Not For Sale: Grapes, Figs, and Pomegranates

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280My father-in-law used to decry what he considered his loss of memory after a cardiac surgery, in that he noticed he could no longer do some kind of complex mathematical computations in his head.  Pity.  I still have use my fingers for some single-digit addition, so I’d better never have heart trouble.

Needless to say, memory is not one of my strong suits.  But compared to the Hebrews embarking on their Continue reading “Not For Sale: Grapes, Figs, and Pomegranates”

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The little old woman who lived in a middle school.

Dawncartoon[1] (1)Being a school nurse to several hundred middle-schoolers, I sometimes feel like “the little old woman who lived in a shoe; she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.”  Sometimes they grace my office with horrific things like hangnails, and chapped lips, and trampoline injuries from three days ago.  Other times there are more significant issues to be dealt with, parents to be contacted, an occasional ambulance.  Or an arm around the shoulder to dry a tear (hormones flow freely) or a high five on a test score.  It’s just all part of being the person in the building in charge of the bandaids and Tylenol.  (The DEA, however, frowns upon stocking Valium for faculty and staff.)

So I do appreciate Moses’ leadership in the Old Testament.  He had to have Continue reading “The little old woman who lived in a middle school.”

Hindsight is not always 20/20

IMG_20150103_172451138Somebody once said that hindsight is 20/20.  I don’t think so.  I think we can still be blind as a bat without some well-fitted spectacles in the form of serious contemplative wisdom. I don’t know much (at all) about physics—that’s my brother the Purdue engineer’s department.  But I’ve heard there’s something out there called Chaos Theory.  I like that term.  I sometimes feel I’m the embodiment of it.  No need to take classes on that one, just come read my autobiography, which I haven’t written yet since I’m still living it.  As I’ve said before, my life seemingly doesn’t come in “seasons”; it prefers to come in “spasms”. 

Of which I will spare you the details… Continue reading “Hindsight is not always 20/20”

Ayn Rand meets Moses

IMG_20150103_172451138Bob reads to me while I sit in my great-grandmother’s rocking chair and crochet, complete with the dog on the rug—seriously, we look like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, only in blue jeans. 

Our most recent book (at this writing) is Ayn Rand’s tome entitled Atlas Shrugged.  Not for the faint of heart, mind you, and not something you’ll find in the religious section of Barnes and Noble, but with some very timely and important ideas on economic integrity, possibly more applicable now than when it was written.

In her novel, she refers to the conflict between the “producers”, those who put their hand to the plow and make stuff, and the “looters”, those who somehow feel entitled to live off the hard work of the producers without significant contribution of their own, simply because they feel they need it.  Of course, “need” is precariously defined to the destruction of those who produce.

Sound familiar?

My disclaimer: I’m not an economist.  Anyway, that’s not the thought I want to convey here. 

Context: the Hebrew nation is (still) about to step into the Promised Land, and Moses is (still) giving them last minute instructions.  Check this out:

 “When the LORD your God goes ahead of you and destroys the nations and you drive them out and live in their land,…”

I see a definite partnership with God here—the Almighty will destroy the enemy while at the same time the Hebrews are to clean house (“drive them out”, which is dirty work as well) and occupy.  The Promised Land was just that—land that was promised, but that didn’t mean they weren’t going to have to work for it.  And hard. Sweat, blood, sacrifice, mistakes, and try again.  (Read about it, it’s pretty dramatic, and makes me feel better about myself…)

Interestingly, when I compare that to my personal salvation, and that 21st century idea that turning my life over to Jesus is “all there is to it”, uh, I don’t think that’s what God has in mind:

“But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’”

…and:

“He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

…and:

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

…to quote only a few.

Do we earn our salvation?  Of course not!  Do we partner with God to change into the likeness of all He purposes for us to be after He saves us—absolutely!  And it calls for blood, sweat, and tears, hard work, mistakes, and (oftentimes) self-forgiveness. 

historically-1093192_1920Because I don’t want to be a “looter” of God’s amazing grace, but a “producer” in His kingdom on Earth. 

Hand to plow, and keep it there.

Deuteronomy 12:29; James 2:18; 2 Peter 3:9; Romans 12:2  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.

What color is your cheese? (and I can’t even find my parachute…)

Dawncartoon[1] (1)The past decade or so I’ve read a few books that have touched on the idea of following your heart, professional choices, changing careers, all that, (although, not the ones alluded to in the title, but their titles are rather clever.) Since I work in a middle school, I also see similar encouragements  for the kids.  I love that, because I think it’s just so very important for that age group to start evaluating and exploring and looking at life and the future in those terms, and how their choices now effect their horizons later. 

From where I stand, 58 years down my own path, I guess I should know…

I don’t recall ever having those kinds of tests or questions or books to read back in the 70’s.  The reason I chose nursing was (at least in part) because it looked exciting on TV and I thought Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy was pretty cool.  So there it is.  Such a well informed decision of a 17-year-old would surely have nothing but successful results.

Needless to say, the Continue reading “What color is your cheese? (and I can’t even find my parachute…)”

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.

On second thought, perhaps not.

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280Too bad life doesn’t give us rewinds, at least not in the sense that we can actually go back and change history.  That’s the stuff of fantasy sci-fi like my husband writes about.  Which is probably a good thing, actually.  If I could go back in an attempt to correct my mistakes (of which there are many) I would probably just muck things up even worse.  So, in that sense, being stuck in the present must be part of God’s good grace.

Having said that, if you’re old enough to be reading this, then it’s safe to say you’re in the burgeoning company of folks that, at sometime in our lives, have breathed out the words,

“Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time….” Continue reading “On second thought, perhaps not.”

On the way out the door~~

IMG_20150103_172451138Remember sending your kiddo off to kindergarten that first day?  Or camp?  Or that first solo in the car? (GAG!) Or college?  I remember the anxiety of allowing our teenage girls to go on month-long mission trips out of the country. The first one was to Hong Kong when it was still under British rule, and I found out (after the fact) that my 14-year-old smuggled Bibles into China.  She assured me it was safe. 

Because 14-year-olds know these things.

On one such excursion, one of our daughters reported that when she arrived at the staging complex, there signs posted everywhere that read “CALL YOUR MOTHER!”  Somebody there must have compassionately understood.

Now, by the grace of God, all three of our children have Continue reading “On the way out the door~~”

And the beat goes on…

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280I get all kinds of requests for money, you know, you make one donation and the scent of blood is sensed for miles.  Some of the requests are causes with which I would agree, some not so much.  But even the ones I would tend to support, well, let’s face it, there’s only so much to go around.

Which really isn’t the point.  The real issue is the fact that it’s not “my” money anyway.  Sure, it’s in my name, my account with my beneficiaries and all that.  It goes to pay my bills, my taxes, and my retirement (such as it is).  It puts food on my table and gas in my car.  It’s not that I haven’t worked hard for it all; sure I have.  And yes, some of that hard work has taken a toll I’d care not to admit, but there it is. 

Still, the truth is, it’s not mine.

Not any more.  Because I actually belong to a larger government than any on this planet—the kingdom of God, (which is, I might add, far more just than the IRS…just saying.)

Yes, it’s easy to get to a point in life Continue reading “And the beat goes on…”