Beware of fly-by’s

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280One thing that can’t be disputed about relationship with God in the Old Testament times—it was messy.  A lot of blood was involved: bulls, goats, pigeons,…prophets.

In one of the most historically and spiritually significant Old Testament sacrifices, Abram (not yet having his name changed to Abraham) slices in half several specimens of the animal kingdom in preparation for a special covenant with this Most High God whom very few people are even aware of any more, much less worship.  This is going to be unlike any other offering Abram has participated in, and I suspect Continue reading “Beware of fly-by’s”

Let’s be offended. 

wood 2Yes, let’s.  At least, most of us would be after reading this in a letter, even from a beloved teacher: Continue reading “Let’s be offended. “

Silverware, or flatware?

IMG_20150103_172451138I don’t have a home and hearth “lifestyle” site like my bloggin’ buddy, Lindsey.  Case in point: I grew up calling all eating utensils “silverware, yet I somehow doubt that we ate off of silver.  I have since learned the differentiations between silverware, stainless, and simply flatware.  Now, Lindsey might be able to tell you more precisely what those are are (and how to use them correctly!)  One thing I have learned, however, (Lindsey, dear, please correct me if I’m wrong), is that the more you use silver, the less you have to keep it polished.  Otherwise, just stuffing it away for special occasions means you had better budget a fair amount of time in the preparation of the event for the wearisome task of polishing, cleaning, and wiping. 

For someone who rarely gets around to dusting my furniture, no thanks.

Not that I would allow my granddaughter to dig in the dirt with the silver serving spoon I got as a wedding gift lo, these many years ago, but why stuff that little treasure away just for dipping out the mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving?

So I wonder how much I fall prey to that attitude in other areas of my life; that is, putting something away for “safe keeping”, afraid it might get broken, stolen, or at the very least misused or disregarded, instead of using it for Continue reading “Silverware, or flatware?”

Prepare-practice-repeat, ad nauseam

IMG_20150103_172451138Standing in the waiting room of a local shop waiting on my car tire to be fixed up, my cell phone went off.  It was our daughter from southern California, but where she was living at the time, the cell phone reception was less than optimal, so I only heard snatches of her conversation.  It went something like this:

“Hi, mom…(static)…thought you might have seen the news…(static)…fires…(static)…we’re fine…(static)…”

Ah, parenthood.

Not being from that area, I have since learned that they have a “fire season” much like tornado season where I live.  Even when they see the smoke in the distance, locals are well-informed in the drill.

tornado-541911_1280To modify a culturally well known phrase, “disasters happen”.  From nature-born Midwest tornadoes to man-made terrorist exploits, we live in a dangerous environment this Continue reading “Prepare-practice-repeat, ad nauseam”

Please and thank you…or not

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“And I didn’t even get a thank you note!”

‘Fess up.  How many times have you thought that, or some version of it?  You let someone cut in line in a traffic jam, and instead of them giving you a polite wave, the guy behind you gives you a not-so-polite one finger salute.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Just a little appreciation for the sacrifice, if you don’t mind.  At least, that’s what mom taught me back in the day.

Here’s another good one—you choose to start this tithing thing to your church, and end up getting a rejection notice from your insurance company about those impacted wisdom teeth you just had removed.  Now who you gonna aim your frustration at, hmmm??

And yet, for some wisdom beyond Continue reading “Please and thank you…or not”

Defense against offense.

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Adonijah was really ticked.  Here’s the back story, (and it’s not a pretty one…)

King David’s family life was not convenient. Suffice it to say that his immediate relations were many and confused, and not altogether amiable, and so Adonijah had many siblings.  One of his half-brothers, Absalom, (from a different mother) had already tried to wrestle the kingdom away from their royal dad, and after severely dividing the kingdom and disgracing his father (intentionally), he was brutally killed in battle.  Then more patient Adonijah waits until his father has grown old and, since he is next in line by birth for the kingship (according to tradition), gets a following and proclaims himself king with all the hoopla he can muster.  Funny thing is, he Continue reading “Defense against offense.”

Fire Up the Christmas Tree…in #March

(Excerpt from God Loves Gardens, by Dawn Jones)                                     I let the dog out on this beautiful Sunday morning as the sun was coming up, the birds were waking up, and the new flowers are starting to push their way up.  I look across my yard to the unsightly large black spot next to the fence where I finally got to burn the annual Spring cleaning—leftover leaves, twigs and branches, and, yes, even the old Christmas tree. But I don’t have to see the blackened area to remember my efforts from the day before.  My 50+ year old frame is reminding me enough!   Initially, the left over burn pile looks like an ugly scar on my landscape, until I realize what it represents.  This spot will be where I plant my tomato starts again this year.  And they will become monster bushes due to the wonderfully fertile soil provided by the after effects of my efforts from yesterday’s hard work.

We know that burning adds the nutrients into the soil, and this can be likened to the process of consecration, A.K.A. dedication, of ourselves to God. (I like the word “consecration”.  It’s a good old-fashioned churchy sounding word that’s packed with meaning.)  It’s only when we are truly consecrated to God that we become pretty useless TO the world; that is, the world cannot use us for its own purposes, and we become liberated from the shackles of their devices, such as the need for popularity, status, wealth…fill in the blank. Not that these things are intrinsically evil, but the “need” for them sure is!   Likewise, it’s when we are completely devoted to God—His honor, His plan and purpose, His timing—that we are, in a very real and spiritual sense, burned up to Him in a way that we become “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” described by Paul, and we become useful FOR the world in the way God intends.  And lastly, if we neglect this consecration process, this burning sacrifice of our lives to God, then we can be assured that we will, indeed, be burned out by the world and its effects upon us.

Having said that, as I contemplate the black spot in my garden, several things come to mind:

Leaves: (many of which have been sheltering the gardens to keep the roots warmer over the somewhat brutal winter we just had)  We also can tend to hide under some of our past comforts for fear of the winter storms in our lives  Life is cold at times, bitterly so.  We naturally seek to protect our inner selves.  But I also knew it was time to rake away the leaves, because they were now preventing the full warming rays of the sun to nourish the new plants.  Same with our souls.

Twigs and branches blown down by the storms which are no longer able to produce life:  Left to clutter the yard, they will make it easier to trip and fall, and more difficult to mow, to play with the dog, and do the things that a yard is for.  Like the personal offenses held onto and residual guilt feelings of my own past offenses forgiven, yard waste is simply in the way of progress.

Muscle aches from the effort:  I can’t sit inside and expect it to just happen on its own.  Similarly my personal cleansing is a cooperative effort with God.  The word effort is important here.

My burn pile is ringed with stones and brick to contain the burning process:  I also watch over it carefully, spraying outside the stones as need should the fire jump into the grass and spread where it is not appointed to go.  Personal boundaries are important.

The ongoing process – just as each new season here in southern Missouri brings more leaves and twigs to be processed, so our lives are a continual cleanup project.  Pull out the rake!

How ’bout some jelly on that #manna?

The Old Testament records the travel plans of the newly reorganized and very fussy nation of Israel on their way to the place that had been long promised to them as a special homeland.  Sometimes I’m tempted to think, “For crying out loud, people!”  (Which they did, frequently.)  I mean, after all, God had done some pretty amazing things from the beginning of this project, what with plagues and parting the Red Sea, Charlton Heston notwithstanding.  There was plenty of water from a rock to satisfy a couple million people or so, and enough quail to feed an army.

And then there was this thing called manna.  I think the jury is still out as to what this stuff really was, which is kind of a moot point, since it was obviously enough to keep them nutritionally sustained over time.  Kind of like the limbis bread of the wood elves in the Lord of the Rings.  (Yes, I own the trilogy of movies, directors cut and all that,… but I digress.)

I readily claim that I’m not a picky eater, and neither is Bob.  But admittedly we do enjoy some, albeit limited, variety in our palate.  I joke that I could live on pizza, but the reality is that even my homemade pizza would probably get a bit old over time.  So in a somewhat shaky defense of the Hebrew people, my very human side can relate to a diet of everyday manna bread and water, even though it made them very healthy indeed.  (I can only imagine the mothers of the five-year-olds….)

However, it seems that the people never quite learned how to address their grievances judiciously to the God that was so obviously trying to help them.  It wasn’t that they were hungry or thirsty.  They were just bored.  Bored with the desert, bored with constantly moving,….bored with bread, and more bread, and only bread.

Put that thought on hold to check out how their future king, David, managed his frustrations and fears and disappointing circumstances with God.  Here’s just a snipet of one of his many recorded communiques with his Lord:

Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me;
Fighting all day long he oppresses me. My foes have trampled upon me all day long,
For they are many who fight proudly against me.
When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?
 You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
This I know, that God is for me.
 In God, whose word I praise,
In the Lord, whose word I praise,
 In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?  (see Psalm 56, NASB)

Now David wasn’t just having a bad day.  This was written in the context of his true enemies (and he had many) capturing him in his own wanderings prior to his providential promise of ascending to the throne.  David had no problem “pouring out his complaint to the Lord”, it’s just that he knew how to do it properly.  It’s not about using the right words; it’s all about having the right heart.  David didn’t mince words with God; he didn’t candy coat the problem or his own emotional response to it.  But even in the muck and the mire of dealing with life, he maintained that God was with him, God was in control, and no matter how long it took, he would continue to trust God for the outcome.

Deep breath.  Back to the Israelites.  They just hadn’t grown up enough to understand and appreciate with Whom they were dealing.  Unfortunately, as it has been said, desperate times call for desperate measures.  God sent in “the snakes” to do a severe work of judgment.  And then, in typical fashion, He also provides a way of healing once bitten.

  • I find it interesting that God uses snakes to do the dirty work, since Satan was described as a snake in the garden after deceiving Mother Eve. The original sin was pride, thinking that we should be allowed to “be like God” (which, really, we already were, being made “in His image”, all that.)  Like Eve, the Hebrews thought they were “entitled” to more than manna, more than what God deemed healthy for them for that point in the journey.  Hmmm….
  • The account goes on to say that the people became impatient (Oh!  That word!!) with the long journey and complained about the manna, i.e., God’s provision.  Not complained in the sense of David’s pouring out his honest frustrations to God “Whom he knew would do what is best, and trusted Him with his life, regardless of current circumstances” kind of complaining.  This was more of a “how dare you invite us out here and feed us nothing but bread” category, and the snakes were happy to accommodate.  There is a very important warning here: when I complain to God with a victimhood mentality, with a feeling that I am entitled to more than I have (instead of a humble “I know what I really deserve” kind of thinking) there are definite “snakes” just waiting for a piece of me.  Their names are Bitterness, Resentment, Jealousy, and Offense, and they have many, many sibling slitherers close behind that are just as poisonous to my soul
  • Interestingly, once the people asked for forgiveness, God didn’t just remove the snakes. They were still lurking around, waiting and watching.  But God gave the people a pole to look upon should they be bitten, and having gazed upon the pole, they would be healed.  Similarly, if, through unresolved heart issues, we allow ourselves to be bitten, we really have only one option for true healing, and that is to gaze upon the One Who was raised up on a cross for us. 

So yeah….shut up and pass the quail.