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Monday, June 30, 2014

 
Back in the day...
 
 
and now...
 
I am so grateful to my man for working two jobs so that we could have insurance.  But he is worn out, and we qualify for coverage another way.  So he will no longer be at the Salvation Army where he was in charge of transitional housing for those who graduated from their rehab program.  There was a lot of stress working with those clients whom he loved going through their successes and failures.  He touched a lot of lives there.   Monday was his last day.
 

 


His boys are excited to go to the gym with him this week.  He is teaching them "to eat honor," how to be truthful and to serve.   That's who my man is.  He has spent his life eating honor like a knight of old.  He wields his sword as a powerful teacher/preacher of the Word, the source of honor on which he voraciously feeds reading the Greek and Hebrew versions in his daily devotions for which he rises early, 4 or 5 in the morning.


He is courageously walking into the unknown future still seeking God's will in his life as he leads his family.  One thing is certain.  He will step over the line and join all those who joined Joshua saying,

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Joshua 24:15
 
"But you are to cling to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day."
Joshua 23:8
 
 
"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!
Do not tremble or be dismayed
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

 
My hero for forty one years. 
Happy Anniversary!



Nibbling woes...


We spent one Fourth of July when I was a child in Wichita, Kansas.  It was so hot that day that we looked for a body of water to cool down.  The nearby lake was overflowing with picnickers.  We finally found a little stream outside of town away from the crowd.  While standing still in that river, the minnows would come and nibble our legs.  It's a strange feeling to be fish bait.


My grown daughter was swimming with her three year old grandson and pretended to come up and nibble his toes.  His wide-eyed, scared response was, "Mimi, it's me!"

Sometimes we allow nibbling woes to disconcert us.  We want to challenge God, "God, it's me!  Don't let it get me!"


Sometimes it's hard to stay afloat.

It's my birthday, though, and one with so many candles, sixty in fact, that a fireman must be on stand by (fortunately a son in law is a fireman), and so I found a passage about a cake...



"And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life...and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, 'It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life...And he lay down and slept...and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, 'Arise, eat.'  Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water.  So he ate and drank and lay down again.  And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, 'Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.'"  I Kings 19:3-7


Sometimes we think the journey is too great.  We need naps.  But we wake up to a birthday cake that says we have made it so far on our journey and can go on.  We blow out the candles and keep going.

""Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold , the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'  And he said, 'I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword.  And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.'  So he said, 'Go forth, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.'  And behold, the Lord was passing by!  And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the  fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing (a small, still voice).  And it came about when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.  And behold, a voice came to him and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'  Then he said, 'I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword.  And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.'  And the Lord said to him, 'Go...anoint...'"  I Kings 19:9-15


Sometimes we are in the quaking-nibbling woes; sometimes we are causing a lot of hot air, the fire of so many candles on the cake and windy with the repetition of all our zealous work; but we need to hear the gentle blowing of the voice of God sweet to our ears.  No, we are not allowed to be cave dwellers, isolated, but rather to be sent out by God.  The work is not finished.  We must get up and go back to our calling.  We may think we are alone, but we are not. "Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him."  I Kings 19:18  It's okay not to be with the crowd, rather to be with the minority who has not been false to the King of Kings.  7,000, I believe, in Scripture represents a perfect number.  If God is satisfied, so must we be, not with exact numbers now, but with the realization that God's work is perfect, whatever He has called us to do.
 


This what I want to grow up to be.
 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014



American Basin, Michael Underwood Photography

I've had the privilege in years past of walking on narrow paths, on shale slopes, on steep hikes grabbing hold aspen by aspen, walking near sheer drop-offs, all to find beauty.  Now, I look out my window and enjoy the curtain blowing out the window, the crepe myrtle corsage nodding above the green of my lawn, the purple blooms of my butterfly bush hovering over the yard, the mini wilderness which the birds seek in the thick wisteria growth, as I sit.  More than that, I heed these words:

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And all these words...shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."  Deuteronomy 6:4-8


So it matters not whether I sit, walk, lie down, or rise up, I look to these words on my heart and find beauty.  "Teach me Thy way, O Lord: I will walk in Thy truth." Psalm 86:11
 
 
 
 
"If we seek, indeed, that all our ways may be His ways, if we resolve and pray that we will keep to the path of obedience, of trust, of duty; then we know that His angels are in charge of us, and that they can bear us nowhere beyond our Father's eye, His hand, His care." John Ellerton

I like that: "nowhere beyond our Father's eye, His hand, His care."


"If thou but suffer God to guide thee, 
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He'll give thee strength, what'ever betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days;
Who trusts in God's unchanging love,
Builds on the rock that naught can move."
Georg Neumark


Do you see the bird on the window pane?
Even in the midst of renovation, there is a heavenly accompaniment.
 
 
All other photographs of Chateau Dedanes, France

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Iron sharpens iron; either that or we stab one another...
 


I permanently scarred my daughter when she asked me as we left a fast-food joint, "Is there anything in my teeth?" I barely looked saying, "No," when in fact, to her mortification, she went around the next few hours with a husk of a pinto bean fastened to her tooth, up front and center.  She's worked for years to forgive me, and it became an ingrained  habit and routine to always ask, "Is there anything in my teeth?"  Now she carries a mirror because her mother is not to be trusted.



"How to identify a fellow mommy: Is that yogurt, applesauce, finger paint, glue, snot?  How did it get here and why won't it comb out?"  Denise Cortes.  (Little Betsy decided to paint her hair with clear nail polish last week, and nothing is taking it out.)



Whether it is telling one's spouse that their fly is down, their slip is showing, lipstick is on their tooth, or their immaturity is showing, we need to be a reflection to speak the truth in love.  There's a lot of people walking around out there with their foot in their mouths and egg on their faces because their spouses (is the plural of that 'spice'?) did not take the time to point something out to them or they refused to listen.  Save yourself some embarrassment and let iron sharpen iron.


I'm reading "Every Woman's Marriage," by Shannon and Greg Ethridge.  In it they say they can serve each other as a "full-length mirror in my life by pointing out the embarrassing 'spinach in my teeth,' such as impatience, pride, greed and selfishness--things I don't always notice about myself until I recognize that he notices them.  When my husband gently brings these issues to my attention, our marriage can feel like a refiner's fire.  These issues create incredible spiritual heat and bring my impurities to the surface and into plain sight.  When this happens, I can stubbornly refuse to address these issues, pretending they are not really there, or I can humbly ask God to help me skim these impurities out of my life so that I am refined and can accurately reflect Christ's perfection.  While we all hate to see the ugliness in our own lives, sanctification sessions can show us how we can grow spiritually and deepen our levels of personal holiness."

 
 
If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the marriage.
 
 
Gary Thomas, the author of "Sacred Marriage," writes:

"We must not enter marriage predominately to be fulfilled, emotionally satisfied, or romantically charged, but rather to become more like Jesus Christ.  We must embrace the reality of having our flaws exposed to our partner, and thereby having them exposed to us as well.  Sin never seems quite as shocking when it is known only to us; when we see how it looks or sounds to another, it is magnified ten times over...I wouldn't be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can't tolerate in their spouse."


The Ethridges continue..."Scripture tells us, 'As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.' (Proverbs 27:17)  The process of sharpening both iron and other people, however, requires friction.  In marriage we often come against rough edges that need to be smoothed out or dull places that need to be sharpened, both in our spouses and in ourselves.  The problem is some couples confuse sharpening with stabbing."


I chose my husband because he was a growing person that I found fascinating.  We married young as I married after my freshman year in college.  That meant, for us, three more years of schooling for me and five more for my husband who went on to do two masters degrees.  Those were growing years, sharpening years.  It is so important to grow together instead of growing apart.  I minored in what he majored in so that we had overlapping interests.  However, we soon found out that ironing out our differences, meant a whole other dimension when held up to Scripture, as the sparks flew upward.


That meant friction, iron sharpening iron, and often late nights before finals beating our brains out before finding common ground.  I don't know why we did not find more convenient times to hash things out.  For us, it was theology, ideas beaten over the anvil of Scripture with the sparks flying.  I know that probably isn't what your latest argument with your spouse was about.  But for us, it was the necessary foundation of our marriage before going into a lifetime of ministry together.  Besides, as we clashed we knew we were getting stronger wielding the Sword of the Spirit.  It was to that purpose, to build up the spiritual muscles, not to stab each other to death.  Sparks flew, nonetheless.

 
The funny thing is that one of our first arguments during married life is that it irritated him to hang around after church just visiting when he wanted to make a beeline home.  Ha!  Little did he know that he would become a pastor and spend the next few decades being the last one out of the church to lock up.

This has served us well over the past forty-one years of marriage.  We test our decisions with Scripture and in unity and harmony with each other.  Sparks fly much less frequently, indeed rarely now as we have grown as comfortable as a pair of old shoes with each other.  He's left and I'm right.  (Just kidding.)  He is not a "Yes, dear," kind of man.  I remember waking up to the fact that the babe in Christ that I married had matured past me and became the spiritual leader in our home.  That took adjustment on my part to allow that to happen: more listening and less telling.  (I don't know if he noticed that.)

It is a beautiful thing to be refined by fire, even if sparks have flown.

"Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you..."
(II Timothy 1:6)
In your gift of marriage, fan the flames
even if it gets a little hot in the kitchen.



"But what if there should be some way in which the prayers of all souls may blend like the many violins?  Imagine one mighty prayer made up of all the desires of all the hearts God ever made, breaking like a huge wave against the foot of His throne!" (George MacDonald, "The Shopkeepers Daughter")
 

What a beautiful thought concerning prayer.  I imagine what God hears is rather like a symphony tuning up rather than a concert of beautiful music under His directing.  He taught us to pray, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  This is beyond the muttering of words; it must be the heart cry.  What if that was the exquisite harmony that approached the throne from true believers? 


Job groaned, "...my prayer is pure...Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, And my advocate is on high."  (Job 16:17,19)

The opposite of this is "my will be done, in heaven as it is on earth."  Is that more of what we pray, telling God to do our will?  Nowadays, I feel like a child following God waiting to see what is around each corner that He has for my delight as I seek His will.  Following my will is exhausting with dead ends.  "Thy will," is perfection of prayer which makes beautiful music before the throne joining in with the angels singing "Holy, holy, holy."

 

As for "praying without ceasing," that goes along with Micah 6:8, "He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God."  That means the constant breath in harmony with the breath of His Holy Spirit in us teaching us to pray with His hand clasping ours.



*Picture by Laurie Finchum
 

Monday, June 23, 2014

 
 
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Gratitude's Attitude...

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Feasting the eyes on beauty,  I can never be satiated  Can anyone see enough of God's creation and not say, "It is good (things created) It is very good (dust to man, rib to woman)"?  And yet, we sometimes get our eyes fixated on lesser things failing to see the big picture.  It's like a beautiful woman who instead of capturing the eye with a smile expects us to notice her painted toe nails.


If you saw her, would you look at her toenails, her fingernails,
 her bobbles first, or her face, her eyes, her smile?


What does God still see in His crowning achievement?  A happy countenance or a grumpy, frumpy face.  Let the breath of God once again breathe into His creation to fill the heart with a fire that burns from within that glows, shining through with pure love.  Gratitude's attitude is compelling.

 




Does the piercing or tattooing or streaking or revealing apparel accentuate what God has made?  Perhaps to some eyes.   Man looks at the outward, but God looks at the heart.  God who created the skin, the lashes, the hair, the lips, looks beyond the husk of life to the sweet kernel within.  How can we improve on His creation?


I find it an astonishing thought that though His most beautiful fulfillment of His imagination is man and woman, and yet He says:


"Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature...for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  (I Samuel 16:7)


Yet in the context of the story of Samuel following God's direction finds David, "Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance."  (I Samuel 16:12)


God thought His creation good, His finished work, very good. Yet, the heart?  Very, very good when a heart is completely His in love.


And yet, when He wanted to express perfect love, what did He do?  He gave a baby, His child.  What can we do with a God like that?

Welcome perfect bundle of God's love, Luca Carlos!

 
*Michael Underwood photography, Lake City, Colorado

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Children's Church Challenge: the children are to ask members of the congregation, "Do you know what significant, important thing Paul's nephew did?"  Do you know?


We have a tightly knit family, double cousins even.  I think any of them would rise to the challenge of saving each other's lives if given the opportunity.  But love is a risk.  It always has been.  Just ask Jesus.

 

There is a little known story of Paul's nephew in Acts.  I think it is important to relate to our children the bravery of one young man.  He had grown up observing Paul's obsessive devotion to be a Pharisee among Pharisees, teaching the Law and passionately opposing The Way.  Paul went so far in his zeal as to drag men and women from their homes to be martyred for their Christian faith.  Paul even held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen. 


This young man saw Paul's world turned upside down when God met him on the way to persecute more Christians.  God knocked him off his ass onto his, well, you know.  He was blinded by the Light so he could see the Light.  He heard God's voice, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 22:7) By the way, God was the one who changed Saul's name to Paul.



The young man watched his uncle, after Paul's many experiences on his missionary trips, come back to Jerusalem.   They probably had a little family reunion.  Can you imagine that conversation around the dinner table?  Did Paul tell his family that he had been warned by a prophet that he would be bound and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles?  Was that the dinner conversation?


How the tables had turned on this Pharisee.  Now Paul was causing an uproar, "all of Jerusalem was in confusion." Somehow, the young nephew overheard a plot against Paul that forty men would not eat or drink until they killed Paul.


The Romans were in consternation over this Paul guy.  They had rescued him from a mob at the temple like carrying him out of a mosh pit.  Then because he asked, they let him speak to the crowd on the stairs.  A riot continued, so the plan was to beat some sense into him since they had no idea what the problem was, asking "who he was and what he had done?"  Then after being not only chained but tied with thongs for a beating, Paul said, "By the way, I'm a Roman."  Everything they had done to Paul was illegal and they were shaking in their sandals. 


 

Meanwhile, Paul's nephew gets into the jail and tells him of the plot.  So Paul sends him up to the Roman commander to tell him.  As a result, they secretly take Paul out of Jerusalem, by night, saying, "Get two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night...with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen.  They were also to provide mounts to put Paul on and bring him safely to Felix the governor." (Acts 23:23-24)
 
 
 

Those poor forty guys who were lying in ambush to kill Paul had to watch the army go by with Paul, while their stomachs growled and their thirsty tongues clung to the roof of their mouths.  It was all due to God using one brave young man, Paul's nephew, to fulfill God's desire in Paul's life to be sent to Rome. 


Meanwhile, all along the way, Paul was able to witness to the highest authorities in the land about "a certain dead man Jesus."  One even said, "Almost thou persuadeth me."  After a shipwreck on the way to Rome, Paul spent his years of jail in Rome writing many letters to his churches which became part of the New Testament," Paul was finally killed by one of the most Jew-hating, blood thirsty, craziest rulers of Rome, Nero himself who used bodies of Jewish martyrs as human torches for his entertainment, and fiddled while Rome burned.
 

 


A key player in Paul getting to Rome was his own nephew, one brave young man who testified before the highest Roman centurion in the land.  Let's just hope those forty men hungry for the blood of Paul never learned that Paul's nephew was the spy who revealed their plot.  Scripture is silent on that, but the young man was a hero.  He wasn't like David who took a giant's head off: he was a hero in that he saved a little giant of a man of the Gospel and helped him keep his head on long enough to write much of the New Testament.



Do you ever remember hearing about that nephew?  Could you have answered those Sunday School kids?  Well, now you can.
 


 The children were awarded "Freedom" gum (Freedent) for answering questions
and then we played "Badmen" (badminton) with rackets made of paper plates with wooden clothes pens handles and a birdie.