Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"There's Something About Joseph"

I just read a wonderful article by John Ortberg, entitled There's Something About Joseph. It gives some insight into the man, Joseph (as in Jesus, Mary and...).

I appreciate the dilema Joseph faced. According to a law in Deuteronmy 22, Mary was in very real danger of being stoned to death. He was likely disappointed, probably angry, and and he was faced with some serious anxiety. I especially identify with the part in Ortberg's article that says,

""After he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream." Why did God make Joseph wait till after he had to think and struggle with all this stuff? Why couldn't an angel come to him ahead of time and explain everything and remove that anxiety? "

Read why at http://www.christianitytoday.com/leaders/newsletter/2006/cln61127.html

Stranger Than Non-fiction

This past weekend, we went to see the movie Stranger Than Fiction, ...and we're still talking about it. It's one of those movies in which I think you're not supposed to sit there and figure out why it is not plausible, but instead try to determine the deeper message. Without giving away much of the plot, suffice it to say that it deals with free will, and the question of how much control we actually have over our own lives. The premise is posed that our lives are either a comedy or a tragedy, and the main character in the film sets out to determine in which category his life falls, because this will impact the ending. There is lots of litrary symbolism going on, including the fact that the character of the author in the story (portrayed by Emma Thompson) wears no make-up. I won't spoil the fictional movie by telling the ending, but I'm still pondering the deeper message.

Also this past weekend, my husband and I both read the book In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson, ...and we're still talking about it. Interestingly, Batterson also touches on the issue of free will and control of our lives. In his final chapter, he says, "God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time... I have an unshakable sense of destiny because I know that as long as I pursue God's calling on my life, then God is ultimately responsible for getting me where He wants me to go." There's no ending to spoil, because with Him, the possibilities are endless. And I embrace that non-fictional message!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sink or Swim?

I was reading my Bible this morning and came to a passage at the end of the Gospel of John (21:7). It tells of Simon Peter jumping into the water from his fishing boat, and swimming ashore, because he sees Jesus there. John says that this is the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples after He was raised from the dead. What struck me about this passage, is that Peter recognized Jesus,and he wanted to be with Him, so he jumped in and swam. Earlier, while on another boat ride, Peter recognized Jesus and wanted to be with Him. But that time, Jesus wasn't on shore; He was walking on the water. Peter recognized Jesus, wanted to be with Him, and wanted to walk on the water. I could, of course, speculate on why he wanted to walk on the water... earlier that day, he witnessed the miraculous feeding of thousands and now Jesus is actually walking across a 'stormy sea'... it would've been easy to get caught up in the rush, and to want to do these cool things, too! Maybe Peter was feeling full of himself, maybe having a bit of spiritual pride, or maybe aspiring to great things. So what happened between those two boat rides, and how was Peter's behavior a reflection of that?

It seems to me that Peter had a chance to do some soul-searching. He'd lost his dear friend and teacher; his hopes were dashed; he feared for his own life; he betrayed his Lord; he was humbled. But, he also found forgiveness; he knew he was loved unconditionally; he was being given a second chance to be who Jesus said he could be... the Rock. Peter had been made new. But the new, and improved Rock, didn't sink. He swam.

John Ortberg wrote a great book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat, which I've read, and loved. I agree that some situations call for water-walking. I know it's imperative sometimes to take a step of faith, and to aspire to do the things Jesus did (because He told us we would). And I know that I'm simplifying a lot here, and there's more to the story. But somehow, I think I personally identify more with the latter Peter, rather than the former. When I recognize Jesus, I want to be with Him, I want to be who He says I can be, and with everything I've got, I want to swim like crazy!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Art as Life

One of my favorite books is The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. The story starts off with a drawing...

The drawing is a picture of a boa constrictor eating an elephant (did you get that on the first guess??). Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing it, after which they are not able to move, and they sleep for the next six months, which is what they need for digestion. This came to my mind the past few days during our family's Thanksgiving celebration. ...Not to minimize our sense of 'giving thanks', which we certainly did/do, but that boa would fit right in here the past two days.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, was very busy. We've had the family dinner here for the past fifteen years. We had a fairly large group and lots of delicious food to prepare (thankfully), and I had lots of help (thankfully).

Every year, someone comments with a thankful sigh, 'This is the best meal we've ever had!' . The hit of the meal this year was a new concoction called something like Pecanpretzelsweetpotato Casserole, which I can humbly brag about, because I didn't make it!

And it was wonderful to have our newest 'family' member (Nate), and a cousin from Spokane (Lauren) with us! So, for the family members who couldn't be here, here's a shot from the cousins cam...

Anyway, back to the parasympathetic boa... it's been said that leftovers are the best thing about holiday dinners (and all that digestion taking place).
The aftermath of the holiday has been fraught with football, and Keifer Sutherland, and the lowing of 'I think I need some moooooooore pie'... But that's OK, because everyone works hard, and when you get a few days off, you should rest, ...and digest.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sunrise, Sunset??

When she went to her first formal dance, we jokingly sang "Sunrise, Sunset" to our daughter, Ashley, to mark how quickly she had grown from a curley headed carrot-top to a beautiful and gifted young woman (gasp!). This month she celebrates her 25th birthday, and... her 4 month wedding anniversary! Ashley, the 'middle child'... was the one who grafted herself onto my leg when I tried to get her into the Kindergarten room (for a whole year), and yet, now, she's the first of our 3 daughters to jump ship and move four hours away. But that's OK, because one season following another, and all that...Here are the 3 'sisters' at her wedding rehearsal dinner:

Left to right: Leah, Ashley, Samantha

And to prove they follow the 2nd most important rule I've taught them , "Never take yourself too seriously"....

When did they get to be beauties, when did they grow to be so tall.... wasn't it yesterday when they were small?
I don't remember getting older, when did they?

Did I really hear that?

I'm one of those people who literally believe Jeremiah 33:3... that I can ask God things, and He'll tell me! And when the things that He tells me seem to be 'right', or actually happen, I take comfort in knowing I heard His voice. However, when I truly believe I've heard something from Him, and it doesn't happen, or something else happens to make it even appear that I was totally mistaken, I begin to have doubts that I really even heard from Him. Especially, when over a period of time, and from multiple trusted sources, the 'word' seems to have been 'confirmed'. I start to wonder... did I really hear that? Am I making all of this up? What's that about? I was so sure I heard from God, but... huh?

So, I got to digging through my Bible, looking for examples of when the same thing happened to some Biblical giant! I found many examples of faith being tested... of people hearing a word from God, and having to wait for it, believe in it, inspite of what they saw. But that still didn't fit what I was dealing with... I, too, waited, and believed, and trusted that my faith would become sight. Their faith did become sight, mine didn't, and yet I was so sure that I heard Him. I continued to ask God to show me. And I came to Samuel.

Samuel's name means 'heard of God'. And it's made clear that Samuel did hear from God. Time and again, the words he heard from God proved true. So, I believe when God told Samuel to annoint Saul as Israel's first king, He meant it. Looking back, we can see that Saul wasn't going to be all that he could've been, and that he would fall short of the plan. So, I wondered if Samuel ever thought... did I really hear that? Scripture doesn't seem to indicate that he had doubts, but only that he felt sad. When God later told Samuel that He was rejecting/replacing Saul because he chose to disobey Him, Samuel was so grieved that he cried out to the Lord all night long (1Sam 15:11). Then God told Samuel to annoint David, and he simply obeyed.

So, even tho' the initial 'word' to Samuel looks errant because of the way Saul turned out, it wasn't. Because Saul had free will, just like we all do, he chose to follow his own path, not God's. The initial plan was spoken to Samuel, by God, but God wouldn't override Saul's free will. He instead rerouted His plan through another man who did seek to follow Him whole-heartedly. God adapted the plan because He is sovereign. In the book of Esther, Mordecai kind of told Esther the same thing when she wasn't sold on going to the king with her agenda... Mordecai said, 'if not you, then God will use someone else, but you'll miss the boat'.

So, I reason that, tho' what I believe He said to me didn't happen, I believe I still heard God. He knew the outcome, because it involved free will and things beyond my control, and yet it still had to 'play out'. God didn't mislead me, He led me, knowing I would act and react to certain things out of obedience to what I believed He said. I know that Samuel annointing Saul was not a mistake. Samuel obeyed God based upon what he knew God told him to do; certain things had to play out. David had to learn some things, to come to certain places at certain times; to make some friends, and ...to grow into the job of king. And Saul was not just a place-keeper... he had the chance to choose wisely, and missed the mark, but his life still had an important impact.

So, I trust that, metaphorically, God is grooming David to replace Saul. I can live with that.

No Limits

I've been listening much lately to a CD which has captured my heart and once again released my imagination. The cut is titled 'Take The Limits Off' (the CD is Israel & New Breed's ALIVE in South Africa. The words of the song depict God speaking... and He says

'I'm not a man, I cannot lie. I know the plans I have for your life..they're My design...I'm asking you to dream again, to believe again,...to hope again, and trust again... and take the limits off of Me. Release me to accomplish what I promised to do... take the limits off.'

I was struck by the realization, that my attitude of 'hope' had been tainted by an attitude of cynicism. Some promises that I believe God spoke to me have not panned out, at least as I initailly understood them, and tho' I fully believe in God's goodness, and sovereignty, I've been spiritually wounded. While listening to this song, I felt as if He were speaking right to me, and asking me to set aside my understanding and to trust what I know of His character.

In Matthew 13, there is an account of Jesus spending time in his hometown... where He was well known, but where, because the people there relied upon what they thought they knew about Him, they limited His ministry to them. And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.(Matt. 13:58). I don't think He was punishing them, or being haughty because of their attitude, but I think their attitude, and their own understanding, limited Him somehow from doing what He wanted to do on their behalf. While listening to this song, I realized I was doing the same thing.

And so I hope again, and I dream again. If it's His design, He'll do it. I purpose to not lean on my own understanding.. to not let my disappointments or my lack of imagination set boundaries to what I think He'll do. I ask and trust Him to enlarge my territory. I take the limits off.