Spiritual speed traps

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280In, lo, these many years of driving, I had never had even one point against my license, despite what my husband refers to a my “lead foot”. There is in our small town, however, a place drivers affectionate refer to as a “speed trap”—you know, the limit is 30mph, but in a few yards it goes up to 45, and in between the road gently slopes downward…

bodyworn-794099_1920The officer was nice. Nonetheless, I was a several dollars poorer and a few “points” wiser. 

The idea is that I was responsible for what I didn’t know, but should have known.  I didn’t know I was going ____mph over the speed limit.  I didn’t know there was an officer just biding his time.  Both of these bits of information would have been helpful in preventing my mishap, but no matter.  I still had to “pay the man.”

Which makes King Josiah’s response so much the better in my mind.

After a long and sordid line of (mostly) wicked rulers over God’s people, Josiah had a interesting idea—let’s follow our God.  In fixing up the temple, one of the workers found the Book, the Law where their God explains the conditions of the covenant with the people. 

Now, the king was already on the right track in terms of his heart-attitude, and being raised in a very ungodly and confusing family/social environment, he was doing what he could with what he had.  But when presented with this additional info, his reaction was, well, possibly a bit better than mine when I was pulled over…

“When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair.”

One of our family catch-phrases is “what am I supposed to do with this information.”  It’s really a good test to see if there is something the other person is expecting from me, or if he/she is simply, you know, just talking.  This seems to be exactly what Josiah did, and he discovered, in no uncertain terms, that God wasn’t just talking.

Someone once said that the Holy Spirit speaks to those whose hearts are positioned to act upon His instructions.  So when Josiah heard God speak, he took one of the offensive idols and…

“…he burned it. Then he ground the ashes of the pole to dust…”

Pretty definitive statement, that.  And it wasn’t the only culture shift that was made as Josiah “turned to the LORD with all his heart and soul and strength”.  Love it.  The kingdom of Judah was responsible for what they had neglected to know (even though it had been available), but God blessed them for the changes, (formidable ones, difficult ones), that were accomplished.

It would behoove us to follow his example.

2 Kings 22:11; 2 Kings 23:6   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.

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Chasms are optional; instructions are not

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280I have to admit, I’m a real Chronicles of Narnia fan.  I never read them until doing so with my children.  The movies don’t do justice to the books, with the possible exception of the first one.  The special effects are, well,… effective, to say the least, but something is lost on the silver screen as the series progresses.  But then, I’m not an industry professional so who cares?

There is one scene, however, in Movie #2 or #3 that comes to mind; it’s the one where the kids are futilely wandering lost through a forested area when Lucy sees King Aslan across a chasm and bids her to follow.  Naturally, no one else sees him and neither do they believe Lucy’s “vision”.  To make matters more definite, there is no discernible way to get across the chasm, even if Aslan were there.

Lucy gives in the others’ opinions of the situation, which causes problems and a later (gentle but definite) rebuke from the lion, i.e., if he bids her come, she is to come regardless of what the others may think, and regardless of there not being an immediate and obvious path.  Lessons, lessons…

Close that book and open another:

Israel’s rebellious king has recently set up new gods with all the trappings.  In keeping with historic trend, the Lord Yahweh sends His notice of displeasure through a “man of God” who arrives on the scene with some pretty miraculous confirmation.  The king, a bit shaken, asks the man to come dine with him; however, the invitation is thus declined:

“For the LORD gave me this command: ‘You must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.’”

Pretty clear instructions, and so far everything God told this man has panned out. No need to doubt the message’s veracity on this point either.

Until another so-called prophet lies to him, saying “an angel” appeared instructing the man of God was to return with him and eat at his house.

Why did this convince the man of God??  I’m sure he was probably temptingly hungry, and that didn’t help, but does God change His mind?  What evidence did this liar have for Plan B?  Spoiler alert—it didn’t end well for the man of God.

Not that I would have done any better, left to my own accord.  And certainly the Lord also says there is wisdom “in a multitude of counselors.”  I readily admit I need the help of others to sometimes discern God’s will in a situation (it’s part of that koinonia thing).  But on the other hand, there are some commands that God gets through pretty clearly even to me; nevertheless, Satan will try to bring his own pack of lies into the muddle, sometimes through those whom we love and trust.

Like Lucy’s family, for example.  “Did you REALLY see him?”

Sounds suspiciously like an old serpent in a Garden long ago, “Hath God REALLY said…?”

1 Kings 13:9  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.

“Do you want to see the #bird ?”

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 “Do you want to see the bird?”

That’s the question that came into my mind early one morning as my attention was drawn away from the task at hand while sitting at my “outside desk”.  This is a fairly frequent occurrence…not the voice, mind you, but the diversion from the task at hand.  The variety and beauty of God’s creation, even in my little back yard, is amazingly distracting!  My eyes are consistently opened to new experiences about, well, anything that grows.  I can recognize a few of the birds; that is, more than the robin and the cardinal—those were staples even in my limited aviary repertoire when I was a kid back in Indiana.  Now I can add several more, just by observing and looking them up in my husband’s very old (but not obsolete!) Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds that he has saved since his high school years.  In addition that, I am even beginning to identify some of their songs—the catbird, for instance.  I was able to point out that peculiar sound for my daughter when she was home visiting.  She actually thought there was a cat nearby! 

On this particular morning, here was an exquisite song!  And a fairly new one for me.  The problem was that the sun was only thinking about waking up, so it was still too dark for me to see the singer. 

“Do you want to see the bird?”

Now, was that really God’s voice?  Or was I just thinking it?  Either way, as I was looking intently for the source of the song, it looked as if the bird had already flown away.  Okay, so that was a disappointment.  But the bird’s premature departure moreover presented me with a mildly perplexing challenge:  if, indeed, God had spoken to me about this lovely part of His creation, why had He not shown it to me when it was in His power to do so?  He is not Someone Who holds a piece of candy in front of us only to cruelly take it away, of this much I was confident.  From cover to cover in the Bible, the basic foundation of all life is the understanding that God is love, (1).  This truth assures me that even the disappointments in my life, whether large or small, have both reason and purpose that are founded in His love for me.  These higher plans of God to work in my disappointing circumstances, and sometimes in the especially painful ones, also include what He desires to accomplish through me to benefit others.

Hmmm…

Then it hit me.  (I can be a little slow on the uptake, but thankfully not this time.)  There are times when God, in His loving wisdom, does not immediately provide for my request, at least in the way that I am requesting it.  It seems that one of the divine reasons for this apparent refusal, which may be merely a delay rather than a flat out “no”, is so that I can see for myself just how badly I want what I am requesting. 

This, then, is the gift that is often times greater than my original request—

  • that God would show me myself: the true reasons for my desires, unearthing any selfish ambition that lies hidden beneath years of impoverished thinking. (2) It may that I need to be shown my motivation in requesting the gift, which may need to be reworked, (the motivation, that is, not necessarily the request itself), before I can be on the receiving end. (3)
  • that the gift of waiting would stimulate and produce in me a more clearly defined and better focused desire (4).
  • that He would prepare my heart and situation to properly receive from Him. (5) I am reminded of what kind of king the Jewish people of Jesus’ day were looking for, and because of their expectations, many missed Him completely. (6)
  • that I would learn to keep seeking, keep asking, keep knocking. (7) One of the characteristics of true faith is its persistence.
  • that I would keep trusting His love to provide what He feels is best. (8)

Actually, the end result—or I should say, the intended main objective—is intimate relationship with God.  At least, that’s God’s main objective.  Which means it would behoove me to make it mine as well. 

I’m still not sure what that bird was.  Maybe a warbler or a wren.  It matters not, because I hope I have received the greater gift, not of connecting with the singer, but of connecting with the Voice.

 (From God Loves Birds, by Dawn Jones)

  • 1 John 4:8
  • Romans 12:1,2
  • James 4:3
  • Romans 8:26
  • Isaiah 64:4
  • John 1:10
  • Matthew 7:7-11 (Amplified)
  • Matthew 6:33

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)