Friday, July 31, 2009

Among Royalty

They're here!
.
Princesses Laughsalot (Rylie) and Mermalaide (Allie) touched down late yesterday afternoon for their ten day stay at Camp Sassy's.
.
By 8:00 PM last evening they'd unpacked, swam for well over an hour, and munched down homemade cheese/chicken Quesadillas & peanut butter cookies. They then proceeded to entertain me thoroughly with their litany of "let's do" stuff while they're here before heading to bed at 9:30 PM.
.
They're still sleeping, and it's now 9:15 AM! This is some sort of record.
.
Oh boy, this promises to be the best of times!
.
More on the Princess' visit to come ...
.
.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Politically Incorrect Name

.
"What are we (the religionsts of the day) going to do with these (Peter & John) men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name." Acts 4:16-17
.
Interesting, isn't it? The audacious Peter and gentle John were among the people, proclaiming the name of Jesus and the truth of His power, when along comes the know-it-alls of the day to silence them.
.
Several things stand out to me in this narrative, beginnning early in the chapter and spreading throughout.
.
  • The two men - Christ followers - weren't out there soliciting miracle-takers. They simply came upon a man in need, and they met that need.
  • These same two men were not seeking to make a name for themselves, nor did they see themselves as being any different, or more important, than you or me.
  • The message then, as now, is not a prescription for becoming good in order to be acceptable to God. The message then, as now, is to embrace God's son - THE NAME - and allow Him to bring refreshing (and change) to your heart.
  • Peter and John did not raise the ire of the religionists of their day because they told people to go to church, or to do good things. No, they found themselves on the radar screen of their enemies merely because they proclaimed THAT name - the name above all others - and in so doing, good things - even miraculous things - happened.

I seriously doubt that my beliefs or my Christ-following affiliations will get me into any sort of trouble. But I do know His name will.

In today's world, we are free to speak nearly any crude word or term without much scrutiny, but just say "Jesus" (unless you're swearing) and watch how people react.

Moreover, now that we have a hate-crimes initiative in play, who know how it may impact free speech? It makes me wonder how long it will be before we hear: But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men & women to speak no longer to anyone in this name.

No doubt you and I will join Peter & John in response: "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:19-20

The fact is, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12

Repent (meaning = to feel regret & to change one's mind), then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord ... Acts 3:19

No church. No good deed. No alternative religious system or worldview. No good intention. No outside action applied by a parent or friend or pastor or priest. Nada. Nothing. No one ... Just Jesus. And so we sing:

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

..
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:8-11

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lengths & Sameness

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction - It's the title of a book written by Eugene Peterson well over 20 years ago; a title that itself stirs my imagination.
.
What is it about the quick fix that enamors us? Like most folks, I wiggle & squirm when trouble comes to call - - be it personal trouble, or the ugly stuff that plays out on a larger scale, like in governments or institutions or families. I can see vividly and readily what is wrong, and often I have an answer. If not an answer, I certainly never come up short on the side of running rhetoric or commentary.
.
And then my thoughts return to the fact that I'm not summoned to fix things, quickly or otherwise. I'm summoned to a long obedience, an obedience that does not promise comfort, or even understanding for that matter. It's an obedience that does promise a prosperity of soul. It promises refining that has the look and feel of character-building.
.
" ... we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:3-5
.
I think I can honestly say that "rejoicing in sufferings" is not the stuff for which I yearn. Such an obedience takes a long, long time as well as a sustained effort towards a fixed end, a goal. It requires that I long far more for character development than comfort (aka painlessness).
.
Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to imply that we start seeking ways in which to suffer. That's morbid - - and simply one more "work" by which we can claim some special position. No, I'm merely emphasizing the value of obedience; and sustained obedience at that!
.
In the book, Eugene Peterson writes:
.
"A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. As long as we think that the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice or another scientific breakthrough might save the environment or another pay raise might push us over the edge of anxiety into a life of tranquility, we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith."
.
Sound familiar?
.
" ... whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
.
I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-14
.
Forgetting what is behind, I step intentionally towards the long obedience - - at times straining and pressing forward in that same direction. No turning back.
..

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tonic from His Hand

Home.
.
My roots sink deep in Arizona sand. My heart rests peacefully in the linen that graces my own bed. My hands rest gratefully upon my open Bible, and around the warm cup of freshly brewed coffee.
.
Today is a day to unwind; to unravel the snarls from life's hurried tangle. It's been an arduous week of serving, thus today will be an equally arduous day of sitting idly beneath the gaze of The One that restores me.
.
Home. This sure feels like a preview (an infinitesimal one at that) of Heaven's grace to come. Work and rest in just the right dosage is truly a God-prescribed tonic.
.
You have made known to me
the path of life;
you will fill me with joy
in your presence, with
eternal pleasures at
your right hand.
Psalm 16:11
.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wrapping up Durango

Today's event entailed white-water river-rafting (pretty moderate currents). Even so, Terry and I opted out. Instead we took a long, long drive into some of the valleys above Durango. With classical music playing softly and Mocha Latte for sipping along the way, we definitely profited from our exercise.

I'm not so sure about our rafting adventurers. They left shortly after breakfast and aren't back yet. My Crystal Ball tells me there will be some early bedtimes tonight!
,
It's been an amazing week ... as expected. I've snapped many, many pictures
(Right - Crew - Kathleen, Becky & Tony) while interspersing my varied roles as Grandma Kathleen, co-Chef, Mother-hen and Bus Boy.
.
I've been buoyed by joy, overcome with gratitude, swept up in aw
e of God's handiwork, and given to tears when I consider the impact of these days on the lives of our youth. I have been extremely proud of the noble pastors and mentors among us too.
.
We plan to leave early tomorrow for our 7 hour return trip. We'll miss the 85 degree temps and Pine scented air, but I'm eager to see my Cactus and Creeping Fig Vine, if not my 108 degree temps!
.
I'm so glad you could come along with me to experience some of this - - the half of which is not yet told. These young people are tomorrow's salt and light, and I'm betting they're as powerful as any.
.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Absorbing Creation in Durango

.
As we chefs cheffed, the troups trouped. Sitting quietly & patiently above the lake until their breakfast was served, mentor Matt lead the youngins' in devotions.
.
.
.
What it is about nature & fresh air that makes for appetites? I don't know ... but this has to be one of the highlights of our week thus far.
.
The setting made for a perfect launch for today's hike. The kids packed their own sandwich lunches before heading out..
.
I didn't go.
.
.
I didn't watch..
.
I napped..
.

Tonight we're grilling sirloin and serving a hash brown casserole & salad for dinner. I know they'll eat hardy and have a tough time staying awake for chapel.
.
Tomorrow's plan includes river rafting... and more food (boy can these kids eat!).

.

Living Full Throttle ala Durango

.
The day's feature was fun. We spent most of it atop the mountain at ski resort retro-fitted for summer adventure.
.
In this first scene you get some idea of what it looks like to herd our high-schoolers. Of note: I may be having a lot of writing-fun at their expense, but this group rocks! They've been so well-behaved & courteous, energetic & good-natured, not to mention grateful & gracious. Any parent would be proud.
.

OK, so there still teens!

.
Great laughter could be heard from various points on the mountain's slope, mostly because of the Alpine-sliders. Pastor Greg, wife Lori, & 3 year old Brooke (the boldest among the entire group) set the pace for reaching the finish line at top speed. The rest followed with equal enthusiasm. I watched.
.
The kids climbed the rocked wall, harnessed up for a bungi-jump experience, and ran all over various mountain trails in the course of the day. I watched.
.
Then old S
assy had to get in on the action. No silent Paparazzi am I, and not to be outdone by the kiddos. Here I am atop Fu Manchu - living like I'm dying - having de-horned the beast (a stationery beast, I might add) and giving the kids plenty of reason to laugh. The best part (caught on video and sure to show up at church next week) was my many attempts to get on the slippery thing.

The storm clouds mounted for an afternoon of thunder, lightning & torrential rains. Said rain sent the kids scurrying to their dorm rooms for games & rest. We chefs moved swiftly to plan F (A - E all foiled), preparing a home made dinner (spaghetti, fettuccine, garlic bread, brownies) in such a way that it could be delivered to each cabin. Such flexibility!
.
The day closed with chapel - - two hours of sharing, singing, teaching & prayer. I sat to the back of the room, amazed at the kids sprawled on the floor, Bibles in hand, jotting down notes, and completely rapt while Pastor Greg taught on the value of remaining obedient to God above all. He hit on nearly every diversion a teen could be faced with and didn't mince words. He was funny at times, tender at others, and true to God's word every inch of the way.
.
Terry and I walked amidst a tired but buoyed group back to our own roost, again to crash for the night. I think I slept in my clothes.
.
Today's adventure? Another hike. But not before we do a breakfast cookout & devotions at a nearby lake.
.
Well, at least I'm awake, even if I'm not moving.
.

Send forth Your light and your truth,
let them guide me;
let them bring me to
Your holy mountain,
to the place where You dwell.
Psalm 43:3


.





Tuesday, July 21, 2009

About Those Swarms ... Durango Style

.
I doubt this is the first teen swarm to land upon the mountains of Durango, but I'm certain there's never been another as hungry!
.
They descended (or is it ascended?) upon us with barely- harnessed energy, behaving as if they hadn't seen us, or each other for that matter, for ten years. Getting them moving in one direction was a bit of a challenge, but eventually they all had their "stuff" and were ready to form a hive at the dinner buffet.
.
We (the early arriving ones) spent most of the day in the kitchen preparing fixins' for tacos (with homemade tortilla shells), refried
beans, Spanish Rice, and a mega-buffet of condiments, chips, salsa, etc. Can anyone say swooped? I had to laugh, though ... We could have fed a every resort-goer on the mountain so ambitious was our preparing!
.
Once fed, they were off to chapel while some of us battled a different sort of swarm, mosquitos. We cleaned up as darkness descended, and long into the thick of nightfall. The calf muscles that had protested Sunday's hike to the river were wide-awake - protesting still - and reminding me I'm no longer 26.
.

I didn't think to have Terry take a picture of my decrepit form falling into bed at 11:30 PM - - many hours passed my usual retiring time. That's just as well. I think my smile was a bit crooked.
.
Oh boy, more cookin' & kids today. But first, off to the Alpine Slide!
..
The Lord gives strength to His people ...
Psalm 29:11

.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Comment Snaffu

My fellow bloggers ... I've encountered a slight snaffu here in Durango. I'm not able to leave a comment on your blog sites for some reason. That said, know I've made the rounds this morning and just have to say "hi" to Donna, Terri, Diana (and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!), Kelli, Michelle, Judy, Beth, Jennifer and Sarah. Your recent posts will be without a "sassy" thought until I get back to civilization.
.
Hi also to Elaine, Joan, Carol, Lisa, Melinda, Mary, Beth E., Barbara, Linda, Robin, Christy, Susan, Melania, Pat, Andrea ...
.
Oh where do I end?
.
Hugs to all!
.

Glorious - No Doubt!

.
Camp Durango has hardly begun and already my calf muscles (or lack thereof)
are speaking to me. The hike down (emphasis on DOWN) the canyon wall to the river below was amazing, though by the time I hiked back up (emphasis on UP), my body was protesting mightily.
.

To add insult to my injuries, the young ones in our midst RAN past me several tim
es (they were smart enough, or polite enough, or winded enough not to laugh at me). These are the same young ones that wore themselves out playing in the river (can anyone say frigid water?) - - all of which are under the age of 12. Well, all I can say is: They haven't seen the last of Sassy yet!
.
Even so, the descent as well as the ascent put our senses on overload. There is no way to describe the beauty in this alpine setting, especially the profusion of wildflowers. Small & large lakes, creeks & rivers, and mountain slopes lined with pine, fir, alder & aspens mark this as one of heaven's gateways.

.
Pastor Greg & Lori & their four, along with Tony & Becky & their two arrived early
with us. They've been great companions, and I must say the men (large and small) cooking for we ladies is quite memorable - one of the highlights of these early hours of pre-swarm preparations. I laughed aloud when I snapped this photo, which I'm calling: FOUR MEN & A STOVE.
.
So now I'm beginning to gather news, views and pictures from more of our great adventures here in Colorado. Today I'll spend most of my time helping with the food prep for our large tribe of 95 (75 kids; 20 "other").
.
My calves are happy about that.
.
Great are the works of the Lord;
they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are His deeds, and His
righteousness endures forever.
Psalm 111:2-3

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Camp Durango

.
Following a mere 7.38 hours of derriere-numbing car riding, we made it. This is our home away from home for the next week.
.
We're actually a day ahead of the swarms of students and youth mentors headed this way, so today we'll prepare ... but not before we pause and take a hike along some amazing alpine trails. I expect it'll captivate us with wild flowers, lakes and pine-scented air - - all great antidotes for weary derrieres!
.
O
bviously I have internet, AND cell phone. Woohoo! Thus I will be reporting in from time-to-time, if for no other reason than to connect with the world of sane and mature.
.
In closing, I share the verse that gripped me first thing this morning as I sipped my Vanilla Caramel Truffle tea:
.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, O Lord. Psalm 89:15
..
How wonderful (and easy) it is to walk in that light here. He is everywhere!
.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lost & Found in the Fray

.
The meaning of fray is: "a usually disorderly or protracted fight, struggle, or dispute." If one is above the fray, you are looking down on the struggles of others. The image that it calls to my mind is a king or general up on a mountaintop looking down at soldiers fighting. (1)
.
Next to the term lost in the fray are these pictures ... my husband, Terry. It's a much different vantage point than that of the king or general. It's the glassy-eyed stare of little one experiencing (or not experiencing) much more than they can comprehend.
..
From his earliest days as one among seven (born 4th in line), his memories are largely dotted with mayhem and sadness. That's not to say his parents, now deceased, didn't love their children or provide for them, but with seven in the roost mayhem was certainly a commodity in large supply. It had an effect on everyone, but the effect most vivid to me is the one I've witnessed throughout our long years together.
.
I met my husband when we were both young and starry eyed teens - each of us having just entered our sophomore year of high school. Straightaway he charmed me with his deadly good looks, his sharp wit and his warmth. Many were the group dates we shared as we championed football games (he playing; me cheering) and school-sponsored dances (with ten chaperones to every one student). Great was the passion we felt for each other, then as now.
.
I could fill in many biographical sketches in the penning of this piece, but that's not my intention today.
.
Today I'm thinking about the children - oh so many of them - who's needs aren't met ... be it by accident or intent. They are often the ones lost in the fray of today. I wonder how many parents realize the life-long impact such a condition will have on them.
.
It's not my motive to affix guilt or shame here. Were I to list the many mistakes I've made as a parent you'd soon grow weary of reading.
.
No, my motives run more to the business of living intentionally. Afterall, we often don't know what we don't know until long beyond our ability to do it different, or better. But what if we were to slow down and pay more attention to the little ones in our care? What if striving, or work, or housekeeping, or image-building, or even churchiosity (new word) were to take a back seat to nurturing the young ones among us?
.
It took my husband the better part of a lifetime to find sanctuary. Having been lost in the fray well beyond his leaving home, it really wasn't until these more senior years that's he's found a measure of peace. In truth, it has been just since he allowed the Lord to find him that he is able to put it in perspective - at least into some perspective. And that, dear friends, was a long, long time coming.
.
On some level - spiritual, if not emotional - we have all been lost in the fray at one time or another. Sometimes we chose it for ourselves (intentionally or unintentionally); and at other times it's thrust upon us (again, intentionally or unintentionally). It is, in fact, the substance and inspiration of that stirring song, Amazing Grace.
.
Thank God we are found! .
.
By John Newton
,
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
,
T'was Grace that taught...my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.
,
Through many dangers, toils and snares (the fray) ...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.
,
The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.
.
.
(1) Source: The Phrase Finder
(2) Pictures: top left/six months, top right/3 years, bottom left/18 years.
.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So Much for Wanderlust!

.
Well, I needn't have fussed about the "where & when" of my recent attack of Wanderlust. Quite literally, my calendar is beginning to look like something a compulsive travel agent arranged for me.
.
Just this week my pastor (aka surrogate son, great friend & boss) came with a proposal. He could provide a cool reprieve from the Phoenix summer if hubby and I would agree to help at high school camp/retreat next week. With 75 high-schoolers signed up, he was a bit concerned there weren't enough hands (and quick wits) to manage the group.
..
So ... we leave this Saturday for a 450 mile drive to Durango, Colorado, where we'll be grandparents in residence, chefs, and hiking companions. It'll be a week of outdoor activity of all types, but it'll also be a week of Bible teaching, mentoring, evening chapel beneath the stars, and so much more.
..
I plan to take my computer, but I'm not optimistic. We my have little or no cell phone or internet services.
.
We no sooner return and two of our granddaughters arrive for a ten day visit. Once they leave, we'll have six weeks before we undertake our three-week trek in Europe.
.
Well, so much for Wanderlust.
..

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Life on the Road - Phoenix Style

Driving in the Phoenix area (aka metroplex) is not for the amateur, the faint of heart, or the oblivious ...
.
1. 'Phoenix' actually consists of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, Glendale, Peoria, Tolleson, Avondale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Sun City, Sun City West, Sun City Grand, Sun Lakes, Surprise, Laveen, Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, and half of the Mexican border.
.

2. The morning rush hour is from 4:00 am to noon. The evening rush hour is from noon to 9:00 PM. Friday's rush hour starts on Thursday morning.
.

3. The minimum acceptable speed on most freeways is 85 mph. On Loop 101, your speed is expected to match the highway number. Anything less is considered 'Wussy'.

4. Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere. Phoenix has its own version of traffic rules. For example, cars/trucks with the loudest mufflers go first at a four-way stop; the trucks with the biggest tires go second. However, in the East Valley, SUV-driving, cell phone-talking moms ALWAYS have the right of way.
.

5. If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear ended.
.

6. Never honk at anyone. Ever. Seriously. It's an offense that can get you shot.
.

7. Road construction is permanent in Phoenix. Detour barrels are moved around for your entertainment pleasure during the middle of the night to make the next day's driving a bit more exciting.
.

8. Watch carefully for road hazards such as drunks, dogs, barrels, cones, cats, mattresses, shredded tires, rabbits, vultures, javelinas, roadrunners, and the coyotes feeding on any of these items..
.

9. Maricopa Freeway, Papago Freeway and the 'I-10' are the same road. SR202 is the same road as The Red Mountain FWY. Dunlap and Olive are the same street too. Northern and Shea are the same street. Also Glendale Ave. becomes Lincoln Drive.
Jefferson becomes Washington, but they are not the same street. I-17 is also called The Black Canyon Freeway as well as The Veterans Memorial Highway. The Superstition is also known as US 60. The 101, 202 and 303 remain a large mystery to most of us.
.

It is not yet determined if there is a Red Mountain and a San Tan or just a Red/Tan Mountain.
.

The SR51 has recently been renamed to Piestewa Freeway because Squaw Peak Parkway was too easy to pronounce. SR101 is also the Pima FWY except west of I-17, which is also The Black Canyon FWY, and The Veterans Memorial HWY.
.
Lastly, Thunderbird Rd. becomes Cactus Rd. -- but, Cactus Rd. doesn't become Thunderbird Rd. because it dead ends at a mountain.
.

10. If someone actually has their turn signal on, wave them to the shoulder immediately to let them know it has been 'accidentally activated.
.
11. If you are in the left lane and only driving 70 in a 55-65 mph zone, you are considered a road hazard and will be 'flipped off' accordingly. If you return the flip, you'll be shot.
.

12. For summer driving, it is advisable to wear potholders on your hands.
.

13. Please note that there are many, MANY more issues to the phenomenon of driving in Phoenix-- like the 4-cars-through-a-red-light rule -- but these will at least get you acquainted with our unique life on the road.
.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Confessions of a Properous Pauper II - Marlboro Girl

When I wrote the first of my confessions (Confessions of a Prosperous Pauper I) I knew it would be followed by many more. Afterall, anyone that has lived 60+ years certainly has to have more than one confession!
.
So earlier today, as I meandered during my early morning walk, I found myself laughing aloud. Why certain memories surface at certain times I do not know. Sometimes they're welcome and sometimes they're intrusive. Many are lovely; bringing a smile. Some come with a flood of tears. Yet others still make me blush or feel a twinge of shame.
.
Even so, I actually treasure all of them. They are me - - the colors & hues of my life. They don't define me, but they certainly add the Atomic Tangerine, Jazzberry Jam, Screamin' Green, and many of the other big box Crayola colors (up to 133 shades since 1998) to my life. Dimension.
.
Why and how I ever concluded that smoking (versus being smokin') made one classy-n-cool I'll never know. Maybe it occurred when my sister Carol took it up in her late teens; she certainly embodied all that was cool from my junior vantage point. Or maybe it's because some of my movie heroines smoked - - they being the epitome of sophistication. Certainly smoking was synonymous with good sense and sass? Well, maybe sass.

All I know is that I had to nearly gag to death work hard to learn to smoke. No, make that like to smoke. But work hard I did!
.
Anyway, I smoked from the ripe old age of 14 until I was 32. It's what a child of the 60s did, especially any child hailing from the with it crowd of the 60s. (I'd like to throttle the mysterious "they" that give such folly life).
.
I finally quit smoking at 32 for a few years and then began again when I was 37, only to quit again every day for the next eight years until, at 44 I finally felt free.
.
That ought to do it ... my confession.
.
Oh that it were that simple.
.
At 32 (1980) I had a spiritual "aha" which lead to my decision to stop smoking. I wish I could say that I ever-so-humbly turned my addiction/affliction over to theLord, then equally humbly spent the subsequent days so filled with gratitude that I was rendered speechless. I wish.
.
Well, filled I was ... but with hubris. Oh, I didn't realize that's what it was at the time, but quite boldly I was quick to announce to anyone I could corner how I'd been delivered of a nicotine addiction (emphasis on delivered, as if spoken by a revival preacher). Some of my believing friends shouted "hallelujah!" and went on with their lives; while my unbelieving friends just stared at me as if I'd grown a cone head like one might see on Saturday Night Live.
.
Well, a few years went by with me living in this schizophrenic state (partly humble, largely arrogant, truly blind, sometimes godly, utterly clueless), and smoke free. Remember, I'd been delivered.
.
Then began the dark ages. Doesn't every life have one (or two, or ten)?
.
I hope not to toss anyone else beneath the proverbial bus as I continue my confessions - - at least not intentionally. Besides, I rather cherish the fact that I am not a victim. 95% of the trouble that has befallen me I had a hand in bringing about. The other 5% I'm not so sure of. But I must say, at the onset of the dark ages, a set of circumstances came roaring down the slope of my life like an avalanche in the Swiss alps! When it finally hit full force, guess who reached for her cigarettes?
.
Saint Sassy!
.
It began innocently enough with the closure of a large segment of my then-employer's business. Of 122 employees, only 19 of us remained. It was a huge loss; one I hadn't seen coming. People I'd come to respect deeply and love dearly were gone in a flash. I found myself wishing I'd been swept up in that flash, but I was one tagged to stay. Ever had survivor's guilt? Cigarettes go well with it.
.
I eventually moved on with my life, but then there was a family rift that opened up a wide fissure in my soul, and in my heart. Puff, puff.
.
Just as I began thinking I might survive my hurts & losses, hubby lost his job. Our finances took a nosedive, and I sensed the avalanche was gaining momentum. Little did I know how much momentum was behind the dark ages.
.
At the same time, youngest son was experiencing some very difficult days as a teen. Drinking, drugs, and not-so-healthy friends came calling and it didn't take him long to become entangled. The family lived between hope and chaos while he lived in either the land of apathy or the land of denial. We all ran between those two posts until we could figure out how best to help him. I bought cigarettes by the carton.
.
Then oldest son, the talented and gifted student who could have had a scholarship most anywhere, decided to forego college and head straight for the Navy. Huh? Not much interested in a parental blessing, he was packed and ready to ship out before I had time to put away his childhood teddy bears.
.
I needn't have worried about the loss of material things, because the loss of OTHER things soon became of greater concern. Hubby decided he might need a mid-life walkabout and moved out (why hadn't I thought of THAT?!)! I seriously thought of eating cigarettes.
.
Just when I thought the saga couldn't get any uglier, some new flow of folly would come rushing in to knock me off my feet again, and again, and again.

.
I got very comfortable with tears, as did the grocery clerk at Albertson's, the people at my church, my neighbors, complete strangers. Smoke and cry; cry and smoke. Ugh.
.
Now let's talk about faith. I had a large amount of it going into the difficult days, but I had much, much more coming out ... cigarettes and all. Needless to say, all those rough edges and arrogant proclamations were refined. Sassy wasn't so sassy in those days. Fact is, I didn't know a human tear duct was capable of such spontaneous activity. I felt as though I were being forced to drink in life's trouble through a fire hose!
.
During the ups and downs of those days, and not reported in the litany above, I clung fiercely to the Lord like a shipwrecked survivor clinging to the one last floating plank. I learned to pour my heart out to Him, to consciously focus on His nearness, to pour over the scriptures & to speak them aloud.
.
When the avalanche subsided, He dispatched His personal Search & Rescue unit to dig me out (these came in the form of His word, or some very authentic believers that knew something about transparency). No St. Bernard with whiskey for this fallen sojourner. But after years of being buried, I could finally catch my breath (when I wasn't coughing). Like a slapslick Laurel & Hardy movie, I could peak above the rubble - - to look beyond the fall line - - with hope, and even a smidge of humor (you'll like that Beth). I had a strange confidence that I would be just fine. The Lord was near. For the life of me I could not imagine how truly good and rich life would again become.
.
As you may have surmised, it took awhile to rebuild. Fences needing mending. Breaches needed bridges. Wounds took time to heal.
.
Frost bite has a lingering aftermath.
.
But time did pass, and so too the dark ages in my life. And so too the smoking thing.
..
You see, when my wobbly knees finally stood firm, I had learned not to lead with my chin. By that I mean, I didn't put my faith out front as if it were an Academy Award. I learned to pray for wisdom, and to keep my mouth shut when I didn't feel I had any (well, most of the time anyway). I have seen trouble since, but nothing has had the power of those long ago dark ages. It's no mystery; I know why.
.
You see, I would never again be tempted to swerve when trouble came my way, nor would I need to run out to purchase a pack (which, as we all know, becomes at least 743 packs) of cigarettes. His grace was sufficient. His grace is sufficient.

.
Who would have thought a pauper could be so prosperous? .



Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.
Put away perversity from your mouth;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.
Make level paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.
Do not swerve to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
Proverbs 4:23-27
.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Root Systems

.
In recent years I've taken great delight in personal excavations in search of the Judeo in my Judeo-Christian root system. I don't know why it's taken me so long to get here, but now that I've begun I dare say it's become one of my most joy-filled expeditions - - an adventure altogether different from the many I've had thus far!
.
What is particularly interesting (while at the same time disturbing) to me, is how much of our rich heritage is consigned to the rubble heap in favor of grace. The Old Testament has been neatly wrapped and stored in the attic, while the New Testament has become all things to all people.
.
One might think it a waste of time to have written the Old Testament altogether. Afterall, it means nothing now that Jesus has been here, died & rose again, and is about to make all things new. Right? No sirree! He has certainly done all things well, but let's not short change the value of ALL scripture and God's purposes in handing it over to us.
.
Don't misunderstand, I'm all over the grace thing. Anyone that's visited here much knows I was (and am) sorely in need of it throughout my life. Apart from Jesus' work in me, I too would be consigned to the rubble heap of life.
.
No, it's the vital foundation layed in the Old Testament that makes the New Testament such an amazing wonder to me. Yet it blows me away how long I never even considered: ..
  • Jesus was and is a Jew - a Torah observant one at that!
  • THE Remnant (which differs from remnants in general, like those spared in the global flood) is Israel. When I did a word search on this one word alone, I was absolutely blown away! It leaves little room for doubt as to WHO is being highlighted.
  • Daniel's 70th week coincides with the Times of the Gentiles; the church age. That age will end with the final countdown of 7 years (aka Tribulation), when God will restore Israel to it's rightful position (as promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David) and favor.
  • The church is not the new Israel. There is no substance to or room for Replacement Theology in the biblical text.
  • The root system for every one of Jesus' teachings, parables and miracles are
    well-established in the Jewish worldview (ala the O.T. teachings & prophecies), as well as their feasts and holy days.

I never thought I'd live to see the day that I would relish the reading and study of the Old Testament. I mean, who can pronounce D-e-u-t-e-r-o-n-m-y, much less idle away hours reading it? And yet ...
.
My human ancestry is of great interest to me. I love researching names, and where people came from originally. I delight in perusing old pictures, or reading something scratched by an ancestor some 200 years ago. I enjoy considering how they lived, and what they may have believed or experienced. I can reach clear back to the 800s on one branch (or is it a limb?), and to the 1200s on most others. Every time I discover something new I almost jump out of my chair.
.
And that's exactly how I feel about the even richer heritage I have in my Judeo-Christian root system. In fact, I have to stand to do most of my research as jumping out of chairs has become all too common, and dangerous.
.. .

P.S. It occurs to me someone may translate this post to meaning we, the body of Christ, ought to be Torah- observant, or Jewish. I do not mean to say that, or even to imply that. It's a sizeable topic all by itself, so I won't get too "wordy" here ... but our Savior is both King and Priest, and a Torah-observant Jew at that. Just know that being a Gentile (like Cornelius) is sufficient; and so is God's grace!
.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

And It Is So ...

I listened with a knowing ear - - the one that's heard these stories time and again. I never tire of them, and rarely are they shared that I don't weep as if hearing something new and profound for the very first time. They are the stuff of breathlessness.
..
His name doesn't matter, but let's call him Arturo. His story spans many years and a good many detours that had taken him along the dark back roads of gang life among Arizona's Hispanic communities. It's a world unfamiliar to most of us; a world of drugs and guns, blood feuds and violence.
.
For many years Arturo's young wife, a Christ-follower, encouraged him to join her at church. He couldn't be bothered. His gang was both church and family to him, and he would have no part of God talk. Even after the addition of children to their lives, Arturo could see little reason to attend church.
.
He had become such a feared and revered gang member that even his own family - mother & father, siblings - had severed their ties to him. He'd seen none of them for nearly eight years.
.

Arturo's wife never gave up hope. She clung to her Lord, to His word, and to the community of believers that shared her heart's cry in prayer.
..
Eventually Arturo relented, agreeing to attend church for the sake of the children, but having put his wife on notice: he'd have no part in all that church stuff; stuff like Bible studies or praying. He wasn't about to become some fanatical Christian.
..
She made no demands, grateful for the small steps that brought her husband to a place of worship, a place of hearing God's truth spoken.
/.
Little-by-little seeds were sown into Arturo's heart. A small crop began to sprout. In time, he decided he wanted Christ as his Savior. Some weeks later he asked to be baptized.
.
Before long, he and his wife had joined a small group (aka a home team, or cell) - a gang of believers - where they were establishing friendships and learning more about God's word and ways.
..
A few weeks following his baptism, pastor was listening to Arturo speak of his former days as a powerful gang member. Pastor asked him: So when did you actually leave your gang affiliations?
.
Without hesitation Arturo responded: The day of my baptism.
.
Pastor was incredulous, wondering how it had gone in recent months with Arturo now having so many enemies among the people he once called friends.
..
Arturo shared how they still called him, both to encourage him to share in planned violence, or to threaten him for his seeming betrayal. He would tell them: You don't understand. You were once my family; now this church is my family. I cannot return to you, but you can come here to me, to Jesus.
..
And then Arturo began to elaborate on the terrible turn his life had taken just since his decision to follow Christ; to leave the gangs. He had no income, no job. He couldn't make his house payment or his car payment. They were running out of food and had, in fact, fed their children stale cupcakes for breakfast but a few short weeks ago.
.
With tear filled eyes he went on and told about the many prayers spoken on his behalf by his small group, and about the night he decided he would pray aloud himself. He described the incredible fear that gripped him that night; the shame-filled inadequacy that rushed in to rob him of sensibility. He could barely pray so fearful was he. All he could say was: God, I want my family back.
.
By now Arturo was sobbing; the listening pastor too.
.
Arturo lifted his eyes, took a long, deep breath and went on.
.
The next day; the VERY NEXT day, a large van pulled into my driveway, followed by several cars. Out poured my mother and father, my sisters and their husbands, the cousins. Within a few moments my home was filled with some 30 relatives I'd not seen in eight years, and who had no idea of my prayer the night before. They had heard of my change. They came with a van-load of food and household items. They paid my rent for six months and stood alongside us until we could stand alone.
.
And it is so ... yet another of the stories - the miraculous - that sweeps us away in tears. Yet another bit of evidence that embodies all a small fraction of what is good about God, proving again and again that He always, always, always leaves ripples in His wake. Amazing, sometimes "coincidental", always life-changing, miraculous ripples!
..
This is a true story. It could be told of people in your church or your neighborhood. It just so happened to be lived out by the former gang member Arturo who has thrust himself into God's arms here in my church. It is my pastor that wept alongside him, and one of our small groups that surrounded him with love and prayer long before he ever stepped one foot into a church setting. This is Arturo's story. More importantly: this is God's story. Another one. And it is so ...
.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Body Talk

The picture of God's people being part of a literal body in terms of gifts & value has always piqued my interest. This one's a hand; that one's a lung or a heart. No one's more or less important, and even the vital organs aren't given honor over the lessor elements.
.
Just as each of us has one body with many
members, and these members do not all
have the same function, so in Christ we
who are many form one body, and each
member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the
grace given us.
Romans 12:4-6
.
But God has combined the members of the
body and has given greater honor to the parts
that lacked it, so that there should be no division
in the body, but that its parts should have equal
concern for each other.
1 Corinthians 12:24-25
.
I have often wondered what part am I. What is my personal placement in the body?
.
It might seem a wasted exercise, but it doesn't take very long to figure out how many life lessons are associated with it. Mind you, one needs to be a bit fanciful to conceive of such a thing. .
.
So here's my big announcement: I'm an eyelash!
.
"An eyelash?" you say?
.
Yep.
.
So here's the fanciful context of my conclusion.
.
An eyelash - while obscure (aka humble) and hardly vital like the brain or heart - performs a vital function nonetheless. It protects one's ability to see, acting as a filter. Anything in the way of debris that might threaten one's vision has to first get past the eyelash. It acts much like an honorable sentry. I like that.
.
Well, leave to my wise sister Dolores to remind me of a little matter associated with the eyelash that just might not fit with my noble, albeit fanciful "purpose".
.
Her comment went something like this: Oh, how wonderful. I like that analogy, though I must remind you that the very eyelash that is intended to protect is also quite capable of bending inward and poking the eye, actually hurting it.
.
What? How dare another body part (and with Dolores, no doubt the body's intellect) see my eyelash (chosen humbly) as anything but always and forever effective.
.
So now you know HOW fanciful was my exercise.
.
Oh well, I'm still an eyelash.
.
.
.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Let Freedom Ring

The incredible, Most High God of creation built freedom into the very heart of man. Like breath, or a heartbeat ... it is at the core of vital living. Apart from freedom is servitude, and death.

Let freedom ring ... and may America once again bow to the Glorious One Who grants it from sea to shining sea to those nations that seek Him!

Be blessed, dear friends, this 4th of July and always!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Nature Trails & Tales

So I'm out for an early morning walk a few weeks ago when I came upon the sound of a distressed bird. I don't know how a commoner like me would know the difference between a contented bird and a distressed one, but somehow I did.
.
I stopped and looked into the stand of Acacia trees adjacent to the sidewalk. Within seconds I spotted him her. Creating both the sound of a ruckus and a flapping wing commotion, the bird was not happy with whatever was beneath her on the ground below.
.
My eyes followed her gaze, and at once I was distressed too! With no wings to flap or squawking sound to utter, I merely gazed in astonishment. A red snake was slightly coiled, appearing all-too-ready to gulp something.
.
Morbid sort that I am, I watched for a long time. It seemed the snake was dead. No flicking tongue. No eye movement. No sign of breathing (what was I thinking?).
.
I tossed a small pebble to see if it would react. Nothing. I tossed a slightly larger pebble, and to my utter amazement it stretched it's full length of some two feet (which, at the time, looked a lot more like four feet) and scrammed with such speed I was incredulous. I've never seen a snake move so fast! (Or a human, for that matter!)
.
I was overcome with gratitude that his/her retreat was in the direction opposite my own.
.
Since that day I've learned a wee bit about the Arizona Ground Snake. I'd like to say I'm relieved to know it's venom is only "mildly toxic" (huh? meaning you don't die if bit?). But the fact that it crawls faster than I walk (or run) isn't so comforting.
.
Do I still walk? You betcha! I'll just be listening (and watching) a whole lot more closely to the sounds of bird squawk!
.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hangin' With Sennacherib

When Herod saw Jesus, he was
greatly pleased,
because for a long
time he had been
wanting
to see him.
From what he had heard about him,
he hoped to see him perform
some miracle
.
He plied him with many questions,
but Jesus
gave him no answer.
Luke 23:8-9
.
Ah yes ... the old "can hardly wait to see or hear what He's going to do" curiosity of old.
.
It certainly didn't begin with Herod, nor did it end with him. We could as easily quote Pharaoh, or Jezebel, or Sennacherib. Remember him? He's the one that had this to say (before choking on his own words):
.
Do not let Hezekiah deceive you.
He cannot deliver you from my hand.
Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to
trust in the LORD when he says, '
The LORD will surely deliver us;
this city will not be given into the hand
of the king of Assyria.'
Choose life and not death!
Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is
misleading you when he says,
'The LORD will deliver us.'
Who of all the gods of these countries
has been able to save his land from me?
How then can the LORD deliver Jerusalem
from my hand?"
2 Kings 15
.
How then? Really?
.
That taunt fits the year 2009 as easily as the year Sennacherib spoke it. Many (in increasing numbers) show up for the show, if not the brandishing of threats. They've heard tell that this Jesus does stuff.
.
"Well", they reason, "show me! We'll bring the popcorn and sit ring-side for the best view. If I profit; so much the better. If not, it'll be fun watching the lunacy."
.
Maybe they haven't heard that it's a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31). Maybe Sennacherib could tell them something.
.
Better to place to ourselves in those hands before falling there. With Him, no matter how few our numbers, we are a majority. Without Him, no matter how many our numbers, we stand fall alone.
.
Come near to God and
He will come near to you.
Hebrews 4:8
.
God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble."
Humble yourselves, therefore,
under God's mighty hand, that he may
lift you up in due time.
1 Peter 5:5-6
..