Hand me the wrench…no the other one.

garden lastMy brother and I were just reminiscing about coming home from school and seeing our grandfather in the heat of the day, stripped to the waist and sporting a bandana to catch the sweat dripping from his forehead, (and what was left of his grey hair), out mowing the lawn.  He and Grandma had been visiting our family, and he was not one to merely luxuriate when there was work to be done. 

And why not?  I mean, c’mon, he was only in his 70’s…

spidermanOwning property is a never-ending lifestyle, to be sure, and if you’re like Bob and I, whose only claim to fame is the ability to change a light bulb, then it becomes even more challenging.  I did try to hang wallpaper—once. (For the record, of the two of us, I tend to be the one who tries to “fix” something first, whereas my husband with all the letters behind his name doesn’t even bother….just call the plumber.)

The truth is, they—the carpenters, the plumbers, the electricians and the lot—they know that they’re doing.  I’ve seen them at work.  It’s really impressive, you know, where there was no wall, now there’s a wall, with windows and lights and paint.  Or maybe new carpet.  Or a vaulted ceiling.  And, once the tools are put away and the dust has cleared, if I do as I’m instructed to take care of it, it should all last a long time. 

Wow! 

Here the Hebrew nation is about the kick up some serious dust as they go into the Promised Land.  Moses is recapping their past few decades:

“But you have seen the LORD perform all these mighty deeds with your own eyes!  Therefore, be careful to obey every command I am giving you today, so you may have strength to go in and take over the land you are about to enter.”

I see an interesting sequence here. 

To begin with, this is addressed specifically to people who had first hand experience.  They had witnessed God’s provision and His “mighty deeds”.  With that knowledge came responsibility—

The responsibility, then, was obedience to the One who had allowed them to witness those miracles.  In other words, the experience of His presence was an act of grace that not everyone (up to that point in time) had been privy to.  And every act of grace carries with it the weight of personal responsibility.

Lastly, obedience to God, although a worthy end in itself, was also a means to an additional provision: strength.  Like taking care of my property, it takes a certain amount of vigor to maintain (dare I say “conquer”?) the challenges of home ownership; I can only imagine what it must have been like going into the Promised Land.  So I find that the people’s strength to conquer and maintain was uniquely tied to their obedience to God. 

Hmmmm….

Okay, time to do some never-ending work in the garden.  (At least I can to that much without having to call in a plumber.)

Deuteronomy 11:7,8  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.

Teach your (siblings’) children well

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280If you really want to get back at your older siblings for all those mean things they did to you as kids growing up, what one thing should you teach their own pre-school children?  No, it’s not where daddy keeps his favorite fishing tackle, or how pretty mommy’s new lipstick looks on the freshly painted patio deck, or even how to safely use a blow torch, as fun as all that would be.  The grueling, tortuous payback is much easier than that…

Simply teach their little cherubs the word “Why?”

And then encourage them to use it, frequently.  Which is not so far-fetched when you consider that we humans are a naturally inquisitive lot to begin with anyway.  Why, what for, how come, and the other various derivatives are simply part of our internal vernacular, both positively, from our curiosity, (giving us, for example, “E=mc2”) and negatively, from our wounded sense of inconvenience, (“how come I have to study this stoopid stupid geometry?!”)

Either way, we keep asking. 

In this instance, God anticipated our “why”.  (He did, after all, make us this way.)  The Hebrew people all but have their toes on the boarder of the Promised Land as God is using Moses for a few preliminary instructions:

 “In the future your children will ask you, ‘What is the meaning of these laws, decrees, and regulations that the LORD our God has commanded us to obey?’”

Not that the Creator needs to explain to the created, so the fact that He anticipates their inquiry shows gracious condescension.  He reminds them that they were brought out of their brutal slavery in Egypt so that God could bless them with an abundant goodness (which was already prepared for them, BTW).  Then we read this, which is in the same paragraph, as in almost the same breath—

“For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the LORD our God has given us.’”

Am I hearing this right?  God’s saying, “I pulled you out of a very bad place and I’m putting you in a very good place.  Here’s the stuff you need to do to maintain that, and thus I will consider you as in right standing with Me.”

In other words, being counted as righteous is NOT the same as intrinsic righteousness.  Nope, that issue was decided a L-O-N-G time ago.  I find it interesting, then, when our culture tries to damn the very God Who attempted every which way to communicate and connect with the people who rejected Him to begin with; as if we expect Him to change Himself to fit our image instead of the other way around.

Oh wait…He did that too, only not in the way we expected.  (He does that a lot.)

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.”

Of course, that was the plan all along, which makes that plan even more beautiful.  And so now instead of being counted as righteous because of the things I do (which never worked anyway—the first half of the Book bears testament to that arrangement, again, no surprise to the Author), I am counted as righteous because of what Jesus has done for me. 

If you’ve never seen it, great, here it is.  If you haven’t seen it recently, let’s marvel in a super review:

“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago.  We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”

Back to the original question, why?  Only one answer suffices:

Deuteronomy 6: 20, 25; John 1:14; Romans 3: 21-26  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.

Definitely graphic, but not novel.

IWAA7I love birds.  Not like Audubons love birds, but Bob and I do own a cheap pair of field glasses and a nice Peterson’s Guide.  Here in southern MO, we live in a fly-over zone, and also near a conservation area, so we’re just geeky enough to enjoy a “date” seeing how many avians we can identify.  Our day is made if we are visited by a bald eagle or a close up view of a gaggle of something. 

Listening to Jesus, one would think that His Father was pretty keen Continue reading “Definitely graphic, but not novel.”

Ye Olde Blogge, or, “Oh, it’s you again…”

BloggeThis month I’ve been blogging for two years, and having a ball doing it, meeting terrific people and being encouraged in my own journey with God.  I’ve recently met yet another very cool person via the blogosphere who is just starting out and asking me for advice. (Yes, asking ME!!  Seriously?!?)

So I confidently sent her the WordPress Blogging U. link, and also told her that in addition to those several and free courses, (emphasis on the word “free”), we are abundantly provided with tutorials to browse on our own, trying things out here and there and at our chosen pace.

At least, that’s what I did.  And I’m happy that I still can, especially as the company upgrades and changes “the look” I have grown accustom to when I first started.  Plus, I know there are some improvements I need to make in the look and ease of the site, some strategies I’d like to try.  But here is one of the most interesting take-aways I’ve gleaned from the experience, especially starting out as I did from the ground level, just slightly above “this is where you turn on the computer”:

animated-arrow-image-0113Persistence is priceless.

If the look I wanted didn’t happen the first time, then let’s give it another go.  Let’s see what’s available, or insert this particular widget, or drag and click on this button.  Then there’s always the option of (gasp!) reading the directions, again,…and again.  Or asking questions.  And funny thing, shock of shocks—it works!! Of course, I’ve never been one terribly intimidated by the trial and error process anyway, and really, the security of the free world does not depend on the quality of my website…

Which translates into the intangible reality of our relationship with God.  The prophet Hosea knew this.  After exposing the error of the people’s idolatry (and accompanying observable behaviors) which was to be followed by the long-forecasted consequences, he then calls them to this hope:

“…Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn…”

God is not intimidated by our trial and error, even with Him. Reference King David! Simon Peter! Moses! One thing these guys had in common was that they never gave up.  It was never a question of God showing up; it was, rather, up to them to keep at it, even in the face of personal confusion or temporary moral defeat.   

Because, when it come to a quality relationship with the Almighty God, persistence is priceless, and really, the security of someone else’s eternity may actually depend on it.

Hosea 6:3 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.

Reaching the top shelf

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credit: http://worldofweirdthings.com/tag/intelligent-design/

Limitations can just be so darn frustrating!  I remember trying to buy clothes when I was a 5-foot-12-inch teenager in a world of where 5’8″ was “tall”.   My stature is one of the reasons I would choose to sit rather than stand in a group of women for a conversation, since standing typically means the discussion will be about six inches below my ears.  It’s a bit isolating….

But then, who do complete strangers turn to when they need something off the top shelf at Walmart, right? 

To put that in perspective, I once read an account of Continue reading “Reaching the top shelf”

I Have ANOTHER question (#3)

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Leviticus 20:10 “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.”

So why were David and Bathsheba not stoned for their adultery?  In fact, this punishment was not even mentioned in the rebuke from God through Nathan the prophet.  Of course, the child died and there were other terrible consequences that effected many people.  Can we legitimately infer anything about why God didn’t have Nathan follow through with the original consequence?  And more importantly, does anyone else see the grace of God working alongside the law (truth) of God?

Giving shout-outs for some specific insightful bloggers, but also invite any others who might have some thoughts to weigh in on this one:

Beyond the Map

Cookie Crumbs to Live By

From the Inside Out

I Sing Because I’m Free

Learning to Be Full of Grace and Truth

Patrick Hawthorne

Pneumythology

Salvageable

Tolle Lege

The Recovering Legalist

Truth in Palmyra

Virtual Vitamins

(And if you haven’t checked out these sites, I recommend you do!)

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.

Close encounters with the food processor

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I’m married to a southpaw, but I’m a chronic right-hander, which for me means that I pour my pot of tea held in my left hand into the sweet little cup in my right. All of this, however, is a non sequitur for some things, like washing dishes, raking leaves, or, more importantly (of course), typing a blog post.  All ten fingers are of equal standing then.

Especially when I make a nice surgical slice into one of them while making dinner.  It doesn’t matter which one, they all bleed the same B-neg red, and it’s just as difficult to type with any of the ten swathed in multiple bandaids. 

Like I’m trying to do right now.

That sense of touch which connects with the synapses is a bit put out, and it takes a little more Continue reading “Close encounters with the food processor”

I’m decidedly mono-lingual

wood 2When my husband was in grad school at Indiana University, we lived in married student housing as a cost effective measure since we had three young’uns in tow.  Bob used to call it “the finest in institutional living”, and my dad got a kick out of referring to our “mini-United Nations” since we lived in a college community with other student-families from around the globe. 

It was truly a great experience, but communication could be interesting at times.  Not so much for me, since I’m from the USA and I.U. is clearly American (unless you ask someone from Purdue, like me, then you might get a decidedly different opinion.)

Because of this multi-cultural makeup, I had the crazy opportunity to learn new languages—

–and I totally blew it.  Sure, I was working different shifts to put Bob through school, tending to three growing children, Girl Scouts, you name it.  But I lost a potential gift of actually being able to converse on a different level.

Here’s an example of two wonderful ladies, one who desperately wanted to communicate, and the teacher who went to great lengths to find a way—

I’m so exquisitely glad that Helen Keller didn’t miss her opportunity.

God also has all kinds of creative ways of communicating with us.  He can find what is just the right kind of lingo/leverage to get through.  But one thing even God has difficulty with (by His own decision) is our unwillingness to believe Him, to believe what He says is actually true.  The first appointment is to accept the Doctor’s diagnosis and treatment—sinful nature, repentance, faith.

Now, Christians get that one, being as how it’s the definition of Christianity and all.  But we tend to get a little hung up on the next part of the communique:

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

We get caught up in our mistakes, our lack of progress.  Or as my bloggish friend, Dan Ledwith, puts it in his book Rest in the Shadow of the Almighty:

 “We can stop worrying that grace is going to run out. We can admit our mistakes, failings, and shortcomings. They don’t define who we are. We can learn from the past instead of languishing in the past. We don’t have to worry about failing, and falling. We can let go of hurts that others have done to us. God paid for it at the cross. There is no debt remaining to be paid.”

God has made the (supreme) effort to get through to us on every level of existence.  It behooves us not the miss the opportunity to learn (and accept) His communication.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17  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.

Ledwith, Daniel (2011-01-27). Rest in the Shadow of the Almighty: Discover the Joy that Is found Living Under the Sovereignty of God (p. 167). CreateSpace. Kindle Edition.

Restore the Joy

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We express art in so many different ways.  Some people can sing.  Some people can write songs to be sung.  Some people can play an instrument (or several) accompany the songs that are sung. 

Then there are those who show up as the full meal deal.

Julie is one of those blessed ones, a blessing both for her, and to us.  Check out her blog:  https://isingbecauseimfree.wordpress.com  And here is her poem.

RESTORE THE JOY by Julie Harris

It’s another silent night

I’m searching for your light

Seems You’re so far away

I need your grace today

something’s just not feeling right

though I cannot see, I trust you’re here with me

restore to me the joy, the joy

restore to me the joy of Your salvation

and grant me, grant me

a willing spirit to obey You

restore the joy

upon my knees I wait for you

search my heart and make it new

take away anything

within me hindering

distracting me from seeing Truth

Used with artist permission.  Again, visit Julie and you won’t be disappointed.

The #Grace of a Talking Ass, ….er, #Donkey

My good friend, Kelly, asked me to participate in a halftime show during a fundraiser donkey basketball game for her small Christian school.  I love big animals, having grown up in the ‘burbs with little access to the farm.  We were to “ride” donkeys while picking up money people threw on the floor.  Needless to say, it was riotous fun.  But I experienced firsthand why the donkey has a reputation for stubbornness.  Case in point:

Once upon a time long, long ago, there was this guy named Balaam.  Not a nice man.  Popular, but not someone you would want to escort your daughter to prom.  He was well known and respected as a person who could effectively “bless” or “curse” whole sections of the population.  Not curse, as in the ineffective and banal expletives that are thrown around today.  No, evidently this man had something unnatural about him, something powerful, and not altogether healthy.  However, to superficially read the account, it almost sounds like he was at least trying to wear a white hat, but as the story unfolds, it turns out that he was, well…not a nice man.

The Hebrew people were coming to the end of a very long road trip through an exceptionally trying desert.  They had learned a lot of important stuff, generally the hard way.  By now the other people whose lands the Israelites were coming upon, including that of a king named Balak, had heard the accounts of how God had miraculously extricated them from slavery in Egypt and provided for them throughout their time in the desert.  Understandably, it made King Balak a little unsettled that this massive group of wandering foreigners was heading straight for his territory, and naturally he assumed the worst.  Whatever was a pagan king to do?

Send for Balaam, of course.

When King Balak’s messengers arrived at Balaam’s doorstep to request a customized curse, the prophet made no bones about it that he could only say what this Hebrew God wanted him to say.  (At least he got that right.)  Initially God told not to go, but when Balaam was offered more money the second time, it was just too tempting and God relented.  (Asking God a second time after a clear answer the first time is not always a wise option.)  However, God knew what was below the surface in Balaam’s heart—greed and selfish ambition, and definitely not what God necessarily had in mind for His own people.

Saddling up his long-trusted donkey, Balaam sets off for the palace, with visions of gold dancing in his head.  To his surprise, and consternation, however, his otherwise reliable transport decides he doesn’t want to go forward, (which, from personal experience now, I realize is not altogether unnatural for a donkey, except perhaps this one.)   First his old companion intentionally turned off the road, and Balaam beat him.  Then he squeezed up close to a wall for “no reason”, crushing the so-called prophet’s foot, and Balaam beat him.  A while later down the road, the poor creature just laid down.  You can guess Balaam’s response, but it’s the donkey’s that I find most interesting—he talked.

(Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t record Balaam’s initial reaction to this event, so obviously it must not have been terribly important to the account.  But, oh, to be a fly on the sweet snout of that animal!)

Suddenly, the supernatural realm—that Balaam hypothetically operated in—was opened, and there stood a seriously intense and summarily displeased angelic messenger.  (Once again, Balaam’s first response is sadly omitted.)  The words of the angel are quite instructive, if not discouraging, and Balaam gets an attitude shift that speaks well for his limited knowledge of the God with whom he was dealing.

Here is one point, among many that could be made from Balaam’s experience which relates to our modern day dealings with life, and the God of that life.  There are times, more than we would care to admit, during which we think we are following God’s will, when in reality our own attitudes are expertly hidden from us.  The bricks of our piety are often mortared together with anger, offense, jealousy, greed, to name a few.  Because God loves His children, He knows how dangerous these attitudes are, and how necessary it is for our welfare that they be removed.  It may be that those around us clearly see the danger that is standing directly in the path, and our anger and frustration with them is not only uncalled for, but unwise.  Granted, it takes humility to allow God to show us the “error of our ways”, even if it comes through humble means, but it is imperative that we see. 

Moral of the story: it’s always a good idea to pray for the grace of a talking donkey while we walk the pathway of this life.   Otherwise, the sword’s gonna hurt.