Friday, January 24, 2014

Learning from Dewey

It stunned me when I actually heard from my own prayerful lips:  "Father, I confess that just because I think something is so, it doesn't make it so.  You alone know the end from the beginning.  Forgive me.".  

Long after those words had left my lips they returned again-and-again in a swirl around my brain like a tennis ball in a clothes dryer.  Why oh why had I prayed that; and in that way?

Surely I believe God's word ~ His inerrant word; His recounting of creation & history, His granting of an understanding of His own plans & purposes, His vast sum of promises, His prophetic landscapes?  Indeed, yes.  No question.  No doubt.

So what's the rub here?

I wish I had a complete answer for you.

In truth, I'm still catching the swirls & filing them into some brainiacy facsimile of the Dewey Decimal System.  At times I find a item that I filed under a section or a division, when all along it belonged in a class by itself.  Conversely, I am tempted to make up a class that's nothing more than a division.  

Worse, I have rarely, at times, too often insisted my feelings (emotions) are synonymous with fact, which makes them impossible to file at all.  

The scriptures remind me about & caution me against the folly of flesh that is so common to man (and woman), and that so easily ensnares & corrupts: 

For I delight in the Law of God according 
to the inward man.  BUT I see another 
law in my members, warring again the 
law of my mind, and bringing me into 
captivity to the law of sin 
which is in my members. 
~ Romans 7:22-23 NIV

Since, then, we do not have the excuse of 
ignorance, everything connected with 
that old way of life has to go.  
It's rotten through and through.  Get rid of it!  
And then take on an entirely new way of life 
~ a God-fashioned life ~ 
a life renewed from the inside and 
working itself into your conduct as 
God accurately reproduced His character in you.
Ephesians 4:22-24 Msg

Anyone's that's been to a library benefits from Dewey's organizational skill.  They also know the lunacy of not following the system's protocol:  You may never find or see your item again.  Ever. 

How would one know if they'd fallen victim to such a badly conceived notion?  I don't know about you, but in my case it's that I find, at some point (and not always right away), that I'm wrong.  Dead wrong.  

Thinking, especially wishful thinking, is not faith.  Nor is Magical Thinking (a very real disorder).  Faith truly is in a class all by itself, and all my thinking may or may not belong to the section or division beneath it.  Sometimes it is God alone who knows what is mis-placed, mis-guided & mis-directed, or that needs to be removed entirely from my mind, my thought-life.  

So, my friends, there you have it.  Clear as mud, right?!!  Probably ... but this isn't:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, 
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  
Then you will be able to test and approve 
what God's will is ~ His good, pleasing 
and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

You will keep in perfect peace those whose 
minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.  
Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord 
~ the Lord Himself ~ 
is the Rock Eternal.
Isaiah 26:3

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, 
and lean not on your own understanding
in all your ways acknowledge Him, 
and He shall direct your paths.  
Do not be wise in your own eyes; 
fear the Lord and depart from evil.  
It will be health to your flesh and 
strength to your bones.
Proverbs 3:5-8

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Make Mine Gypsophila

I will stand at my watch & position myself on the 
rampart, and watch to see what He'll say to me.
Habakkuk 2:1

Since last August my heart's begun to move to a lofty locale in the upper, northeastern part of Washington State.  It's a piece of God's earth well known to me and my family because, back in the late 1800s my Wells kin (James Elmer & Annie McFadden-Wells) migrated from Grand Rapids, Michigan to homestead on Jackass Butte above the Okanogan Valley. 

James Elmer 1862-1919 & 
Annie Clare 1859-1956

My father, the 7th of 10 children, grew up there.  And, with the untimely death of his father (from an abscessed tooth, no less), he helped grandmother Annie manage their homestead, as well as to raise the younger of his siblings.  Two of them, Dad and his sister, Helen (same name as my mother), remained in the area long after the other siblings moved elsewhere.  Eventually Dad would meet & marry another Helen and move further west to Seattle while Aunt Helen married & raised her children in the valley.  That branch of the family tree remains there still.

It's a place of contrasts, Okanogan Country:  stark & inhospitable on the one hand, beautiful & mesmerizing on the other.  A haunt for cattle, indians & cowboys, little has changed since pioneering days.  Scrub Pine, Tumbleweed & Gypsophila (Baby's Breath) decorate the landscape; and rodeos and auctions are routine fare.  Outdoorsmen of every ilk ~ be they locals or city-slickers ~ flock to the hills, lakes, rivers & streams for fishing & hunting forays.  Bake sales & church picnics are routine, all the while boot-clad men head on into town for their morning coffee at the Cariboo Inn, certain the world pivots on the fat chewed over their morning brew. 

This is not a place or people given to lavishes.  Theirs is a humble life, where faith, family & friends are truly at the heart of daily life.  You won't find a mall or many eateries closer than Wenatchee or Spokane, some 2 hours away.  What you will find is an abundance of baseball fields, fair grounds, small churches (every iteration) stock yards, fenced pastures & open range land, and farm supply outlets.  

Over the years I spent a good deal of time with my country cousins.  It began when I was a wee child; when hanging out with four wild & clever boys was the antithesis (& delight) of my prissy & nearly all-female populated world (having but 3 sisters & no brothers).  Eventually Terry was introduced to that home on the range, and was equally smitten with the cousins (and they him) & the land too.  So it is with little wonder we talked often of living there someday.  

Someday has come.

High above the valley floor sits this lovely log roost that will be our next home.  I like to think of it as saghalie ~ a Native American term that means high and holy land (think integrity).  The house is pitched on the ridge directly across from Jackass Butte, actually looking down at it ~ a feature that will allow me to deeply ponder those long ago people & their times.  Surrounded by pear & apple orchards behind & below, it will soon harbor all our worldly possessions  As of this writing it already has a piece of my heart.

I can't help but think how surprised & blessed would be the ancestors long gone.  What drew them well over 100 years ago has now drawn me.   I hope to write much of that common ground, the saghalie sort.  In fact, I've already spied out the perch from which I'll pen those tales. 

Footnote:  While we have purchased the home, several things delay our actual move.  We've targeted April/May.  For now, we sit tight in a lovely little condo not far from our previous home here ~ a home that sold the same day we put it on the market.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014


"Then Jesus said to his host, 
'When you give a luncheon or dinner, 
do not invite your friends, your brothers 
or sisters, your relatives, 
or your rich neighbors; 
if you do, they may invite you back 
so you will be repaid.  
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, 
the crippled, the lame, the blind, 
and you will be blessed.  
Although they cannot repay you, 
you will be repaid 
at the resurrection of the righteous'."  
Luke 14:12-14

Expectations are funny little creatures.  Often they look, or appear to be cute, fuzzy, cuddly, animated little pets until, on closer inspection, they reveal themselves to be a skunk, or a badger, or a crocodile.  Not so cute after-all.

As I pondered the referenced scripture earlier, it occurred to me that now & then ... sometimes ...  far too often I head off in an ordained direction (worthy of a post unto itself) only to find myself, later, wondering why on God's green earth it didn't turn out as I had expected or prayed, if even it happened at all?  I'm not sure I actually expected a personal reward for my unselfish, obedient service.  Then again ...

"One learns to ignore criticism by 
first learning to ignore applause."  
~ Robert Brault

This I know:  There are things that will not happen here and now, or even as I conceive they ought to be.  They may come later, perhaps in a far different form than I could possibly have imagined.  They may not arrive at all.  I don't understand, and I don't need to understand.

It appears I'm in good company given Luke's telling.  If there's anything certain about God and His ways, it's that He/they are often counter-intuitive.  It's not that expectations in themselves are a bad thing, it's when I make them expectsational that they get all whompy ~ as if I know how this or that should unfold or end, or how God intends to work in any given situation.  Hubris makes of them synonymous with God's own word, while humility leaves the results to Him and Him alone.  

So, though I scratch my head, I totally get that expectations can have fangs and claws, or stink to high heaven (literally).  Best that I ask (whatever) in faith, and leave my own little paws off both outcomes & the taking of bows (the kind that require bending, not the the sort you'd put in your hair).  

What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.
~ Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Simple (or Simply) Trust

God is our refuge & strength; 
a very present help in trouble.  
~ Psalm 46:1

Across the landscape of my memory a scene has emerged.  It is one I've seen many times before; and one I shall never forget.  It always takes me back to the early 70s when my children were wee.  It is also among the most beautiful of life lessons taught me by an Unseen Hand ~ one I've not always recognized in the moment, but long after, when 20/20 hindsight reveals the bigger picture.

One of my sisters had a swimming pool ~ a rare thing in that era, and even rarer still in Washington state, the land of perpetual mist.  Thus it was a special treat to be invited for a swim.  Oftentimes we'd be joined by our other sisters and their families.  The children ~ cousins ~ delighted in the whole of it.

In the summer of 1973 my daughter, Molly would have been 2 1/2. She loved the water but had no sense of the danger associated with it.  Many, many times she'd been warned to stay away unless someone older was with her; someone who could actually swim.  But the thrill of it all was often too much for her.  She'd put her little toes just over the edge and then eyeball us.  A taunt.  

On one such occasion Molly began making her way down the steps that lead into the pool.  Repeated cautions fell on intentionally deaf ears.  The top 3 steps presented no problem; her head was easily above water.  But once she stepped onto the 4th step she would be completely immersed.  Many times we'd run to grab her just in the nick of time.  But that day, the one from my memory's landscape, I sat close by and let it happen.  

Down she went: one step, two step, three step, four.  I made my way to her, expecting a clamor of fear and a flailing of small limbs.  I hoped it would teach her a valuable lesson about the danger of water.  Instead, a very calm Molly stood stock still on that fourth step, raising her little hand until it broke the water's surface, and there she waited.  She had no doubt I would pluck her out.

I'm certainly not advocating for a near-death experience in order to teach children a lesson or to prove a point.  Besides, Molly was never in any real danger even if she didn't know that.  Beyond that, even, are the lessons I've set upon teaching an errant other when, quite often, they are actually lessons God intended for me to learn.

What strikes me in this little girl beneath the water scene is its analogous linkage to faith & trust.  But I'll not draw too many bottom lines for you.  Likely you're already forming analogies of your own.  

Suffice it to say:  Many is the day I stand on the 4th step with my hand reaching just above the water's surface.  I wait there, absolutely certain the Father will pluck me up.  I have no doubt.

(L-R Cousins David & Monica, 
Molly ~being coy on the pool's edge~, 
Brad, Cousin Lisa and Kelly)

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
You preserve my life; You stretch out
Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, 
and Your right hand delivers me.
~ Psalm 138:7

P.S.  For those of you who know of Molly's current battle against Ovarian Cancer it will be of little wonder that she, to this day, faces every challenge in similar fashion.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Mileposts & Milestones

I'm not a huge fan of resolutions ~ New Year's or otherwise.  But I wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion of setting goals & benchmarks.  Without them, I've tended to navigate as if taking a road trip to a distant locale without a map. It may be a bit adventurous, but it's fairly certain I'll never reach a desired destination.

This year I hope to be more intentional about setting goals.  It's harder to do now that I've reached the Ranks of the Retired, but it's no less important than it was when I wore a business cap & managed large objectives, dollars and people.  Achieving those goals (or not) was the substance of what my superiors used to assess my performance.  They were essential then; they're essential now.  Besides, why would God advise us to number our days in order to gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12), if not to actually do something intentional with those numbers?

Lest I bore you into a hasty retreat, let me offer you a more relaxed exit right now.  What follows will, no doubt, be of interest to me and me alone.  But before you go, let me just encourage you set some goals of your own.  They're sure to engender a love/hate reaction somewhere along the way, but I can think of no better way to get to where you want to go.

While the following verse emphatically establishes the cost of discipleship, it also does something else:  It reminds me that everything worth doing entails both a plan and a price.  

“... But don’t begin until you count the cost. 
For who would begin without first 
calculating the cost to see 
if there is enough money to finish it? 
Otherwise, you might complete only 
the foundation before running out 
of money, and then everyone 
would laugh at you.  They would say, 
‘There’s the person who started 
that building and couldn’t 
afford to finish it!’
“Or what king would go to war against 
another king without first 
sitting down with his counselors 
to discuss whether his army of 10,000 
could defeat the 20,000 soldiers 
marching against him? 
And if he can’t, he will send a delegation 
to discuss 
terms of peace while the enemy 
is still far away. 
(Luke 14:27-32 ESV)

It appears, in God's economy, that strategy-laying is very much a part of good stewardship.

So, for the record ~ my record ~ here are the key items I'd like to tackle in 2014.  They are not necessarily in the order of importance, & I maintain the freedom to add to and/or alter them as the year unfolds.

The Goal:  Take better care of my health & lose 10 pounds.

  • Exercise more (walking 5 out of 7 days; gym/weights 3 out of 7 days).
  • Eliminate most of the needless carbs from my eating habits.
The Goal:  Affirm the value of family & friends.

  • Finish scanning all my family photos, including those of my mother & father into digital form.
  • Begin compiling a pictorial record of heritage for the family.
  • Continue penning a tribute (book) to my parents to be passed onto my children & extended family.
  • Continue to share home & hearth.
Goal:  Increase my knowledge & understanding of God's word.
  • Devote a minimum of 30 minutes per day in scripture meditation and prayer.
  • Pick one new Bible-related subject per month to research, study & journal about.
The Goal:  Serve others ~ humbly & unselfishly.
  • Look for opportunities to serve other people without self-serving expectations (like getting noticed).
  • Serve the community in which I reside (volunteerism).
  The Goal:  Value Time and God's Favor
  • Intentionally seek to be productive, useful.
  • Watch less T.V.
  • Engage in less social media.
  • Begin & end the day by counting blessings (i.e, opportunities, gains, losses, favor/open doors, protection/shut doors, answered prayer).

A strange thing happens when I commit to something in print & then share it:  accountability takes root.  Things with roots tend to grow ~ and ultimately that's my overriding goal:  To grow to be more like Jesus.

For physical training is of some value, 
but godliness has value for all things, 
holding promise for both the present life 
and the life to come. 
This is a trustworthy saying that deserves 
full acceptance. 
That is why we labor and strive, 
because we have put our hope in 
the living God, who is the Savior of all people, 
and especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things... set an example 
for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, 
in faith and in purity.
Until I come, devote yourself to the public
reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 
Be diligent in these matters; 
give yourself wholly to them, 
so that everyone may see your progress. 
Watch your life and doctrine closely. 
Persevere in them ... 
1 Timothy 4:8-13, 15-16