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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Are You Prepared to Stand?

During our Sunday School time, our church is currently going through the video series "Answers in Genesis" by Ken Hamm. I've always enjoyed presentations by Ken Hamm as he has a way of helping me to understand how to defend creationism.

Mr. Hamm was recently at a homeschool convention in my hometown. Due to prior obligations, I wasn't able to attend, but I really wanted to go. Imagine my surprise when I heard the news that he had been kicked out. I don't know the man personally, but I've seen enough of his presentations to know that he's in line with the Bible. So if he was kicked out, what does that tell you? If you would like to read more about it (including the letter from the homeschool board), click here.

If nothing else, this event has reminded me that if we take a stand for what is right, some people are not going to like it. Some people will fuss and complain. Some will speak out against us. And some will find other ways to attack our character and testimony. Yes, it's sad, but I'm afraid some people can't stand for the truth while others just can't stand the truth.

What about you? Are you prepared to stand for the truth no matter what? Are you ready to defend your faith? Are you prepared to stand up for what you believe in even if it causes others to speak out against you? I'm not saying it will be easy, but I can assure you that it is necessary!

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. - Ephesians 6:13

Monday, March 28, 2011

Don't Lose Heart

Sometimes I just don't understand life and the way God works. Over the past few months, I have seen some wonderful changes in my career as a writer. New clients were approaching me from out of the blue. I was finding article assignments that seemed to have my name written all over them. Book sales were increasing, and my blog subscribers list was growing every day.

"Finally," I said. "People are starting to find me. People are hearing about me. With my name out there, I can accomplish so much more for the Lord."

Needless to say, I was excited. So excited, in fact, that I turned down an offer for a job that paid much better. With this change in my career came new feelings toward God. He's been working on me for a while now about worry and walking each day in His strength. I have not arrived, by any means, but I feel that I have made some progress. I've become more in tune with Him and have found it easier to recognize when I'm messing up.

You can imagine my surprise and confusion when everything in my writing seemed to come to a stand still. My clients finished their projects. My blog subscribers slowed down. And the articles, while there are still plenty, have become more difficult to write due to circumstances beyond my control. For example, I just finished typing out an article yesterday. When I hit the "save" button, it took me to a page that read, "Invalid URL." No matter how many times I tried to back up or to recover my work, it still directed me to the same page. I lost everything and now have to re-write the article. Things like that have been happening all week. I received a call from a church wanting to book me to speak at a meeting. When I got the message, I was thrilled and returned the phone call immediately. I left a message. I didn't hear back from them for several days, so I called again and left another message. I still haven't heard back. I don't know if they changed their minds or what, but the disappointment stings.

This morning, as I sat staring at my "to-do" list, I asked God for an explanation. "I'm doing your will," I cried. "I'm following your directions. I'm even making a point to commit my day to you before I begin my work. I feel like I'm being punished for doing all the right things. Why does it have to be so hard?"

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever asked God the same questions? Well, I'm happy to say that He answered immediately. He didn't say why these things were happening, but He did say that He understands. Through some reading, I stumbled across II Corinthians 4:1 which reads, Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not. With that one verse, I was reminded that it is only by God's mercy that I have a ministry at all. But since I do have it, it's my job to remain faithful through the good times and the bad, the bountiful harvest and the barren fields. No matter what happens, I have a job to do. Could it be that God is testing me to see if I'll throw up my hands and quit when things don't go my way? (Unfortunately, that's usually the first thought that pops into my head.) Am I relying on His strength so that everything will go well, or am I depending on Him to give me strength when all my plans crumble to dust?

I think I need to change my morning prayer. Instead of just committing my day to the Lord and asking Him for strength, I think I'll add this line, "And please, Lord, no matter what happens today, don't let me lose heart."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Help In the Time of Need

Some things are much easier to accomplish without help. Take, for example, my morning exercises. Just like any normal human being, I don't like exercising. I love to hike, but doing a boring workout is just not my idea of fun. However, with my arthritis and bursitis, I have to work at building strength, stamina, and flexibility into muscles that would rather do nothing. So, the workout in itself is difficult enough.

My beloved dog, Mitch, is such a sweet boy. He's always trying to help me. He tries to carry my backpack to the truck when we go for a hike. He's always willing to offer me aid, and that includes during my workout. When I do crunches, he tries to help me up, which defeats the purpose. When I do stretches, he does them with me which has created several toenail-shaped holes in my yoga mat. No matter what the exercise, he tries to find a way to help. I've discovered that if I want to get the full benefits of my workout, I have to lock myself in one of the bedrooms until I'm done. I love Mitch, but his help in that situation is not at all helpful.

I fear, however, that I sometimes treat God the same way. When God steps in to work out a problem, I feel put out if He doesn't help the way I had planned. You see, I've already examined the problem in great detail. I know the best way to work it out. I just needed some time to deal with it. But then God steps in and turns things around completely (and not for the better in my mind). At the time, God's help appears to be only a hindrance.

Many times in a situation like this, I will go to God in prayer. I show Him the plans I had laid out. I explain to Him how I had everything under control. I display the blueprints for Him to see how things were supposed to go. Sometimes, He sets me straight right away, revealing the disaster that was just ahead if I had continued to go my way. Other times, it takes a long while before I realize how, once again, God protected me from myself. He gave me help when I didn't want it and when I felt I didn't need it.

Psalm 46:1 says, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Even when we don't realize we're in trouble, God is already working. Even when we criticize or reject His help, He is there. He offers His help, and whether we realize it at the time or not, it is always helpful (and it doesn't leave holes in my yoga mat)!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Clayton Inman Sings "Old White Flag"

I don't usually post songs on this blog since I have an entire blog dedicated to gospel music, but when I saw this live last week, I knew I couldn't pass this up as my mid-week comedy. If you like bluegrass music (and even if you don't), I assure you this will have you doubled over in laughter. It just serves as living proof that Christians can have fun too! Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tag! You're It!

I was recently commissioned to write an article on P.E. activities for kindergartners. After nine years of teaching k-4 through 1st grade, I felt qualified to write the article. You wouldn't believe the memories that came flooding back. Some were pleasant memories while others were not so pleasant. As odd as it may seem, one of the clearest memories was one where my class had finished playing some indoor games and were using the restrooms in the gym before going back to class. When the students had had their turn in the bathroom, I required them to sit on the green boundary line. This helped me keep tabs on everyone and to keep the students together and in order. On this particular day, I was standing there chatting with the students when I noticed one boy doing something very unusual which prompted me to say probably the strangest sentence I've ever said: "Please don't lick the bottom of your shoe." Yes, I said. And yes, he was. We remember the weirdest things, huh?

Anyway, I digress. As I thought back over some of the activities and games we had done through the years, the first to come to mind were the obvious variations of the game "Tag." You remember "Tag," don't you? One person is "it" and has to chase down the other kids. The first one tagged then becomes "it." It's an old game, but children never seem to tire of it.

One of the coolest parts about the game "Tag" was that there was a place called "base." It was the place you could run to and the person who was "it" was not allowed to tag you. When you were on base, you were safe.

Did you know we have a "base" in real life? His name is Jesus. When the world is out to get us, when Satan is out to tempt us, when our own desires are out to defeat us, we can run to Jesus. In His arms, there is safety. In His arms, there is peace. In His arms, there is comfort. It doesn't matter what we're running from. It only matters Who we're running to. (And for all you English scholars out there, I know I'm not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, but it sounded better that way. Sorry!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

You Can't Judge a Book by its Cover

I'm sure all of you have heard of Dr. James Dobson. I don't agree with everything the man says or believes, but he recently posted a letter warning parents, grandparents, and teachers about a new book that is full of blasphemy. Unfortunately, the book is a bestseller. I wanted to share the letter with you to make you aware of the situation. We have to stop these lies! Please note: the validity of the origin of this letter has been disputed, but the Focus on the Family website states that the feelings of Dr. Dobson and the content of the book are as stated in the letter.

Educators, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, please pay special attention not only to what your kids watch on TV and in movie theaters and the music they listen to ... but we must also be alert regarding the books they read.

Two particular books, Conversations with God and Conversations with God for Teens, written by Neale Donald Walsch sound harmless enough by their titles alone. These books have been on the New York Times best seller list for a number of weeks. These publications make truth of the statement "Don't judge a book by its cover/title". The author purports to answer various questions from kids using the "voice of God." However, the "answers" that he gives are not biblically based and in fact go against the very infallible Word of God.

For instance (and I paraphrase), when a girl asks the question "why am I a lesbian?" his answer is that she was born that way because of genetics just as you were born right-handed, with blue eyes, etc. Then he tells her to go out and "celebrate" her differences. Another girl poses the question "I am living with my boyfriend. My parents say that I should marry him because I am living in sin. Should I marry him?" His reply is "Who are you sinning against? Not me, because you have done nothing wrong."

Another question asks about God's forgiveness of sin. His reply - "I do not forgive anyone because there is nothing to forgive. There is no such thing as right or wrong and that is what I have been trying to tell everyone. I do not judge people. People have chosen to judge one another and this is wrong because the rule is 'Judge not lest ye be judged'." And the list goes on. Not only are these books the false doctrine of devils but in some instances even quote (in error) the Word of God. These books (and others like it) are being sold to school children (The Scholastic Book Club) and we need to be aware of what is being fed to our children. Our children are under attack so I pray that you be sober and vigilant about teaching your kids the true Word of God and guarding their exposure to worldly media because our adversary, the devil, "roams about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8). And how many of us know that lions usually hunt for the slowest, weakest and YOUNGEST of its prey.

According to some online reports, Dobson succeeded in stopping Scholastic from distributing these books to Christian schools. Unfortunately, they are still be sold elsewhere and are poisoning the minds of unsuspecting victims. If you see or hear anyone talking about this book, please help them to understand the truth. That is our job as Christians!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Help! I'm Stuck!

We've had our new phones for nearly two months, and I must admit that I'm still trying to figure out how everything works. Daily, I discover things that I had no idea my phone could do. (I'm still trying to teach it how to do the laundry and dishes, but so far, I haven't had any luck in that area.)

When we got the phones, one of the first things Jason did was download a lot of different games on his. I'm not much of a game person, so instead, I downloaded a lot of books. One evening, as we lay in bed together, we were each preoccupied with our new toy. I was reading on my phone and loving every minute of it while Jason was testing out his new games. Not much time had passed before I grew very annoyed at the constant "click, click, click" this one game was making. I looked over at his phone to see what was making such a distracting sound. I became entranced. It was a logic game (which I don't usually like), but it looked like so much fun.

The game is called "Unblock Me." The "board" is set up with rectangular blocks, some horizontal and some vertical. There is one red block among the other brown blocks. The object of the game is to slide the red block through the opening on the right side of the screen. Oh, and did I mention that the blocks can only move in the direction in which they are pointing? Vertical blocks can only move up and down while horizontal blocks can only move side to side.

I sat beside Jason spellbound as he completed one puzzle after another. This looks like fun, I thought. When will I ever learn? I downloaded the game to my phone. It took less than a minute for me to complete the first puzzle. Wow, this is easy! It took me twenty minutes to solve the second puzzle. I was about ready to throw the thing across the room. After finally solving the dumb thing, you would think I would have stopped while I was ahead. No, I decided to keep playing. The next few puzzles went fairly quickly, and then came puzzle #8. I spent three days trying to figure it out. Truth be told, I never did figure it out. My 15-year old niece saw me working on it and asked if she could try. She solved it within minutes. Smarty pants!

After several more tries at various puzzles, I finally realized my problem. I was thinking too much (yeah, I know that's hard to believe). Really, though, hear me out. I knew which blocks needed to be in what spots in order for the red block to be freed. With those thoughts, I focused only on moving those blocks where I thought they needed to be. What I didn't realize is that sometimes I needed to move the red block farther away from the opening before I could clear a path. Weird, huh? That's why I don't play logic games!

Sometimes I feel like life is one big logic game. I see all the pieces and where I think they should go, but I struggle with getting them to the appropriate positions. Why? I'm trying to hard to figure it out on my own. Proverbs 3:5 says, Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on thine own understanding. That's what I was doing wrong when playing "Unblock Me." I was leaning on my own understanding of the game. Since I realized my problem, I've approached the game in a different way, and I'm happy to say I'm currently on puzzle # 71 (of 400). Sigh! Now, if I can just learn to do the same thing in life. Stop trying to figure out how I think things should work and leave the solving up to the One who created the puzzle in the first place.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Meaning Behind the Shamrock

As I'm sure you already know, today is St. Patrick's Day. If you didn't know before getting dressed this morning, I'm sure you figured it out quickly as countless people began pinching you because of the lack of green in your attire. Although I'm not sure how anyone could have forgotten it this year. The stores were packed with St. Patrick's Day decorations, clothes, gifts, etc. Naturally, I've seen a lot of shamrocks in the past few weeks. It wasn't until recently, however, that I understood the relation between the shamrock and St. Patrick's Day.

Until a recent revelation, when I thought of shamrocks, honestly, I thought of Lucky Charms. You know the cereal with pink hearts, orange stars, yellow moons, green clovers, blue diamonds, and purple horseshoes? I guess in many ways I'm still a kid at heart, but I was thrilled to recently learn the true meaning behind the shamrock and its relation to St. Patrick's Day.

St. Patrick was actually from Scotland, but he was captured at an early age and sent to Ireland as a slave. During his captivity, he got saved. Once he was freed, he went back to his home in Scotland, but the people of Ireland seemed to call to him. He finished his seminary training and returned to Ireland as a missionary.

At that time, Ireland was filled with various Druids and pagans. As much as he tried, St. Patrick found it difficult to explain God to such people. Knowing their love and worship of nature, St. Patrick decided to use that very thing to help get his message across. He used the shamrock to explain to the pagans and Druids about the trinity. With it, he symbolized how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit can be separate but also part of the same entity. His teaching was effective, and many were led to the Lord.

Cool story, huh? It just goes to remind us that God can use anybody or anything, anywhere and anytime.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Numerical Focus

I've noticed recently that I focus a lot on numbers. The amount of money (or lack thereof) in the bank account. The number on the scale. The size of the paycheck. The number of calories on my preferred snack. Numbers everywhere!

As a student, one of my least favorite subjects was math. It wasn't that I didn't understand it. It was just that I didn't like dealing with numbers. It was confusing, but more than that, it was always so time-consuming. Algebra completely drained me of strength and energy. To this day, I still prefer almost any other subject over math (even though it's my husband's favorite subject).

So you can imagine my surprise when I realized how much of my life revolved around numbers. Not only are numbers constantly on my mind, but they seem to rule my life. They dictate my actions and attitudes. And worst of all, in a sense, they have become my god. What am I talking about? Let me explain.

The dwindling number that represents my bank account is a constant source of stress and worry. Will there be enough money to pay the bills? What about unexpected emergencies? Why do all the big bills occur at the same time? These questions (and many more) create in me a sense of urgency to do something to try to earn more money. So instead of spending my time doing what the Lord has called me to do, I scheme and plan to find extra ways to earn some dough. These attempts always result in disaster, leaving me stressed which brings about problems of its own.

At this point, I usually notice the number on the scale. Unlike the one in the bank account, this number seems to be on a constant rise. In an effort to fix the problem, I pour over diet books and exercise programs. I weigh my food and count my calories. I perform the required sets of repetitions. Is this bad? No, not at all. But when I don't see immediate results, I again become stressed which leads to mood swings and excessive eating, not to mention headaches, body aches, etc.

Do you see how dangerous numbers can become? But the worst of all is that I've found myself placing my trust in these numbers. If there is money in the bank account, I can rest at ease. If not, I feel the need to stress or do something to make it right. If the weight on the scale is right, I feel happy and deserving of God's love. If not, I feel like a failure and totally unworthy of His attention. I place my trust in these things and find my comfort in them. Little by little, I have been allowing these numbers to take over my life and to become my god, and I didn't even realize it.

But I've realized it now, and I know I must make a change. I cannot continue to allow numbers to rule me. I cannot allow them to dictate my moods and actions. I cannot allow them to take God's place as my strength and my comfort. I have begun a new journey. It is a journey of renewal. The road will be long, and there will be obstacles to overcome, but I am willing to take the journey. Why? Because I must prove to myself that He is all I need. I don't need riches. I don't need the perfect body. I don't need chocolate (that's not to say I don't want it). I need Him. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lazarus Awakening by Joanna Weaver

The Bible clearly states that God loves the world. Over and over again, we read of His love for His people. Yet many times, we somehow feel excluded from that love. Perhaps we feel unworthy of His love or we simply don't understand God's love. For whatever reason, the process of getting God's love from our heads to our hearts is a complicated one. Enter: Lazarus -- the perfect example for understanding and interpreting God's love.

In her newest book, Lazarus Awakening, Joanna Weaver explores the deep friendship between Christ and Lazarus of Bethany. The third book in Weaver's Bethany series, Lazarus Awakening uses the tomb of Lazarus to symbolize the tombs we often find ourselves in: tombs of unworthiness, unforgiveness, and unbelief. Just as Christ called Lazarus from his tomb, He is calling us from ours. Will we, as Lazarus did, heed His call and cast off our grave clothes?

Since Lazarus has such little mention in the Bible, he is often overlooked. However, Weaver does an excellent job of reminding us that God can use anyone to do anything. No matter how small or insignificant we may feel, God has a powerful role for us to play, just as He did with Lazarus. Weaver's unique viewpoint is eye-opening and convicting.

I found the book to be an enjoyable and compelling read. The mixture of deep theology sprinkled with humor was refreshing and urged me to continue reading. As a writer myself, I especially enjoyed Weaver's commentary on the difficulties she faced in bringing the book to life. I can relate to her struggles. My favorite comment about the process was this: "I feel like I'm holding a pregnancy test stick, and it says I'm expecting a book, but I have absolutely no symptoms. No movement, not even a tummy bump to tell me it will be born." Oh, how I can relate!

When I first read the excerpt for this book, I wasn't sure that it was something I needed to read, but having read Weaver's other two books in the series, I knew it would be worth the time. It was and so much more! I didn't even realize how much I doubted God's love for me until I buried myself in the pages of this book. I'm looking forward to going through it again with the study guide that is included in the back. If you're feeling dead in any aspect of your spiritual life, Lazarus Awakening is for you!

I received this book as part of the WaterBrook Multnomah Blogging for Books program. My opinions are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Doing What I'm Supposed To Do

Several times recently I've come across the quote that goes something like this, "Do what only you can do, then trust God to do what only He can do." Stop and think about that quote for a minute. It's actually quite powerful.

The first time I saw the quote was in the book entitled Lazarus Awakening (you'll be seeing a review on it soon). The book highlights the resurrection of Lazarus from the tomb. In one chapter, the author discusses the moment of the actual resurrection. While Jesus did the calling forth, the author points out that He commanded the others to open the tomb and to remove the grave clothes from Lazarus. Why? Did He need their help? Wouldn't it have been an even greater miracle is Lazarus had just "POOF" appeared in front of them, alive and unwrapped without the stone door of the tomb being opened?

Do you want to know what I think? (If not, you'll want to skip this paragraph because I'm going to tell you anyway.) I think that Jesus wanted their help so that they could take part in the miracle. Think about the many miracles in the Bible where Jesus allows others to take part. The servants filled the pots with water at the wedding in Cana. The little boy shared his lunch on the hillside. The ten lepers made their way to the priest. Sure, Jesus could have done any and all of these miracles without human aid. But in His love and mercy, He allowed them to take part. He offers us the same opportunity.

Day after day, we have the chance to take part in a miracle. It may be leading someone to the Lord. It may be bringing hope to one who is ready to quit. It could be anything, but one thing is for sure. If we want to take part, we must follow God's will. He can't use us if He can't get hold of us. I don't know about you, but I'd love to be part of a miracle today. God has a task that only I can do, and He has a task that only you can do. Are we listening? Are we ready and willing to obey?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bass Singers Quartet (Have a Little Talk With Jesus)

This has to be one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Take four low bass singers, assign them each a different part, and what do you get? Complete chaos! Watch the video to see for yourself.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Something Stinks!

There are just some things about the behavior of dogs that I don't think I'll ever understand. Barking? Okay. Sniffing? Sure. Begging? Why not? But rolling in the droppings of another animal? That's just wrong! Still, no matter how many times I discipline my dogs, they keep doing it. Especially Tippy. You know, the one who is usually so prim and proper. The one who doesn't want to lie on the ground in the back yard because she's afraid she'll get dirty. The one who cleans herself like a cat. But give her a fresh (or not so fresh) pile of poop, and she's all in it. (I apologize to any of you who are eating while reading this post.)

Why? Why must they do that? And why must they be sure to get it on every inch of their bodies? We dealt with this issue last week. . . twice! And let me tell you, the drive home was almost unbearable. I got as much off her as I could in the lake, but she needed a good scrubbing and I just didn't have the proper bathing accouterments in my backpack. (Silly me! I guess I forgot to pack those.)

The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that I'm the same way. No, I don't roll in animal droppings, but I do like to rub around in sin. I don't want to sin. I don't mean to sin. But just as the smell of poop entices Tippy to roll in it, the lure of sin entices me to partake in it. Lying, overeating, being lazy. It doesn't matter what the sin is. The fact is that any sin is wrong. And while taking part in that sin seems fun at the moment, I quickly learn the same thing Tippy has learned: the results linger.

For Tippy, this means a cleansing. For me, I don't need to be cleansed. I've been saved, and at that point, the cleansing for all my sins (past, present, and future) took place. My sin can't keep me from Heaven, but it can keep me from sweet fellowship with God.

When Tippy has rolled around in droppings, I don't want to hold her, pet her, or even be near her. She stinks! My sin stinks to God, and the overwhelming fragrance keeps us from having the relationship we could have. To make things right, I don't need to be saved again, but I do need to confess my sin and ask for forgiveness. I need to make it right, so that there will be nothing separating me from my Savior.

Could you pass the soap?

Friday, March 4, 2011

In the Form of a Raven

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. - I Kings 17:1-6

It's safe to assume that Elijah was not a very popular guy around the palace. In fact, I can almost hear Ahab's response to Elijah's news. "Who is this guy that he marches in here and makes threats?" I'm sure it didn't take long for Ahab to assemble a hunting party. Their prey? Elijah.

But that's okay. God had everything under control. On the heels of Elijah's declaration, God sends him into hiding. If I had been Elijah, my first response would be, "But what am I going to eat, Lord? How will I survive?" But I think God beat Elijah to the question, and I love the way He does it. Notice what He says to Elijah: "I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there." Not I will command them; I have already commanded them. They're already on duty. They were aware of the plan before Elijah was. God had provided for Elijah before Elijah knew he needed to be provided for. What a blessing, for Elijah's God is my God! He will provide for me as He did for Elijah. In fact, He probably already has.

You want another blessing? Look at Psalm 147:9: He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. God took care of the ravens so that the ravens could take care of Elijah. To me, this verse is just another proof that God has EVERYTHING under control. He has a plan, and no detail is missing. It's perfect. Do I see it all? No. Do I understand it all? Absolutely not. Do I sometimes wish God would hurry up and work things out? Of course. But during those times, I turn to I Kings 17 which reminds me that God's timing is perfect. And as Rodney Griffin put it, "God will pass by at the right time." All I need to do is have faith that He will deliver.

Is that the flapping of wings I hear?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In the Form of a Whale

I think it's safe to assume that everyone reading this post is familiar with the story of Jonah. If not, here's a brief summary. Jonah was a servant of God. God commanded him to go to the city of Ninevah and preach to the people there. Jonah didn't want to, so instead, he hitched a ride on a boat going in the opposite direction. While on the boat, a huge storm arose. Jonah, knowing he was the cause of the storm, informed the ship's crew of his sin against God. In response, the crew threw Jonah overboard where he was immediately swallowed by a whale. He remained in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, having plenty of time to re-evaluate his decision. After that, the whale vomited him up, and Jonah hightailed it to Ninevah, where the entire city repented of their sins.

No matter how many times I hear or read the tale, I'm still amazed. First off, I believe God sent the whale for Jonah's protection, not for punishment (although I'm sure three days and nights in the belly of the whale was less than pleasant). But if the whale hadn't swallowed Jonah, he would have drowned. He was in the middle of the ocean in the midst of the storm. The whale was his salvation, gross though it may have been.

But what I really think about is what Jonah must have thought about during that time in the whale's stomach. I would love to read a journal of his thoughts during that time. The smell of decaying fish surrounding him. Water sloshing around. His body being bleached by the stomach acids. I don't know about Jonah, but my first thought would be, "Boy, I really messed up this time. How am I going to get out of this one?" (Of course, that thought would quickly be followed by "I hate fish!")

I wonder if he made deals with God. If You get me out of this, I promise I'll obey You from now on. Oh, to have been able to hear his thoughts!

What we do know is that God got Jonah's attention. First, He got his attention with the storm. Once He had his attention, He sent the whale to keep Jonah safe while He straightened out his attitude. When that was done, He caused the whale to spit Jonah out and gave Jonah the strength to run all the way to Ninevah. I mean he made record time!

Unfortunately, Jonah's story ends badly. Ninevah gets right, and Jonah gets mad. He thinks God should destroy Ninevah. After all, they've been bad. Duh! How quickly he forgot how God had spared him. Still, he doesn't think Ninevah deserves mercy, and he grows angry with God for showing it. God tries to reason with Jonah, but the prophet is determined to have his own way. And that is the last we hear of Jonah. How sad!

What about you? Is God trying to get your attention? Is He calling you to a certain task? How will you respond? Will you obey the first time, or will it take a whale of persuasion to get you on the right path?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In the Form of a Spider

A young soldier found himself in a terrible battle during the Scottish Reformation. The enemy was soundly defeating this young man's army. He and his comrades found themselves hastily retreating from the battle field in defeat, running away in fear of their very lives. The enemy gave chase. This young man ran hard and fast, full of fear and desperation, soon found himself cut off from his comrades in arms.

He eventually came upon a rocky ledge containing a cave. Knowing the enemy was close behind, and that he was exhausted from the chase, chose to hide there. After he crawled in, he fell to his face in the darkness, desperately crying to God to save him and protect him from his enemies. He also made a bargain with God. He promised that if God saved him, he would serve Him for the remainder of his days.

When he looked up from his despairing plea for help, he saw a spider beginning to weave its web at the entrance to the cave. As he watched the delicate threads being slowly drawn across the mouth of the cave, the young soldier pondered its irony. He thought, "I asked God for protection and deliverance, and he sent me a spider instead. How can a spider save me?"

His heart was hardened, knowing the enemy would soon discover his hiding place and kill him.

And soon he did hear the sound of his enemies, who were now scouring the area looking for those in hiding. One soldier with a gun slowly walked up to the cave's entrance. As the young man crouched in the darkness, hoping to surprise the enemy in a last-minute desperate attempt to save his own life, he felt his heart pounding wildly out of control.

As the enemy cautiously moved forward to enter the cave, he came upon the spider's web, which by now was completely strung across the opening. He backed away and called out to a comrade, "There can't be anyone in here. They would have had to break this spider's web to enter the cave. Let's move on."

Years later, this young man, who made good his promise by becoming a preacher and evangelist, wrote about that ordeal. He wrote:

"Where God is, a spider's web is as a stone wall. Where God is not, a stone wall is as a spider's web."

~Author Unknown~