Friday, April 30, 2010

Settling in

(Photo: the toy is 15" long, just Spike's size)

Spike spent his first day at our place. He's settling in well. His interactions with the house and its inhabitants remind me of how people react when circumstances change. His adaptation is instinctive, and I've learned a few things:

Spike didn't choose us. His neglectful owner abandoned him. He was taken to a shelter, not knowing where he would land. We chose him and were vetted to become his permanent placement. Knowing little about him, we decided to bring him home. He knows nothing of the backdrop of his rescue, nor is it relevant to his contentment. So we too are often unaware of God's provisions and others' care for us.

Spike walks around the perimeter of each room, observing and exploring. He keeps checking to see what his people do. A bit of activity, then a pause to absorb the consequences.  We let him roam or establish boundaries with a firm "No."

His habits are being challenged and changed, so he must keep watching for our expectations. When he runs ahead on our walks, W or I may suddenly turn and go the other way. His collar tightens. He gets no warning, just feels the consequence. After two walks yesterday, he's walking beside us, no pulling, no lagging, glancing our way every few yards.

He's eager to please, so he's easy to train. Spike is not allowed to leave a room without permission: we have to watch for marking until he's fully trained to our house. (Thankfully, he was neutered by the shelter.) He'll walk to the door of my office, put one foot over the sill, and stop on "No." Then he runs back to be petted and told, "Good dog."

It's easy to learn the rules when they are consistent. Spike's in a completely new environment, but his willingness to learn helps him negotiate the unknowns. If we'd imposed our house-rules on his old situation, he might have been confused. When expectations are clear at home or work, people thrive. However, when rules change mid-way through a job or situation for us, it can be disconcerting. We may find ourselves unable to please because we don't understand the shifting parameters. Too many changes or inconsistency may discourage us or make us fearful. A slap or a stroke, which will it be today?

He doesn't get everything he wants but he gets enough. Spike would like me to play with him all day long. He'd run through the house doing who knows what, or spend a great deal of time standing on his hind legs in front of the aviary, watching the birds flutter up at his approach. He has to fit himself into our schedules and our goals. It won't take long before he'll have settled in completely.

Oh, that we would be quick to accept God's ways for us, mindful of his ways and grateful for his provisions. Sometimes changes and moves are God's way of showing his love for us. If we're like Spike, going with the flow and accepting his good will, he brings us into safety, care, and new opportunities.

Read more:
*If they are bound in chains and caught up in a web of trouble, he shows them the reason. He shows them their sins of pride. He gets their attention and commands that they turn from evil. . . But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer. For he gets their attention through adversity. Job 36:8–10, 15

*But now, this is what the LORD sayshe who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43: 1-3 NLT

*Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 NIV

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Pregnancy lasts about nine months. For some women, the time flies. Before they know it, the baby arrives and life moves on. That was my friend Susan. For others, every day is a 24 hour marathon to get through until the next day arrives. Gestation seems like an endurance test of endless waiting. Nine months? An eternity. That would be me. I remember thinking forward to the moment of meeting this little person, with "I wonder if," or "Maybe they'll be like this..." or "Is it a boy or girl?" (Medical professionals wouldn't reveal a baby's gender 20-30 years ago in Canada. They feared abortions by ethnic groups who valued one gender over the other.)

You'd think patience could be learned. If it could be forced upon us, I might have become the most patient person in the world after four successful births. Yet even now, waiting for a chore to be finished (especially if it's someone else's chore) can be difficult. Arranging an outing at a certain time with a friend, ringing the bell to find she's just starting to put on her makeup, gets my toes tapping. Not being able to move forward because there's a procrastinator holding up a process produces inner sighs and groans.

I've learned to tolerate some delays by diverting my attention to things unrelated to the goal. Often it's most valuable to remind myself that God is never late in answering prayers or directing our paths. Externally, I even look patient sometimes.

Today, our small group of women discussed what we'd like to achieve in the next year of life and ministry. One of the ladies prayed, "God, help me to live each moment with you, fully present, neither yearning for the past nor the future."

My heart agreed. Ah, now that would be abundant living. One week, one day, even one moment, at a time.

Read more:
*Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalm 103:1-5 NIV

*The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Jeremiah 31:3-4 NIV

*Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11 NIV

Monday, April 26, 2010

Enemy turf

It's conference time again - the network of pastors, missionaries, and church leaders will meet for three days of spiritual renewal, business, and friendship building. We always enjoy the conference, and this year I don't have to work at it. (Another perk to not being part of the alumni team at NU.)

Many of us have been believers for a long time. Some of us recently began following Christ. Some will be ecstatic at victories won and plans accomplished. Others will be bruised and battered by conflict and battles.

Somewhere along the walk of faith, we are waylaid by enemies. Those who are Christians for a while expect occasional ambushes from people who find us intolerant or inflexible when we don't embrace their ideas (though they hardly embrace ours.) We may skirmish with fellow believers who disagree with us or want to persuade us they have heard from God and we have not.

Hardest of all is when we engage the enemy within. Bad habits, laziness, or wrong attitudes leak out of our flawed humanity to soil our relationships, spoil our ministry, or block God's offer of abundant living.

That's when we loudly call upon the LORD. We depend on his perfect and loving provision in Christ. And we are saved from our enemies, even when the worst enemy is our fallen nature and worldview.

Read more:
*“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; the God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. 2 Samuel 22:2-4 NKJV

*Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore. Psalm 125:1-2 NIV

*I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:26-28 NIV


Friday, April 23, 2010

Funny face

We're adopting Spike next weekend. He has the goofiest face, which caught my eye. He's some kind of a 12 lb terrier-poodle mix. Small but spunky, they say. Hence the name "Spike!"

A pet shelter volunteer found him, ears infected, hair utterly matted, still friendly, cheerful wandering a supermarket parking lot. The vet, who thought Spike was about 3-4 years old, shaved him to razor-burn closeness for an exam, leaving an odd patchwork of hair on head and body. The vet's assistant cleaned the mess in Spike's ears and scraped Spike's teeth while the dog was under anesthesia. A local groomer tried to trim what was left into some semblance of evenness. Recently abandoned, with his ears healing and hair growing in, Spike is a happy and outgoing companion who likes to be around people. Housetrained, too. The foster family lives pretty far away. We have a busy week ahead so we're waiting to brave the drive. We'll pick him up a week Saturday, when I'll be around to rehome and train him.

Spike's coming to a family with boundaries as well as the offer of companionship. He might not always like the training process as he becomes a part of our home. Meanwhile, I'm really excited to meet him and his foster lady. He's temporarily cared for, so I'm sure I'm more anxious than he is about meeting. Generous strangers on Freecycle and Craigslist donated most of the supplies, including an unopened $17 bag of organic dog food. That may be a gourmet switch from foraging for his next meal!

I was thinking about our own funny faces. People may look at us and wonder what made us like we are. They might doubt that we have anything that can benefit them. Occasionally when a fuss is made over us, some might turn aside to wonder, "What's so great about them?"

Yet our God is pleased with us. He shelters us. Sometimes he lets us wait for a comfortable home or for answered prayers. It might seem he is not providing for us. His plan is in place, though. Work is just around the corner. There will be food for supper. The doctor will make a diagnosis. God knows how badly we need that friendship, healing, help with the children, financial counsel, or how to meet the other requests we make of him.

I sometimes wonder how God hovers over us with his love, tenderly guiding behind the scenes to the perfect time and place where prayers are answered. If we could only trust his omnipotence - that power than can move heaven and earth to accomplish his purposes. Maybe then our days would be filled with rest and confidence instead of well as nervous work and striving.

What would your name be, if someone met you for the first time?
Read more:
*To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You. Let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me. Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.
Show me Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.  Psalm 25:1-5 NKJV

*Blessed is the [hu]man who finds wisdom, the [hu]man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed. Proverbs 3:13-18 NIV

*And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Philippians 4:19-20 NIV

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wolf whistle

"WHEEEEEEEHW." A loud whistle rips the air and everyone stops and whirls around to find the source. The next thing is a puzzled look, then bewilderment, "Did you whistle?" they ask me in shock.

From the time I was a toddler, I can remember whistling like my dad did--no fingers, no effort, just a rip-snorting, ear-jangling wolf whistle when my tongue curls behind my teeth and my lips stretch sideways. Teen boys who lived next door used to sit on our porch and beg, "Can you teach us how to do that? It's no fair for a little girl to be able to do that." No matter how I demonstrated (usually with the caution of, "Plug your ears first!"), no one could learn it.

I hoped my daughter would pick it up. Her mouth worked the right way as a youngster, but no sounds emerged. None of our sons can do it, either. I'm hoping a grandchild will be born with this funny, occasionally useful talent.

It came in handy when our kids were young. I refused to holler, "Jeeerrrremmmmy. Kiiiiiiirrrstennn. Timoooooottthhy. Jooonnnathhaaan." So the rule was, "You hear me whistle, come right away." It was loud enough that they had to be a long way off before they could use the excuse, "We didn't hear you." It's also been useful over the years to garner attention when an announcer needs silence from a crowd.

God seems to delight in handing out obscure presents, in giving us a rare tweak or special twist. When we see the specialization and uniqueness of each person, we can have confidence that he knows us by name.

I don't whistle much anymore. Once in a while, I'll stand on the deck and check if the whistle still works. So far, so good. Think about it: what's your unique, perhaps hidden, skill? Got something you do easily, that you pull out once in a while because it's so useful that it would be a shame to put it away for good?

Read more:
*Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. Isaiah 40:26 NEV

*So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is why we are here! No one will bring us back from death to enjoy life after we die." Ecclesiastes 3:22 NLT

*So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16–17 NLT

Monday, April 19, 2010

Practical piggy parable

"No way am I setting foot in your church. Ever!" The farmer was adamant in response to the pastor's invitation. "Tom Black and Sam Werner go to your church, and if they're examples of Christians, I have no interest."

"I understand," agreed the pastor. They walked through the farmyard, past beautifully maintained fences and barns, talking about the nature of farming and the marketplace.

Before he left, the pastor turned to his friend, "By the way, I'm looking for a good hog. Do you have any for sale?"

"Sure do. See that one over by the trough? Its sire won second in the county and the sow won the state fair last year. Let's make a deal!"

"How much?" asked the pastor.

"For you, I'd let it go for $500."

"That's a bit more than I was thinking. How about the three-legged one we saw in the barn?"

The farmer laughed. "That one is just eating up my profits. It's practically worthless. I'd give it to you for $4. You have to pay extra for butchering, of course."

"I'll take it!" said the pastor, pulling out his wallet and handing over four one-dollar bills. "I'm not planning on eating it anyhow. I'm just going to ride around for a while and show people the kind of pigs you have out here."

The farmer was shocked, thrusting back the money. "You can't do that! I have world-class animals here. He's the worst. The runt and worth nothing!"

"Well, you're judging us by our runts, aren't you? You've lumped us all in with a coupla hypocrites who may be the worst specimens of our faith." The pastor reached out his hand and took the money with a smile, "Hope to see you Sunday!"

Parable loosely paraphrased from a presentation on UCB Inspirational radio. Love their "new" hymns, too.

Read more:
*For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12 NLT

*If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NEV

*How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 NIV

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day omnium-gatherum\ahm-nee-um-GA-thuh-rum\ noun: a miscellaneous collection (as of things or persons) Example: The book, a collection of short stories, is an omnium-gatherum of works by various writers.

"By the time we turn around, she is already coming back and the job's done, " complained a teen friend's mom. The same woman said, "She has seven goats by the tail at any one time. I get tired just by watching!" When my mom told me that, I laughed aloud.

People whose primary motion is forward and growing are perceived by others as: 1) welcome activators; 2) competent volunteers and motivators; or 3) threats to stability by those who ponder/control every detail (or prefer extended committee sessions before making decisions.)

Want the wheels to start turning? Befriend a person who relishes new challenges. Hire a free-streaming collaborator who instinctively networks people and resources. Group thinking flourishes when ongoing challenges and ideas get tossed into the mix by high-energy "do-ers." And every company benefits from a connector or two who maximize flow between individuals with conventional gifts and talents.

It can be hard to manage such people: they work with idea clumps and resource webs rather than in straight-ahead bureaucratic or hierarchical lines. They're unconventional in problem-solving. Authoritarian bosses find they're not always cooperative when restricted to small projects or boxed into job descriptions. They may even be perceived as disloyal, insubordinate, or disrespectful as they leap toward solutions rather than plodding through official channels.

Connectors have a hard time restraining their ideas because their minds range freely throughout the big picture. They reinvent traditional resources for non-traditional applications. They seek to grow an event or process to its greatest advantage. They can be completely annoying when we present an idea and our small thinking gets blown up with three more options that never crossed our mind... but could work perfectly. (It takes about five seconds for a creative to explore alternatives.)

A few years ago, I spent a week painting canvases for an event. Coworkers were puzzled by what I was doing in our unused office area. Happily, no one stopped me or said, "You can't do that. I don't think it will work." Or worse, for a web-thinker: "Stop! So and so is the expert at that, so what do you think you're doing?" Or, "Is that what you were hired for?"

I'd purchased four 15'X12' canvas drop-cloths from Home Depot, along with a variety of returned cans of paint and cheap foam brushes. After cutting each canvas into three 5'X12' sheets, I started painting trees. Not just any trees, but fir-like, 12' trunks, with wide branches that continued off the page. Trees around here grow to 100' tall, after all. (And the sky IS occasionally pink and yellow, since there were no returned cans of blue.) Another resident creative, Idaho - the university's maintenance shop "artist," built simple collapsible stands for the huge paintings. Those grand sheets of Northwest color have been used at many events - graduation, a college president's retirement, and special chapels.

Did I know what I was doing when I started? Not really - I had hardly painted before, and certainly never on a grand scale (or twelve of anything.) It crossed my mind as a good solution to fill a huge, uninviting foyer for an important occasion. As the project progressed, useful art emerged. "The problem with you," I've heard a few times, "is not that you have ideas. The problem is that you act on your ideas. The rest of us were just wanting to think."

We need bureaucrats to prevent chaos. They draw the lines others color around and prevent zealous collaborators from assembling an unmanageable omnium-gatherum. However, a system of inflexible hierarchy and rigid lines of "who can do what" will quickly kill the soul of "life-weaving" orchestrators.

Thanks be to God who provides balanced structure and flair to make the world beautiful AND inhabitable.

Read more:
*When you dig a well, you might fall in. When you demolish an old wall, you could be bitten by a snake. When you work in a quarry, stones might fall and crush you. When you chop wood, there is danger with each stroke of your ax. Ecclesiastes 10:8–9 NLV

*For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV

*But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. 'For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.' 2 Corinthians 9:5b, 7 NEV

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Planted to grow

It was cool and wet as we cycled up the driveway yesterday. I rode most of the way to work with W before turning around. Our path cuts through the Juanita Bay wetlands, a quiet park filled with plants and animals. People pause on their walks, leaning over the sides of the rails to take photos, paint, or just watch nature.

Specialized foliage thrives in the swamp. The alders and wetland shrubs relish their muddy feet. The beaver family and a few herons share the marshes with various frogs, ducks, and geese. None of these would be happy in the desert or would consider it an ideal place to live. On the other hand, most tortoises, toads, and Arizona lizards would hate the damp.

As I cycled past, I marveled at God's specificity: each creature has a place where it is safe and nourished. So also he cares for each one of us. We may be more mobile and adaptable with our surroundings, but each of us looks for a place to use our gifts, education, and interests to greatest benefit.

When our environment is welcoming, we unfurl like the new leaves of the spring. The Spirit uses us to bless those around us with spiritual fruit or godly and human knowledge. When the surroundings become hostile, we withdraw both ourselves and our gifts. We accept that it is time to find a new place in Christ's Body, the Church. Saturating ourselves with scripture and its wisdom helps us recognize how God wants us to grow where he has planted us, and when the time is ripe for change.

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*This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8 NEV

*But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV

*But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.

His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Ephesians 2:13-16 NIV

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Life seasons

One of our friends with a toddler recently posted a query, "How do you keep an 11-month-old entertained all day?"

Someone else responded immediately, "Get them a sister."

I laughed when I read that. It was easier when our children entertained each other rather than depending on me. For years it seemed I hardly spoke to adults because there were so many kids around. I homeschooled and taught music from home, so it felt like I hardly left the house.

At one point, our four were under nine years of age. The old ladies used to look at the flock of kids and their friends and say, "Oh honey, how do you do it? How can you keep up with all those children?"

I used to shrug. It was nothing but a daily routine. Once in a while, I got so tired I thought the day would never end. I always dreaded birthday parties with the high expectations of young hoards expecting entertainment and fun, but we seemed to live through them.

The parent who is climbing the ladder at work usually builds a career and family at the same time, so he or she is typically more generous about offering help than actually being useful. I hear young moms complaining, "He wanted the kids as much as I did. But I seem to be doing all the work!" Yeah, it's always been that way (as house-fathers find out, too.) There's only so much energy to go around: a parent who spends it all at work find little stamina for childhood games and the whirling bodies of youngsters.

With pre-teens and young teenagers, the primary caregiver opens a taxi service. It's a great relief to hand over the car keys and say, "Have fun! Remember God is watching!" Sometimes we'd wince as a less-than-experienced sixteen-year-old eased out of the driveway, accompanied by our prayers for God's protection.

Some years felt like endless drudgery and hard slogging, teaching kids to do chores and answer the phone with good manners. As they emerged into adulthood, the work began to fade into fond memories. I went to work full-time and loved being away from the house. It was liberating to put systems in place that connected people, to serve those who noticed and said "Thank you!"

Now that I'm back home, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this season. (Did I say I love it?!) Having the house to myself, baking or cooking when I'm hungry, waiting for W to walk in the door, studying new things and planning each day with an ebb and flow... this must be the best season of all.

Read more:

*"Why should I fear when trouble comes, when enemies surround me? They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches. Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God. Redemption does not come so easily, for no one can ever pay enough to live forever and never see the grave." Psalm 49:5–9 NIV

*Send your grain across the seas, and in time, profits will flow back to you. But divide your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lay ahead." Ecclesiastes 11:1–2 NLT

*"Young people, it's wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless." Ecclesiastes 11:9–10

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Good morning!"

"Hello! you're back! I'm so glad to see you again," she said loudly, her happy voice echoing around the open room, circling back, and embracing her. She smiled hugely, sighed with contentment, and headed for the swim spa rather than hopping in the car to spend her day at a desk.

I was talking to myself the first day after leaving behind a good job. No, I wasn't going crazy. I was simply thrilled with the privilege of speaking my mind, writing without censorship, and befriending and connecting with anyone I pleased.

By 9.30am today, I'd scrubbed two outdoor decks with a 3" brush (it had hailed, leaving a wonderful natural pumice behind... and I admit to not knowing where the power washer is.) Skittering around in rubber boots, with water from the hose splashing around me and the sun on my face, made me feel like a kid again. When I came inside, I set the oven to preheat and slapped a chunk of bread dough on a floured board to rise. From my desk, I can smell the baking stone warming. There will be warm, fresh bread for lunch to accompany the homemade soup from yesterday.

My to-do list for the day is short: get Vit D (check!), vigorous exercise (check!), read books and articles toward the dissertation's literature review, and offer God thanks and gratitude for the privilege of flowing through his day in the way he made me.

My business mentor came for our final consultation Tuesday. Over four sessions, she helped set up my study by identifying my natural working rhythm. How do I work best, happily pacing tasks and creativity? It came to this: I gather (ideas float unformed); percolate (sort and categorize possibilities into to-dos and how-tos); engage (work); flit (distractions drain off excess energy); and climb (build a stepping stone to the next thing.)

Everyone has a natural "best" flow, and if anyone can help you identify it, it's Lynn. I highly recommend her services--especially for students, employees, or others in leadership or transition, ready to step up into the next phase of life or work. I'll pass your contact info to her if you want to know more. Meanwhile, "Good morning!" to you, from my functional, beautiful office.

Read more
*Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever: his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100 NIV

*Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don't know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both."Ecclesiastes 11:6 NLT

*Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14 NLT

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In with the new

We think we know it all. Scientists have combed microscopic wonders, astronomical marvels, and tramped most of the surface of the oceans and land. Yet, the BBC reports today that a new creature exists. The lizard has been in hiding until now.

I'm always amused by our collective human arrogance. Just because we're looking doesn't mean God lets us see everything, all at once. We don't know everything he knows, nor will we!

On the other hand, I can imagine God's delight when people get excited by his creatures. "Look at this, just like that one, but yet unique because..." (exclamations, while scurrying for notebooks and cameras.)

Our God is unending in his creativity. He loves to open our understanding with his wisdom, insight, and artistry. So, whatever we face today, we can humbly implore his help. He will make a way, where there seems to be no way. And who knows how beautiful that solution will be?

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*My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1-2 NIV

*For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

*Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32 NKJV

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 40: Good Good Friday

Whipped, beaten, broken physically. How could this man, shamed for rebellion against religious authorities, bring good for anyone?

We would at least have preached a sermon from our painful vantage point: "Don't you know what is happening? This is IT! IT, as foretold by our prophets! The salvation of the world looks like THIS! God purposed my death since the formation of the world, so I'm dying to save you. YOU are the ones who deserve to hang here. This pain and mockery? It's what YOU deserve! I'm doing a great thing here - can't you see it?"

Instead, Christ hangs quietly in our place for six hours. A few phrases escape the agonized throat as scoffers laugh and talk. His family and friends stand in shock, crying. Jesus talks only to his Father about the scope of what they are accomplishing. "Forgive them. Please, Father. We know they don't have a clue what they are doing. Don't hold this against them. I'm entrusting my spirit to you."

We've grown up with Easter. It's easy to shrug off history as a story that hardly seems real. As the story of "blah blah blah... and more preaching and healing... and then a few miracles... and oh yeah, don't forget this and that..."

But a real man grew up from infancy into childhood and became an adult. God lived among us, demonstrating God's character and love in the middle of ordinary human life. (Click on the link for an art photographer's view.) Then he suffered disgrace, unimaginable pain, and rejection from political and religious rulers, as well as betrayal by his intimate friend. He was put to death to reconnect us to our Creator. That's the good news in the horrors of Good Friday.

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*A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

“Crucify him!” they shouted.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!”

Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!”

In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. And the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw how he died, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” Mark 15:7-39 NIV

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lent Day 39: Who's dead now?

"I will run my sword through anyone who says Mohammad is dead!" Omar, Mohammad's friend stood in front of Mohammad's tent for a few days before he admitted that Mohammad was not going to rise from the dead. He was just another prophet.

But Mohammad (570-632) had heard about Jesus and his resurrection, though he wasn't clear about the details or if someone had stolen Jesus' body (as the tomb guards claimed, after a generous bribe from a shocked and frightened religious council. Matth. 28:11f.) Mohammad talked to his followers about the possibility of Jesus' resurrection and other things he'd heard on his travels. A scribe wrote his ideas into what we know as the basic Koran. (Mohammad was illiterate, like most others of his day.) In later generations, more of his ideas - passed down verbally for a hundred years or more - were assembled into Islamic writings and accepted as his words.

Mohammad himself never denied the resurrection of Jesus. Obviously his closest friend Omar hoped it would be true, if God had revealed himself through Mohammad. But Mohammad, Buddha, various Hindu holy men, great philosophers... where are they now? Dead. Buried. Bodies returned to dust. Their followers are most offended at the thought of Jesus' uniqueness. Jesus was raised from the dead, seen by over 500 witnesses after his resurrection. No other spiritual leaders can claim this.

A lovely Muslim friend of mine told me of her conversation with a Muslim who converted to Christianity. His life was such a train wreck, he said, "That I desperately needed a God who is alive, not a prophet who is dead."

The Holy Spirit points us to the living God, not a good man, not a dead spiritual prophet. At Easter, we worship Jesus, raised to life by mighty power of God. A Puritan prayer celebrates the holy Trinity, the mystery of God among us:
"O Father, thou hast loved me and sent Jesus to redeem me;
O Jesus, thou hast loved me and assumed my nature, shed thine own blood to wash away my sins, wrought righteousness to cover my unworthiness;
O Holy Spirit, thou has loved me and entered my heart, implanted there eternal life, revealed to me the glories of Jesus.
Three Persons and One God, I bless and praise thee, for love so unmerited, so unspeakable, so wondrous, so mighty to save the lost and raise them to glory."

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*I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21 NIV

*Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 NIV