When limitations become lamentations

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280Biting off more that you can chew—now there’s a good American idiom!  And it pretty well describes one of my ongoing challenges, physically, professionally, relationally.  If enough is good, more is better, and saving for a rainy day (another fine old saying from who knows when) can turn into moth-eaten clothing or mouse-eaten…well, mice eat all kinds of disgusting things.

Not that I’m into wanton spending either.  I have to be careful, especially with time commitments; Bob says I tend to “give away the store”.  It’s also sometimes difficult for me to share responsibilities, you know, just easier to get it done myself.

However, there is an important fulcrum that I miss when I start playing the psychological game commonly known as “Turf Wars”.  This easily could have happened here as Joshua was slicing up the hard-fought for land of the Israelites:

“This was the homeland allocated to the clans of the tribe of Simeon. Their allocation of land came from part of what had been given to Judah because Judah’s territory was too large for them. So the tribe of Simeon received an allocation within the territory of Judah.”

Boundaries are good.  Actually, good is too generic a term; boundaries are crucial, without which there is no clear definition, identification, or even personality.  In personal terms, when I set my own (emotional, mental, physical, etc.) boundaries, I become increasingly in control—and therefore accountable—for what comes in and out of my personhood.  That sounds nice and psychological, because it is.  I didn’t come up with it; Dr. Henry Cloud did in his book about (guess what) boundaries.

What I see in Old Testament land distribution by Joshua applies also today: 

Judah’s plot was too big, meaning they couldn’t manage it all, which in turn meant large portions would be overrun by wild animals and unwanted non-Israelites again.  This would cause (a) the need for additional clean out, (with potential loss of life, and certainly loss of time—horribly inefficient from a managerial standpoint), and/or (b) the re-infiltration of pagan religious thought, which could trigger a gross backsliding of the Judean tribe, (again, not a pretty picture, based on what did eventually happen to the whole of the nation.)

So God had a good idea, as is His habit.  And Joshua listened, and obeyed.

Unfortunately, what happens oftentimes today, a large load is given to a particular saint, or group of saints, maybe one particular church.  God may bless him/her/them with a favor or outpouring or mission field, whatever. Open doors, open hearts, (open pockets).  YEA!  Go for it! 

THEN, once it gets overwhelming, rather than ask for help or receive the help that God graciously sends, (and He can creatively send it in oh-so-many ways), we choose to see that as an intrusion into “my/our” territory. 

We allow our “turf wars” to severely limit the progress of God’s kingdom on earth, AND free up unused territory otherwise slotted for His Kingdom for another, complete with a wild beast that likes to “kill, steal, and destroy.” 

All because we were too proud and short-sighted to allow the territory to be fully occupied by God’s people…

…even if they weren’t in my immediate “tribe”.

Joshua 19:8-9 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.

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Do I have to do this, too?

wood 2I remember, as a kid, singing from the hymnbook in church and after awhile realizing I was singing the words, but my mind was somewhere else.  C’mon, I’m not the only one!! 

Alright, I’ll even go a step further in the confessional.  I was leading our small congregation in that song, Trading My Sorrows. (Okay, so I don’t quite sound like the guy in the video….)

I was telling our folks that the negatives in our lives actually do have trade-in value to God and that we can to give them to Him.  He values our sorrows, our pain.  But here’s the rub: when I say something on stage, God’s really pointing the finger at me, isn’t He?  (Ouch.) Continue reading “Do I have to do this, too?”

Run, run, run-away

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280The Israelite judge, Jephthah, is generally known for the weird story about his daughter, poor kid.

But I think we generally miss the importance of this guy’s backstory and how God may have used it to his (and His) advantage.

Back in those days, having sons was pretty well tantamount to status (as opposed to having daughters; now where they thought the baby boys came from, gets me…)  And although even our secular Western culture has fairly well done away with that mindset, they (and us) still deal with the “world’s oldest profession”. 

So while Jephthah’s dad, Gilead, had several socially legitimate sons, little Jephthah was not one of them, and was treated accordingly. 

“…and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. ‘You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, ‘for you are the son of a prostitute.’  So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a band of worthless rebels following him.”

Because, back then, with those kinds of credentials, that’s about all the following you’re going to get.  I can only imagine what hardship he must have suffered going from the house of his father (probably bullied while he was growing up anyway, but at least provided for) to ousted into the “real world”, possibly as a teenager.  Homeless.  Despised.  Without family or connections.  Or money.

As usual, the plot thickens—

“At about this time, the Ammonites began their war against Israel.  When the Ammonites attacked, the elders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob.  The elders said, ‘Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!’ But Jephthah said to them, ‘Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?’”

Run off the farm, rather than living in the lap of luxury, Jephthah has been hardened by life’s boot camp, and is now evidently the one most suited for rescuing those same brothers with soft, un-callused hands. 

And rescue he does, like the rushing in of the cavalry. 

The point is this.  People do us injustices.  We have to suffer the consequences of others’ stupidity, prejudices, unkindness, or just low-down thoughtlessness.  I’m bullied, kicked out of the club, whether physically or emotionally.  Bereft.  Alone.  (At least it feels that way.)

But God has other plans, and this is just part of the Divine Boot Camp.  Plans for rescue, not vengeance, for redemption, and restoration, and it may be for the very ones who turned me out.  

man-2257145_1920Jephthah’s hands and muscles may have become just as soft as his brothers had he stay in his dad’s house all that time.  Instead, he became the hero.

Which is God’s training for all of us, to be heroes in one way or another. 

Judges 11:2-7 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.

Preserving more than berries

garden lastMy first attempts at gardening several years ago were pretty funny.  The bunnies, as much as I love them, kept helping themselves to my tender tomato plants.  I’d come out to check my little lovelies, and DRAT!  There went another one!  So I started to concoct various creative boundaries and kept replanting.  I even tried that trick of putting a garden hose around the area so the furry thumpers would think there was a snake lurking about.

It was less than effective, except to amuse Bob, who christened the area my DMZ. 

My friend, Louise, has a garden.  I mean, a real garden.  My garden is more of an adult re-living her childhood of playing in the dirt.  Louise and her husband—they actually know what they’re doing.

When they moved in a few years ago, there was no Continue reading “Preserving more than berries”

Avoiding the ditch

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Bob and I were riding our road bikes several years ago, yes, dare I say, spandex and all.  I had purchased a cute yellow Trek at a garage sale that I was pretty excited about.  Let’s go!  One day, we were sailing along quite well on a two-lane highway when half a house flew by on an “oversized” (you could say that again!) load—it had to pull into the other lane to get around me.  I figured the other half was right behind, so I did the natural thing…I looked behind.

Now, experienced riders (which I am not) can do that without losing their cycling “line”.  Me?  I ended up going full speed into the ditch, which I could have ridden out of, except for a driveway’s concrete culvert a few feet ahead. 

Needless to say, the concrete won. 

So I relate to this story about King David bringing the Ark of the Covenant, the ancient symbol of Yahweh’s presence, into the capitol.  He had put it on an ox-cart, and they were making their way with much celebration and glee, until the unthinkable happened…

“…the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. Then the LORD’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark.” 

Obviously, this caused quite a stir:

“David was angry…[he] was now afraid of God, and he asked, ‘How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?’”

Yep, that’s it.  I get (what I think is) a good idea, God will like this one, and BOOM!  Off I go, zero to sixty in three seconds—

—only to end up in the ditch.  Then it’s really easy to blame God for my ignorance and rashness (which hurt not only myself, but the other Uzzah’s in my life as well!)

David was a warrior, a prolific songster, and a mighty king, BUT…he wasn’t a priest.  Perhaps in his unbridled passion, he neglected to ask those “in the know”.  Consider what happened when his royal predecessor, King Saul, acted as priest instead of waiting for Samuel to arrive as instructed.  (Things did not go well.) No one can deny that David was an enthusiastic individual, and truly had a heart for his God.  But even so, it is tantamount that we seek His guidance first and wait patiently for His timing.  Thankfully, David didn’t give up.  It was a good plan, it just had to be God’s plan:

“Then he commanded, ‘No one except the Levites may carry the Ark of God. The LORD has chosen them to carry the Ark of the LORD…We failed to ask God how to move it properly.’”

The information had been available but it’s possible that, after all these years of waiting and struggling to even survive, they were so taken up with this pending coronation (they had been doing some pretty seriously partying for three days prior), David overlooked this very important concept (that was penned by his future son, Solomon, BTW.  Maybe the son was learning from his dad’s mistake?)—

“Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes. People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the LORD.”bikes

Kinda wish I still had that bike.  (Unfortunately, I still have the spandex…)

1 Chronicles 13: 9,10; Proverbs 19:2,3  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.

In other words…

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 “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”

1 Corinthians 1;26-29  Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.