December 20, 2008

A Time to Turn Aside and See the Wonder...

I've gotten rather caught up in Christmas busy-ness this year. All good legitimate, must-get-it-done things--gift-making mostly. But the mental to-do-list has strained my peace of mind and the sense of urgency has stolen some of my quiet reflecting time. This morning I was determined to sit and listen for at least a few minutes to the early morning quiet before the mental clamour set in. I miss the unhurried quiet times with my journal and the Word.

And this is what I saw.
Moses, in the desert, about his business. And he sees a bush burning, and funny thing is, it keeps on burning and doesn't seem to be burning up. So he stops what he's doing, takes a detour and goes to take a closer look.

Do you know what happens next? Of course you do, and I did too. Moses is in for a new job assignment though he doesn't know it yet. But there is a line in there I hadn't noticed before. The ESV reads: "When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush." God was waiting to talk to Moses, waiting to catch his attention. Waiting to share His heart, and commission Moses to a new calling.

Imagine it, God waits for me to turn aside and take note of the wonders at hand, to come into His presence consciously and listen for Him to speak.... What wonders am I missing in my busy-ness this season? We've had an unusually beautiful and lasting snowfall but I've overlooked the awe of it for the most part because 'there just isn't time to be staring out the window, or worse yet going out in the stuff for a walk or a galavant!'
Hmm. Too busy to be filled with wonder?

Well that was a sweet and gentle reminder to me that God, the great I AM (never changing, always the same in character no matter what I may perceive, constant, all that I need...), is ready and waiting to speak if I will 'turn aside' to take note of the wonders along my path.

And in this Season of Wonder, may you find quiet places to pause and listen for His voice too. You'll be glad you did.

And one other item-- I've had a complaint re: this blog. "It never has any pictures." So I am including some glimpses of our Winter Wonderland. This closing one was taken by Jim on our walk to see the newfallen snow.

December 2, 2008

Planned Obsolescence

obsolescence: the state, process, or condition of being or becoming obsolete

‘Tis the season for blogs to be neglected in the shuffle to get ready for Christmas. The Christmas boxes have erupted their contents all over our living room and are begging to have their contents tastefully displayed… the kids have hung some lights and sparkling garland. Christmas music is playing nearly non-stop at our house. I got a new CD this year that has turned my attention back to a profound truth, the backbone of Christmas—God became a man, took on flesh and blood, got into a human body. What a liability. What vulnerability. What a ‘downgrade’. The eternal taking on a fragile tent of existence…

As my body edges nearer its half-century anniversary the ‘hiccups’ in performance grow more frequent and pronounced…
A friend needs a biopsy.
A neighbor, a colonoscopy.
What’s that ache in my side, that recurring pain?
Maybe I do too!
I think these bodies are not unlike old cars in certain respects. Look at our old “Crown Vic”: scars from past encounters, poor reception--especially since the antenna broke off, ‘range of motion’ issues in the driver’s side electric window, inability to run up hills with the energy it once knew, a chronic lack of get-up-and-go when it’s time to accelerate… See any resemblances to your own model of flesh and blood? Wouldn’t it be nice if a change of spark plugs would cure-all—in both instances?!

It seems though that there is a ‘planned obsolescence’ involved. Old cars and old bodies are both born to die. A book I’ve been reading lately states it pretty pointedly: “There’s no escaping this fate, no circumventing our planned obsolescence in this world. There is no discipline that will appease it, no faith that will reverse it, no bargaining nor even love that can buy it off.” (*Mason, p.152) Sounds like my renewed determination to exercise more faithfully and eat fewer chocolate chip cookies may be in vain!

If you are brave enough, read this author’s morbid depiction of old age:

“If we are lucky enough to survive into old age, it will only be to find that even the most basic amenities of life will begin to be withdrawn from us one by one: legal freedoms; good health; friends; the comforts of our own home; physical and intellectual abilities; the capacity to think clearly, remember things, read a book, walk around the block, enjoy food, go to the bathroom. An old man is a ruined city, a fallen kingdom, a disaster area full of leaks and potholes and crumbling walls. In the end there may be nothing left to him but life itself, the faintest squiggle on a piece of graph paper, and even that may be unceremoniously flicked away like a speck of lint from the collar of the dashing young world.”(*Mason, p.152)

Oh my. That sounds depressing. I found myself out for a walk after reading that, determining that I surely don’t want to live to old age! But kicking and screaming (inside!) in resistance is not much use. My life is not my own…I’ve been bought with a price and this body is here to glorify its Maker… Hmm. That’s a fresh perspective. And what’s the point of raging against becoming obsolete, if in fact the whole of creation is flowing toward that end? What am I saying when I insist on wanting this body to be forever young?! Could it be I am declaring ‘a preference for temporal values over eternal ones.’ (Mason, p.153) That’s convicting. Mason goes so far as to state that in fact to struggle not to become obsolete is not only a pitiful struggle but a rejection of the very kingdom of God and its gift of eternal life! (p.153)

OK. So what are we to do? We’re trapped inside bodies that are destined to decay. The wiring and the plumbing and all the systems we’ve come to depend on may in fact go bad. The writing is on the wall (quite literally these days with Facebook)--health issues infiltrate conversations both live and virtual more often than they used to… . What’s to be done? Could it be that this whole issue of planned obsolescence is
purposeful? Could it be that accepting my own demise, however soon or late, is the first step toward exchanging temporal values for eternal ones? When do I long for Heaven more—when I’m happy as a clam in my cozy shell at high tide? or when my shell is in peril and my existence pained?

There are plenty of passages in Scripture that lend a clear perspective. The whole crowd in Hebrews 11 comes to mind. If anybody had something to complain about they did! They certainly knew bodily discomfort! All were commended for their faith yet died not having received the promises they awaited-- yet. And then comes this charge in Hebrews 12. I just got a Message New Testament today. Let me quote from it:
“Do you see what this means-all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit!… Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” Hebrews 12:1-3The Message—E.Peterson

Ahh… and there it is again. The purpose of Christmas-- God becoming man to blaze the way to Heaven for me. To conquer death and the bondage that comes with fearing it. Say, that’s reason to bring on the decorations. Let’s celebrate! A Savior has been born to us—hope has come! As a friend says, “Life is hard. God is good. Let’s dance!”

And if you’re in need of a shot of perspective by way of music, pop on some headphones, turn up the volume and go to…
[The rest of that website is in a shambles but if you click on the “Hope has come” link you will be directed to an energizing song where you can recharge your ‘batteries’. Enjoy. I commend to you the whole album, which I bought myself for an early Christmas present this year ( : LS]

*Quotations taken from The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason

November 8, 2008

Truth or Illusion

“The Bear”. It caught my eye in the DVD section of the Library last week. Looked like a refreshing bit of scenic wildlife footage, just the sort of thing I love—reminiscent of Mutual of Omaha’s "Wild Kingdom" on TV Sunday nights when I was growing up. Yes, this would be just the thing.

The caption on the cover read: “The greatest thrill is not to kill but to let live.” The unarmed fellow on the cover pinned to a rocky outcropping by an enormous roaring grizzly didn’t look too thrilled but…

Hey, I wasn’t going to let a silly “animals-have-all-the-rights-hunters-are-evil” agenda keep me from enjoying some awesome wild footage of God’s creation. I figured I could ignore the running commentary and just enjoy the pictures.

WRONG. I was duped. It’s not just words that can deceive. If ‘seeing is believing’ I was in for a pictorial primer on the virtue of wild animals and the vice of man. “Thou shalt let animals have dominion” was the silent mantra.

With the opening scene—majestic snow-capped mountains, alpine meadows teeming with wildflowers, orchestral accompaniment—I was hooked. Curiously the movie had very little verbal monologue, or verbal anything. I lowered my guard. How could real-life nature footage lead me astray?

Ahh.. what a cute little bear cub. Wow, must have taken quite the patience to film that bit of him playing with the butterfly… Ah, Mama Bear in the honey tree, how nice, sharing with baby bear. Ahh, look at them loving each other, licking lips together. Isn’t that sweet…Uh-oh. The rocks are falling down. Watch out Mama. Too late. Boulder hits Mama Bear and she’s out cold. Dead. Baby bear’s abandoned. Poor thing. Listen to him whimper and sniffle. Sounds just like a baby…He’s crying. He’ll have nightmares tonight.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, haunting sound track begin. Crackling firelight. Leering laughter around a fire. Ah, the big bad hunters--surrounded by their bear skins, polishing their rifles…oooo they’re wicked. Just look at them. It’s obvious.

Fast forward. Baby goes a-wandering and meets bachelor Grizzly. Fierce fellow, recently injured by a big bad hunter. Snarly. But little cub wins his affection and voila they become best of companions. Wow, isn’t that sweet. And on go the images. No commentary. Next thing you know it’s a wily mountain lion after little cub. Amazing footage. What a lot of patience this must have taken to get these pictures… Cats are bad, wild ones anyway. Bears are good. So, no cat, you can’t eat that bear cub. But bears can eat antelope. That’s ok. That’s good even. Don’t mind the blood and guts. It’s ok. Bear’s hungry…

A picture paints a thousand words… and has power to beguile where words could never do the job. I shan’t bore you with all the details of this beautifully contrived movie. We’ll get right to the climax. Hunter on lookout for bear to kill needs a drink. Abandoning all caution and good sense he heads to the water hole unarmed and inattentive. Of course the grizzly (clearly? out for revenge) meets him there and threatens his very life. In terror big bad hunter becomes a whimpering cowering idiot, crying to wild animal for mercy. And of course the great Grizzly, good bear that he is behind all that wildness, closes his roaring mouth, turns and strides away. Big bad hunter is transformed by grace from that moment on into a bear-care advocate. He gathers his guns and companions and goes home a new man. And it is hoped, the viewer shall henceforth be likewise transformed having seen the truth about bears and men…

Cool movie. Beautiful footage. Minimal scripting… or was there?! The bonus trailer and commentary features blew away my illusions. ‘Real-life nature footage’ it was not. The credits rolled to reveal such things as ‘bear-trainer’, ‘pima trainer’… and pet bears with names…The behind-the-scenes features revealed honeybees imported by the thousands from Germany, trained bears being led around on leashes, monstrous machinery rearranging whole stream beds to get the flow just right….And scripting?-- shot by shot it was all scripted with the express intent of evoking human sympathy for the cause of animal protection by making animals appear almost human in their capacity for expressing human emotion. A masterfully done film, but nothing ‘natural’ or ‘wild’ about it, except perhaps the honeybees when they got over excited and began attacking the film crew!

As I listened to the director explaining his mission and saw these behind-the-scenes details I felt both silly and angry. Silly that I’d been partially duped despite my intent to remain unaffected by the movie’s bias. Angry that the producers were creating something with intent to deceive.

Of course this scenario is replayed countless times. We are bombarded all the days of our lives with deceptive imagery with intent to persuade…This was perhaps a minor case. Does it matter if I think hunting is evil or animals possess human emotions? What other fallacies have I taken in because my eyes have ‘seen’ them? Why do I believe what I believe? Is it because I heard it somewhere or I ‘saw’ it with my own eyes? Is that safe evidence? How do I know what I believe is true? I am challenged to consider these things and to guard the gateway of my heart against counterfeits. What I need is a sentry that will not flex with the flow of modern thought. It’s got to be authoritative and always right, an unchanging standard. Never has the Word of God looked like such good news!

“The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” I Peter 1:24,25

November 3, 2008

He Loves Me!

I must add a note to the Peter Story. I've just been reading a new book called "He Loves Me" and came upon this quote:

The doorway into the Father’s love begins at the cross. Seeing what Father and Son accomplished together in that climactic moment defines love in a way that you can only experience in him. This is the love that will allow you to feel perfectly safe in the Father’s presence. It frees you to be exactly who you are, weaknesses and all, and never again have to pretend before him.
Then you will discover that life in God rises out of your security in his love, not your insecurity that you don’t love him enough. That’s the lesson Jesus wanted to teach Peter that morning by Galilee’s shore. Though Peter could not answer that he loved Jesus to the depth that Jesus asked, he had more to learn of the power of the cross . He had a fear of his own failures that had not been swallowed up by God’s love.

Just had to share it; it goes to the heart of what I am needing to learn( : I find it's one thing to hear profound truth with my head, but quite another to know it in my heart and live out of it.

Incidentally, the whole book is available to read on-line or download as a PDF file. It's good reading! and can be found at:

Just click on the link that reads: 'Download 1st Edition as a PDF File'

Blessings on you as you follow Him...

October 26, 2008

Peter's Story...and mine?

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about Love, not the mushy romantic stuff of movies and trash fiction but the God-kind. The kind that goes on despite the unlovely object. My thinking started with a sermon taken from John 13-15 focusing on our obligation to love each other as hard evidence that we in fact love God... It's easy to present the case:

1) Jesus said, 'If you love me you will keep my commandments.'

2) Jesus said, 'This is my commandment: that you love one another (as I have loved you!!)'

The rational conclusion: if you don't love each other, you don't love God. Simple. Case closed.

To be fair, that was only a part of what was said. There was more, about forgiveness and fellowship... and vines and sticks! Who wants to be a stick, thrown in the 'burn pile', useless?! Not I. And yet, I could think of more than one person I find it difficult to think fondly of, let alone love like Jesus does. I should have seen a red flag right there and started waving my white one! Do I love anybody like Jesus does?! I give up. To admit it then and there would have saved me an afternoon of unrest and soulsearching. I should have just said, "Yes, you're right, I don't love people like God does and yet, I know in my heart that I do love God. " But how is this apparent contradiction to be explained?

I got alone with the Good Shepherd in a quiet place later in the afternoon and it has made all the difference in my understanding. When I asked Him how I was to make sense of this passage my eyes fell on Peter's words in John 13:37. Jesus had just announced His upcoming Crucifixion indirectly, saying He was going away and that his disciples would not be able to follow Him right then... and Peter blurted out: "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I'll lay down my life for you!".
My attention was arrested because I know Peter's story. I know he had great intentions of demonstrating his love for Jesus with the ultimate test of laying down his life. He meant what he said. But Jesus had to contradict him: "Will you? In fact, you'll deny me 3 times..."

Ahha! so here was another would-be lover of Jesus that had no hard evidence of his love, and in fact was about to fail the test. But what I loved as I sat there in that quiet place being led through the story, was Jesus' response. He went right on after this disclosure of Peter's upcoming failure, to say: 'Don't let it trouble you. You believe in God, believe in me too. I'm going to get a place ready for you to spend eternity with me'* There was no rejection, no scolding, no shame, just encouragement to hang in there and keep believing. I love that! It was what I so needed to hear.

But the story went on, picking up beside the Sea, after Jesus had come back to life and gone to find His discouraged disciples. They'd thrown in the towel and taken up fishing again, something they were good at, comfortable with. Maybe it would help them make sense of things...
Next thing you know they're on the shore having a breakfast barbecue with Jesus. Once again Jesus breaks the bread and hands it to them. Once again Peter smells the scent of a charcoal fire in the early morning and remembers the fateful day he denied His Lord. So does Jesus. And after everybody's filled up, Jesus gets right to the point: 'Peter, do you love me more than these?' Do you have that unconditional, self-sacrificing, lasting kind of love for me, that has nothing to do with your own feelings... Peter's answer is a qualified 'yes'. "Yes, you know that I have a brotherly affection for you."

But Jesus doesn't seem to mind. Without missing a beat He gives Peter a job feeding His precious lambs. Then He asks Peter again if he loves Him with that agape kind of 'God-love'. Peter's answer does not change. His love is still below the level of God's love and he knows it. Furthermore, he knows that Jesus knows it. But still Jesus gives him a role in the Kingdom: 'Take care of my sheep'.

Then a final time the question is posed, "Peter, do you love me?" But this time, Jesus uses Peter's word for love, brotherly love, a love based on common affection, shared interests... Do you have that kind of love for me, Peter? Peter's only defense is "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." And again Jesus entrusts Peter with the task of feeding His sheep.

I was so into the story at this point that it had become my story. 'You know that I love you, Lord' even if my love is not like yours. And I heard those words from that other passage in John, "You did not choose me. I chose you, that you should go and bear fruit, fruit that will last..." and I knew it wasn't about me and my paltry efforts to love, or my productive efforts, but about Him working in me to accomplish His purposes.

And do you know what He said next? On the surface it doesn't sound like a reassuring point. But Jesus proceeded to tell Peter that one day he would be taken where he would not want to go, that he would indeed lay down his life for His Lord! Why did He have to tell him that right now? Because He was telling Peter that his love would grow and his life would bring God great glory! Peter's desire to love with that God-like love (that sacrifices everything for the worth of its object) was going to be fulfilled. God would yet perfect Peter's love. And in the meantime, his calling was: "Follow me."

It all made sense. No, my love is not perfect, not even close. But it is not something to hyper-focus on and lose heart about. My calling is to follow Him, to believe that what God has called me to, He will accomplish in me. He is not shaming me. He is for me, pursuing me, teaching me, with me....

And now I turned to Peter's first letter, to see what Peter's thoughts were as an older man thinking back over the years, writing to the 'sheep' entrusted to His care. Given the backdrop of Peter's life, the testing of his faith and love for Jesus, the sense of destiny he came to know, the passage was profound to read. It was as though it was being read in my ears... "To those... who are chosen...according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure....and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."

My soul was at peace again. I could go home rejoicing. My Good Shepherd had stooped to help his distraught little sheep, had picked me up and put me back on my feet. And now, He was going on ahead inviting me to follow Him.

Isn't He good?!

*Some quotes are approximate free versions of the text.

October 20, 2008

The Facebook Phenomenon

Whose face do I seek?

I joined Facebook this month. Finally.

Purely practical reasons, I assured myself. How else does one keep in touch with the upcoming generation? How does a mom get a son to drop her library card in the mail and return it? He doesn’t check his regular e-mail anymore. That’s obsolete. Facebook is the place to be. Your personal “Inbox” the place that’s “in”…So, I joined. Yes, purely practical reasons… maybe.

And suddenly there was a whole new world of possible reasons. Friends! Faces smiling at me, hanging on my every word. “What am I doing right now?” Well, no one cared or noticed until now. And if I can just drum up enough connections, enough friends of friends of relatives of friends, why I can be practically a celebrity. The whole world will know what I’m doing at any given moment! Talk about significance. Wow. And with all these faces caring about my life how can I ever want for love and affection again?

Besides all that, there’s just the sense that things are happening and you’re in the ‘know’ now. Never a dull minute to face again. Now there’s Facebook with the life and times of everybody you could want to know about (and others besides just case things get slow…)

And suddenly I found myself drawn into the vortex of Facebook. But there was a trouble. I didn’t have many friends on my account that first day, so life started to feel just a bit dull. I felt just a little neglected, gypped, overlooked…Kept checking for messages, for invitations, for other people’s news, for something to be happening! Then that sinking feeling that maybe it was all my fault that my ‘wall’ wasn’t very exciting… teenage insecurities began to surface. Maybe the Facebook world was not much different than highschool growing up. There are popular ones with good looking faces, attention grabbing profiles and always something clever to say. And there are the rest. Sigh. Not a happy thought.

Funny thing is, before I signed in I was sitting in my happy home surrounded by my wonderful family, perfectly content, thankful even and significant enough as Mom and chief cook. It was in fact Thanksgiving day. The turkey was in the oven. The woodstove was keeping me toasty warm. All was well. Well, it was well…before I’d discovered this happy new world of Face-looking. Now I had this nagging restlessness that somewhere someone must want to know what I’m doing… or maybe someone else is doing something that I should know about. Maybe what I needed was more friends on my homepage. More grafitti on my ‘wall’. Let’s see, who could I search for? Who could I invite to be my friend? Never mind that my ever present family was all around me. Never mind that up till now that had been enough, with maybe an occasional e-mail from my sis or a long-distance friend for a highlight to the calm rhythm of my days… Somehow this Facebook phenomenon had gained access to my soul. A compulsive need to be noticed, appreciated, heard and befriended had installed itself. What was to be done?

I suppose I could have signed out then and there and turned a hard heart to any invitations to be a Face on anyone’s wall… But I still don’t have my library card back and besides, I love that new daughter-in-law that posts her life’s big events in the Face Book. Her beaming smile pulling her first loaves of bread from the oven…her affectionate notes to my Inbox… how could I miss these things?

So I sat myself down, shut down the computer and redirected my thoughts to God’s Face. What if He were on Facebook? What would He be there for? What are His thoughts towards me, His desires, His designs? I thought of Paul’s words in Titus referring to ‘younger women’ (Do I still qualify?). They are to be “busy at home”. Ah, now that has whole new possibilities. Now I can be a busy-body without even leaving my house!! But I don’t think that’s exactly what God had in mind. There’s also something there about being self-controlled and loving one’s kids and husband. Not sure I can do this really well if I get lost in another world looking for friendly faces. Ah yes, self-control.

But perhaps I’m not a younger woman any more. After all I’m ___. Let’s see, what are the instructions for ‘older women’ --be reverent, not slanderers and not addicted to [Facebook], ooops, I mean wine. Hmm. And my life is to be about modeling good things for the generation following. Hmm again. I’m starting to see a new track emerging, a new reason for being a Facebooker, a calling that’s not about me and mine and what you think of me and mine…

But what about me and mine? What about my craving for attention, affection, and approval?!…. if it’s not going to happen on Facebook. Then where? I sat by the woodstove journaling and leafing through my Bible looking at verses on God’s approval. A good question jumped off the page at me: “Am I trying to win the approval of men? or God—I am a servant of Christ.” And a new perspective: “It’s not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. Boast in Him!” Paul had it right: “We are not trying to please men, but God who tests our hearts… never flattering or masking our greed—we look for praise from God alone.” OK so it’s God’s approval I’m after and His calling I’m about… things like: “Do what leads to mutual edification”.
Don’t conform to the world’s pattern. Renew your mind then you’ll experience God’s good, pleasing and perfect will…and an invitation to fulfill my calling, to use my gifts.

Ahh. Perspective regained. I gave my soul a brisk briefing. Here are your directives. Find your source of appreciation, of worth, of affirmation and praise in God. He is after all your biggest fan. He died for the likes of you! Listen for His “BRAVO”, ‘well done’. Sit and dine with Him. Write for Him. Walk with Him. Invite Him to Friend status. And trust Him for the words to sow and their prospering… Then you will be free to join in all the happy crowd of Faces without losing your bearings.

So… I think I’ll just take a peek at my wall and spend a few minutes seeing what’s up with friends far and near. And say, will you be my friend?

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us.

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face—now I know in part, then I shall know fully even as I am fully known.”


Quotes and approximate quotes are from the following passages in the NIV:
Gal.1:10; 2 Cor.10:18; 1Thess. 2:4; Rom. 12:2ff; Ps.67:1; 2 Cor.3:18;
1 Cor.13:12