Pass me the brush

paint1It’s done!!  We were able to get the caution strip painted by the Daycare/Preschool’s new parking area BEFORE the doors opened on Monday morning.  We had already had a couple of people trip up on the overhanging lip to the sidewalk, so this really needed to be done.

Others in the church had helped lay the concrete.  They had also researched and provided what was needed for the paint job. I guess I was the erstwhile crew-chief for this part, so I got there early to sweep and tape, when another church member showed up to help.  As he started on one end and I on the other, I yelled down to him that I had never painted concrete before, so if he had any suggestions…

“Just start painting!”

Hmmm..I liked that.  Do the best you can with what you have and keep the main directive in mind, i.e., prevent injury with a warning stripe before the kids come on Monday. 

And we had some pretty good help, I want you to know!

Okay, so it wasn’t perfect, but it’s not like we were asked to do brain surgery.  There may need to be a few touch ups later.  But mission accomplished, and actually quite well, if I do say so myself!

Nehemiah also had a task that laid heavily on his heart—rebuild the protective wall around Jerusalem. Importantly, he also had a clear directive from God AND confirmation to match the weight of the task before him AND he had done his research, which was actually ongoing, as the narrative continues.  (Slightly more than painting a church caution strip.)

Once construction started, there was immediate backlash:

Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices?  Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap— and charred ones at that?”

I find this to be such a perfect picture of how our enemy, our truest enemy that is—Satan, reacts when we begin the task God has given us to do.  Note, however, it is (1) a directive from God, and (2) it has been confirmed to the level of the task’s weight, and (3) the pre-project research had been done (“counting the cost” and all that). 

Then I just have to start “painting”.  God is more than able to touch up a few strokes of misplaced color along the way.

Nehemiah 4:1,2 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.

Advertisements

Hummers unite! (or starve, whichever.)

hummingbird-691483_1920I finally have hummingbirds as regular neighbors.  Finally!  I love these little guys, so much so I have three feeders specifically designed for them hanging in my garden, (by my patio, so I can watch them, of course.)  Each feeder has a different type of feeding port.  I even went on the internet to find out how to make my own “nectar”.  I also make a bit of sticky mess, but it’s well worth the effort.

Then there’s the ants, who also like the nectar, naturally.  I talked with my dad about options to keep them at bay: adhesive paper on the pole, insecticide spray, a homemade “ant moat”.  Gruesome from the ant’s point of view, but I want to protect the food meant for the hummers.  Continue reading “Hummers unite! (or starve, whichever.)”

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.

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.

“What we have here is a failure to communicate…”

Ever know someone with “a chip on their shoulder”?  One story has that phrase originating from the idea of two boys picking a fight with each other, the one putting a wood chip on his shoulder and daring the other to knock the chip off, thus initiating the knock-down-drag-out. 

The problem with chips on shoulders is that they tend to fall off on their own, starting fights when none were intended.  For example: Continue reading ““What we have here is a failure to communicate…””

Who turned off the light?

wood 2Bob keeps turning the lights off.  I can always tell if he’s been through a room after me when I walk back in and the room is now dark.  He’s even turned off the light with me still in the room, (conditioned response—“oops, sorry, honey!”)

Ostensibly, this is to save power, which means to save money, and my husband definitely loves to save money.  Not that he’s not generous, some might say to a fault, but when it comes to getting the monthly bills, yeah, our house is pretty dark.  One of our girls bought him this gift one year: Continue reading “Who turned off the light?”

Scissors, please

IWAA7A gruesome site greeted me when tending the garden after being gone for a week of family vacation.  Sure, there were the typical weeds and such, no big deal, just hands and knees stuff.  But what gave me a drop-shoulder-roll-eyes kind of pause was the leftover feathered carcass of a bird that had obviously been trying to pilfer my blackberries, but had gotten entangled in the netting.

Not a pretty site.  Not a happy ending.  (I will spare any readers a photo.)  I mean, he was, after all, just trying to get something to eat, doing what birds do naturally.  It’s sign1not like I could put up a “No Trespassing” sign, although my dad suggested I could hang up some brightly colored ribbons.  That could help them at least see the netting, but the berries are just so inviting, I’m not sure it would divert them enough. Continue reading “Scissors, please”

Good fences make for good gardens

garden lastThis place is a wreck.  Sitting out here on the patio in the early morning Missouri summer humidity, I’m looking at the weeds resolutely poking through the already treated pave stones.  There’s some unwanted green stuff growing amongst the begonia pots, and the garden hoses are in dire need of mending.  On top of all of this, a brown leaf just now floated gently down (to meet the weeds on the pave stones, I suppose.) 

Now wait a minute!  It’s only July!  I’m not ready for Autumn yet!  Besides, no fair, since I’ve been out of town for a week, which gave the weeds and their comrades free reign.   Continue reading “Good fences make for good gardens”

You’re going out like THAT?!

IMG_20150103_172451138

I’ve used this picture before, but it’s just too darn good to not use again.  This is my husband Bob and our middle daughter on our visit to Woodstock, the (in)famous place of musical rowdiness back in the 60’s.  Bob and I married in the late 70’s, imposingbobandrobin2 brown tuxes with peach ruffle-collared shirts on the groomsmen.  My wedding dress looked like a formal Little Miss Bo Peep.  So clearly I’m not a fashionista, but after a few years of marriage, even I took the liberty to eradicate a few items from Bob’s pre-marriage wardrobe: the mauve colored polyester slacks with the brown elevator shoes with white marshmallow soles, and the slick acetate shirt…he said he was trying on a new image during that phase.

What exactly that image was is probably best left to the imagination.

For you young ‘uns, feast your eyes on Continue reading “You’re going out like THAT?!”

Call your folks

wood 2There’s a story in the book of Joshua where God holds back the sun so the Hebrews could have more time to fight on and subdue their enemies. 

More time.  Man, I wish.  Of course, most of us would just blow it.  But somewhere in our collective psyche where “deep calls unto deep” is that gnawing feeling that time is something we can’t grasp or control.  A cursory glimpse at even modern entertainment is informative—sci-fi time travel flicks abound, even the humor of “Ground Hog’s Day” maybe-I-can-get-it-right-this-time wistful thinking is not far below the surface for most of us. 

So somewhere thousands of feet over Midwest farmlands, I was in a jet heading home from seeing my parents for a few days at their retirement village.  Dad was recovering from a knee problem across the street from where mom was preparing for their new digs in the apartment complex. 

After sharing my dad’s breakfast table with a 93-year-old WW2 veteran, after hearing of one of their friends who skipped her chemo so she could go hiking in Colorado (“just give me a little extra medicine this time, will ya?”), and after meeting some of the other indomitable souls in their neighborhood, it kind of makes me think twice before complaining about…anything. 

We went to church together that Pentecost Sunday morning huddled around his computer at the foot of his hospital bed watching the live-stream from their Methodist Church with mom and one of their neighbors (a retired world-traveled physician who can now only see peripherally due to a degenerative eye problem—but walks everywhere anyway.)  I’m kicking myself for not providing some grape juice and flat bread for communion.  (“The good Lord knows our hearts, honey.”)

One of my parents’ good friends from W-A-Y back, (meaning my teenage years, okay, no wise-cracks necessary), is now in his 90’s and just returned home to the same complex from visiting family from the west coast.  I am informed he is of the polar-opposite political party than my father, which in this day and age could mean, well, we all know the vitriol that implies.  Evidently, they are both “old school”, which means that they can discuss politics without interference in their relationship. 

Would that we had such maturity these days.

Dad’s the one who taught me to “ask for the moon” but won’t ask for a bag of ice when he bumps his bad ankle on the wheelchair.  When I mention a plan to call for something, it’s “oh, no, don’t bother them…”  So I have dubbed myself “the wicked witch of the West” and I can imagine the nurses in report saying, “she called again.” (One of my main consolations is all the heavy lifting my local siblings do when it needs to be done.  This long distance thing STINKS.)

Dad says that as the light streams through his window in the morning, he gives thanks to the Lord for another day of life.  My folks have a perspective that my culture has largely lost, or missed altogether—gratitude.  Fortitude.  Resilience. 

Gray hair is a crown of glory;
    it is gained by living a godly life.

Now, let’s see, who shall the witch bother today?  

(Call your folks!)

Proverbs 16:31 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.