In which Dawn learns to pray…(cont.)

You walk out to go to work and the front tire is flat.  Or you’re welcoming the new pastor to your deliciously prepared Thanksgiving dinner only to remember (while on the doorstep) that he’s vegetarian.

Okay, those are actually easy ones.  How about your son calls from college and his girlfriend is now pregnant with your grandchild?  (And the girl is contemplating get rid of both of them?)

Introducing the Panic Button, and we all have one.  Or for some of us, several.  Big ones clipped onto our keychains that we carry around every day, with glow-in-the-dark coatings and red LED-lit letters that invitingly read PUSH ME NOW.  Continue reading “In which Dawn learns to pray…(cont.)”

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What’s in YOUR toolbox?

carpenters-toolbox-1466467_1920My dad had a shop in the basement, a couple of rooms of the basement in fact. It was pretty awe-inspiring.  His big engineer’s drafting table, from which hung the triangle and T-square, dominated one room, the one in which he built in all the new cabinets himself.  I think that was before he designed and built the beautiful screened-in back porch. 

The actual shop was in an adjacent room.  This housed a myriad of baby food jars filled with screws and washers and all types and sizes of things.  His lathe was in there, and the circle saw, and undoubtedly a host of other things I would have no idea how to use.  (What’s a router??)

Continue reading “What’s in YOUR toolbox?”

Planning…

You know that whole “knock, and the door will be open to you” thing that Jesus talked about?  I’m wondering how many times we stand on that same threshold with the door finally open, but are too scared to step over.

Which makes this story of Nehemiah so informative to me.

The land of the Hebrews, God chosen people, lay in utter ruin and desolation, as predicted.  The people, those who survived, are in exile, servants of the foreign king.  Nehemiah lands the job of cupbearer of this pagan king himself, not particularly a posh position, since at any time the royal loses his cool, Nehemiah could lose his head. Continue reading “Planning…”

Whoa, hoss!

rodeo-2685568_1920

 “Pay attention to this, Job. Stop and consider the wonderful miracles of God!”

This passage encourages me to ask God for His miraculous intervention!  What a God we serve!  Creator of the Universe!  Molder of the everything from the Rocky Mountains to the pebble I skip in the lake!  Designer of the intricacies of the human body as well as an amoeba! 

This dove-tails right into what Jesus said about having mustard seed-sized faith and moving those mountains and asking for “whatever you will and it shall be done”—that suits me just fine, thank you!

Then I realize this passage comes from the book of Job…which gives me pause.  More like slamming on the brake…

If anyone had reason to ask for miraculous intervention, it was Job.  By the time this verse shows up in the narrative, we find our ragged hero drowning in disappointment and sitting on an ash heap with pus leaking from his multiple skin sores.  All of his children and most of his servants have been killed in various assaults, his wealth has been stripped from him, his wife has been less than encouraging, and now his erstwhile friends have showed up to accuse him of being guilty before God for who-knows-what. 

It hasn’t been a good week.

I’m all about asking God for miracles; He knows more than anyone how badly we need them down here.  However, God is more concerned with intervening in my character than with intervening in my situation.  If the trial will benefit my intimacy with Him more than the miracle, He’ll choose the trial every time.

Which sounds pretty scary at first, but then God also says this in the book of Job:

“I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
    Here your proud waves must stop!’”

No matter what the circumstance, my Father is still in control.  His plan for my character and my relationship with Him supersedes my immediate comfort, (and not just physical, but emotional, mental, and spiritual as well.) 

Even the secular segment gets the idea that sadness has a crucial place in our proper development:

Of course, I have choices to make in how I process these difficult times—regardless of what’s happening around me, I have decisions about what is happening within me.  And as a Christian, God says I have internal resources not otherwise available.

Part of that processing has to do with interpretation; that is, how I “see” my circumstances.  It’s very, very tempting to fall prey to thoughts such as:

God doesn’t love me like He loves others.

“For God shows no partiality [undue favor or unfairness; with Him one man is not different from another].”

Or, God’s going to do what He wants anyway, so why bother praying?

 “Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly];”

Then there’s the age-old: God must not exist. 

“For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].”

The bottom line is the historical reality of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ—when nothing else makes sense, that does.  The splintered, bloodied pieces of wood and the splendidly empty tomb mean there’s more going on behind the scenes that I’m not privy to…yet.  To think otherwise means my arrogance is peeking through, something God addressed with Job in no uncertain terms.

So where does miraculous intervention fit in to all this?  Jesus’ template of “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” is a good start, but I don’t think He meant for it to be a spiritually lazy default.  I like His disciples initial request: “teach us to pray.” 

Which is becoming an ongoing request for me: “Holy Spirit, teach me what to pray specifically, give me grace to pray persistently in the face of disappointment, and help me to engage the power of Heaven for the building of Your kingdom in this circumstance.”

quarter-horse-746979_1280Interestingly, I suspect that’s when something quietly miraculous begins to happen…

…in me.

Romans 2:11; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:16  Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Job 37:14; Job 38:11 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.

In the interest of threads and knots

I’ve really been having fun developing my crocheting prowess.  I don’t use patterns, I just kind of wing it.  Recently, my oldest daughter challenged me to expand into the stuffed toy market and try my hand at a few from my preschool granddaughter’s favorite Netflix show.

Thankfully, preschoolers are very forgiving when it comes to details… Continue reading “In the interest of threads and knots”

FOMO

Here’s a new one on me: FOMO, which stands for Fear Of Missing Out.  In a social context, I think it means that staying home to read a book may lead to a missed opportunity at a good party.

Typically, I’m more of a bookworm myself…

Nevertheless, people-connection is important for several reasons, albeit in varying amounts for different people.  Here’s the story of a big event back in the Old Testament—the first real Passover in a L-O-N-G time.  King Hezekiah has chucked his family culture of worshiping idols and made the decision to follow after God “wholeheartedly”.  As the party is gearing up, he sends out invitations with an interesting response:

“The runners went from town to town throughout Ephraim and Manasseh and as far as the territory of Zebulun. But most of the people just laughed at the runners and made fun of them.  However, some people from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem.”

Hezekiah was offering them more than a good time, (which it was, BTW, and lasted two weeks minimum!)  He was summoning the people back to truth, to know and worship the one true God, and such invitations usually have mixed reactions.  Here’s what I see:

Truth is not compulsory.  These people were invited, not threatened.  Likewise, the Holy Spirit is a gentleman; He forces Himself on no one.  This is a tenant of God’s truth: coerced Christianity is an oxymoron, and historically, a tragic mistake.

Truth invites open derision.  Not a mere polite, “no, thank you”.  I should expect my fair share of it.  After all, Jesus Himself was crucified.

Truth will have a minority following.  I’m certainly not against large churches, as long as the people are taught truth.  But, related to point #1 above, since truth is offensive, it always leaves the door unlocked for those who choose to leave… 

…because following truth takes humility.  Humility is seeing myself as God see me, which is usually not how I see myself.  Humility brings me into a right relationship with my Creator.  As such, true humility is a gift.

Now here’s an interesting postscript:

“At the same time, God’s hand was on the people in the land of Judah, giving them all one heart to obey the orders of the king and his officials, who were following the word of the LORD.”

If that doesn’t demonstrate the importance of being a part of an active church fellowship, I don’t know what does!  Contrast the reaction of the people in Judah, the hub of God’s activity, the ground zero of His spiritual explosion, with the reaction of the people on the fringe who were far removed from this fellowship. 

So, here’s my last point:

Accepting truth is one thing, but stewarding that truth in my life is different matter.  We are created to need each other—encouragement, correction, support.  That whole “do not forsake the assembling of yourselves” takes on practical perspective.  In fact, the rest of the chapter is a fine example of healthy spiritual momentum, and the social part it plays in our lives.

card-1800383_1920Too bad the people who were left out of the party didn’t have a little more FOMO, because this was a gig they didn’t need to miss.

Thankfully, the invitation is still open for us.

2 Chronicles 30: 10-12  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.

Getting back to work

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280One indisputable characteristic about the Old Testament prophets—they were weird.  I don’t say that disparagingly, but c’mon, they were not always the kind of people you’d invite to a office picnic.  Calling down fire from heaven, tying themselves in knots, and all that. 

Of course, they were good to have around when something needed fixed.

Case in point, the prophet Elisha has been persuaded to come with some of his students to build a new meeting place.  In the course of events, there was a problem:

Continue reading “Getting back to work”

Why Ants Stay Busy, a poem

A poem by my wonderful bloggish friend (you’ll love this one!)—

Why Ants Stay Busy, by Oneta Hayes

Ant Father: “‘Mountain must move’ Big Man said today.”

Ant Mother: “Did he mean us?  The place we stay.”

Ant Father: “He said this mountain is in his way –

And off he went to get the spray.”

 

Down the hole scurried Ant Father and Mother

Taking with them every sister and brother

They shouted warning to one another

“Go lower, slide, hide, take cover.”

 

The fury was great, soft dirt did blow

The mountain they build was rendered low

The mud came rolling in a mighty flow

Only a tiny light continued to glow.

 

“Now it’s all over,” they said with a grin

“Everybody get to work, let’s do it again.”

They scurried and hurried and made such a din.

They loved their life’s work – annoying men!

By Oneta Hayes at Sweet Aroma

OH, the wisdom of humor!!  But here’s the thing.  Ever notice how, when you get rid of one ant hill, others pop up?  I mean, it’s not a one-time deal, slaying ants.  Ants just keep doing what they do, building ant hills, because that’s how they’re wired. 

In other words, that’s what they are created to do.  It doesn’t matter how many times they get sprayed or squished.  They keep working together to build, because it has to be built.  Period. 

They make me look like such a whiner.  Certainly, there are B-I-G boots stomping around: illness, depression, financial concerns, relational disappointments, and the list goes on.  One or two knockdowns and I might be ready to throw in the towel. 

But in reality, that’s not the way God created me.  Nope, not by a longshot.  He has made me (and is re-making me) to build, (a) regardless of who steps on me, and (b) in community with other builders.  Both are important factors for success.

I like how King Solomon puts it:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…

Of course, the New Testament version reads more like this:

 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

hiking-shoes-3057428_1920Which means the size of the boot doesn’t matter.  I’ll just continue my life’s work—annoying Satan.

Ecclesiastes 9:10; Philippians 4:13  Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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??”