can sing or not.  So when I came out of Walmart one day to pack my groceries into the car, there was the MWB, cute as ever with his big black head looking at me.

I had parked in isolation in the back lot with all the windows down so Buck had plenty of air and shade, which also meant the car was right up next to the outdoor garden center, enclosed only by a big fence. 

A fact which had slipped my mind.

And as I merrily talked and sang to my furry friend (an original composition, mind you, just for the dog,), I happened to turn and catch a glimpse of a man looking at me as he perused the various and sundry greenery. 

There are times it is unfortunate that so many people know me in this town…

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light…”

Okay, I know that’s not the kind of “peculiar” God is talking about here.  Unfortunately, I have plenty of unholy peculiarities for Him to work on, (that have nothing to do with singing to my dog in public.)

I am convinced, however, that part of this “so great a salvation” that we are given is powerfully intended to make us nonetheless strange in the eyes of our contemporaries, for the very reason of getting their attention and putting that focus on God.  There are so many practical examples of this, in the way we interact, entertain, spend money and time, even (most of all)—how we think.

boneHere’s one bone to chew one:

WordPress has all these great tips and courses on improving your blog site and increasing your readership—that is terrific and and who doesn’t want to do that, right?! I know I do.  Logically, it makes sense that the more people read your stuff, the more people can be helped by what you write. 

But here’s the real meat.  As a Christian, my goal isn’t just to reach a whole bunch of people, but to reach the people God wants me to reach.  That doesn’t preclude my due diligence, but it also doesn’t mean I mark my success by my stats either.  (I mean, Hitler also reached lots of people, just sayin’.)

Which is a “peculiar” way to regard success in our culture, even in our church culture.  Big flashy sound stages with matching budgets; not that those are bad at all, but they aren’t the goal, nor are they a sign of success…at all.  In God’s culture, where the peculiar people “live and move and have their being”, success is measured by obedience, not outcomes.

gentleman-148407_1280And that will definitely turn heads, more than singing to your dog!

I Peter 2:9 King James Version (KJV)  Public Domain

Not For Sale: Grapes, Figs, and Pomegranates

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280My father-in-law used to decry what he considered his loss of memory after a cardiac surgery, in that he noticed he could no longer do some kind of complex mathematical computations in his head.  Pity.  I still have use my fingers for some single-digit addition, so I’d better never have heart trouble.

Needless to say, memory is not one of my strong suits.  But compared to the Hebrews embarking on their Continue reading “Not For Sale: Grapes, Figs, and Pomegranates”

When you know that you don’t know, but you want to know…y’know??

wood 2I remembering growing up and seeing those asinine tabloids in the check-out lines at the grocery store.  I suppose they continue to make money, since I see them touting the same nonsense about who-knows-what alien got who-cares-what Hollywood starlet pregnant. 

Clearly, enquiring minds still want to know.

What is it about human nature that makes secrets so enticing?  Maybe the upside is the curiosity for the unknown which has also put us on the moon and brought us the cure for smallpox and polio, so okay, I’ll grant us grant.  But, boy howdy, there sure is a downside!  It’s the stuff of James Bond 007 as well as the local beauty shop gossip. Continue reading “When you know that you don’t know, but you want to know…y’know??”

Drivers’ Ed…again

wood 2One of my brothers works for a major pharmaceutical company and, as such, is a well-seasoned international traveler.  At this writing, he has yet another business trip coming up, this time to a place where, unfortunately, he will have to get rent his own vehicle and drive to the company’s site himself.  Not that that’s necessarily problematic; it’s just that the traffic laws in said country are more, um…suggestive, than in ours.

He’ll be careful.  We’ll be prayerful. 

Which makes me appreciate not only the little dotted and solid lines in our lanes here, but also the whole concept of why they’re important enough to be enforced: because people get really hurt otherwise.  In my Continue reading “Drivers’ Ed…again”

God of the bathrooms

wood 2Bob likes reading mythology, old and new, and even makes up some of his own.  One of the classic old standbys, of course, is the hero in the Odyssey.  Here’s my crib note version based on what’s left of my memory from required reading in high school and watching some old Hollywood interpretation on TV:

Odysseus has been away from the home castle for quite a long stretch; I can’t remember why, but “the rosy fingers of dawn” is mentioned several times.  That, plus the fact that he and his very macho comrades go through all kinds of fantastic adventures with all kinds of out of this world creatures (today, I believe they are referred to as “meta-humans” in the Comicon universe).  Continue reading “God of the bathrooms”