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Gods

9 Feb

Ken Davis 130I read somewhere, probably in a National Geographic magazine, that you can tell a lot about people by what they enshrine. I suppose every place has its temples.  In my hometown, the church is at the center of everything: potlucks, baptisms, weddings, auctions, bingo. At my old school the baseball diamond was our shrine.  The folks from town would fill the bleachers and pray for victory. As players, we were well versed in the scripture of baseball lore and knew all the patron saints: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, and Joe DiMaggio.

The moment I set foot in the stone boathouse, I knew this was Morton Hill Academy’s shrine.  According to Headmaster Conrady, the Nook, as it was called, was the oldest building on campus.  Inside were sturdy wooden beams, lobster traps, coiled ropes, and a colorful array of oars. The scents of lemon wax, polish, and apple cider vinegar were as powerful as any incense I’d smelled. But it was the boats themselves, gleaming and elevated like altars, that were the focal point. – Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

It’s All in the Gazing

12 Jan

IMG_5793Just yesterday I was talking to someone about how easy it is to “grow weary in well doing” when we’re going it in our own strength.  This morning, in the wonderful devotional His Passion: Christ’s Journey to the Resurrection, I read this quote from Augustine:

And when we grow weary of trying to prove ourselves, we may be ready to cast ourselves upon Him.

The antidote to trying to prove ourselves is John 1:14, which is here in Kenneth Wuest’s New Testament :

And the Word, entering a new mode of existence, became flesh, and lived in a tent [His physical body] among us.  And we gazed with attentive and careful regard and spiritual perception at His glory, a glory such as that of a uniquely-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

A Letter to my Mother-in-law

5 Jun

momIn late March or early April, we learned that my mother-in-law had Stage 4 Bone Cancer.  As you can imagine we were shaken to our cores.  We had a wonderful visit with her Easter week, culminating in a family Easter service where mom even did some harmonizing on the hymns we sang.  We stuffed ourselves full of memories and we are grateful to have them.  Last night she passed on.  Although we miss her–terribly–we rejoice that she is with her Savior and visiting with her parents, sister, daughters, and grandson.

I’d like to share the letter I sent her when we heard about her cancer:

Dear Mom,

Mom.  Thank you for letting me call you that for all these years.  I don’t know your inner workings except for the obvious:  1) You love God simply and beautifully, and 2) You love Dad completely, just as he is, and 3) You love your children in a way that sees beyond their faults and failures to their potential.

Your love is practical and no-nonsense.  Once, in Gilmanton Iron Works I’d severely sprained my ankle badly, but gotten in the habit of dragging it around.  You barked at me while we were working in the kitchen, “Why are you walking around like that?” I was thoroughly chastened when I realized what I was doing.  I’ve heard that voice over the years whenever I’m making a big thing out of nothing.

Your love organized cabinets, folded sheets perfectly—something I never did get the hang of, scrubbed burned pots, filed papers, labeled bottles, crocheted baby blankets, and patiently threaded sweatpants cords through elastic waist bands.

Your love followed Dad to many countries and many churches.  You made friends in those countries despite language barriers with your sunny greetings and giant hugs. You made people feel so special.  You are a great example to me in this way.

I will never forget your teaching at the Ladies’ Meeting in Quito.  When you found out that most, if not all, of them had been abused by their husbands, you shared that when you married Dad, you told him that if he ever hit you that you would leave him.  You sweetly shared what a wonderful husband Dad had been to you all those years.  You encouraged them to value themselves enough to not accept the abuse.

I was so scared when I taught the women in Medvezhygorsk about marriage and child-raising in front of you because you were the one who should have been up there.  At the end, I asked you to add to what I’d taught and you said, “No, I believe you’ve covered everything.”  What grace!

Your trust in God has made the biggest impact in my life.  When you lived in a trailer in St. Augustine, I went to talk with you about the boys.  “Don’t you worry about your children?” I asked.  You turned to me with a puzzled look and said, “Why would I?  I gave each one of them to the Lord when they were born.”  Your simple faith convicted me and continues to convict me—who comes from a family who makes a fine art out of worrying—and also motivates me to know Jesus better so I can learn to trust Him the way you do.

Even your sweepstakes entering taught me about unfailing hope and optimism.  To you the winning entry was just around the corner.

With all your moves, you made a home with your teddy bears, collections of bells and artifacts from your travels, and your framed puzzles which represent many hours of contented family life.

Thank you, most of all, for teaching Mike much more than I can write down in this letter.  He learned to enjoy life from you.  Your example taught him to appreciate the little things with a deep contentment.  You taught him to sing.  You taught him to laugh.  Thanks to you and Dad I have a husband who brings much joy into my life, who loves deeply, and whose convictions are a mile deep and whose grace is a mile wide.  Thank you.  If the saying is true that the way that a son loves his mother is the way he loves his wife, then I’m the most blessed wife in history.

Love, Sue

Why Didn’t God Make a World without Evil?

24 May

imagesI teach 7th grade English Language Arts, and read a lot of Young Adult (YA) literature to find books I can recommend to my students. Some of them are incredibly trashy (Pretty Little Liars), but many are high quality, thought-provoking works of fiction.  Right now, dystopian literature is all the rage. “A dystopia is an unpleasant (typically repressive) society, often propagandized as being utopian.”  Some of these books, like The Giver and Matched, portray orderly, “perfect” societies in which all choice has been removed.

For example, meals are delivered to homes, marriages are arranged, jobs are assigned, possessions are limited, dreams are monitored, and pills are used to manage urges, knowledge, memories, etc.  They are perfectly organized, peaceful societies.  The protagonists in the stories slowly begin to question a world without choices and decide to live in a chancier world with choices.

It dawned on me this morning as I was finishing Matched that these books are the perfect answer to the question we often hear, “If God is so powerful, why didn’t He create a world without evil?” I usually answer something about how God doesn’t want us to be robots, but next time I think I will give them a copy of The Giver and ask if they would really prefer living like that.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lordchoose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

Sabbath Rest

3 Apr

2013-06-28 11.14.02A Sabbath Poem

Breathe

rest in Rest,

holy Leisure–

airtight Time:

Sabbath.

hearing ears

Creation slowing–

open eyes:

Sabbath.

guiltless Feasting,

sacred Rhythms–

Heaven Hugging:

Sabbath.

Nothing-doing

Nowhere-going–

Work unknowing:

Sabbath.

John David Walt

Asbury Theological Seminary

Do You Know?

10 Mar

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Do you know that although “Americans are safer and more secure today than at any point in history,. . . America now ranks as the most anxious nation on the planet, with more than 18 percent of the adults suffering from a full-blown anxiety disorder in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”

Also, “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” These quotes are from a book I just finished called Nerve: Poise under pressure, serenity under stress, and the brave new science of fear and cool.  I’m interested in the topic of teenage anxiety, as I teach 7th grade English Language Arts in a middle school in Costa Rica, and my students are continually stressed out.

The book has a number of suggestions for dealing with fear, anxiety, and stress, which I am taking the liberty of giving a Biblical point of view:

Breathe:  Physiologically when we take deep breaths we are telling our body that everything is all right.  Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord! Praise ye the Lord!  Psalm 150:6

Put your feelings into words: Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! Thou hast set me at large when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.  Psalm 4:1

Train, practice, and prepare:  to know the love of Christ, which surpasseth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:19  As Christians, we prepare for extraordinary crises in our lives through reading and meditating on the Word of God and fellowshipping with Him during ordinary times in our lives.

Redirect your focus:  “The culprit in cases of meltdown under pressure isn’t fear but misdirected focus:  we turn our attention inward and grow preoccupied with worries about results, which undercuts our true abilities.”  Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation through your prayer and the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,according to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death.  Philippians 1: 18-20

Mindfully disentangle from worries and anxious thoughts:  Taylor Clark, the author of Nerve, suggests two routes through which we can disentangle ourselves:  1) mindfully watch your worries, or 2) postpone worries.  The Bible suggests that we Humble [ourselves] therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7

Expose yourself to your fears:  But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear there is light. Ephesians 5:13

Learn to accept uncertainty and lack of control:  According to Oswald Chambers, “Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated.”  That is the fear we need to deal with, and the only way to deal with that is to acknowledge our weakness and learn of His omnipotence through worship and communion with Him.  O Lord God of hosts, who is a mighty one like unto You, O Lord? And Your faithfulness is round about You [an essential part of You at all times].  Psalm 89:8  Oswald Chambers goes on to edify:  “If our hopes seem to be experiencing disappointment right now, it simply means that they are being purified.”

Continue to persevere.

Jesus’ Will or Susan’s Will?

7 Mar
CAM00086

The “Passion” in “passion flower” refers to the passion of Jesus in Christian theology.

When I was a fairly new Christian, someone compared my walk with Christ with a two-year-old walking hand-in-hand with her father and continually trying to pull away to do her own thing.  Not very flattering, but unfortunately it was–and sometimes still is–very true.

A few weeks ago I was reading in my Oswald Chambers devotional and he spoke of us wanting to be “poured out like drink offerings.”  I began to pray the Scripture, as I often do, but something or someone stopped me and had me consider. Did I want to be poured out like a drink offering?  To me the question cut deeply, as it meant making a commitment to always saying yes to His will, and I realized I want to retain the right to say no on a case-by-case basis.  Hmmm.

This morning I was reading in my Andrew Murray devotional and it spoke of the battle that is waged within us between wanting to follow our will AND follow His.  A battle of our pride against God.  Am I willing to give up my own priorities to put the lovely, gracious, and always pure priorities of God before mine?

Walking to school this morning, I passed the passion flowers that grow on our lane.  It dawned on me in a new way that the crucifixion was a passionate, extravagant act of love and grace of Jesus for me.  (And you.) Why would I ever want to put my will before His?

But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. Phil. 2:17

Communication

10 Feb

2014-02-10-10-14-28We all know that good communication is imperative if you want to have good interpersonal relationships.  And the Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:29:  Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to use in edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Corrupt in this passage means rotten or putrid, like fruit.  It can also mean “pervert the meaning of.”  I had an experience the other day of corrupted communication between my husband and I…and I can’t believe that he figured it out!

I just got a smart phone, and I didn’t even use my dumb phone that much, so there’s a great learning curve here.  I needed wine for my Butternut Squash Risotto, and tried to message Mike using my new phone.  I typed–again and again–“Please pick up cheap wine in a box.”  My phone was using Spanish predictive messaging and this was what came up.

It was edifying to me that this man managed to decipher the code and brought some wine for the risotto.  (Which was great and why I’m attaching the recipe.)

Mercy

2 Feb

IMG_0066

Multiple Intelligences

19 Dec
God revealing his mathematical intelligence!

God revealing his mathematical intelligence!

At one of the team meetings of the missionaries we work with in Costa Rica, we discussed reasons we may not be thinking with God.  The question Mike put to us is, “If we have the mind of Christ, why do we behave like morons?”  In the course of the discussion someone mentioned that it’s easy to forget to read your Bible and spend your time reading about the Bible or busy in our Christian work.  Of course, that’s great advice, but it got me to thinking about multiple intelligences.

In the education field we think a lot about Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which greatly simplified states that we are all intelligent, just in different areas.  If you’ve never taken a quiz about this before, here are a few links:  This one includes existential/spiritual intelligence. This one scores itself and gives you color results.  The theory includes the following intelligences:

  • Verbal/Linguistic
  • Logical/Mathematical
  • Visual/Spatial
  • Bodily/Kinesthetic
  • Musical
  • Intrapersonal
  • Interpersonal
  • Naturalist
  • Existential/Spiritual

Let’s go back to the topic.  Do you think there are different intelligences in the Body of Christ?  Do you think that some of us experience our greatest intimacy with God in prayer?  Others in Bible reading?  And yet others in Bible study or musical worship?

Maybe David was a Kinesthetic/Musical learner as he sang and danced before the Lord.  Certainly we’d have to put the apostle Paul pretty high up on the verbal/linguistic and logical scales.  I personally find my greatest intimacy when I’m tearing apart a section of Scripture word by word with my Hebrew and Greek dictionaries at my side. We were not created by a cookie-cutter God.  Perhaps we find our path to intimacy with Him in different ways as well.