Thursday, December 13, 2012

Darkness to Light--An Advent Thought


I guess it’s no mistake that Advent is the darkest time of the year. Not only do we have the least number of hours of daylight, but the weather also tends toward gloomy and dark. Add to that the sin-darkness of our planet, the sickness and poverty around us, and the seemingly never-ending wait for answered prayers, and we easily get into the subdued and melancholy world of Advent.

The Christmas rush and loudness contrasts this blackness of spirit. People either tend to block out any spiritual meditation on the season by an endless stream of numbing busyness and frivolity, or they find themselves in a funk of life’s troubles.

But, I praise God for Advent. We look forward, not to just Christmas festivities, but to the actual coming of Christ into our lives with light and hope. My old friend, Charles Spurgeon, in his devotional on this date, sums it up perfectly:

 

Evening Brightens into Day

It shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.—Zechariah 14:7

“It is a surprise that it should be so; for all things threaten that at evening I time it shall be dark. God is wont to work in a way so much above our fears and beyond our hopes that we are greatly amazed and are led to praise His sovereign grace. No, it shall not be with us as our hearts are prophesying: the dark will not deepen into midnight, but it will on a sudden brighten into day. Never let us despair. In the worst times let us trust in the LORD who turneth the darkness of the shadow of death into the morning. When the tale of bricks is doubled Moses appears, and when tribulation abounds it is nearest its end. This promise should assist our patience. The light may not fully come till our hopes are quite spent by waiting all day to no purpose. To the wicked the sun goes down while it is yet day: to the righteous the sun rises when it is almost night. May we not with patience wait for that heavenly light, which may be long in coming but is sure to prove itself well worth waiting for? Come, my soul, take up thy parable and sing unto Him who will bless thee in life and in death, in a manner surpassing all that nature has ever seen when at its best.”


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Morning Psalm

Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled. Psalm 65:1

I like that word, “awaits.” We don’t use it much, but it suggests to me pictures of gifts under the Christmas tree, or on the table decorated for the baby shower. We have read in scripture about Zion, the city of God in Heaven, and the praise that will fill the air there: Hosts of angels and people from every nation singing and worshiping our God. We can’t even imagine what that will sound like, or the joy that will fill all of the Creation.

I think of the local church as the “little Zion,” in that those God has called to belong to Him gather and as a company praise Him. I look forward to every Sunday worship service. I hope God looks forward to it too. I think of the music in my bag, my organ shoes, the hymnal on the organ, the preparations I’ve made, and how they “await” the chance to praise God.

I think of the words, carefully chosen, written and printed in bulletins laboriously put together and folded, that praise God and exalt His goodness. They “await” the hour when the church will gather and speak and read together. The soloist’s and the choir’s practice and the aural expectations they have put together “await” the time of presentation to God. The communion elements, the ushers’ plates, the new batteries sitting in microphones all “await” the time when all will come together to praise God.

And why, do all these things wait for the hour when they will all fit together? The Psalm tells us, because…when we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. INDEED!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Instant

We live in an “instant” world. Since World War II, more and more products on the market bear the label. We have instant soup, instant pudding, instant weather reports, instant fast-food, and even instant heart rate using your phone.

In this context it seems pretty unlikely that we can find the word “instant” in the Bible. Yet, there’s this from Romans 12:12(KJV) Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; a description of serious Christians.

As an illustration, I look to Nehemiah from chapter 1and 2 of the book named for him. In Nehemiah 2:4 (NIV) we read, The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God in heaven, and I answered… Sounds like an instant prayer to me.

But would Nehemiah’s prayer have carried much weight with God had the following not happened? (Nehemiah 1:4 NIV) When I heard these things [about the trouble in Jerusalem], I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. That was anything but instant prayer.

It seems to me that God answers “instant” prayers, especially when they are accompanied by a long habit of prayer. Like instant coffee that satisfies when we can’t get the real thing, instant prayers should be our watchword throughout the day. The way for those prayers to succeed is to offer them in combination with a life of devoted prayer. If all you did was “instant-message” someone, they would not likely respond well, but if you often talked for longer periods with this person and knew him or her really well, an “instant-message” would probably get extra attention.

God admonishes us to pray instantly when we need Him, but He wants more than quick “help me” prayers. He wants to know us intimately and to make real conversation with us. So save the “instant prayers” for emergencies and quick reminders.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Wait…and Hurry Up!

You’ve heard the expression, “Hurry up and wait.” I think of this when I’ve hurried around all morning to make a doctor’s appointment. Then when I get there I sit in the waiting room or exam room for another hour before the doctor can see me.

Then there are the commercials that say, “Hurry! Call now…but wait.” And then they give you more of a deal than you can possibly pass up.

But, in Scripture, it seems that God makes us wait…and wait…and wait. Then when He begins to act, things happen at the speed of sound.

I think of two stories in the Old Testament. One is the story of Joseph from Genesis 39. Potiphar threw Joseph into prison under false accusations. Joseph languished in prison for two years waiting for release. The one person who said he would stick up for him on the outside, forgot him.

BUT, one day, the man remembered. Pharaoh met with Joseph and Joseph was “quickly” brought out. He was elevated to serve Pharaoh serving as governor of the entire land of Egypt.

The other major story of the Old Testament, one which gets told year after year by the Jews on Passover, is the story of the Jews as slaves in Egypt. In Exodus 2:23 we read:

...The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.

For forty years they had waited for relief. Even after Moses went to them to rescue them as God had instructed, they had to wait while God dealt with the rebellious Egyptians with punishing plagues.

BUT, on the night that the Angel of the Lord came to strike Egypt’s firstborn, Pharaoh instructed Moses and Aaron, as recorded in Exodus 12:31-39:

“Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested…33The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country…34So, the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing…39bThe dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.

Amazing! There are other places in scripture where you see the word “quickly.” Usually God is working in such a situation.

When we think we have been forgotten, and have waited longer than any human should ever have to, God shows up and says “Hurry!” May we be encouraged while we wait that there WILL come a day when circumstances begin to move at lightning speed.

Glory to God!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Places and the Sons of Korah

I don’t know if there is Dutch ancestry from the Korah family, but if there is, I’m pretty sure I share it. The Psalms written for or by the Sons of Korah, these temple singers and door keepers, really resonate with me. For one thing, these Psalms talk about places.

Places have a special meaning to me. It may seem like a strange thing, or even a wrong thing to value, but I have always loved places.

From the way I viewed a certain grove of trees in the sunlight on my family farm when I was a child, to the elementary school with its large green park-like grounds where I taught for 24 years, to my present dining room with its warm honey tones, I love places. I might add that some spots even seem holy to me. God has met me there. Some are so dear that I reserve the memories to my own secret thoughts. I couldn’t begin to describe the beauty of these spaces anyway.

In Psalm 48, the Sons of Korah describe the place of worship—the city of our God, his holy mountain. See how they describe it: beautiful, lofty, the joy of the whole earth. In another of their psalms, Psalm 84, these servants of God yearn and faint for the courts of the Lord. They describe those who dwell there like birds who have found a home, a place near to God Himself. No wonder they proclaim, Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.

It seems to me that many Christians have never stopped long enough to ponder the beauty of places. Maybe God has just given these people a different value system. As for me though, I find visual beauty a very important aspect of worship. If God took care to even assign “designers” to help with the original place of corporate worship, the tabernacle (really a large portable tent), how much more must HE too appreciate all we can do to adorn the place where we gather to exalt Him.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Hide-Out

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 NKJ

As a child I always cast jealous eyes on other children’s playhouses or clubhouses. In fact, I remember my sister and me studying one of the chicken brooder houses on our farm to see if we might "remodel" it. Inside the farmhouse we often made tents out of laundry racks and blankets. Under the warm light of a flashlight, we tucked ourselves away in our safe fantasy place.

Other secret places captivated me too. I remember seeing movies of houses with bookcases that turned and revealed either a secret passage or a little room. When I read the autobiography of Corrie TenBoom, The Hiding Place, it was fascinating to read where her family hid the Jews within their small house during World War II. Clever hiding rooms were built for slaves escaping north before the Civil War—all designed to be kept secret, except to those who knew the codes of the Underground Railroad.

But here, in this scripture, we read that the Most High God has a secret place for those who would go to Him for hiding. And what are these escapees hiding from? We read of snares, deadly pestilences, terrors, arrows, plagues, armies, disasters of all kinds. No matter what our personal worlds throw against us, those things are on the outside of that secret place in which we can go. Often times, there are others who hide with us against the same outside forces. I envision a light, maybe a lantern, filling the small space with light and warmth, because the Spirit of God, our Light provides this place for us.

I am comforted by this reminder, and the picture of a place that says, "All is well. Rest."Enjoy the fellowship of this small space until the danger is past. The Most High has provided for you.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pleased

Reading in the Psalms one day, I came across a verse that usually wouldn’t get much of a notice. Psalm 40:13:

Be pleased, O Lord, to save me;
     O Lord, come quickly to help me.

I wondered how God would exhibit being “pleased.” Would He laugh or chuckle to Himself like an earthly father planning a special treat for his son or daughter? Would He smile and just enjoy thinking about how wonderful His servant would feel when delivered from the trouble he or she carries?

This thought encouraged me to look up other scriptures about the pleasure God feels with us. Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 12:32:

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

And in 1 Corinthians 1:21, the Apostle Paul states that:

God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

It appears that God takes pleasure in showing His ability to take the “little,” the “foolish” and the impossible for His glory and the blessing of His people. So I went back to the verse that first caught my attention. Psalm 40 was written by David and expresses the pain, dire circumstances, and absolute ruin he faced. He was at the end of his rope. He had no hope but God. How wonderful to hear his prayer for God to come quickly, but also to “be pleased” (to have fun doing so!)

It increases my faith to remember that God takes pleasure in helping His people, no matter how insignificant, how ridiculously undone they are. What joy to know He takes pleasure in our relief and loves to see how we acknowledge His hand in our rescue.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Night Shift

In her book, The Fruits of the Spirit, Evelyn Underhill writes:

“There is always night shift and sooner or later we are put on it. The praise does not cease with the fading of the light, but goes on through the spiritual night as well as the spiritual day.”

She refers to Psalm 134:

1 Praise the LORD, all you servants of the LORD
        who minister by night in the house of the LORD.
2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
        and praise the LORD.
3 May the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth,
        bless you from Zion.

Ms. Underhill goes on to say:

“And if you are picked for the night shift—well, praise the Lord. Lift up your hands in the dark sanctuary of your soul when you are tempted to wonder what is good of it all, and praise the Lord!

And...

...the Lord, maker of heaven and earth
    will bless you from Zion.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Boatload of Trouble

The disciples had just helped feed 5,000 people near the Lake of Galilee. They must have been tired. However, Mark chapter six relates that Jesus told them to get into a boat and go across the lake to Bethsaida. By the time they reached about half way, they had a "Mid-trip Crisis." A furious storm came up, and because the wind blew against them, they strained at the oars. Have you ever felt you were "straining at the oars" against a storm someone else had gotten you into?

To make this even harder to understand, Jesus could see them in this predicament as He waited on shore. And He DID wait—until sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m.—to go to them. Jesus stayed where He was and prayed. This story contains the miracle of Jesus walking on the water and terrifying the disciples as He came alongside them. His words must have brought great relief to them, these hardened fishermen who saw many storms on this lake. He spoke, "Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid." Then He climbed into the boat and the wind died down. John chapter six adds that "Immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading."

Jesus may leave us "in the boat straining at the oars" way beyond what we think our strength can bear. He wants to build our endurance and our faith. But, what sweet relief we feel when we know He has come to us and joined us in the storm. He can speak peace to us in that terrible place and what is more, help us immediately get to our destination.

When we feel that God has left us alone in the storm, we can be assured by this story that He watches us and prays for us like He did for the disciples. We can have confidence to keep going until such time as He reaches us and "climbs into the boat!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dirty Dudes

“Dirty Dudes Done Dirt Cheap” reads a sign outside a local laundromat. A mistake of one letter can change a meaning to a startling degree!

All of us, as sinners, could be referred to as “dirty dudes.” BUT, our Savior’s cleansing of us carried a heavy cost for Him. One He was willing to pay. We ought to rejoice daily in the price paid to take away our filthiness. The apostle Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 1:18-19, For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

“Dirty dudes?” Yes. “Done Dirt Cheap?” I think not!

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Called YOU!

Maybe you have had this experience: You call a friend to ask a question, but the minute she hears your voice she starts in sharing (or dumping) concerns of her own on you. After twenty or so minutes of conversation, you wonder if it’s worth bringing up your matter to her.

I’m wondering if this happens to God all the time. We come to meet with Him, but before He can share with us, we have dumped all our concerns on Him, and scarcely give Him a chance to speak. Yes, I believe He invites us to give Him our burdens, and cast our cares on Him, but to do this as our usual practice without listening poses a real problem.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 (NIV) says:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.
We learn from the story of Adam that God made us for fellowship with Himself. He has plenty He wants to teach us. In the midst of storming heaven with our prayers, we need to remember that what God says to us far outweighs what we have to say to Him! And maybe, just maybe, when we listen to Him, we will hear the answer to the deepest questions of our hearts.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In the Wilderness

Maybe you feel like God has dropped you off at some remote location—alone—no friends that you know, and you don’t much like the place. It has unappealing plainness, devoid of excitement or happy companionship, and you have done nothing to deserve the exile. You may be experiencing a “wilderness” specifically for God’s purposes, and for no other reason.

Hear what the prophet Hosea (2:14-15, 23) has to say:

14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing[b] as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

In his daily devotional, Faith’s Checkbook, Charles Spurgeon writes,

He promises to draw us apart, for there He can best deal with us, and this separated place is not to be a paradise, but a wilderness, since in such a place there will be nothing to take off our attention from our God. In the deserts of affliction the presence of the Lord becomes everything to us, and we prize His company beyond any value which we set upon it when we sat under our own vine and fig tree in the society of our fellows. Solitude and affliction bring more to themselves and to their heavenly Father than any other means.
When thus allured and secluded the Lord has choice things to say to us for our comfort. He “speaks to our heart,” as the original has it. Oh, that at this we may have this promise explained in our experience! Allured by love, separated by trial, and comforted by the Spirit of truth, may we know the Lord and sing for joy!

As He draws us into the wilderness, He speaks comfort and hope to us. Even though usually we hear the message of hope and comfort from Messiah by Handel at Christmas time, it speaks to us anytime we find ourselves in this wilderness place. Please watch and listen to this video:

(Note: If you cannot see the video, your browser does not have a Flash plug-in.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Faith-full Friends

We read the story in Matthew, Mark and Luke: the story of Jesus healing the paralytic.

1A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” ... 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
(Mark 2: 1-5, 11-12 NIV)

Recently I’ve heard two different ministers preach on this story. The first emphasized that we, as Christians, should—like the men in the story—seek out those whom we can help, no matter how inconvenient for us. This emphasis was about ministry to strangers.

The second minister who preached told how the paralytic man instructed the men who tended him to get him to Jesus, even suggesting to them that they lower him through the roof. In this rendition of the story, the emphasis was on the faith of the sick man.

In reading the story again for myself, and remembering other sermons I’ve heard about it, I disagree with both of these interpretations. I believe these four men who brought the paralytic man to see Jesus were friends, and I believe that Jesus saw THEIR faith and healed the man.

Often, after a drawn out period of suffering of one kind or another, a person has prayed and waited and prayed more, even with astounding faith, but nothing seems to happen. I remember many years ago now when my husband’s diabetic foot had become infected, he’d lost two toes, and the doctors told him all the bones in that foot were infected. The primary surgeon sent us to a specialized orthopedic surgeon. This second doctor looked at the x-rays and told us that he could see no hope for saving this foot except to take my husband’s leg off at the knee. We thought that recommendation would likely persuade our primary surgeon to take this drastic step.

During the same week as our next appointment with the primary surgeon, two friends of ours fasted and prayed three days for my husband. When we next saw the primary surgeon, he strongly disagreed with the orthopedist and, instead, sent us to an infectious disease specialist. This man put my husband on a strong regimen of antibiotics over a long period. My husband still has his leg today after thirteen years.

Yes, Jesus could have seen and acted in response to our faith. But, He also saw the faith of our praying friends and answered them dramatically. If God prompts us to pray for someone who has reached the end of his or her own resources, we can be sure He intends great wonders for him or her, just like He did for the paralytic.


Monday, July 2, 2012

The Huddle

I’ve never played on a sports team, but I’ve watched enough basketball games on television to ponder what players do in a time-out huddle during those three minutes or so of “down” time. I see them reconnect on the sidelines with all the other members of the team whether or not they participate in the game.

Sometimes I see the coach scribbling directions for the next play on a hand-held chalk board. Sometimes he or she gets in the face of a player who seems to disappoint the coach by the way this particular player is handling the game. Sometimes I watch as assistant coaches put in their “two cents” by chewing out a player or patting them on the back.

Most often, at the end of the time-out, I see the players, all wearing the same uniform, relate to one another by putting arms around each other and cheering each other on for the next round of difficult play. They connect on a deep level and remind each other that they are all in this together.

In my opinion, the local church should operate as a sports team. Members “huddle” every week as they meet for worship. Some come to church needing exhortation or warning. Others need encouragement through the felt love of the Body of Christ. They recognize that they all wear the garments of salvation and belong to the same family. Though each has different gifts, it is the same Spirit by which they live.

The “coach” and other leaders must try to study the needs of the individuals within this local Body and provide for ways to exhort, encourage, and inspire a sense of belonging. In this way, all the “players” go away prepared to play the game with new vigor and understanding of their roles.

The harder the game, the more intense and important the huddle seems to be. As the days of our life become difficult and as the time comes closer to Christ’s return, we should heed the words of the author of Hebrews in Hebrews 10:23-25:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Salvaged

On my way into the city I always pass a scrap metal recycling yard. Huge heaps and heaps of twisted, rusted, discarded metal and steel obscure the landscape. I imagine what purposes these pieces of thrown-away fragments once served. Some were, no doubt, shiny family automobiles, or the pride of a young driver, or school buses that transported energized and noisy students on their daily runs to and fro.

Other pieces probably served to heat or cool food in new kitchens, or to wash and dry clothes. There lies a twisted baby highchair and a rusted old backyard fence. The squashed bodies of vacuum cleaners and filing cabinets no longer can be recognized. Each item, once useful and carefully handled by owners, now no longer serves its original purpose.

I realize that I, like that old metal, was thrown on a scrap heap of sin and ruin one day, and that God thought, “I’d like to salvage that one for a new use!” He could see what no one else could. Indeed, He called me to accept His salvaging process so that He could change me completely and forever.

The King James scriptures put it this way in Titus 3:5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved [salvaged] us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

When I look up the term Regeneration in the dictionary, I find this definition: a renewal or reform of a person to a better, higher or more worthy state. The definition of Salvage reads: something extracted from rubbish as valuable or useful, to save from wreckage.

How grateful I am that God, through Christ, saw me available for His purifying and reforming process, and in His love and creativity salvaged me from the wrecking ball for a new and greater purpose. I will never look at that scrap yard the same way!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tho' The Wrong

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget that
though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.

by M. Babcock

King Nebuchadnezzar had determined to kill Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, so he threw them into the firey furnace. To be sure they wouldn’t escape, he heated the fire seven times hotter than usual, and bound their hands and feet.

But God…is the Ruler yet.

King Darius, persuaded by his administrators and advisors, threw Daniel into the lion’s den. To make sure he wouldn’t escape, they brought a stone to cover the mouth of the den and the king sealed it.

But God…is the Ruler yet.

After Jesus was buried, they rolled a huge stone across the opening of Jesus’ tomb and set guards so that He couldn’t escape.

But God…is the Ruler yet.

The Roman magistrates in Philippi imprisoned Paul and Silas for freeing a young woman from devils. Not only did they strip and beat them, they severely flogged them, put them into an inner cell of the prison, and fastened their feet in stocks, to make sure they didn’t escape.

But God…is the Ruler yet.

HE always has the last word!!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Look

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:61-62

The Kindergarten teacher had them trained. When she gave important directives to her students, she would say, “And I mean…” to which they would respond, “BUSINESS!” The corresponding “look” expressed her serious expectation, and from then on, all she had to do to remind them of her orders was to give them the “look.” They could read her solemn warning, as well as her disappointment, merely by reading her face. After all, as HER students, she counted on them to not betray her confidence.

Even the apostle Peter needed reminding with the “look” that Jesus gave him, and in that moment, He remembered the warning and saw the disappointment in Jesus’ eyes. How often has the Lord instructed us about a serious matter that He has expected us to obey, only to experience disappointment with our forgetful behavior and our betrayal of His confidence? Do we neglect in the first place to see that He means BUSINESS, and think like Peter did that he had the situation well in hand, not needing the reminder.

The Lord knows us so much better than we do, can see ahead the dangers and pitfalls to which we readily fall prey, and often speaks to us through His word concerning the matter. How much better to heed the warning than to have to deal with the “look” of disappointment that He gives us when we fail Him. What a joy instead to see His look of pleasure when we listen closely, heed His word, and take each matter seriously that He brings to our attention. Has He recently spoken a word to you, as His child, and in so many words said, “And I mean BUSINESS!”

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Fly

Little fly upon the wall,

Ain’t you got no clothes at all?

Ain’t you got no shimmy shirt? Ain’t you got no petti skirt?

Poor little fly,

Ain’t you cold?

(as told to me by my Grandma Raymond)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Nest

One fine May day, similar to this one, I drove to the local garden shop to pick out my yearly “annuals” to plant around my house. I had decided to hang a planter on my front porch, so I chose one with pretty blossoms and lush green leaves.

Once home, I used a ladder to hang the plant high enough that it wouldn’t collide with the heads of those who unthinkingly strode into its path. Even though I could barely reach it, I could use my long necked watering can to reach in and provide it with nourishment.

I enjoyed the plant for a few weeks, but then to my surprise, I saw a bird flying into and out of the foliage. “How strange!” I thought. I continued to water the plant, but more and more, I would see the bird fussing whenever I approached. As the summer wore on, it became obvious to me that this furry creature was a mother, sitting on her eggs IN MY PLANT! All the more reason to continue to water it.

As time progressed, the mother bird became more and more aggressive, flying at my head every time I would try to get near the plant with my watering can. This didn’t just happen a couple of times. It occurred over and over, until I decided avoidance of this dive bombing creature was healthier for me!

Sadly, the plant dried up, the leaves withered, and in the hot Connecticut summer, the baby birds died. I guess you could say this mother bird committed a “sin against the remedy.” If she had allowed me to continue watering the plant, she would have had a nice shady dwelling for her little ones. Instead, by her own unwise choices, they died.

People can be like this mother bird too. God sends us good things that He designed to build us up, to draw us together as His people, to nourish our young, to be a joy to us. And what do we do? Sometimes, we, like the mother bird, cast these things aside in our human wisdom. Jesus wept over Jerusalem for their unwillingness to accept His good things. In Matthew 23:37-38 we read: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.

Lord, help us to discern the difference between that which You have sent to enrich our lives with Your grace, and that which would be damaging. Forgive us for shutting out those whom You have sent to bless us and help us to know You better. Help us not to “sin against the remedy” You provide.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Peas

I eat my peas with honey.

I’ve done it all my life.

It makes the peas taste funny,

but it keeps them on my knife!

Anonymous

Monday, April 23, 2012

Whatever Happened to Potiphar's Wife?

You remember Potiphar’s wife. She figures into the story of Joseph in Genesis 39. He had been sold into Egypt by his brothers based on their jealousy of his apparent favor with their father and suggested by the gift of a beautiful cloak. You see, Potiphar held the position of Captain of the Guard in Egypt—I suppose like a Homeland Security Chief. He soon learned to trust Joseph, and left him in charge of all his house and everything he owned.

The Bible says that Joseph was well-built and handsome, and Potiphar’s wife had specific designs on him. One day, she took an opportunity to seduce him in the privacy of her home. Joseph refused to comply with her wishes and ran from the scene, leaving his cloak (another problem with a cloak!!) behind. Because Potiphar’s wife felt rejected and angry over this snubbing, she called all her household servants and reported his attempt to assault HER. She also reported this lie to her husband, and succeeded in getting Joseph placed in prison.

Even in prison, God’s favor on Joseph gave him privileges and success. Nevertheless, he stayed there two years because of this woman’s false charges against him. Through some more twists in the story, Joseph was noticed by Pharaoh for his skill and wisdom, and within a single day rose from a prisoner to Prime Minister of the whole land of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. This enabled him to not only spare the Egyptians from the famine ahead, but also his whole family, the nation of Israel.

Were there still people in the upper echelons of Egyptian government who believed Potiphar’s wife’s claims? Did she maintain her false charges? Did she continue to fight for retaliation against him? OR, did God show those who listened to her, in the years that followed this incident, the actual conniving person she was? As Moses told the people in Numbers 32:23, You can be sure that your sin will find you out.

I love the way this whole story ends for Joseph. What God allowed to look for so long like everything had turned against him, He changed in a moment of time. The nameless wife of Potiphar, seemingly in a position of power, never had the last word. Her attempt to undermine this servant of God came to nothing, and Joseph enjoyed God’s favor and the redemption of His people.

This story gives us hope that God will always vindicate His people who have been wronged. Sometimes He allows the injustice to continue for years, but we can be sure, that even if we have to wait until Judgment Day, He will exonerate His faithful servants.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fairest?

Remember the Wicked Queen in the story of Snow White, and her famous question of the mirror?
Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who’s the fairest of them all?
Of course, the only acceptable answer to her was that SHE was the fairest. When she learned that Snow White was the most beautiful maiden in the land, she set out to destroy her.

Unfortunately, in our dog-eat-dog world, we still can find people who look in their mirror and ask who in their kingdom is the “fairest of them all.” Some of these insecure and jealous people, who have set themselves up to gain the adulation of others, will do all they can to rid their tiny realms of anyone who is brighter, or more beautiful, or more popular, or more ___________. (You add the quality.)

Those of us who live in the Kingdom of God, come with insecurities and jealousies of our own too. We look at each other as competitors rather than as brothers and sisters, or as other parts of the Body of Christ. God has so designed us that He has arranged a place for all of us. No one can take the place of another. No one need feel insecure.

In fact, the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:4,
Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.
When we realize all that God has given us and the secure place in which He has set us, we can get down to the reason we live, which is to say,

Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.

—M√ľnster Gesangbuch

Monday, April 2, 2012

Stuck!

One spring day in my fourth or fifth year, I was enjoying exploring around the farm buildings where I grew up. Walking between two of the buildings, I found myself stuck in the mud. I was wearing my tall barn boots, but couldn’t pull myself out of the mess I was in. So, I did the only thing I knew to do. I yelled for my father to come pull me out. And he did!

Fast forward to another spring about twelve years later when I was learning to drive the car. One Sunday afternoon, I wanted my Dad to go driving with me, but he was tired and preferred napping. He told me I could take the Nash Rambler (stick shift) and drive it around the farmyard. I did fine driving up and down the driveways, backing and turning, using the clutch and gear shift, UNTIL, I decided to drive across the farmyard. This was exactly the area where many years before I had stood in the mud in my boots yelling for my Dad. You guessed it. I got the car stuck in the mud. Again, I had no choice but to run to the house and call my Dad to get me out. He interrupted his nap to get the tractor and pull me out.

I suspect that I had something to do with cleaning up the car that day. After all, we all knew where the blame lay.

Can we draw a life lesson from these muddy adventures? I think so. When we land in the mud, in order to get out successfully, we first need to acknowledge we have caused a problem. Then we need to call someone to get us out of the mess—and the best one to call is our Father, then, accept our role in the problem and thank Him for His help. Thirdly, we must clean up the mess as best as we can. It may take a long time to eventually get the mud out of all the crevices, but at least we’ve made an honest attempt to correct our fault.

Did my Father prevent me from getting my driving license because of this incident? Of course not. He realized that I had done all I could, learned from my mistake, and might even be a better driver for the experience. Our Heavenly Father treats us much the same way!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ducklings

The Middle School where I taught part-time was a monstrously large building of hallways, classrooms and courtyards. The courtyards were planted with flowers and trees and opened to the sky. Every spring for many years, a mother duck would fly into one of these spaces, lay her eggs and wait for them to hatch. A certain science teacher, whose classroom faced the courtyard, and his students, watched daily. Every spring they witnessed the hatching of several ducklings. Getting out of the courtyard with her ducklings was impossible for the mother because they had not yet learned to fly. So, every year, this science teacher would lead the parade of his furry friends through his classroom, down the long corridors, and out to the green meadows beyond.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hear the Whistle Blow

If you miss the train I’m on, you will know that I am gone,
You will hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.

Maybe it’s my background of learning and teaching folksongs, among them old songs about the railroad, but trains and the sounds they make in a distance intrigue me. From my bedroom I can hear the local trains coming and going and whistling through the crossings as they rumble on their way.

For a year I have felt like I am sitting on my luggage on a platform waiting for the train to come. I have sat through rain, wind, snow, cold, darkness of night and the aloneness out there by myself.

Now on a spring morning, I think I hear the whistle of a train in the distance. I am ready to embark on a new journey. Where the train will take me I do not know, nor who will be on the train with me, but finally I sense my days of waiting on the platform are coming to an end.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Two Little Words

All Christians need to come to the same conclusion that Jeremiah did. As he was lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem, he also reflected on his own griefs. He said, My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped FROM the Lord. (Lamentations 3:18) Yet after reflecting on the Lord’s great love, compassion and faithfulness, he added, The Lord is good to those whose hope is IN Him. (Lamentations 3:25)

We all ask for things FROM the Lord, but He will bring us to the place where we see His goodness in giving us Himself. When He becomes our portion, we can begin to accept what He gives us because we find our hope IN Him.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Exchange

“Trade ‘ya.” We picture two second graders eyeing each others’ sandwiches at the school lunch table. The motivation, of course, for such an exchange comes from a preference for something other than what one has. The most common exchange in our culture is money for goods, and the more equal the bargain seems, the better.

Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to China, used the term, The Exchanged Life, to describe his experience when he met Christ. Here we begin to see the absolute unbalance of the deal. Puritan writer, John Flavel, puts it this way:

We may say, “Lord, condemnation was yours, that justification might be mine; agony was yours, and victory mine; pain was yours, and ease is mine; stripes were yours, and healing mine; vinegar and gall were yours, that honey and sweet might be mine; the curse was yours, and the blessing mine; death was yours, that the crown of glory might be mine; death was yours, and eternal life mine!”… Christ says, “All I have is yours”, and we say: “Though my person is vile, and not worthy of being accepted, but such as it is, it is yours. My soul with all and every faculty; my body, and every member of it; my gifts, time, and all my talents are yours.”

What grace is this!! We have nothing to offer in exchange for everything from Christ but everything we have.

A little song I learned as a child comes to mind:

After all He’s done for me,
After all He’s done for me,
How can I do less than give Him by best
And live for Him completely,
After all He’s done for me.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Words to Live By?

Up until 1963 (the year of my graduation from high school), Bible reading and prayer were allowed by law in public schools. (Some experts say that year was the beginning of the downward slide in American education.) Our high school homerooms began each day with a brief Scripture reading (usually chosen by a student) followed by the Lord’s Prayer. In those days, we read almost exclusively from the King James Version. One clever clown in my class decided one day to read as a passage Jeremiah 13:1-5 (or one similar).

Thus saith the Lord unto me, ‘Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.’ So I got a girdle according to the word of the Lord, and put it on my loins. And the word of the Lord came unto me a second time, saying, ‘Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.”

Giggles all around!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What Does God Want to Hear?

In looking at my Bible I find that of all the pursuits, singing sits fairly far up on the list. Oh, yes, we read about praying and begetting, even fighting, but singing seems to appear from Genesis to Revelation. Yes, we read about singing more than any other occupation we will have in Heaven.

When I think about the references to singing in the Bible, I don’t read too often that we should leave it to a soloist. Sometimes choirs do the job, but most of the time, singing is done by EVERYONE.

When I think of the activity of singing during my lifetime, I go back to my childhood where I sat next to my parents in church and heard them lustily participate with all the other farmers and wives, unashamedly. Yes, they sang, not thinking anything particularly strange about doing so. We sang around the piano at home. My sister and I sang while we washed and dried the dishes after the evening meal. We even sang rounds together.

When I think about singing now in the 21st century, it amazes me how ignorant, how self-conscious, how reticent people act. (By the way, I hope the thousands of music students I’ve had during my life of teaching are different!) After hearing and seeing on TV how strongly the Canadians sang their anthem at the last Olympics, I am ashamed that we do such a poor job of getting everyone to join in when our anthem is presented in public. Why do we think we need some pop singer to “interpret” the song in his or her genre, making it impossible to sing along?

When I teach children singing, even church children, I find that many have rarely sung before I introduce it to them. Even when I do get them to sing in unison, they have a difficult time holding a pitch, or hanging onto a line of a familiar song enough to try singing in a round, thus revealing their dependence on others.

I blame the adults who seem to think it is more sophisticated to “listen” to music rather than to “make” it. What a disservice we do to our children and to ourselves.

One of the joys God gave us at creation was singing, and He will expect us to honor Him in Heaven with our voices. Will we even know how? I hope so!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Preacher's Wife

Many people saw the movie Preacher’s Wife, in which Whitney Houston played the lead character. But how many remember the song which she sang? It follows:

I love the Lord, who heard my cry
And pitied every groan.
Long as I live and troubles rise,
I’ll hasten to God's throne.
I love the Lord, who heard my cry
And chased my griefs away.
O let my heart no more despair
While I have breath to pray.


I wonder if Whitney knew the reality of those words. Do you?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New Denomination

the Orthopedic Presbyterian Church (ORPC)
(where we operate to bring you back!)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Scream Rooms

The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office is reportedly looking into whether officials at Farm Hill School in Middletown [CT] discriminated against children with disabilities by putting them in areas denounced as “scream rooms” where children are put inside small, windowless spaces until they calm down.

Administrators initially defended the use of what they referred to as “timeout rooms.” They had apparently been in use for some time, but many parents said they only recently learned of their existence.
Parents’ outrage grew as they learned of nine separate calls to 911 concerning students inside the room.

Nineteen advocates and lawyers recently filed a complaint with the department. State officials are also investigating.

Middletown’s superintendent of schools, Michael Frechette, says he has directed staff to limit use of the so-called “timeout rooms” to students who have a special classification under a state law that allows for seclusion of those with disabilities
.

—from the Hartford Courant, January 31, 2012


I don’t know much about “scream rooms.” BUT, I do know that I approve of them—FOR TEACHERS!

Monday, January 30, 2012

There's a Welcome Here

As children in Sunday School we would sing the little ditty, “There’s a welcome here, there’s a welcome here, there’s a Christian welcome here.” I was reminded of this song when I read from the blog of friend, Father Eric Kouns the following statement.

Our churches should be hospitals where the pain of disillusionment and disappointment—with ourselves, with our friends and family, and yes, with God—can be acknowledged and healed. Instead, they are too often little more than social clubs where superficial smiles and cursory exchanges cover over the doubts, the questions, the longing for something more and the fear of admitting that in front of all those who, outwardly, seem to have it all together.

Both the words “hospital” and “hospitality” come from the same root, expressing the idea of offering healing as a welcome to hurting people. How many times do we enter our churches with a heavy heart and leave the same way, or worse? It is my prayer that God will sensitize me to my brothers and sisters in Christ and see them as needy as I know myself to be.

I have attended services in churches where certain people with strong personalities, or those with differing opinions from the majority, or those who don’t fit in, have actually been shunned. I have heard unwelcoming rhetoric and observed church families that operate more like social cliques. In fact, some churches act as though they would rather people with needs wouldn’t bother to come. Things just get a little too uncomfortable with them there.

At the very least, we as Christians need to be aware of others as Christ would be. It may take some insightful awareness, some patience, and some genuine concern to minister to others in our churches. But, if we expect our congregation members to go out into the worlds in which they live on Monday through Saturday and be Christ’s people there, we must offer each other a place of healing and authentic Christian love when we meet together on Sundays.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Bouncer

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:15

He looked huge, and burly. He pushed his way into a crowd of characters he had corralled in the main lobby at my school. Earlier he had gone into every nook and cranny of the building to find them. I knew the dark characters’ names: Violence, Disrespect, Disruption, Rebellion, Anger, Low Self-Image, Depression, Bitterness, Grumbling, and Contention. In my mind’s eye I saw this nine-foot angel of light grab two of the screaming characters by the nap of the neck and usher them down the hallway to the main entrance. Without so much as a pause, he threw them out the door. Then he turned and came back in for two more. This angel responded to my prayers because I came to God in despair over the terrible behaviors I saw coming from students and staff members, and I felt exhausted in the battle. Even by the next day, I saw some marked improvements in my classes. The characters would be back, but for this time, our school remained off limits.

Sometimes we can clearly see the sinful world around us, but other times it seems that we have blind eyes. By naming the spiritual forces that we see at work in our workplaces, our homes and even in our churches, God enables us to pray His power over them. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we join with Him in defeating the powers and authorities of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil. He already disarmed them on the cross, but we appropriate His power when we pray. What spiritual forces operate in the places where you live? Ask God to clearly show you their ugly faces and deeds. Then, in Jesus’ name and in His power, pray for their dismissal.