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.

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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.

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.

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~~”

Buckle in, God’s got a plan

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280I was always one of the tallest kids in class.  Back in high school I used to joke that the main reason I was on the girls’ basketball team was so that I could get off the traveling bus first just to intimidate the opposition.  Despite what they may have initially seen, in reality they didn’t have much to worry about.  My lack of athletic prowess may have been caused by hidden orthopedic challenges (no longer hidden, I might add!), latent asthma (ibid.), or simply a lack of interest and/or talent.  Like my 6’5” brother once observed, tall people rarely have to jump…for anything.

Nevertheless, what we see with our eyes can be scary, because we have a way of interpreting it through the lens of past experience, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, it’s a safety mechanism.  If there’s a motorcycle coming down the road, past experience says it behooves me to move.  Unless, of course, I’m an 18-wheeler with the right-of-way, then I expect the burden of wisdom to rest with the motorcycle.

With this in mind, I suppose I can have a little compassion on Continue reading “Buckle in, God’s got a plan”

Waste not; want not

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I seriously love trees.  In fact, forested landscapes are on the top of the list of my favorites.  I remember the thrill of exploring the woods as a youngster at Girl Scout camp, and conquering that amazing (although not altogether safe) tree house in our neighborhood. At this writing (July), the leaves are fully out and lush green, and our eldest just did a preschool unit on trees with our two-year-old granddaughter.  The sooner she learns that trees are our friends, the better!

God evidently thinks so, too.  As the recently Continue reading “Waste not; want not”

The welcome mat was threadbare

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“Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God.  God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.”

Many of us know the backstory, even if it’s just from Charlton Heston’s iconic portrayal, or even Disney’s animated version.  The people of Israel had been rescued from a catastrophic famine by the Hebrew patriarch Joseph who had become the Number Two chariot in Egypt.  God had sovereignly brought the “nation” of Israel (only about seventy people at that time) all the way from the Promised Land to be provided for during the remaining five years of crop failure. 

The only problem was that the remaining five years was over….400 years ago.

Fast forward to the current story.  The Continue reading “The welcome mat was threadbare”