Friday, January 29, 2010

The Eternal Now


Bookends. From the dramatic opening scenes in the Book of Genesis, to the breath-taking disclosure in the final chapters in the Book of Revelation, time is given context.

Day & night; hours & seconds; year in & year out; seasons; birth & death - lifespans; chronology. This is the stuff of time.

But what of the stuff
before and after those accounts?

What is the prequel to Genesis; the postscript to Revelation where time is concerned?

In both clear and enigmatic ways, we are told that God is not bound by time (or space, for that matter), He resides in the eternal NOW - a mystery to mortals; a matter-of-fact to Him. He sees past, present & future as one done deal. It's why every nano-second is precious & valuable.

... we urge you not to receive God's grace
in vain.
For He says,
"In the time of my favor
I heard you,

and in the day of salvation
I helped you."

I tell you,
NOW is the time of God's favor,

NOW is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

The great I AM - the One Who was, and is, and is to come - speaks of Himself in infinite terms. He tells us He resides in eternity, so that's what we call it.

On His lips it's unfathomable, and we are hushed. On my lips it's an awesome concept, filtered somehow through the foggy lens in which I view the clock. I wonder if it's not just a bit too casual, even in my most robust meditations?

Eternity is a long time, and that alone tells me I've hamstrung the beauty of infinity. Since there's nothing to compare it to, I am left to view it as being opposite to what I know; and what I know is all wrapped up in a finite existence.

Even as I attempt in some small way to get my mind & heart around this wondrous thing, I am grieved beyond belief by the casualness of those that play fast & loose with eternity. If it's a long time in the presence of God, imagine how long it is apart from His presence.

See to it that you do not refuse Him Who speaks.
Hebrews 12:25


In the beginning, God ... Genesis 1:1


Then the angel showed me
the river of
the water of life ...
The throne of God and of the Lamb
will be
in the city,
and His servants will serve him.

There will be no more night.
They will not
need the light
of a lamp or the light of the sun,

for the Lord God will give them light.
Revelation 22:1-5


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

UPDATE: 10 Years a Desert Dweller w/Photos


OK, OK ... I did it! For my previous visitors asking for photos, they're at the bottom.


It was just ten years ago this month that hubby and I embarked upon one of our greatest of life adventures.

The story actually began about 18 months in advance of that, when on one auspicious trip we were visiting my sister Barbara (in photo) in Arizona. That wasn't unusual in itself, for we'd come to enjoy our winter sojourns to the land of perpetual sun.

Having lived our 50+ years in WA State (Tacoma, Auburn, Puyallup, University Place), we'd grown accustomed to the gray skies and damp of Washington's Fall, Winter, Spring and (parts of) Summer.

A retreat to Barb's meant a rest for our webbed feet. It also engendered many sun-dwelling dreams.

One of our favorite Arizona pass times was visiting various communities, various model homes. Mostly it was an excuse for a Latte; and to gather some creative decorating tips.

Eventually we fell in love with all things Sonoran! Exception: I was not, and I'm still not a fan of turquoise and Kokopelli decor!

Then there was THAT day; the day Barb suggested we make our way into a gated, custom community. While I was protesting (custom? why custom?
"too pricey", blah-blah-blah), and the unlikelihood of making it through the gates, hubby and sister were sizing up the neighborhood.

As luck would have it, someone made their way through the gate, and we quickly followed.

The develop
ment was largely vacant. Only a few homes had been built, and many lots stood barren. Those on the south-side captivated hubby because they overlooked not only a golf course, but the Estrella mountains of southwest Phoenix. He drove the car onto the lot, where he and Barb proceeded to survey the parcel, as well as the lay of the land.

Next thing I know we were sitting before the property manager/realtor while hubby purchased that particular lot.


Oh ... I forgot to mention that hubby was out of work! I also forgot to mention that I did work - and for a WASHINGTON employer I'd been with for ten years. That mad
e me the only one in our house with an income.

I reminded hubby of this as we drove to my sister's that day. He just grinned.

Wouldn't you know it: the day we flew home to WA State hubby got a phone call from an employer that made him a wonderful job offer! The position entailed District Management, so they had no preference for where he resided, other than on the western half of the U.S.

Need I mention Arizona qualified?!!

It only took hubby a few hours to decide the job was for him; that we would relocate to Arizona and embark upon an adventure; the sooner the better!.

Adventure? Well, that had me. I was all in, as they say ... I love adventures!

The rest is actually history, though I must say many from our collection of family & friends were quick to tell us how much we'd hate (strong word) Arizona (too hot; no mountains; no fir trees), how much I'd regret giving up my significant job, and how homesick we'd be for our children and grandchildren.

It's true, we don't see our children or grandchildren as much as I'd like, but neither of us has had even one moment of buyer's remorse, much less homesickness. This is home.

It's been a marvelous, curious, challenging, blessed ten years; blessed adventure. When I look back (with 20/20 hindsight), I see so clearly now how the Lord used this time and place in ways I find hard to explain without a flood of tears.

I can almost hear Him whisper: It is good!

And so it is

Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Psalm 127:1
.The home we left behind in WA State

Our first desert dwelling ...

Our present home; sweet home!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Courage Is ...

Many have been the days, and many were the occasions when fear sought to intimidate me into reticence and retreat. Sometimes it still does, and then I am reminded that fear is not part of the new creation that am I.

Oh silly me ... how foolish to draw from the sisterns of that other, buried life! How worthless to stir up the imaginary head-waters of a torrent that never flows!

It is His courage that allows my soul to stir along noble themes, and to rise up against that thing that threatens to send me scurrying into denial or detour. It is the spirit - His spirit - of courage & love & of a sound/disciplined mind (2 Timothy 1:7).


A noble man makes noble plans,

and by noble deeds he stands.
Isaiah 32:8

  • It is easy to be brave from a safe distance. - Aesop

  • All serious daring starts from within. Harriet Beecher Stowe

  • The best way out is always through. Robert Frost

  • Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. ~Winston Churchill

  • He is a man of courage who does not run away, but remains at his post and fights against the enemy. Socrates

  • Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway. John Wayne
Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.
Proverbs 31:29


In a large house there are articles
not only of gold and silver,
but also of wood and clay;
some are for noble purposes
and some for ignoble.
If a man cleanses himself from the latter,
he will be an instrument
for noble purposes,
made holy, useful to the Master
and prepared to do any good work.
2 Timothy 2:20-21

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The gods & Their Consorts

All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say,
"Look! This is something new"?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.

Ecclesiastes 1:1-10

NOTE: More-and-more I am appalled at what is being served up as truth (much less, common sense) when, in fact, it is so far from truth that my head spins. I'm not surprised, just appalled. So, I extend a caution about the linkage to paganism I make in the following piece. This, I confess, is a soapbox!. I continue ...

I suppose it doesn't really matter their names - the gods of old. They were myriad, though most of them seem to be kindred to the god Ba'al, and to his consort, Astarte. From the Sumerian plains they ruled with a generous left hand; a violent right one.

Folklore and archaeological finds tell a good deal about the ancient gods and their habits. A reading of the Gilgamesh Myth (a summary of which can be found online: WSU Education - Mesopotamia & Gilgamesh) is remarkably similar to the Bible's earliest accounts of creation, including a flood narrative. (I find it amusing to hear people say it predates the Book of Genesis, and thus discredits God's Word entirely. How convenient; how utterly unsubstantiated!)

One thing that strikes me about the gods then as now, is how strangely alike they are. They haven't changed much, nor have their consorts. Oh ... they're clever taskmasters, and we may call them by different names (or we may not ascribe to them the attributes of deity), but they are the gods of old as sure as sure can be.

How do I know?

Because their primary nature is to discredit the One True God - even if they do so covertly.

How so? Well, let's just consider a few of the things they teach and/or insist their adherents believe or practice ...

  • Their word conflicts with, or marginalizes the Word of God
  • They insist upon works to gain their attention and/or approval
  • The works they insists upon often require self-abuse/self-imposed suffering
  • They require and/or make light of self-destructive practices, including sexual perversions
  • They permit lessor deities to rule alongside them
  • They place a high regard on nature - what can be seen (the original "green" movement)

Then they (the 400 prophets of Baal) called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted.

But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.

Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 1 Kings 18:26-29

Today Ba'al and Astarte might be called by different names, or not named at all. Today they may reside in something less tangible - like secularism, or hedonism, or one's pastor, or a faith-healer, or a politician/body politic ??? However & wherever they reside, the resemblance is all-too familiar.

While listening to a radio program this week, I heard it said that "Every worldview (belief system) requires a god." That struck me. It's true: even those that profess unbelief have chosen their god. It could be self, or intellect, or science, or the cosmos. Paganism has infiltrated nearly every aspect of life.

What's more, I contend a person has the right and freedom - at least here in America; and at least today - to practice their belief/unbelief system without censure (unless it's illegal). In this country and elsewhere, even Satanists have rights.

The only way to ferret out the gods among us is to know the One, consortless God and His Word. After all, there is nothing new under the sun.

"You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself
an idol in the form of anything in
heaven above or on the earth beneath
or in the waters below.
You shall not bow down to them
or worship them
."
Exodus 20:3-4

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Galvanizing Character

PREFACE: You know I relish words; and that I'm an avid fan of Noah Webster and his brother Merriam. So it will come as no great revelation that, on occasion, I'm taken captive by a word and it's deeper meaning. It rarely occurs apart from my study of scripture ... though at times it works in reverse.

A word can send my scurrying for it's scriptural underpinnings; and it is so with this piece.

Pre-dawn simply has to be my favorite time of day. I could speak on-and-on of it's richness and solitude, but I'll save that for another day. Suffice it to say that it was at such a pre-dawn place that the subject of character fell into my thoughts.

It came unbidden, as if to rudely interrupt my selection of musings that day. Within a matter of moments it occupied my focus, and sent me in a direction I had not planned to navigate.

Before long, another word joined my word-forensics: galvanize. More on that later.

Merriam tells us a lot about character. It has varied forms and uses, but it's character's relationship to reputation and moral excellence that stirs me.

The scriptures tell us that character is anything BUT a stand alone condition. It is the sum of many parts - many virtues (or lack thereof); the stuff of which makes the having of integrity possible. For instance:, it is.
  • what is derived from perseverance, and it fosters hope (Romans 4:3)
  • what fosters hope (Romans 4:4)
  • embellished or corrupted by one's friends (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)
  • how we escape the corruption of the world (2 Peter 1:3-9)
Character is what you are in the dark.
D.L. Moody

Such a powerful agent, I simply had to know more about this stuff. Moreover, what does galvanize have to do with it? (
The definition means that to galvanize something is to stimulate or excite as if by electric shock; to immerse in molten zinc to produce a coating of zinc- iron alloy.)

Real character is tough stuff! It's facsimile ... not so much.


Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man's character,
give him power.
Abraham Lincoln

Eventually my pursuit lead me to an inexhaustive list of godly character traits.

Mind you: ungodly people can demonstrate some of these too; and godly people might be in short supply of them. But these are at least some of the sum that makes up the whole. .

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, humility, fairness, courage, friendship, truthfulness, dependability, gratefulness, responsible, contented, generous, pure, confident, encouraging, available, attentive, wise, compassionate, enthusiastic, diligent, thoughtful, efficient, discrete, optimistic, obedience, reverent, uncontentious, committed, diligent, discerning, fearless, flexible, purposeful, secure, supportive, tactful, tolerant ...


Think of the orange. It has many parts, many uses. From segments to seeds, it is galvanized by the rind which, in turn, holds the character of the orange in place. How well that rind works determines how desirable will be the uses of it's contents.

So what's the mechanism by which godly character is galvanized?

Love ... pure & simple.

God's love for us, in us, and through us. Not our natural affections, but His love!

All other mechanisms - be them demonstrated by the godly or the ungodly - are merely born of habit, or self-interest, or pride - of the natural affinities of mere mortals. Not all bad, but certainly not of the galvanized sort!

Character is, then, the fiber of our moral center, and it stretches throughout our being.

Absent character and it's components, and you absent love.

He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:30

Love does no harm to its neighbor.
Therefore love is
the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 13:10

Love never fails. ... now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:8, 13


So there you have it. One word lead to two; and two words lead to all these many. I love it when that happens!

Monday, January 18, 2010

In Any Aftermath

Aftermath - consequence, result;
the period immediately following
a usually ruinous event


It's probably no curious thing that my mind is tracking along this theme today. Afterall, given the myriad news reports and scenes out of Haiti, the subject of aftermath is uppermost in the minds of many.

We are hopeful that in the aftermath of this ruinous event the rubble will be removed; people will be found alive; aid will be distributed; calm will be restored; and people will come to know the amazing grace of God's incalculable salvation.

What occurs in an aftermath - be it in Haiti, or elsewhere; even in the solitary, disquieted heart quaked by life - is often linked to the application of rescue. Someone simply must reach out..

And so it is that my heart stirs.

Yes, I am mindful of Haiti. But I am even more mindful of those buried beneath life's rubble, barely alive, in desperate need of water and aid - the ones that don't even realize how bleak is their condition. They are in need of rescue too, and a Rescuer.

We can see with our own eyes the devastation on the ground in Haiti, but across the globe there are so many that don't realize their condition is equally dire. Or maybe they do, and they just haven't heard that hope and rescue is near at hand.

It is true, as Henry David Thoreau tells us:

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

When all is said and done, quakes (both literal and spiritual) will rock our world sooner or later; and all that is not firmly established will crumble - crushing hearth and heart alike. It's not judgment I'm speaking of, but the natural consequence of living in an imperfect world, where all too often we (or our loved ones) have built on sand, using material that simply will not withstand quaking. Nature's fury is not selective.

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks... His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens."The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:24-29

I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. Luke 6:46-49 f]">

May our hearts contain song long before, and long after any quake disturbs them. In any aftermath, may we be found still standing on Solid Rock - for in Him there is no such thing as a usually ruinous event!

"... let all who take refuge in You be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread Your protection over them,
that those who love Your name
may rejoice in You.
For surely, O LORD, You bless the righteous;
You surround them with your favor as with a shield.
.
Psalm 5:11-12


Friday, January 15, 2010

Surefooted


There is no panic in heaven!
Lloyd John Olgilvie

Never terribly fond of heights, I was reluctant to scale so steep a slope. But for some reason, in that season of hiking hubby and I shared while mending some broken fences in our marriage, it was an amazing way to share space and have space simultaneously.

The Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges in Washington State afford many such opportunities. There are miles and miles of trails; some for the novice, others for the seasoned Sherpa. Most often we navigated the latter, winding our way up amidst high mountain meadows, or alongside brooks and streams that often provided a thirst-quench, or a soak for weary feet. We'd talk, or not talk as we felt to ... and by the time of our return we'd have sifted through both the gentle and troubled thoughts between us.

On one such trek we found ourselves hiking switchbacks that exhaust me even now, just thinking of them. One foot ahead of the other - up, up, up we hiked, as if we were climbing steep stairs that lead to the top of an 80-story building. (By the way, this was a good 20 years ago, when I still had muscles!)

Breathing had to be measured, and rests were frequent. Then, as we neared the crest of Norse Peak Trail, we entered a shale field with a very precarious rise that placed us just this side of heaven. The drop along the ridge was sheer, but it seemed the entire world could be seen from that place - unless, of course, panic set in. Then it was hard to see at all. I know.

Panic set in. I wasn't able to see heaven for having switched my focus to what was (or, in this case, what was NOT) beneath me. I closed my eyes, dropped to my knees as if to cling to the earth, and hollered at hubby that I couldn't go up, nor could I go down. I was afraid to move; afraid to breath; afraid to open my eyes. I was afraid.

No longer breathing in steady rhythm, I found myself hyper-ventilating to such a degree that I felt sure I'd faint ... and fall. Then, as is so often the case with panic, my mind began to race and I could see myself tumbling down some scary rock face. Helicopters would have to be brought in to collect my broken body, and hubby would be left to tell the sorry/sad news to our children that their mother, a non-Sherpa, had met her fate on Norse Peak. On-and-on the thoughts raced nearly as fast as my gasps for breath.

Hubby, who is unflappable by any standard, hollered back to me as he continued to make his way along the ridge: "Look up. Don't look down."

Sure ... easy for him to say!

You know what, I was so mad at him for what seemed such a callous command that I did get up and made my way just fine ... albeit on adrenaline and anger.

Oh, it took me awhile to get past the dizziness and sick feeling that had set in, but by the time of our successful descent it had dawned on me that he'd given me heaven's best; the recipe for preventing and recovering from all fear ... Look up; don't look down (or at the circumstances frightening you).

I still don't like heights. But I know from whence my help comes from.

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber ...

Psalm 121:1-3

If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps
have more actual troubles but
I'd have fewer imaginary ones.
Don Herold


Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.
Author Unknown



Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Desperate Haiti

By now you've all tuned in to hear about the devastation that's claimed much of Haiti. Very likely your own churches have missionary outreaches there, or plan to have one now that trouble has landed with such violent force.

My own church (where I both worship and work), Palm Valley, just two years ago built a church in Valu, as well as an education center nearby. We worked through a missionary outreach called Haiti Arise, and a number of our pastors have been there several times to work alongside their ministries. Today the staff here is heartsick & concerned, gathering often to pray & plan even as we watch, riveted, to the news coming in - news that just keeps getting worse with each new report!

Just a short while ago one of the pastors here received the following communication from Haiti Arise. I'm sharing it as is.

We know these people, and that makes it all the more difficult.

Please join me in praying for the people of Haiti.

Dear Pastor Daniel,,

Buildings and roads are devastated in Haiti after being violently shaken by it's first earthquake in 250 years! The death toll is not yet known, but assumed to be high, as homes, hospitals and even a part of the national palace has collapsed.

We need your help to get aid down quickly. Your response to disaster relief after last year's hurricanes enabled us to meet many needs. We are praying we can do the same this year, as we are sure that many families in the community will need help rebuilding.

For video coverage of some of the damage, including the collapse of the national palace, click on this link to BBC News.

Urgent Prayer Points:

  • For lines of communication to open up- I think that is most important, as we can’t find out what the status of things are until then.
  • The young people we have in our community who are working or going to school in Port au Prince; for their safety.
  • For us to assess and find out how we can strategically help in the Disaster Relief and rebuilding process. This will be our focus now for a few months, I am sure.
  • The families in our community, for their homes and safety.
  • The team that is there now from Nelson, BC and the next team going from Red Deer, Alberta that they will be able to meet the immediate needs.

We want to say a sincere thanks to all of you who have already begun to respond to the plea for Disaster Releif Aid. We have had online donations coming in from all over the US and Canada. This will really help us meet the people's needs. Marc is there with a team of 24 from Nelson, BC. All are safe. They had made it to Grand-Goave from the airport in Port au Prince just before the earthquake hit yesterday. They spent the night in a school bus, as our own facility may have been compromised by the quake. Marc, the leaders and team are back at our compound now, assessing the damage; and we are awaiting with abaited breath for any news that may come.

Please pray that God will open the lines of communication!! And that our friends and young people who are living in Port au Prince for school or other things are all safe!

We will continue to keep you posted online here daily as we know more.When we know more of the situation, we will be able to better determine what we can all do to help. For now, prayer and raising financial aid will be our focus.

Sincerely,

Lisa Honorat
Haiti ARISE Ministries, Founders & Directors

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lament of the Bow

Who among us has not tasted grief and the deepest of sorrows?

Whether it's born of the death of a loved one, a deeply felt disappointment or regret, or some irrevocable loss, it's sting is potent like no other. Such grief leaves a scar that often baffles us long into our tomorrows.

David is, perhaps, the best spokesperson on the subject. His life and writings require at least one box of Kleenex as we discern his unabashed mournfulness throughout various epochs in his own life.

Certainly David's grief is keenly felt with the loss of his firstborn, but also with the betrayal of several of his own sons; their mis-deeds and premature deaths. A life lived largely on-the-run only added to his sense of disenfranchisement.

Yet it's when we come to his woeful reaction to news of the deaths of Saul and Jonathon - one a bitter but much loved enemy & the other a true, beloved friend - we not only learn of the bloody battle that claimed them, but of the depths of David's heart.

He composes a song, and it is given a name: The Lament of the Bow.

It's a dirge, a song of bereavement David is compelled to craft. It is also a song of remembrance (lest he, or anyone else forget?) ... and soon it becomes a training cadence.

It would seem war is always to be lamented. How well we all know this!

I believe it's something more ...

War and bows are, unfortunately, the stuff of gaining and maintaining freedom. Some are engaged in it for far less noble causes - like ethnic cleansing or power grabs - but it's fair to say that bloodshed is never (or lamenting, for that matter) God's Plan A. It's always a lessor plan, one that seemingly becomes inevitable long after the opportunity for doing life God's way has passed.

Such a thing never calls for rejoicing, regardless of who wins, unless it's to celebrate the end, the cessation of the war itself. In all instances, war calls for the Lament of the Bow.

Whether it's friend or foe laying mortally wounded on fields of battle (literally and figuratively), there's little cause for celebration. Victory chants ring hollow next to the bow's lament.


David took up this lament concerning Saul
and his son Jonathan, and ordered that the
men of Judah
be taught this lament of the bow
(it is written in the Book of Jashar):

"Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights.
How the mighty have fallen! ...
O mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither
dew nor rain, nor fields that yield offerings of grain.

For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.

From the blood of the slain, from the flesh
of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn
back, the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.

"Saul and Jonathan— in life they were
loved and gracious, and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.

"O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.

"How the mighty have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
The weapons of war have perished!"

1 Samuel 1:17-27

I have no clue why David's lament felt so personal to me, or why it compelled me to craft this piece. What I do know is that I have felt the wounds of friend & foe alike, and I have also seen many a loved one fallen on the fields of battle - some placed there by my own skilled archery.

May I never forget the Lament of the Bow, for even the mighty fall.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Pound of Ire; An Ounce of Grace

It was a story that captured my attention immediately. There was an element of surprise I knew would come at some point, but the story itself was thought-provoking from the onset. It made me think in it's telling; and it made me think long after. It still has that affect.

Where I heard it, I don't recall. Perhaps it was the 700 Club, or even from the pulpit of a church I attended many long years ago, sometime in the mid-80s. That's why the finer details have vanished, but not the story itself. I hope to do it justice as I attempt to share it.


There was a certain neighborhood in a certain community that played reluctant host to an XXX Theater - you know, the kind we associate with utterly poor taste at least, sleaze & deviance at worst; the kind that brings disgust by way of signage alone, not to mention the fare it offers.

Well, apparently there was a certain church in this same certain neighborhood, and many of its fold decided it was time to take matters into their own hands (can anybody say lynch mob?).

They began storming City Hall with petitions, writing their Congressmen, and taking turns as they paced back-and-forth in front of the referenced theater in protest; many of them carrying signs that left little guess-work to their quest:
  • You're not welcome here!
  • Hell is filled with your like!
  • This theater is polluting our children's minds!
  • God will judge you!
Day-after-day, the justice-seekers challenged the owner and patrons alike, making certain their God-ordained mission was carried out until that day when the theater's owner would be intimidated or shamed into closing it down and moving on. Nothing short of running the man and his theater out of the neighborhood would satisfy them.

In the wings was one solitary church-member that felt terrible about the methods being employed to oust the man and his unwanted pornography. He didn't like the theater either, but something in the process left him embarrassed, if not downright ashamed. For the life of him he couldn't get a handle on where love - that key ingredient in affecting change - was being factored in. .

Convicted and convinced that there must be a better way, he decided to call the theater owner; and was taken by complete surprise when the man agreed not only to speak with him, but meet with him.

So, on a certain day the solitary churchman went to meet the porn purveyor.

There were a few awkward pleasantries at first, but before long the churchman decided it was time to speak his piece. He said:

Listen: I, too, attend the certain church that's picketing and protesting your theater. I love those people, but I think they're wrong. I want to apologize to you for what must seem an awful lot like hate-mongering. They mean well, but I fear they may be misguided. So today I just want to leave you with my card, and let you know if ever you need a friend ... someone to talk to ... count me in.

With little more to say, the churchman and the theater owner parted company.

Some weeks or months hence, the churchman's phone rings. It's the theater owner. He asks if the churchman would mind coming to a certain hospital to sit with him. It seems the theater owner's young son lay ill, close to death (though from what illness or injury I do not now recall).

Without hesitation, the churchman made haste in response, praying for wisdom and compassion as he made his way.

For several long hours they sat together in silence. At last the theater owner asked:
Is there a God?

The churchman knew exactly where this man's heart was at that moment: confused, scared, hurting, vulnerable ... the sort of ground that's fertile for God's grace.

From that one question came a rather lengthy, but humble discussion about God's love and provision. Before it had ended, the theater owner decided he needed, and wanted to receive Jesus as his Savior. Sitting there together, close enough to join hands, they prayed softly before returning to the silence of the long wait.

In time the child recovered, but long before being released from the hospital, the child's father - the theater owner - had begun the process of closing down his business. The churchman had said nothing about this; it wasn't part of the salvation offer. Yet somehow the theater owner was compelled to channel his livelihood into another, more God-honoring direction.

There's a moral - many morals - to this story. I'll leave you to pick the one(s) that stir you. Suffice it to say I am again-and-again blown away by the gentle grace God applies to those who, in my mind, often don't deserve it.

He alone
can and does move in hearts in such mysterious ways - often without our ever speaking a word - and, quite possibly, without picket signs.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The WHY? in the Road

Along this present course in my life journey I have encountered yet another "Y" (Why?) in the road. I'll spare you the details because, quite frankly, I'm not sure I even know them, or whether I am interpreting them accurately. What appears to be is rarely what it is in reality. I don't know about you, but all too often I have rushed to judgment or action long before all the facts were in and diligently assessed.

While my heart is steadfast, that peace did not prevent me from sleeping fitfully last night; waking several times to the noise playing just beneath the surface of my consciousness. As if soothing a child, I spoke softly into the night: Be still, and know ...

As I have approached this "Y" in recent weeks (I could see it coming miles in advance), I found both challenge and delight in the following passage of scripture:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Get rid of all bitterness (malice), rage and anger, brawling (clamor) and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:22-25, 31


A whole lotta truth-speaking is underway, but as yet I have no distinct directive as to which leg of the "Y" to follow. Some details & decisions belong solely to me; some belong to others - and all belong to the Lord! Best I steer clear of anticipated outcomes, results and the like.

What's truly remarkable is that I'm content - still and at peace - here before the "Y". I suppose that's due largely to my yesteryears; the ones strewn with many an example of running ahead, often with clamor or malice, and even good intentions, invigorating my gait. This way is far better.

Yes ... the putting off of my ways and the putting on of His is truly the best cloaking for both approaching a "Y", and then navigating the course when at last it's taken.


The Whys? of the "Y" don't need to be answered before I trust in the Lord. In time it will be perfectly clear; the ground firm beneath my feet!.


The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.

Psalm 28:7

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.

Proverbs 4:25-26

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Unbeknownst

If you're a reader/writer type, then likely you have an affinity for words as do I. Some of them grip me with tentacles, while others pass through my decipherer (new word) without pause.

Unbeknownst has tentacles.

Merriam tells us that it's an adjective meaning: happening/occurring or existing without the knowledge of someone specified.

Given that definition, I confess there's a plethora of unbeknownsts in my life.

I suppose that's why I looked long and hard at a passage from the First Book of Kings. In Chapter 17 we find the amazing Elijah as he receives certain instructions from God; instructions that will continue preserving his life through a dreadful drought & famine upon the land.

Most of us know the story from an entirely different angle than the one that's captured my focus, but bear with me ... The story opens with God instructing Elijah:

"Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there.
I have commanded (remember this word
and the fact that it's past tense
)
a widow in that
place to supply you with food."

So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate,
a widow was there gathering sticks.
He called to her and asked,
"Would you bring me a little water in a jar
so I may have a drink?"
As she was going to get it, he called,
"And bring me, please, a piece of bread."
(
The original fast-food order!)

"As surely as the LORD your God lives," she replied,
"I don't have any bread—
only a handful of flour in a jar and
a little oil in a jug.
I am gathering a few sticks to take home
and make a meal for myself and my son,
that we may eat it—and die."

(Remember, God had "commanded" her
to supply Elijah with food,
apparently unbeknownst to her. Besides which,
even if she had been beknownst,
she didn't have any food to offer anyway.
This lady had lost all hope, hit bottom,
and was actually preparing for death!)

Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid...
For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says:
'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil
will not run dry until the day the
LORD gives rain on the land.'
"She went away and did as Elijah had told her
(unbeknownst to the fact that God had already,
and previously commanded her)..
.

So there was food every day for Elijah
and for the woman and her family
. (vs 9-15)

In roughly seven verses we learn something incredible. While I'm no Theologian, I can certainly connect a few dots to my own life. What size and shape might those dots take? Let's consider the unbeknownsts.

  • I may be oblivious to the commands of God in my own life.
  • God will never lead me where He hasn't already prepared a place for me.
  • It's possible I'll do something when I'm most desperate (aka, "hit bottom", or "come to the end of self") that I might otherwise avoid.
  • How many times do I have to read or hear from God's own word "do not fear" will it take before I remove fear from my coping arsenal?
  • God first works in me before He works through me.
  • Sometimes I'll credit self or others with something God alone has orchestrated/ordained.
  • I don't know what I don't know.
When all is said and done, I must admit that much, if not most of God's amazing grace in my life comes-and-goes without my awareness. It is unbeknownst to me.

I plan on working the dot from the other direction, from the beknownst side. I'm thinking that way fear has no hope of gaining a foot-hold, and gratitude can long be at work before His provision is even known - knownst!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Watering Methods


On the corner of our property mother's flower bed left no doubt about who in the family had a green thumb. She had a way with flora, and with the benefit of hindsight I believe it was born of her creative nature - the same nature that causes some to paint and others to write.

Mother's gallery included dahlias, hyacinth, crocus, candytuft, ice plant, veronica, forget-me-nots - among other colorful creations, rock dwellers and ground covers. A profusion best observed in Spring, the delight of it often ran long through the somewhat
tropical climate of summers in the Pacific Northwest. Nature itself fostered the nurture.

When in bloom it could be seen from nearly every approach to our home. It was mother's joy and the neighbor's delight; onlookers often stopped to oogle (don't you love that word, Beth?) .

It was also my job to water that flower bed on summer mornings (with the use of "that flower bed", do you gather I wasn't very fond of the chore?). OK, so I confess I didn't much appreciate the work that had gone into planting it, or even in what other's saw there - mostly because the care of it robbed me of valuable time at play.

But mother was clear:
"I want you to spend at least a half hour with the water gently wetting the soil around each and every plant."

A half hour? Really? Gently? Really?

Well, it didn't take me very long to figure out I could get the job done in roughly 8 minutes. I'd turn on the nozzle, full blast, and douse those beauties with enough water they'd never thirst again.

Or so I thought.

It typically took a few days, but eventually mother's botanically-trained eye would detect something amiss and amok among her prided flower pasture. Plants were wilting. Some bore signs (evidence) of having endured a cruel storm.


Needless to say, she knew exactly what (or, rather, who) was to blame. The watering was not being done properly.

You see, in my haste and flawed estimations, I thought getting something wet was the same as giving it a thorough thirst quench. Not terribly astute, but a quick fix.

Problem was, and is, is that quick fixes of the watering sort are not healthy for plants - or humans either, for that matter. Just because something looks wet doesn't translate to fully-moistened, saturated.

Unless the below ground root system is quenched, everything visible above ground is likely to suffer, or die.

"Each day we put our roots down in the streams of the Living Water, Christ Himself. Then all through the day we are refreshed by what we took from the artesian brook in our nook." Lloyd John Ogilvie

It's took me a good many years, and equally many challenges to realize that even deserts bloom when streams flow upon their dry ground. So do humans.

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water
will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks
the water I give him will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give him will
become in him a spring of water
welling up to eternal life."
John 4:13-14

And let him who hears say, "Come!"
Whoever is thirsty, let him come;
and whoever wishes, let him
take the free gift of the water of life.

Revelation 22:17

How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:7-9

P.S. Mother was all about obedience, so you can be sure I was disciplined for my rebellious watering methods. That discipline often took the form of watering not just the one flower bed, but many others as well ... right beneath mother's watchful gaze no less! Whole mornings were spent "learning" how to water properly. Oy! Sometimes they still are!!

.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dream Snatchers


Are there any dream-snatchers in your life? You know, the sort of people (or personal patterns) that have an uncanny way of dousing a dream with doubt - whether intentionally or unintentionally?

It's probably just a by-product of life's imperfections that we and/or others snatch away certainties. Sometimes it occurs in the early stages, when a concept or thought is embryonic and needing time & nurture to become more than a barely-visible collection of swiftly dividing cells. At other times it's when the dream is nearly reaching fulfillment, when flesh has begun to form on the now-visible skeletal frame.

For the same reason it's probably why some feel they know what's best for us and others. It may seem even more best (I know, flawed English) when we second-guess ourselves, dashing our own dreams with a dose of reality ... or so we say. Afterall, we are but flawed mortals.

But what if that vision or dream is a gift from the Word of God? Might we not need to exercise discernment in it's sharing, or in the giving up of it?

How do we avoid the pummeling of our noblest notions?

A disclaimer: I pen this reluctantly, knowing there are all manner of visions being shared - not to mention powerful signs & wonders claimed in the name of a God-ordained happening, some of which may or may not be authentic. Much is said and done in His name that, I fear, has little to do with Him. So, as I proceed, it's always, always, always with the bedrock of His Word as the plumb line - the final Word on any word.

On I go ...

There's a story in the book of First Kings that caused me to ponder along these lines. It has to do with the untidy work of the prophet, and what happens when said prophet lays aside their certainties for the certainties of another. Those prophets of old had one tough job!

We find the story in Chapter 13. The details aren't particularly important in this telling, even though they were utterly relevant then ... when a certain, no-name prophet was dispatched with a commission that entailed a message and marching orders.

No-name was to deliver a dire warning to King Jeroboam, and then get out of Dodge. Well, maybe not Dodge, but to get out of town anyway ... by a different route than he'd come, and without stopping to dine with anyone. He obeys explicitly.

All is good so far; but that changes when a certain other no-name prophet - No Name Prophet #2 who is, quite obviously, a charlatan - shows up to tell him he got it all wrong; that God had actually spoken to him, and the message given was counter to what No-Name Prophet #1 had discerned. (Can anyone say: Did God really say ??? from the Garden of Eden story?)

Collusion sets in, and here comes the dream-snatching. In this case, it leads down one mighty slippery slope. In the end, No-Name Prophet #1 forfeits his vision at the behest of No-Name Prophet #2. He gets a much needed rest and a fine meal in the deal, but death follows. (I hate it when that happens!)

Now that's a pretty drastic saga ... most likely one none of us will have to walk out similarly. But there's a principle buried in it's telling that I hope never to forget: If God HAS spoken (through His Word), let no man (be it a king, priest or prophet) - no matter how convincing or compelling - steal that Word away.

Conversely, If God HAS NOT spoken (through His Word), run like a cheetah!

This is a principle we discover over-and-over in Scripture. From Eve to Saul; from the Prophets of Baal to Jonah; from Ananias & Sapphira to the Pharisees - - when God's word is mis-used, marginalized, minced and maligned, the perps intend to snatch dreams away and interject their own instead. Self-will runs riot and noble notions take a back-seat to some lessor purpose.

Jesus replied, "You are in error because
you do not know the Scriptures
or the power of God.

Matthew 22:29

(Jesus) replied, "Blessed rather are those
who hear the word of God and obey it."

Luke 11:28

I've had dreams stolen right out from under my nose. I've stolen dreams, too, thinking I knew what another ought to think or do in a given situation.

For some inexplicable reason, No-Name Prophet #1 reminds me today to keep on - to focus straight ahead - and to never turn back to a lessor road for a morsel; and to never offer morsels to someone that may have been promised a banquet as their dream(s) are fleshed out.

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 4:25-27