Just another story…

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280When people say the Bible is boring, I have to question if we’re reading the same book.  Okay, so I get a bit bogged down in Leviticus when they’re talking about how to deal with infectious skin diseases, but truthfully, some of the accounts sound like a script straight out of Hollywood.

For example, the well-known story about the widow and her son barely scraping by during (one of) the terrible famines, a consequence brought about by the prophet Elijah at Yahweh’s behest, another attempt to get His people’s attention. God sends His man to this particular household, to a widow and her son, to ask for, guess what—food!  The response he gets is expected.

“But she said, ‘I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.’”

Elijah convinces her that, if she provides him with food and water, God would continue to miraculously multiply her supply to sustain her through the crisis.

What did she have to lose?

“So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days.” 

In Act Two, as if the famine wasn’t enough stress, this kind lady’s only son gets sick and dies.  She confronts the prophet, who has become a boarder during this time.  This widow is now overwhelmed with grief.  Her boy is dead, which back then had more implications than just the loss of a loved one.  Her future just got a whole lot more impoverished, both emotionally, and financially.

“Then she said to Elijah, ‘O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?’”

I love Elijah’s reply.  There’s no “oops”.  He doesn’t wring his hands.  In fact, there isn’t even a note of surprise or worry. 

“But Elijah replied, ‘Give me your son.’”

Once again, what did the mother have to lose?  Elijah takes the lifeless body up to his own room and prays. 

“The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived!  Then the woman told Elijah, ‘Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.’”

Which I find to be an interesting reaction from this mother.  Wasn’t the first miracle of the ever-flowing oil and grain enough to convince her of God’s presence working through His prophet? 

Different miracles

The first miracle was a life-sustaining one.  It had to do with maintenance. And it wasn’t like they had a five-course meal everyday, either.  Just enough oil and grain to keep them going, to sustain the life they had until the famine had passed.   

The second miracle was a life-giving one.  That which was dead has been resurrected.  Where life had been extinguished, life had been reborn.    

This gives me pause…

What do I have to lose?

God knows the level of my faith and intimacy with Him.  He also knows how fickle human beings like me (like you?) can be, allowing complacency to set in as what we once wondered at becomes normalcy and therefore taken for granted.  And He knows what is needed to take our faith and intimacy with Him to the next level, to jump start us out of that spiritual malaise. 

In other words, He not only knows how to maintain my dreams, even my faith, but also how to resurrect them and give them new life.

Of course, the first step is to hand it over to Him.

1 Kings 17:12; Hebrews 7:25 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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Just a thought

wood 2

We become like the entities we worship.

[King Ahab’s] worst outrage was worshiping idols* just as the Amorites had done—the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites.”

*NLT note: “The Hebrew term (literally round things) probably alludes to dung.”

Too bad he didn’t know this part of the Book—

“And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.”

‘Nuf said.

1 Kings 21:26; Psalm 135:18  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.

Ties that bind…or strangle.

IMG_20150103_172451138Several years ago, I read a study synopsis from a well respected site indicating that the most influential power in a child’s life was his parents. (Golly-gee-whiz, I wonder how many man-hours and tax dollars went into that one.)  Of course, ask any of the teachers in my middle school, and they could have told you that.  Better yet, I have a Book that pretty well spells it out from years of experience and Wisdom. 

Needless to say, there are some forces in the Universe that are inherently powerful, for good or evil, and parenthood is certainly at the top of that list.  It’s not that parents can take credit for all the choice their kids make (positive or negative), but their influence is still credibly incredible in some capacity throughout a person’s life. 

So it takes some real courage when a child, even an adult “child”, has to back up and re-evaluate patterns of thinking and doing that Continue reading “Ties that bind…or strangle.”

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”

Going my way? (Better not.)

singer-63055_1920.jpgThe days of the Crooners were a bit before my time, but I still love the old movies with them as the stars.  Of the best well known, Frank Sinatra probably had one of the longest careers among them.  One of his (many) hit songs was “I Did It My Way”. 

Now if that’s not the American motif, I don’t know what is. 

Not to dis Old Blue Eyes, but really, we all have that one in us.  Even the Most Beautiful Three Year Old On The Planet, (our eldest granddaughter), showcases her opinion of her opinion…regularly.  Actually, the Most Fabulous Infant In The Universe, (our other granddaughter), already does the same thing….loudly. 

Certainly, I see it in myself—uncomfortably so, I am quick to add.  It rears its ugly head (and it can get pretty ugly) in all sorts of relationships: with my children, friends, Bob…God.  Even with myself.  (Think about that one for a minute—all sorts of repercussions there.)

Culturally, this attitude of “doing it my way” spills over into our theology as well.  Truth is often defined by opinion, rather like one who prefers ice cream over Brussel sprouts.  (After all, I know which one I would choose.)  Even if I accept the Christian definition of truth, it’s still an easy trap to try and “earn” God’s acceptance by my own goodness, rather than that of Jesus alone.  Which means I’m still trying to do it my way.

However, even in the Old Testament, God was setting us up for this.  Here the Hebrews were (still) getting ready to head into the Promised Land.  But to live there, they are told~~

 “Your pattern of worship will change….you must bring everything I command you— your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, your sacred offerings, and your offerings to fulfill a vow— to the designated place of worship, the place the LORD your God chooses for his name to be honored.”

BINGO.  They couldn’t do it “their way” anymore.  If they wanted to live in God’s presence, they had to do it God’s way. 

New Testament interpretation: Jesus is God’s way.  Period.  Not crystals.  Not Buddha.  Not Mohammed.  Not reductionism.  Not capitalism.

Not even the Republican Party.  (Wow.  I might take some heat for that one…)

The only way to live and move and have our true being in God’s salvific presence is in Jesus alone.  It’s one of the many things I so appreciate about Jesus—His directness.

“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’”

This is in no way an intolerant statement, at least not anymore than in saying that “my begonias are red and not lavender” is an intolerant statement.  Or the rain is wet, and not dry.

Or that Frankie-baby had unbelievably blue eyes…(swoon.)

Deuteronomy 12:8,11; John 14:6  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.

Rear-view mirror grace

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280One of the (many) things I love about the Bible is the unadulterated openness of the ungodliness of some of God’s most godly people.  I really love it.  It gives me hope.  It also makes me appreciate the honesty of God as well as His patient love and affection.  Some choose to see only His anger and frustration.  Well, heck, if I had been the parent of these kids for several millennia…well, best not to go there.

Here’s another good example.  Many of us Continue reading “Rear-view mirror grace”

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…)”

The closing

wood 2In January of this year, the gavel at Wall Street fell for the first time on 20,000.  20,000 what, I’m not quite sure; I just know that it was the historic high water mark of the Dow Exchange to that point. 

Now, I have lived through more than one recession, and my parents through “the” Depression.  Our personal investments are modest, but I suppose we have done our middle-income capitalist part of moving the American economy forward through our adult years.  One thing I do know is that once you invest, at least wisely and conservatively, it is important to leave it there; that is, it will need to weather some ups and downs.  Constantly pulling it out and plugging it in somewhere else, similar to the relationships showcased in the grocery store tabloids, is not typically considered wise investing.

Alright, I know this is not a perfect analogy, but it does help me to understand this other concept that comes from the Old Testament prophet, Malachi.  God is lamenting over His people (again) concerning their unfaithfulness, and since at this juncture they don’t even recognize how they have been disloyal, which is even scarier, God has to spell it out for them:

 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands…?’”

It’s those words, “what have we gained” that really get me.  They (like me) miss the whole point when I look at my temporal ledger sheet instead of my eternal one.  OUCH.  Our culture’s mantra “he who dies with the most stuff wins” tries to infiltrate my thinking in very pernicious ways, and I’m not just talking about material stuff here.  In other words, I’ll be the first in line to protect my reputation, my relationships, my home, hearth, job, etc.  But, (and here’s the rub) what if God calls me to an act of obedience that puts even those things in direct opposition to His expressed purpose?

In the first century church, Paul puts it this way:

“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” 

Those are tough, tough words.  But intelligent investing can be costly and takes sacrifice.  It takes diligence and wisdom and counsel and (here’s a fun one) patience persistence in the face of those who choose to buy on credit and go into moral debt.  And our culture is deep, deep into moral debt.  Just turn on the news.  

The same Old Testament prophet goes on to say this… 

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

newspaper-1834656_1920And when it comes to smart investing, it’s the end result that counts.

Malachi 3:14; Philippians 3:8; Malachi 4:2   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.

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.”