May 17, 2016

Words with Friends

I've been playing a lot of Words with Friends lately. If you're not familiar with this, it's basically Scrabble for smart phones, and you can play it with friends far and near. My sister and I have been keeping a game going--a simple way to keep in touch across the miles...

I'm not sure I can explain the draw of such word games... Arranging letters to make words is just, well...satisfying in a way. To take a random collection of seven letters and shuffle them until you spot a great word is a fun pastime. Add strategic placements to earn points and it's addicting! I'm always just a little sad though to forego a long and wonderful word that uses almost all the tiles for a short boring one that will make me more points. I wish there were someway to measure the inherent value of words...

Which brings me to the point of what's missing in this game. When all the tiles are laid and the score is tallied, all that's there is a tangle of words without meaning. They have no context. Some of them defy definition besides: "QI" ? "TEL"? "SUPE" ? I can't use these in a sentence but they make nifty fillers and they count as words, along with things like OW and EX and AI which serve to further illustrate the meaninglessness of using words in this way.

So I thought it would be fun to take the words from one of our last games (one of the rare ones that I actually won) and play with them a little--dig for meaning. Thus today's Word Trivia post.

Words with Sister

I sorted them first on paper---words that represent quantifiable 'stuff', words that represent actions, and 'other' words that really don't say much--for example 'to' and 'as' and 'or'. Then I just had fun jotting down the memories associated in my mind with each of these words.

WAX was first--It reminded me of my pre-adolescent venture into candle-making after receiving my most memorable Christmas gift ever at Grandma's house with my aunts and uncles and cousins. I don't even know who gave it to me but I remember the molds--a mushroom, a star, a ball and a quirky little turtle, and the colors and scents of blueberry and cinnamon and orange and blue... And the candles I didn't want to burn after I'd made them...

BERTH was next. Ah, flashback to an unpleasantly memorable train ride into the deep south of Mexico when we were a young family. I was pregnant; it was hot. It was my first experience of train travel. We had chosen a sleeping berth, thinking it would be more comfortable than riding in regular coach class. Big mistake. The inexplicable stops in no-man's land were not only lengthy but nerve-wracking. Were we being ambushed like in the Wild West movies?! The berth was tiny and stuffy with no place to sit comfortably and I was queasy for the duration. Never again. We preferred the overnight bus!

KNIFE brings to mind the beautiful hunting knife with the faux-ivory handle that Jim bought me to protect myself in case of....?.... while out hiking. I carry it. Sometimes. But can't imagine drawing it to ward off a cougar!

DOE ("a deer, a female deer...") Other than the Sound of Music jingle, this word reminds me of deer in general which I was fonder of before they became garden pests eating strawberry patches and stunting immature fruit trees... Now that we've moved and I no longer have a garden, I'm becoming more appreciative of their graceful beauty again. I stopped on my walk just last night to snap a picture of a trailside pair...


GOO is a generic catchword that conjures up a vague sense of concoctions created for 'Science' class in our homeschooling era. It is also the perfect description of what happens when you microwave marshmallows to create instant "Some-mores" without the campfire.

To rhyme with that is EWE which is the meaning of my youngest daughter's name, Rachel, a fact that seemed important when she was a newborn. More important to me now is the consolation that I too am a sheep--God's own. He knows and cares. "I am your sheep," is for me a consoling prayer.

PIETY is a word that can smack of self-righteous arrogance or genuine humble Christ-likeness.  Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Depends on your definition and motive.

JAVA is a word I've never used in writing. I'm not a coffee drinker, and don't stop at Java Huts, but it still has a friendly, relaxed connotation in my mind...

WAVE brings to mind the Jersey shore where I played and got pummelled in the surf growing up. The California surf was a nearer drive when our own kids were little. We boogie boarded there just once and were mistaken by some enthusiastic Texan tourists as picture-worthy 'real surfers!!'. It was a humorous moment of 'glory'.

Well, if you have read along this far, you are beginning to wonder when this will end. There are many more words---STAIN, what blood and sin does and what paradoxically only Jesus' blood can wash away. PLAZA, and my mind flits back to the zocalo in Oaxaca, a central plaza of benches and happy family meanders, and toddlers and popsicles. BIER, ah, the widow of Nain is all that comes to mind for this one. Jesus stopped the funeral procession and turned it into a joyous parade by giving her back her son alive! Did the son go on to outlive his mother? For her sake, I hope so. And with the word DREG I'm back to Zapotec-land in Mexico. Dregs are what’s at the bottom of the Coffee cauldron brewing on the fire. You don't want the last drop!

But that's enough of trivia. After I'd scribbled down two sides of a page of word associations from my own history, I got to wondering how many of our game words are recorded in Scripture? That sent me off on a whole new line of thought... If you care to come along here's what I found:

WAX is about more than candles melting. Mountains are said to melt like wax at the Lord's presence and Jesus' heart melted like wax in the agony of crucifixion (Ps.22).

And, if you're reading King James English, wax is a verb. God's wrath waxes hot when widows and orphans are harmed and when His people disregard His covenant. Eyes wax old (Eli's) as do people, their clothes, and the earth itself! Love waxes cold because of sin. And evil men shall wax worse and worse. This world isn’t getting better!

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. Is.51:6 KJV

Do we find a KNIFE mentioned in the Bible?

Abraham carried one along with the fire to burn his sacrifice. Isaac shouldered the wood. But God provided the ram.

Oh, and I just read this one in Judges. Gruesome. A gal was cut in twelve pieces with a knife and her body parts sent throughout the land to notify all Israel of the outrage that had been committed against her, (resulting in her death) and to rally all Israel to battle against the offenders (Judges 19)

Much later in Israel’s history a scroll containing God's warning to the King of Israel, as dictated by Jeremiah, was sliced section by section with a knife and thrown into the fire in disregard. The words however did not go away. They were re-dictated and written down and they came to pass... (Jer. 36:24) God's words are worth noting well. They are not going away.

A graceful DOE in scripture is used as a picture of the wife of one's youth--an object to be delighted in.

"Doe of the Dawn" is an expression describing the morning star, the last star to shine at the break of day. And interestingly this was the name of the tune assigned to accompany the prophetic Psalm 22 which begins, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. Rev.22:16

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts... II Pet.1:19

EWE occurs nearly fifty times in Scripture, mostly in passages detailing the sacrificial system requirements. But the most poignant passage is Nathan's parable told to King David of the poor man who kept his one little ewe lamb as a pet...until a rich lord seized and slaughtered it for a meal for his company. This is what David had done to Uriah, in taking his wife, Bathsheba, for himself. (II Sam.12) The ewe lamb's story hit its mark. David repented and was forgiven. "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions...Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart...wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow....a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Ps.51 excerpts)

PIETY in Scripture refers to reverence or respect and is used of the Athenians who worshiped 'The Unknown God'. It is also expected that believers in the true God will 'show piety at home'  in practical ways such as the care of one's own widowed relatives.

The WAVES of the Jersey shore aren't specifically cited in the Bible, but their actions are. The one who doubts that God will grant his request for wisdom is likened to a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. I recall this text in James (1:5-8) often, as I am naturally a doubter, but by God's grace I am learning to trust. His Word is a trustworthy foundation that will keep us from being washed away in the flood surges of life! (Mt.7:24)

The thing about STAINS is that when it comes to sin, the stains are indelible, not removed by any amount of human effort. I like the way Jeremiah says it:

Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD. Jer.2:22 ESV

This is a good reminder of our need for the Gospel continuously and brings to mind my week's memory verses:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,... I Cor.15:1-4 ESV

With that I will conclude this meandering trivia lesson. (Thanks for coming along!)   It brings us full circle to the Words worth holding onto and building our lives around day by day.

Whether or not you play Words with Friends (or sisters!) is irrelevant. Only be sure that you are digging deep for the Words that matter!


Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Ps.119:105

P.S. It would be fun to hear what associations come to your mind with some of these words.  Add a comment if you like!

May 6, 2016

An Obsession with the Unseen

I'm obsessed with the unseen today--scarcely able to concentrate on anything else but this research, this looking, this wanting to know what has caused these painful, irritating, worrisome bites, and what to do about them!

Image result for bedbug

I've taken the hide-a-bed all apart, wiped and vacuumed and searched crevices with flashlight in hand. I've done the same with our bed mattress--washed the bedding, looked and looked again. Nothing. But the bites are with me. Hard uncomfortable evidence that something is lurking somewhere, something tiny yet able to handicap me physically, and worst of all, mentally. I woke tired, having been wakeful during the night alert for bug bites, mindful of exposed skin, hot with too many covers. And these red hot spots are sore, swollen, the skin all around them sensitive. Just a few mangy bites and I can think of nothing else. I've booked an appointment with the doctor this afternoon. Maybe he will know something more than I have gleaned from the rest of the world via the internet.

But this parallel occurs to me...

"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth," Paul says, "for you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Col.3:3) Here is a legitimate preoccupation with the unseen. The Kingdom of God is likened to a leavening agent that though unseen works its way through the whole batch of dough and grows and grows. The Spirit at work in us is likened to the wind, that though we cannot see drives with great and visible force wherever God wills. Things above are unseen but we don't necessarily feel them in the way I feel these irritating bites. My body is wired to pay attention to what pains me and to look for comfort. The Spirit meanwhile invites me to act on truth whether I feel like it or not, whether I see it or not. He bids me to react based on truth, not just my impressions. Only truth feeds the rhythms of what is truly life.

Unlike passing bug bites, the Word is here today and tomorrow and forever, alive and well, unchanging in the midst of life's catastrophes. While fires engulf communities to our north, and bed bugs are on the rise, inflicting sores that seem to last forever, the truth is that neither bodies nor possessions are going to stick around, but God's Word stands forever. It remains unchanged while instigating great changes. It is living and active, outlasting the most living and active itch a bed bug can create.

The fires will die down. My sores will heal and be forgotten...political crisis will rise and fall, culture will ebb ever toward iniquity, but the Word will remain the same, absolute, enduring, true though all hell rise up against it. This is the Word I'm trying to give my attention to this morning...

[Fast forward to later in the day:]

Well, I've just returned from the doctor where I had the biggest surprise of my week.  She looked very briefly at my bumps and declared: "You have shingles."  Not bedbug bites or fleas? Me? Shingles?! This was a reality I hadn't even conceived of. Though I was incredulous at first I drew her out to make her case and she being the experienced professional did so directly. I had to bow to reality. Here I've been so busy researching biting creatures and what to do about them that I have missed the truth of my situation! I am sick. There is an invisible gremlin at work in my body; it is not external. It is the chickenpox virus...

I walked out of the doctor's office in relieved wonderment--at least we don't have bedbugs and I'm not carrying the Bubonic Plague! Here is something with a label, identifiable, survivable, and true. I have shingles. No more scouring dark places for mysterious creatures. No more fearing to sit on my own couch or lying awake in my bed for fear of a bite.

But on the heels of my relief is a sobering realization: I was entirely misled by my impressions and the 'facts' that I so neatly pieced together into a logical string... I have worried in vain about bugs that bite in the night. I have conjured up notions of flea-borne Bubonic Plague. And I have carried on at an exhausting pace hiking and biking (and scouring my home for bedbugs!) while all the while being overtaken by the truly unseen--the chickenpox virus at work on my nerve-endings! This is a startling reality which forces me to wonder what else I have overlooked in jumping to wrong conclusions. What other false beliefs and crazy notions do I hold dear while the actual issues elude my notice?

[Fast forward to the following day]:

Settling into the reality of shingles today has been less pleasant than the initial relief of just knowing. There are more pox today. The accompanying pain is distracting and the itch that was merely annoying yesterday is maddening today. I'm back to where I began--having to take my mind off the unseen things that are so acutely felt and to turn it to less tangible but more significant unseen realities. For instance, this object lesson staring me in the face: What other crazy false presumptions am I carrying around and allowing to drive my thoughts and actions day by day? If I can mistake shingles for bed bugs and all their accompanying paranoia, what other wrong beliefs am I allowing to commandeer my life energies? In what other areas am I convinced of a lie that needs to be uprooted by truth?

So, today I'm no longer desperately asking God to help me find marauding bugs, I'm asking for wisdom and for eyes to see the lies I believe and the truth that will set me free. What are my real problems and what is their antidote? And more importantly, what do I need to see more clearly about my God and His sovereign ways? What wrong assumptions do I hold about the way life works best, that run contrary to God's design manual for my life?

Let me not waste my life chasing phantom bedbugs and miss recognizing the idols of my heart that undermine my enjoyment of Christ. Let me be free of all that obscures His image in me.

Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. Ps.25:5

Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name (not a host of other fears that rob me of the life You've intended for me). Ps.86:11

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Jn.8:31-32

I am grateful today for His indwelling Spirit to guide and teach me all I need to know in His perfect timing. This has been a good wake-up call.

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you."—Jesus Jn.14:16-17

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God...” (I Cor.2:12)

But for now, I think I need a nap...without fear of bedbugs!

Thanks for joining me here today.


May God, the Father of glory, give you [and me!] a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe!... Eph.1:16-19

God chose... so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." I Cor.1:28-30

"...that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." (I Cor.2:5)

Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for His judgments are true and just...Rev.19:1