Why stay hidden?

wood 2I grew up on the edge of a large Midwest city (Indianapolis).  My graduating class in high school was over 700, and I attended the main campus of a Big Ten university immediately thereafter.  I have been to visit my daughters on both coast in L.A. and the Big Apple, and accompanied my husband’s small college on a trip to London several years ago. 

crowdAll this to say, crowds don’t bother me. 

It’s not that prefer them; I don’t.  In fact, I’m writing this on my somewhat secluded patio in my comparatively sleepy small town with my quiet mutt on the pavestones as the birds sing around me.  Yes, in a way, I’m hiding.  Intentionally.  Is that so bad?

But I’m quite adept at hiding in a crowd also.  I really like not 
Continue reading “Why stay hidden?”

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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.

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.

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.

What’s in YOUR cupboard?

wood 2We had some funnies while visiting our youngest daughter and her family in Norway this Spring when we were talking about some of her new Swedish family’s idioms that she is learning.  Translating them into English can be more than mildly hilarious!  I took the liberty (a fun waste of time, actually) to look up a few from other cultures as well.  For example:

“Stop hanging spaghetti on them ears” is a Russian expression asking somebody to stop lying.

“I think my pig whistles” is a German exclamation of surprise.

And my daughter sends me this one with love from Sweden:

“Now you’ve gone and [defecated] in the blue cupboard”.  (I think that one needs no explanation, although I don’t know what the color of the cupboard has to do with anything…)

Of course, we have our own.  I personally like the one about not putting the cart before the horse: 

cart-1445429_1920

Which probably made more sense to my grandparents than to the middle-schoolers I serve now in the 21st century who rarely even see a horse, much less a horse-drawn cart.  Nonetheless, the wisdom remains, and, unfortunately, so does the human tendency to ignore it.

This makes me appreciate the very orderly and systematic way that God establishes for His people to serve Him~~

 “In this way, you will set the Levites apart from the rest of the people of Israel, and the Levites will belong to me.”

See, first, there were sacrifices, blood and guts and a total mess that needed to happen.  It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t cheap, but God said it was necessary to cleanse, consecrate (that’s a really good word study, BTW), and prepare his priests for the next step, which was~~

“After this, they may go into the Tabernacle to do their work, because you have purified them and presented them as a special offering.”

Now the priest could get to the real work of why they were made priest to begin with!  First the purification, THEN the service.

Hmm.  So why do we think we have to clean up our act before we come to God??  Why do we think we can work our way into God’s favor?  Clearly, we simply can’t clean up our own act; they couldn’t even do that in the Old Testament!  (That’s why they had to keep killing off all those poor cattle.) And Jesus came into our very messy world to die on a very excruciating cross to provide us with this purity of Relationship with God—FIRST.

In fact, that’s the horse part.  That redeemed Relationship is what provides the “horse-power” for every other service, every other sacrifice, and every other thing that goes into the cart that follows—BEHIND.   

The interesting part of this Relationship is that purity doesn’t mean perfection, it means process.  Because the horse never comes by itself; no, it always comes with a cart.  Always.  In other words, there are no perfect Christians, only serving ones who are in process of becoming perfected in the service of their King.

Which means He’s not intimidated by what might be in your blue cupboard…or mine.

Numbers 8:14,15  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.

Things that don’t make sense…

wood 2Things that don’t make sense:

  1. Why flight attendants give instructions on how to use the inflatable life jacket on a flight from Kansas City to to Los Angeles. It seems these items would be much benefit flying over Kansas wheat fields or the Rockies. Granted, my geography isn’t so good, but maybe they know something I don’t?  (Corollary: why don’t we get parachutes instead?)
  2. Why “flammable” and “inflammable” mean the same thing. (As if the English language isn’t confusing enough, even for those of us who grew up with it.)
  3. Why a black hat stands for the bad guy and a white hat stands Continue reading “Things that don’t make sense…”

Chocolate: a little something for everyone, (HO! Yeah…)

Get out the chocolate Easter eggs!  Anyone remember this little slogan from Hershey’s chocolate?

I’m fascinated how the Bible has something for everyone.  For the artists, the adventurers, those who love the ancient equivalent of chick-flicks, and (gulp!) yes, even horror stories! This is a tome that communicates both in the concrete and the abstract, through definite laws and regulations, as well as metaphor and poetry and song.  

So here’s a nugget for those of us who are treasure hunters, looking for veins of gold in the pages that most of us are tempted to just skim over.  For me, one of those Continue reading “Chocolate: a little something for everyone, (HO! Yeah…)”

Excuse #5: I’m an expert at being a novice; Excuse #6: ….

See my garden?  Ain’t it pretty?  gardenmess

(NOT!)  Obviously, there was some needed work that didn’t happen prior to winter.  No problem, though.  The compost pile is doing its thing, and my tools (and back muscles) are getting ready to do theirs in the coming spring season.  As even an inexperienced gardener like me can surmise, the ground needs some serious work unless I want to cultivate weeds. 

weedsActually, I’m not even sure that these are…

No matter; they gotta go, and I have the gear to get it done.  My expert-gardener sister-in-law even bought me a kneeling pad to protect my knees, bless her little heart!  (I also invested in some volleyball knee pads from the garage sale next door—R-E-A-L-L-Y helps, especially on rocky soil.)

 So, why haven’t I accomplished this yet?

 Excuse #1: I have a full time job. 

Excuse #2: I have volunteer activities. 

Excuse #3: I’m a homemaker (ie, I cook real food, do the laundry, etc.)

Excuse #4: I also have other interests, (like blogging, for instance!) 

 I know, I know, I’m beginning to sound like this~~ 

But that’s not what God sounds like when He says this:

“For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: Break up your ground left uncultivated for a season, so that you may not sow among thorns.”

And then again…

“…Break up your uncultivated ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, to inquire for and of Him, and to require His favor, till He comes and teaches you righteousness and rains His righteous gift of salvation upon you.”

Same thought from two different prophets; I’m thinking God is trying to get a point across to His people.  Which, of course, applies to me, since I’m now one of “His people”.  It’s just so easy to allow issues and situations to remain buried in our hearts and souls, supposedly hidden, sometimes even hidden from our own internal vision. 

I can see this being (yet another) reason why we need each other—bumping up against others in life has a way of revealing myself…to myself.  Then there’s quantity time alone with God on my own, learning His mind on things, my things.  It can sometimes be an uncomfortable process, breaking up clods of offense and wrong thinking and pride, but to put it off is eternally unproductive.

So, when the Lord comes to pick some fruit, what will be your excuse? 

Jeremiah 4:3; Hosea 10:12 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)  Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

*-*

In other words…

stone-1561036_1920

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

1 Corinthians 9:19-22  Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.