Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Joyous Days

Oh my darling readers, where to begin?!  These are the days that the Lord has made.  I will rejoice, and be glad!  Here it is, the last day of January, and I am busily doing laundry to hang out on the clothes line.  The smell of laundry fresh in from the line is utter bliss, in my opinion!  The weather over the last few days has been gorgeous here in Missouri!  Yesterday, we tied a record high that has been in place since the late 1800's!  I bravely decided to start some seeds for an early spring garden, my optimism running high.  Yesterday afternoon, after finishing up schoolwork, the children and I went outside for a raucous game of red light, green light and their favorite-Captain Midnight!  We took turns launching their Nerf Rocket into the blue sky (Kenny was home in time to join in on that fun) and Elizabeth and I took a walk in the woods on our property!  The birds have been happily cavorting around the bird feeders on the front porch.  The dogs have been joyously frolicking around the yard as though they had discovered childhood all over again!  These are the days when the soul and body sing joyously with creation, enveloped by the beauty that it has to offer. It has been a fabulous stretch of days!

The mail brought a pleasant surprise as well!  On Friday night, I had ordered a used copy of Leslie Weatherhead's book "A Private House of Prayer" and it came in the mail yesterday afternoon!  The book is even more amazing than the excerpt that I posted the other day from the book!  I'll be writing more about the book later on, but for now, allow me to highly recommend that you get your hands on a copy of the book, if at all possible!  It is a GEM!  I can not believe that Abingdon let the book go out of print years ago!

Sunday brought some wonderful surprises as well.  My friend Diana (who also happens to be our church secretary) mentioned that there were some old books in the basement that were up for grabs, so I went down to take a look, after Sunday School.  It was like finding the pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow!  I walked out of there with as many books as I could possibly carry.  I didn't even get through half of the collection that was down there!  One of the books is "The Other Side of Silence-A Guide to Christian Meditation" by Morton T. Kelsey and it has been a wonderful read so far.  I've already made it to chapter 4 and just in those few chapters, I have found some gems of insight worth writing about.  I also found a collection of Great Devotional Classics that Upper Room Ministries put together back in the 60's and although I haven't had a chance to read through them all, I have already found a gem to write about there, as well!  Add to that my daily Bible reading, which has produced some new insights and "ah-ha" moments, and I have about a months worth of blog posts floating around in my head!

Prayers, meditation, mystics, insights and joyous ordinary moments-it has been a splendid few days!  It's like somebody turned the tap from a trickle to a full blown gush!  I am breathless trying to keep up, and enjoying every minute!

Stay tuned, darling readers.  May you have a joyous day!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Food for Thought: A Private House of Prayer

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you know that prayer is one area where I feel I could be doing so much better!  In my on-going quest, I literally stumbled across this little gem the other day.  I thought you might enjoy reading it as well.  It is an excerpt for a classic book by Leslie D. Weatherhead called "A Private House of Prayer."  I had never heard of Leslie Weatherhead before but Rev. Jeff knew the name because of another book that he had written called "The Will of God."  From what I could glean, Leslie Weatherhead was a Methodist minister in England and wrote quite a few books over the years!  The excerpt is very short but I found it to be informative!  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!  Without further ado, here is the link:
A Private House of Prayer

Monday, January 23, 2012

Stages Along The Way

Our youth group took a field trip this weekend with our wonderful youth leader, Crystal and Rev. Jeff.  So that meant we had a “guest” minister at church on Sunday.  Rev. Fred Smith is not a stranger, he is actually “retired” (I don’t think ministers ever fully retire from ministry) and a member of our congregation at FUMC Washington.  We just don’t get the chance to hear him preach at our church very often and it is always a pleasure to hear one of his sermons!  Yesterday was no exception!

Fred preached on Mark 1:14-20 and how the disciples dropped everything to answer when Jesus called.  He talked about how they had no idea what was expected of them, the call did not get a job description!  Yet, they followed anyway!  He talked about his own call to ministry and how he had no idea if he had the gifts and graces, yet God gave him what he needed, when he needed it.  Fred made me cry (not in a bad way!)  Fred has this wonderful gift of making a simple message really hit home!

I thought about this as I was reading in Genesis chapters 12-15, in the Wesley Study Bible, which details the call of Abram.  The notes emphasize Abram’s radical obedience to the call.  But I noticed a couple of passages that the notes did not emphasize.  I’m going to emphasize what caught my eye by capitalizing the phrase in the verse.  The first one is Genesis 12, verse 9:
“And Abram journeyed on BY STAGES toward the Negeb.”
The second one is Genesis 13 verse 3:
“He journeyed on BY STAGES from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai,”
When you look at the definition of the word “stage” in the dictionary, you find that there is a very long list of meanings.  Here are just a few:
“the scene of an event; a stopping place in a journey; a point, period or level in a progressive change or development; the distance between two stopping places as a division of a journey”
So, when we talk about Abram making a journey “by stages,” this isn’t just a physical moving about, there is also a spiritual journey as well!

This point is really driven home in chapter 13 when Abram and his nephew, Lot, part ways.  The parting came about because both men had a lot of livestock and the land could not support such a crowd.  The herdsmen were bickering with each other over the limited resources.  Now the notes say that the custom of Ancient Near Eastern tribes was that the younger defer to the older as a show of respect.  But Lot did not do this when he chose where to settle.  The notes say “he chose the best for himself, basing his decision entirely upon his sense…”  The notes go on, further detailing the difference between Lot and Abram “Lot hungrily desires the best his eyes can see, while the Lord charges Abram to see more than he can otherwise imagine.”  The key to getting to the next stage?  “Seeing” more than you can otherwise imagine.  Trusting the Lord to give you what you need when you need it!

The Apostle Paul, makes this same point in Romans 8:24-25 when he says:
“For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Did you ever feel like you were being called or gently nudged to do something but you hesitated?  Or maybe you just flat out rejected the idea as being totally insane because you did not have the skills to accomplish the task?  You could not see how you could possibly accomplish such a thing?!  Maybe you did try once before and failed.  Maybe someone close to you told you that you would never be able to do the task.  You are in good company!  I know I have fallen prey to this pitfall on far too many occasions!  Usually I end up kicking myself for missed opportunities!  And I have a hard time forgiving myself for not following through.  Vicious cycle isn’t it?

But if we take the lesson of Abram to heart, perhaps we would be a little bit gentler with ourselves.  Abram did not become Abraham overnight!  He had a lot of journeying to do before he got to that point.  He traveled both physically and spiritually in stages.  That’s how life works.  We don’t gain maturity overnight.  It comes over years of time and it comes in fits and spurts.  There are stages of progress.  Sometimes we grow fast and other times we seem to level off.  Ask yourself-are you the same person today that you were five years ago or 20 years ago?  Of course not because life is a journey!  We are told that by faith we are saved.  Yet we have no tangible proof of that, but as Paul says “for in hope we are saved.”  Hope is believing in what you can not physically see or, in the case of Abram “seeing more than you can otherwise imagine.”  Our faith is strengthened over time as we go through new experiences and learn new things.  We are challenged, we grow, we level off and we are challenged again.  Sometimes we will miss chances and opportunities and sometimes we will fall flat on our face.  It is all part of the process of each individual life journey!  At each stage, God extends his loving (and forgiving) grace.  All he asks is for us to trust him to lead the way!

If God can forgive us our shortcomings maybe it’s time we do the same.  Instead of dwelling on the opportunities that we missed in the past, make today the day where you focus on the future.  Make the choice to trust God to lead.  Even without a job description, even without any tangible proof, even if you can not see the possibility of success, choose to say yes to God anyway!  Choose to hope in faith.  Choose to see beyond what you can imagine.  Believe that when you get to the next stage God will give you what you need when you need it!  And know that God is right there-walking with you through every stage on the way!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Old Friend, New Blog

Two posts in one day-that's got to be a record for me!

My dear friend Carrie needs some advice so thought I would share the link to her blog, so you could read her story.  Carrie suffers from headaches-all the time!  She's gone through tests (just like I have done) and found no help, so she is reaching out hoping someone out there will have some advice or inspiration!

Here's the link to her blog and if you can help her or know someone who can please share!
My Life is a Headache

Thank you for helping me help my friend!  Am I my brother's keeper?  You betcha!

Praying for you Carrie!  XOXO

Gardeners in you midst? Pay attention!

It's January.  It's cold!  It's rather blah outside.  Those of us from the north country refer to this as Cabin Fever season.  This is also the time when gardeners start thinking about and planning for the gardens that they will be putting in come spring!  Gardeners in general, are a hopeful lot!

What does gardening have to do with church and mission?  Stay with me and I'll explain!

Do you have gardeners in your congregation?  Do you have some open ground outside the church?  If you do, you have an opportunity to do something good in your community!

Back in 1995, the Garden Writer's Association started a program called "Plant a Row for the Hungry."  You can find the background information here.  The idea is simple.  Individual gardeners plant a little extra so the food can be donated to local food banks in their area.  The program has been highly successful and some churches have already participated in this endeavor!

So I would like to suggest two options to you for a way that your church can make this part of their mission to the community.

Option 1:  Encourage you garden growing members to add an extra row at home and bring in their extra produce to be donated to your local foodshelf or to individuals in your congregation who could use the extra food.

Option 2:  If you have some extra space around your church building, why not offer plots to individuals in your community so they can grow their own garden!  This is otherwise known as a community garden.  Here is a link with more information on Community Gardens

Or you could always do option 3, which would be a combination of the above 2 options!

Why do this?  Well, hunger is real.  Even in your local community.  This is a way to have an impact on a local problem.  And if you offer a space for a community garden you are helping individuals to connect with others in the community and you are empowering them to do something good for themselves and their community.

For those of you who don't garden let me try to explain the appeal of gardening.  Gardening, for me personally, is very therapeutic.  It gets me outside, connects me with nature-whether it is listening to the birds sing or watching the clouds-there is something very peaceful about a garden!  Pulling weeds and seeing the physical progress of plants brings about a feeling of accomplishment!  Besides that, I grow food for my family that is healthy and my husband is able to share our bounty with his friends at work who live in the city and do not have an opportunity to grow their own fresh produce.  It is also a great way to teach children about where food comes from and the fact that anything good takes diligent, patient work!

There is also beauty in flowers-their color, their texture, the way they smell.  Bees busily gathering pollen or hummingbirds gracefully sipping nectar, they are amazing to watch!  And birds love sunflowers!  Gardening and bird watching go naturally hand in hand for me!  Gardening is a lot of hard work but it is enjoyable and the rewards are immeasurable!  Some of the most profound insights about life have come to me while working in the garden!

I know that the idea may seem overwhelming to some but consider the possibilities before you reject the idea outright!  What if someone doesn't maintain their garden plot?  How much will your water bill go up?  What kind of wear and tear will it put on the property?  Believe me, I have heard the objections!  But, your congregation has an opportunity to make a real impact, if you are willing to pursue the idea.

Pray about it.  Discuss it and see if this might be a new way to do mission in 2012.  Consider it as a new way to "bear fruit" in your community!  And didn't Jesus call us to "feed his sheep?"  Sometimes you need to feed physically in order to feed spiritually.  Think about it!  How does your garden grow?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Distracted with a Capital D!

Dear me!  It’s been a bit since I have blogged.  My apologies!  I have been slightly distracted, with a capital D!  There’s been much going on in Trudy’s world and sometimes wrapping my brain around all of it is a bit of a task!  Lack of sleep and add a few more things and you end up with quite the combination!

I must confess I didn’t make church on Sunday.  I had gone to the RV show in St. Louis on Saturday which meant a lot of walking.  Why go, you ask?  Lonnie thinks that he wants to live in an RV when he retires and he wanted Kenny and I to come along and take a look.  (Look!  Shiny things!)  Plus I was lacking a good nights sleep for 3 nights in a row prior to Saturday, which meant taking a muscle relaxant Saturday night so I could actually sleep.  Long story short, I overslept on Sunday morning!  Oops!

Sleeping in meant that I missed the big announcement at church, which I got a phone call about later in the afternoon.  Jeff is officially retiring from ministry at the end of June.  Now I have to say this was not exactly a huge shock but it was still a surprise none the less.  It was the last piece of one of the puzzles that I have been pondering for a bit.  You see, prior to this, Jeff asked me to serve on Staff Pastor Parish committee (otherwise known as PPR).  Now you need to understand, I would do anything to help Jeff out and I would do whatever I could to help out at church but one thing that I do not like helping out with is being on any sort of committee!  It’s like oil and water-committees and I just don’t mix!  I much prefer flying low under the radar because you can get so much more done!  On a committee, you are a public member and people notice you.  Being noticed is not real high on my list of priorities in life.  I’d much rather do what needs to be done and do it quietly!  Jeff knows this all too well and yet, he asked.  He seemed sincerely urgent in the request and because it was Jeff, I said yes (like a noodge, I might add!)  Now, I understand why he asked!

The committee will be meeting with the District Superintendent to discuss the upcoming search for a new minister to take Jeff’s place.  Oy!  Talk about pressure and high profile!  I don’t know a lot about the process, all I do know is we will most definitely be in the thick of things!

I believe that to be a minister you really REALLY have to be called and know it in your heart and soul!  It’s not an easy job.  You move to a new church and community every few years and if you are married, you have family in tow, who also have to adjust to the new surroundings.  You live in a fishbowl.  You are the public face of that congregation in that particular community.  You deal with long time members and also new ones.  Competing demands, trying to craft a vision for the future that matches the mission, all the while keeping things running smoothly.  Not an easy task for a mere mortal!  The reason I know a little about this is because when I was a teenager, I used to babysit for my minister.  You want a dose of ministerial reality try babysitting for the head of the church!  I got to see first hand the juggling act that goes on behind the scenes trying to balance family life with church life! The endless phone calls, the demands for meeting times that don’t necessarily bode well for family schedule.   It’s not easy!  It’s not easy for the minister, the spouse or the children!  It is a well orchestrated, delicate balancing act for all involved!  There is no way that an individual could endure that sort of scrutiny and demands on time unless they were truly called!  It gives new meaning to the phrase “there but by the Grace of God go I!“  If people realized just how difficult it can be to be the minister, maybe they could be a little more sympathetic.  Do I fully grasp the entire picture of life as a minister?  Probably not, but I do have a unique perspective on the topic.

Now do you understand my distraction?  Here I am, on a committee that will be responsible for helping in the selection process of a new minister.  That’s a big honking deal!  I hope and pray that we are able to clearly enunciate the congregation’s expectations and I hope we are able to find someone who wants to be here as much as we want them to be here.  And I hope that I am that listening ear for the individual appointed to our church.  Ministers are people too!  Sometimes, we forget that fact!

Keep our church, the committee and our future minister in your prayers please.  I think the next six months are going to be quite an adventure!  Pardon my distraction, but it is for a very good reason!  I’ll try to keep you posted!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snow Day!

To every day, there is a season.  Yesterday, here in Missouri, it was like an early spring day and the kids were outside in light jackets and sneakers swinging on the swings.  What a difference 24 hours can make!

Today, the season is most definitely WINTER!  We haven't gotten a lot of snow but what we did get was enough to cause accidents and road closures all around the St. Louis area!  Schools canceled, and some folks trying to get in to work, literally turned around and headed back home!  There is a lot of black ice on the roads around the area so most folks have hunkered down at home.  The wind is howling and the birds are having a blast trying to land on the bird feeder just outside my front window!  The actual temperature outside is like 8 degrees, but factor in the windchill and it is about 0!  Just a tad bit of a shock to go from almost 60 to this!  Invigorating?  You betcha!

Elizabeth and I decided to brave the cold and head outside to check on the living lawn ornament (also called Jake the Great horse).  We gave him extra grain and made sure the water heater was on.  Then Elizabeth decided she just had to try sledding down our hilly yard.  Even with the grass sticking up through the snow, it is slick enough that she made quite a few successful runs!  Victory!  She came back in to the house smiling and rosy cheeked!

I just want to feel my toes again!

Oh and the forecast for the weekend?  Highs back up in the 50's.  Welcome to Missouri.  The seasons are suffering from identity crisis!  Hee hee hee!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Situation Normal! Not Exactly as Planned

Ever have one of those days when things don’t go exactly as planned?  I managed to get a minor infection last week and grudgingly went to the doctor for a prescription.  (Side note here:  I like doctors personally, I don’t care for being a human pin cushion or test subject, which is what happens prior to being diagnosed with a chronic illness.)  I dutifully took the prescribed medicine and started to feel worse for the next couple of days.  Tuesday, I was finally starting to feel better and ready to be in touch with the outside world again!

Well, my wireless provider had other plans.  The internet would not work.  Not unusual for that to happen some of the time but this went on for hours.  So I tried sending a text message to my husband (which always works.)  No dice, sending failure.  So I tried calling.  He and I managed to have conversations twice yesterday, one of which was cut off in the middle by a loud beeping sound!  It wasn’t until 7:20 last night that the company issued a statement to the media that the system had been experiencing “technical difficulties” but that they had repaired the problem!  This had been going on since some time on Monday and they couldn’t issue a statement until Tuesday night????  Are you kidding me????

So things did not go exactly as planned yesterday (or the last few days for that matter) and I had to change things around a bit!  In other words that is situation normal at my house!  The best laid plans needed a little tweaking!

I was reminded of the fact that this sort of thing happens to everyone.  I was reading, again, in Joshua and he had some unexpected things that he had to deal with, as well.  In chapter 6 it looks like everything is going exactly as planned.  The Israelites march around Jericho seven times and then the trumpet blows and the walls fall down and they take the city.  Rahab and her family are taken out safely, the plunder is taken for the treasury of the Lord and the city is reduced to rubble.  So far, so good.  Then we get to Ai.

In chapter 7, Joshua sends out spies again.  They come back and say it will be no problem to take Ai and they will only need a couple thousand men.  The fighting men go up and then the Israelites have to turn back because they are getting routed!  Wait!  That wasn’t the plan!  And that’s the point where Joshua finds out from God that Achan took some of the gold and silver meant for the Lord’s treasury, which means Israel broke the covenant.  So Israel repents and regroups and tries again and the next round is successful.  So successful, that other kings and tribes in the area start paying very close attention.  Some of the kings decide to band together to fight Israel.  But one group, the Gibeonites, decide that they are going to try to save themselves.  They decided to trick Israel into making a treaty of peace with them.  So, they found the rattiest clothes, the oldest patched wine skins,  and the moldiest food and then loaded up donkeys and headed toward the Israel encampment.  It is an interesting exchange in chapter 9 between the Gibeonites and the Israelites at first Joshua is suspicious but in the end they made a treaty with them.  Verse 14 says:
“So the leaders partook of their provisions and did not ask direction from the Lord.”
Three days later, they discover that the Gibeonites live in the land that they are about to conquer and that puts them in a dilemma.  If they kill them, they break their oath.  If they spare them, they break a commandment.   This is not going exactly as planned!

In the end, they do spare them but they put them to work as “hewers of wood and drawers of water” and the Lord does not condemn Israel but continues to lead them.  Here’s an interesting point, not to be missed.  In the notes for the Wesley Study Bible it refers us back to the covenant renewal ceremony that Moses led in Deuteronomy.  Here is what it says in Deuteronomy 29 verse 11:
“…and the aliens who are in your camp, both those who cut your wood and those who draw your water-”
The moral of the story?  Joshua may not have anticipated this dilemma.  It may not have been part of his plan, but it was a part of God’s plan!  Huh!  Didn’t see that coming!

There is a lesson in this for all of us, a gentle reminder.  Our plans are not always God’s plans and sometimes a change of plan is just what is needed to get back on track.  I discovered that particular lesson first hand, yesterday.  Without the phone or the internet I managed to catch up on some reading and I took a long walk in the woods with the children and got reacquainted with nature.  And as much as I want to think that I can go at top speed, truth is, I’m not 100 percent recovered.  I still need a little more rest.  So yesterday was a productive day, it was just at a slower pace.  It turned out to be a pretty good day!  It just didn’t go exactly as I planned but I think it went as God planned!  Situation normal, once again!

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Yabut-my made up word of combining  yeah and but.  Most commonly used or whispered to sow discontent or uncertainty in the minds of the hearer.  Favorite tool used by “the accuser” “the deceiver” “the Satan”.

In the book of Job, “the Satan” makes an appearance again.  In chapter 1 there is a gathering of the heavenly beings who “present themselves before the Lord”  (Job1:6) and Satan shows up as well.  Then comes the interesting exchange between God and Satan starting at verse 7:
“The Lord said to Satan, ‘where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘from going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
Let’s be clear, God already knew what Satan had been up to.  He already knew he had been wandering around looking at what sorts of problems he could cause on earth.  Asking the question allows us to become aware of what Satan is up to because Satan has to answer, even if the answer is purposely vague.  He’s giving the impression that he has just been taking a hike, walking around but his nature is to sow discontent.  Satan was truthful in his answer as far as he went with the answer.  But as my Gramma used to say, “a half truth is not truth!”

Then God takes a different tact.  He brings up Job, a man that God describes as blameless and upright who fears the Lord and turns away from evil.  Satan responds with a yabut starting at verse 9:
“Does Job fear God for nothing?  Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?  You have blessed the work of his hand, and his possessions have increased in the land.  But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”
What is he saying here?  Like a whiney child, he is saying “yabut, that’s only because you have given him all this stuff and you protect him, but if you let me at him and let me take his stuff, I know your precious little human will turn on you and curse you to your face!”

How does God respond?  He agrees to the challenge but tells Satan that he can’t hurt Job.  So Satan orchestrates and manipulates the attacks on Job’s “stuff”,  livestock stolen, servants killed, children killed and he makes sure that he leaves one survivor from each event that can run and tell Job about what happened.  Satan fails though, because Job does not curse God.  He’s upset, he’s distraught but he doesn’t curse God.

So, in chapter 2, we get to listen in on the conversation between God and Satan, again.  God basically says “told ya!  You took all of his stuff but he still did not curse me.”  And Satan responds with his second yabut in Job 2, verse 4:
“Skin for skin!  All that people have they will give to save their lives.  But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”
Once again, God agrees to the challenge with one condition.  Satan is not allowed to kill Job.  We’re told that Satan inflicts “loathsome sores” on Job from his feet to his head.  Still, he doesn’t curse God.  When that doesn’t work, guess who shows up on the scene?  Jobs “friends”.  And we learn later on in the book that with friends like these, who needs enemies?  Satan couldn’t take him out directly so he goes the covert route by sending the “concerned friends” to come sit with Job.

The yabut pattern is nothing new for Satan.  We know that he used it in the Garden of Eden when talking with Eve.  If you go back to Genesis chapter 3, listen to how he starts the conversation:
“Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’ The woman said to the serpent ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’  But the serpent said to the woman ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil..”
Yabut, did God really mean that?  Did he really tell you that you couldn’t have that?  Yabut you know if you eat of this tree, you won’t die, you’ll just have as much wisdom as God!  Look at the shiny object, Eve, you want it now don’cha?  The twist, the turn and the spurn!  The things that the yabut is made up of!

We also know that he tried this with Jesus in the desert.  Read the beginning of Luke, chapter 4 and you can see the yabut pattern yet again.  Yabut, if you really are the Son of God you can turn this stone into bread.  Yabut, if you will just join my side, I’ll give you the whole world.  Yabut, if you really are the Son of God you can jump off this building and the angels will save you.   And Satan took it up a notch by quoting what was written in scriptures.  When Satan failed with the direct assault it says that he left, waiting for a “more opportune time” to try attacking him once again.

Here is the most important thing to remember.  Satan still wanders the earth, he still attempts full frontal attacks, and if they fail, he will resort to the Yabuts.  A yabut could be self-doubt, it could be a word from a friend or family member, and usually they hit during times of severe stress.   A half truth is spoken, words and meaning are twisted and the outcome is meant for you to either reject or get angry, in other words to spurn!

Let’s say for example, you want to start a new career or business.  You have done your research, prayed about it, weighed the pros and cons of pursuing this particular path and you have decided to go ahead with it.  Maybe you lost your job due to downsizing or the poor economy and you think now is a good time to try something different.  You feel at peace with the decision.  One day, you are in a conversation with someone and you mention what you plan to do.  This person says “oh, I had another friend that tried that and they failed miserably.  Lost their home, their family and the dog.  Bad idea if you ask me!”  The yabut statement they are making is yabut, someone else already tried it and failed.  What makes you think that you can pull it off?

So, what was the full frontal attack?  Losing your job.  So what is the next line of attack?  The oh so subtle Yabuts.  New year, new century, different set of people, same pattern!  Yabuts can stop you in your tracks if you let them!

How deep is your faith?  How much do you trust God?  This is what Satan chooses to test.  He did it with Eve, he did it with Job and he did it with Jesus.  The pattern continues to this day.  That’s why it is so important to focus on your spiritual life, your faith walk, because there will be times of testing.

In Psalm 1, we are reminded to meditate on the law day and night.  The Wesley Study Bible notes say that the word meditate, as it is used in this Psalm, literally means “to mumble or utter its words under one’s breath.”

Deepen your faith by studying God’s word.  Meditate-have some verses of scripture deep inside of you.   At some point in time you will face a yabut moment.  Discern and respond.  Trust God.  Deepen your faith because that faith will carry you through when you need it the most!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Unlikeliest of Heroines-Rahab the Courageous!

The book of Joshua tells the story of how Israel followed God’s commands and crossed the Jordan to take possession of the land promised to them by God.  Moses has died, the mantle of leadership passes to Joshua, whose job is to lead the people into the promise land!  Those other people who happen to live in this territory have got to go!  So, Joshua sends a couple of spies to scope out the territory around Jericho.  This is where things get interesting because the men of Jericho find out that there are a couple of men wandering around that are not from Jericho, so they go looking for them.  The spies end up at Rahab’s house on the outer wall of the city.

Rahab does something very interesting, she doesn’t turn them over to the men that are looking for the spies.  Instead she hides them on her roof and sends the townies off on a wild goose chase looking for them.  Now why do a thing like that?  If she’s caught, it means certain death for her!  I mean, she could have helped the town send a message to those upstart Israelites  by turning over the spies and allowing them to be executed.  As a prostitute, turning these men over probably would have upped her social status a bit.  She would be known as the woman who caught the spies.  Rahab is a smart cookie though.  She realizes, probably long before anyone else in the town, that the one true God is with Israel and Jericho is going down!  She may not know or fully understand the one true God but she knows who is in charge.  She courageously chooses a side-the one true God side.

Before she helps the spies escape the city she decides to negotiate a deal.  In chapter 2 starting at verse 12 here is what she says:
“Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal kindly with my family.  Give me a sign of good faith that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”
Prior to this, it is Rahab who recounts the Lord’s mighty deeds and  acknowledges God’s supremacy, not the spies!  And although Rahab asks “deliver our lives from death” whose lives does she specifically ask to be spared?  Her father, mother, brothers, sisters and all who belong to them.  Nowhere in that speech does she ask specifically for her life to be spared.  It is implied at the end, but not specified.  As a prostitute, being the lowest of the low in society, she probably didn’t expect her life to be spared.  But by golly, she was going to do all that she could do to save her family!  That’s pretty courageous!

Before the spies leave, they put some conditions on this agreement-the red cord has to be in the window, her family has to be in her house when they attack, she can’t tell anyone about them.  She agrees with no argument.  We know that Rahab was saved and that she is in the genealogy of Jesus written in Matthew chapter 1, listed  as the mother of Boaz (husband of Ruth).  Now if I counted correctly, Rahab is only one of four women listed in the genealogy of Jesus (not counting his mother Mary).  The significance of this is that women are not normally listed in a Jewish genealogy.  Rahab, a foreigner and known prostitute is listed.   That, my dear friends, is significant!

That great moral of the story is this:  God was willing to demonstrate his saving grace for outsiders even in the Old Testament!  Long before he sent Jesus in the world and commissioned Paul to take the good news to the Gentiles of the world, he was still acting as a loving God full of grace to those who believed.  And it is an important reminder to all of us to remember not to judge by appearances.  God looks at the heart, not the outside packaging.  How many people have we not talked to because we simply wrote them off as “not being someone that God would want to save?”  The guy in prison, the kid with the freakish hair cut and staple thing through the lip.  The power hungry social ladder climber.  I’m sure we could all come up with our own list of examples but the point is the same.  All of us, at some point in life, have judged by appearances.

How do we get beyond such judgments?   That is the question!  I think God gives us spiritual nudges when we least expect it and we have to learn to listen to those nudges.  It takes courage to follow through and sometimes that means we have to step out of our comfort zone.  What did God say to Joshua?  “Be strong and courageous.  I will not fail you or forsake you.”  Rahab, the unlikely heroine, embraced this message.  She trusted God and she chose to be courageous.  It is a lesson, that we all need to learn and embrace again and again and again!

Listen to the spiritual nudge and be strong and courageous!  God is still in the business of Saving Grace!

God Still Calls

Genesis, the one book in the Bible that everyone can find!  It is the Greek word for “beginnings,” which seems the appropriate place to start.  We are all familiar with the first part of the book, the creation story, where God created the heavens and the earth and all that is contained within it and then on the seventh day he rested.  I have read the story numerous times as I am sure many of you have done.  But there is great value in reading it again, because you would be surprised at what catches your eye.

So what caught my attention in Genesis 1 that I hadn’t noticed before?  God said.  God saw.  God called. God blessed.  We tend to just breeze over those phrases but let’s linger a little while because they are more significant than what you see at first glance.

God said.  Think about it.  God literally spoke creation in to being!  The notes in my Wesley Study Bible say this: “God creates effortlessly, simply speaking the universe into existence.”  Before time existed, God existed.  He created time and space and all the elements it contained within the universe.

God saw.  God looked at what he spoke into existence-at each and every stage of its creation.  This was not random and hap hazard, this was carefully thought out and constructed.  God saw that “it was good”.

God called.  He didn’t just stop at speaking, or looking, he went a step further and called the elements of creation by name.  He gave each thing a definition.  The properties of day and light, for example, are not the same as the properties of night and darkness.  It has it’s own separate roll to play within the whole creation.  Sky, earth, sea, day, night, all integral parts of creation, yet all distinct.

God blessed.  The living creatures that he created, he blessed.  The creatures of the water and the air.  Humankind, male and female.  He said, He saw, He called, He blessed.

Now, you get to verse 31 in Genesis chapter 1:
“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
It isn’t until the very end when God looks at all he had created and he calls it “very good.”  Prior to that he called it simply good.  But everything together as a whole is “very good!”

Why does this matter?  Well, if you want to understand Wesley’s understanding of Grace you need to understand the goodness of God’s creation in the first place, including us flawed and imperfect human beings!  Wesley believed that “humanity came from the hands of the Creator ‘pure from every sinful blot’…evil did not exist ‘at all in the original nature of things.”  Sin and evil came in to the world later, when Eve chose to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden and gave the fruit to Adam as well.  Free will existed, even from the very beginning.  And that was a risk that God was willing to take in creating the universe and all that exists within it!

God loves what he created!  He wants to have that close relationship again with those He created, because He is the same today as He was yesterday.  God was so close to Adam and Eve that he walked in the garden with them!  God knows your name and he calls you, just as he has called all his creation from the beginning of time!  And here is the beauty of free will-we all have a choice.  We can choose to answer the call or we can choose to hide ourselves from God’s presence.

Perhaps it would help us, if we would look at the universe from God’s perspective, rather than our own!  Your choice, your call!