Tents & Tabernacle

It was a strange sight that greeted my eyes as I peered through the coffee shop window that summer morning.  Coming from the distant trees, a lone figure of a man dragging some fabric and metal tubing across the expansive parking lot caused me to do a double-take.  The man, in his early twenties, kept approaching the coffee shop front door.  The only thing stopping his entrance into the shop was the fact the door was too narrow to fit, what I could now clearly see, what was a tent frame.  Much to the manager’s relief, I convinced the man he could leave his prized, and only, possession on the grass adjacent to the store entrance.  He complied reluctantly with the suggestion, and he told me he needed to keep watch on his tent because of the bad people looking to take it from him.    (Pause for Thought:  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 8:38-39  Have you ever lost someone or something that you loved?  What emotions developed your thoughts and actions during that time?  Have you ever lost the love of God?  If so, why and how?)
 
The young man obviously needed something to eat and drink, so I offered to buy him a coffee and sandwich.  Concerned he would have to leave sight of his tent, I assured him I would purchase the breakfast and deliver it to him, so he could keep watch.  After he had eaten some of the sandwich, I talked about his tent, and his passion for it.  I told him his tent reminded me of a tent, a tabernacle, of Bible times, and explained the tabernacle was a tent God used when he stayed among His people.  I then explained how Jesus, God’s only son, “camped out” with us that first Christmas, and His dwelling in our hearts and lives could never be stolen by “bad people”.  (Pause for Thought:  “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”—Matthew1:23; “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”—John 1:14  Why did Jesus, fully God and fully human, have to come for you that first Christmas?  How has He been living or trying to live with you ever since?)
 
The man was intrigued enough I felt I could pray for him and the restoration of his soul.  He wouldn’t allow me to pray for his salvation, but he did want me to pray that he could “get his life together”.  I prayed for his physical tent, and I prayed for his soulful tent.  I prayed the baby of that first Christmas would someday become the Lord and King of this man’s heart, and an abundant life, an eternal life, would someday be his through Christ Jesus.  (Pause for Thought:  Jesus said, “I am the vine you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.”—John 15:5 & 7  What have you wished for this Christmas?  How have you been remaining in Jesus?  How has he been remaining in you this Christmas?  Has there been a distraction in your life keeping you from remaining in Him?  What will you do about it?)
 

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Frayed Knot or Afraid Not?

My grandmother’s favorite joke goes something like this:  A piece of rope walks into a bar and asks the barkeep for a drink.  The tender tells the rope, “We don’t serve pieces of rope in here.”  The rope walks out of the bar dejected and discouraged until he gets an idea.  He tousles the strands of fiber on top of his head and twists and turns his body onto itself.  He then proceeds to walk back into the bar, just as the barkeep exclaims, “Didn’t I tell you we don’t serve pieces of rope here!”  The rope responds, “I’m a frayed knot.”   (Pause for Thought:  “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Fear Not!  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’.”—Luke 2:8-11  What are you afraid of missing out on this Christmas?  How are your patterns of speech, behavior, and even attitudes reflecting these fears—Are they turning you into a frayed knot?  Where do you go or to whom do you turn to hear “Good News?”)
 
I love the visual in Luke’s gospel of the shepherds “living” in the wilderness at night doing their job just as was expected of them by the rest of the world.  But on the night described in Luke Chapter 2, tending flocks, as usual, wasn’t going to suffice for their highest good.  The angel had to tell them to, “calm down, rest assured, it’s alright tonight and every night hereafter because things are changing for the better.  Heaven is coming to earth and people will be saved from themselves.”  I would think I would be startled, if not terrified, by the sight of the angel, but I think I would be more afraid to change who I am and what I’m supposed to do in light of the message the angel brought.  I would be afraid to give up control of what I know or even what is expected of me.  (Pause for Thought:  “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manager.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”—Luke 2:16-18  Why did the shepherds quit what they were supposed to be doing?  What could have happened when the shepherds stopped shepherding?  Is there something the Spirit is asking you to stop doing this Christmas?  What do you feel could be the consequences of your stopping?  Are your feelings adequate in light of God’s truth and promises to you?)
 
This time of year hits like a freight train.  I tell myself the world will be more relaxed, less stressed, and more tolerant, but each year seems worse than the last according to my physical senses and emotional responses.  Truth is, the stress comes from everywhere except the Good News, and this time of year, Christmas Time, is all about the Good News.  I choose to add to my own stress by pushing myself into a mold of my own or the worlds choosing instead of changing according to the Spirit’s directive and power over my life.  This Christmas, I will choose not to tie myself into a frayed knot.  I will choose to let the Good News transform me and send me in Jesus’ Name.  (Pause for Thought:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”—Romans 12:2  What is the difference between conforming and transforming?  How does the Good News that Jesus saves us transform us?  How does spreading, sharing, and living the Good News transform us and others?  What will your transformation look like this Christmas?)
 

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Fish House Worship

It started innocently enough. I had just beaten the rain to the dock and entered the fish cleaning house with my morning’s catch, when the other two entered through the spring-hinged screen door. The typical fishing pleasantries were shared between the three of us—“Those are wall-hangers where we come from.” I asked where they were from, and they said the Monroe area. I was grateful for their compliment and congratulated them on the number of fine panfish lying on the cleaning table; however, my spirit said there was more to these two gentlemen than the smell of fish and rain-soaked outerwear. (Pause for Thought: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear’.”—Luke 1:41-42. Have you ever sensed there was more to a meeting with a stranger than what was happening through your physical senses? To what did you attribute it?)

I could tell they sensed more to me, as well. The questions started becoming more personal and the explanations more detailed. Then it finally happened. The question and explanation we all were waiting to hear—“Are you a Christian? What does Christ mean to you?” The younger of us stated he had recently, within the last couple of years, surrendered his heart to Jesus and enjoys cooking for his church’s wild game dinner outreach. The older of us declared he was the retired pastor of a church in Monroe, and it was he who led the younger to faith in Christ. The worship began. Our hunting and fishing adventures took second-place to the miracles Jesus had wrought in our lives and how the Holy Spirit was changing us daily. (Pause for Thought: “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.”—3 John 3-6 When is the last time you were doing something menial or mundane only to have it turn into a worship-fest? Who was with you?)

I know our meeting was not by chance, and I know the hobby of fishing lends perfectly to my soul’s sense of the Holy Spirit when I meet fellow fishermen. Throughout the gospels, Jesus turned an ordinary outing on a lake or shore into a worship service. I know he does it with the many talents and hobbies He bestows upon His children. For the disciples who were fishermen and became fishers-of-men, no morning catch would ever be the same. (Pause for Thought: “I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you’. So they got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that is was Jesus. He said, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish? Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.”—John 21:3-6,14. Has Jesus used your gifts or talents to make your spirit and soul aware of His presence and/or His presence in others? Have you thanked God for these gifts and talents and expressed your worship for the times He encounters you in your efforts?)


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Slave To Love

My favorite song as a child was “Kaw-liga” by Hank Williams and Fred Rose (1953).  The story-filled song is about a wooden indian, Kaw-liga, who “Falls in love with an indian maid over in the antique store.”  Even as a youngster, I related to Kaw-liga in his fear of the unknown and critical.  He was, “Too stubborn to ever show a sign, because his heart was made of knotty pine.”  Though filled with feelings of affection, Kaw-liga and I rationalized away opportunity after opportunity to act upon what we felt.  Living and loving became difficult to the point of isolation and loneliness.  (Pause for Thought:  “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”—II Timothy 1:7  When do you feel most vulnerable and alone?  What does, “perfect love casts out all fear” mean to you?)
 
My uncle was a guitarist and lead-vocalist in a country-music band.  He would always ask for requests when he knew I was in the audience, but I was too afraid to ask for “Kaw-liga”.  My aunt would make the request for me, and then she would do something that still amazes me to this day; she would whoop about the stage, dancing like an indian while my uncle sang “Kaw-liga”.  My heart still smiles every time I hear the song and reflect on my families’ love for a fear-crippled child.
 
David did something similar to my aunt when he brought the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, into Jerusalem (See II Samuel Chapter 6).  Though he was a king, he took the part of a dancing slave at the head of the processional entering the city.  David’s love for the Lord was greater than his fear of ridicule and criticism.  His joy was made complete in the knowledge of who he was in the Lord’s sight.    (Pause for Thought:  “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”—Psalm 27:1  Have you ever done something others thought outlandish, but another accepted your love because of it?  How did you feel before, during, and after your actions?  How was Jesus’ life on this earth “outlandish”?)
 
My uncle passed away earlier this Fall.  I was asked by my aunt to speak at the graveside service.  The joyful life my aunt and uncle lived had caused me to reflect on my own.  As a child, I knew I didn’t want to feel like Kaw-liga when he, “Just stands there as lonely as can be, and wishes he was still an old pine tree.”  I claimed the promise of my God and King when he promised me an abundant life; a life full of relationships.  That is why I could sing Kaw-liga at the service while my aunt danced.  (Pause for Thought:  “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.”—Ezekiel 36:26.  Has Jesus’ outlandish life allowed you to have a heart of flesh?  If not, what fears are keeping your heart stone-cold?  Have these fears helped or hurt your relationship with others?  What can you do to live fear-free?)
 

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Awakened & Shaken

The young woman is on a righteous path.  Our conversation a week or so ago confirmed what the Spirit had been saying, “Her awakening to the love I have for her will bring about a revival of her soul and the will of Heaven on earth.”  She, as a lover of Jesus and a ministerial candidate, is pursuing wisdom as it is to be pursued…through the Holy Spirit first, not the intellect first.  Her questions and applications were indicative of one being blessed for her hunger and thirst for righteousness.  (Pause for Thought:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”—Matthew 5:6 How do you define “righteousness”?  In what areas of life do you see the lack of righteousness?  Has God called you to do something about it?)
 
The more we spoke, and the more she answered the questions we gave her to reflect upon, the more she began to remind me of Stephen from the Book of Acts.  Her passion to apply God’s word into all manner of relationships was contagious.  It was impressive to listen to one so young; well on her journey to Spiritual maturity.  In comparison to those who claim to know so much about Christ’s purposes, her humility conveyed a powerful understanding of God’s will through Jesus.  I left our conversation thinking intently about what I had heard.    (Pause for Thought:  “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  ‘Brothers choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will turn this responsibility over to them.’  This proposal pleased the whole group.  They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”—Acts 6:1,3,5  Who do you know full of the Holy Spirit?  What effect do they have on you and on others?  Are you full of the Holy Spirit?  Why or why not?)
 
Her journey isn’t without peril.  She expressed how much opposition she was receiving from her “Christian” classmates because of her passion for God’s word and ministry.  This doesn’t and shouldn’t come as a surprise.  When the Holy Spirit calls us into something for Christ’s-sake, and we can’t help but speak the truth, the enemy throws obstacles at us through people who could and should relate to our journey with Jesus.  Again, the story of Stephen comes to mind as he was noticed by the “spiritual leaders” of his day.  Stephen was awakened by the Spirit, but the leaders considered him a usurper of the normal pursuits of “spirituality”.  When met with opposition, Stephen’s Spirit-filled wisdom and love for others couldn’t be extinguished…even after death.  Saul, soon to be Paul, is living testimony to the awakening in Stephen and the shaking of the norm.  See Acts 6:8-7:59.  (Pause for Thought:  “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks.  If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?  At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens.’  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’.”—Hebrews 12:25-26,28-29.  Has anyone tried to quench the Spirit within you?  Have you ever tried to quench the Spirit in another?  How has the Spirit shaken the “normal” around you and awakened God’s will for you and others?)
 

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Amazing Race, Amazing Grace

It looked hopeless.  The young man had never swum in a competition let alone a team relay.  By the time he touched the pool wall for the next swimmer to go, the relay was in last of the seven teams by a long ways.  But something began to change.  The next swimmer took off and managed to catch the field.  Though still in last, the relay team was still in the fight.  The third swimmer caught and overtook half the teams, and by the time the fourth and final swimmer finished his leg of the relay and the race, the team everyone thought would finish dead last ended up winning by a landslide…or waterslide.   (Pause for Thought:  “I have seen something else under the sun:  The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”—Ecclesiastes 9:11  Have you ever been asked to do something you felt you were not qualified to do?  Did you accept the challenge?  How did it turn out?)
 
My son was the second swimmer on the team that won the relay.  As a proud, and shocked, father, I can tell you watching this race was the highlight of my summer.  I asked my son about the thoughts going through his mind as he prepared to enter the water in a distant last place.  He replied, “Anthony (third swimmer) said he owed me if I got us back into the race.  I told him he didn’t owe me anything.  I’m swimming for first prize.”  His comment started me thinking about Jesus and His purpose on earth and how he handled it.  I can imagine him saying, “You don’t owe me anything (though we owe Him everything).  The debt will be paid.  I’m living and dying to the glory of the Father.”   (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Hebrews 12:1-2  What difficult, seemingly hopeless, circumstances are you facing?  How does knowing Jesus went through something as insurmountable as death help you in your struggle?  Is there someone with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings?)
 
The air became electric as the four boys received their first place awards.  Fans and spectators were still marveling at the tremendous comeback.  A jackhammer couldn’t remove the smile on the first swimmer’s face.  Only the coach stood in perfect confidence of what he just witnessed.  While people said they never thought the team would win the relay, he said he knew full well the outcome.  He knew the individual dynamic of all four swimmers, and how gracefully, under pressure, the entire team would finish first.   (Pause for Thought:  “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”—I Corinthians 9:24-25.  How does knowing that Jesus finished first in life-living and knowing how he accomplished this feat help us as believers run our races?  What, do you think, are key attributes for us as Christ’s brothers and sisters to train and perfect as we live to win the crown?  How does grace factor into your training?)
 

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First Days

I vividly remember a moment of my first full day of school.  The school I was attending was vastly different from the one I attended my Kindergarten year.  Buses ran different routes, kid’s faces were frightening, and the playground was large and lonely.  I scaled the tallest play apparatus I could find, and planned to ride out the storm of my first day of school alone and scared.  Suddenly, I saw a pair of blue eyes peering at me over the floor of the platform as their owner climbed to the top.  Steve sat next to me and inquired how I was doing.  He knew perfectly well.  I told him of my fear and uncertainty, and he reassured me it would be OK.  His first-grader wisdom was just what I needed to get past my first day.   (Pause for Thought:  “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him’.”—Genesis 2:15&18.  What “first days” do you remember in your life (school, sports, jobs, etc.)?  Whom did God place in your life at that time to be a “suitable helper”?)
 
Steve and I would continue to cross paths throughout our elementary school years, and our relationship to one another really peaked during our middle school years.  Steve was gregarious, enthusiastic and fearless about everything.  I was completely the opposite.  I relied heavily on my relationship with Christ to “get by”.  Steve noticed that my love of Jesus was everything to me, and he wanted to pursue my passion with his passions.  He wanted to join the church and youth group I attended.  His parents weren’t certain this would be a good idea.  After meeting my church family (which included my mom and dad) and allowing me to be their guide for their first day, Steve’s mom, dad, and middle brother began attending church along with Steve.  Steve’s entire family, including his oldest brother, would eventually surrender their lives to the Lord.   (Pause for Thought:  “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it.  Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit’.”—Acts 9:17.  Can you imagine Paul’s (Saul) first day as a follower of Christ?  How difficult would it have been for Paul to go from his anti-Christ attitude to an ambassador of Jesus without Ananias?  How have you struggled and who have you seen struggling with their “first days”?)
 
 I vividly remember my first day of driver’s education.  Steve and his family moved to South Carolina two-years prior to my summer driving course.  A mutual friend of Steve’s and mine asked if I had heard the news.  Steve was killed in a motorcycle accident a week before.  I cried.  Many years after Steve’s ascension, my church held a reunion, and Steve’s mom and dad travelled to Chelsea, Michigan to celebrate the church’s tenure.  When I saw them, we didn’t know what to say to each other.  The Spirit gave me the words to express how glad I was Steve found me my first day of school, and how it is only fitting Steve would find me to show me around on my first day in Heaven.  (Pause for Thought:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”—Romans 8:28-30.  What “first days” are heading your way?  How is God calling you to help another in their “first day”?)
 

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Victory in Energy Conservation

On May 1, I saw my first hummingbird of 2019.  I witnessed this tiny creature staring at his reflection in our sliding-glass door, as I refreshed myself after mowing with an iced tea and tunes.  It pleased my heart to know this bird had successfully made his 500 mile non-stop journey across the Gulf of Mexico.   (Pause for Thought:  “I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.”—Psalm 55:6.  Is something causing you unrest in your soul, or body, or spirit right now?  What do you do to find rest and calm?  How effective and lasting is your prescription for rest?)
 
Weighing no more than a copper penny, the ruby-throated hummingbird has been designed by God to illustrate the victory in conserving time and energy to achieve life purposes.  The hummingbird is so tiny; it uses energy an exorbitant rate.  To make its non-stop flight migration from Central America, over the Gulf of Mexico, to the United States at the end of every winter, the hummingbird will take a rest…a Sabbath.  It does something most other birds don’t—it hibernates for a night or two before its journey.  This allows the bird to store its energy reserves for the long flight.  Without this energy, the hummingbird will plummet into the Gulf of Mexico.   (Pause for Thought:  “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my Holy Day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s Holy Day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”—Isaiah 58:13-14.  What causes your “feet” from honoring God and His day?  What have been the results in relationship to Jesus, others, and you?  What does calling the Sabbath a “delight” mean to you?)
 
A German proverb states, “What is the use of running when we are not on the right road?”  Even the hummingbird will exhaust itself in an attempt to use the exact perch hundreds of times after it has fallen or been removed.  Eventually, the bird will come to its senses and find another perch to start its seasonal rhythms for its life purpose of survival.  God took a rest after completing His goal and before continuing His present day purposes.  Shouldn’t we measure our ways of efficiency based on how our Lord efficiently completes His purposes?  Our Father knows how to work smarter instead of working harder.  Even the tiny hummingbird, whose wings provide lift and propulsion during downward and upward thrusts, is a reminder of God’s efficiency in and through us if we but wait on Him.   (Pause for Thought:  “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”—Psalm 37:7.  Is there a difference in how the world obtains success and how God wants us to obtain success?  Is there a difference in the pace between the world’s way and God’s way?  Give an example as to why or why you don’t think there is a difference.)
 

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The Advocate

Spring has arrived, and with it, the nation’s pastime…Baseball.  In my youth, the baseball season-opener marked the beginning of five months of opportunity, revelry, and comradery.  It has been over fifteen years since I’ve played a game of baseball or softball, but my mind and soul still wander to the green fields of yesteryear and the names with faces of those who accompanied me in my athletic pursuits on the ball diamond.   (Pause for Thought:  “All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”—John 14:25-26.  What times or places remind you of people you have not seen for a while?  How did these people (or this person) influence you to the point of remembrance?)
 
I’ve lately been thinking of a circumstance that happened when I was thirteen years-old playing catcher for a baseball team who’d drafted me quite unexpectedly.  The team had been together for two or three years.  The coach selected me from my old team to replace the catcher on his team.  He moved his regular catcher to second base to make room for me as the everyday catcher.
 
I played well for the team until one play at a key moment in a game against my new team’s arch rival.  With the winning run on third base, the hitter bunted the ball.  From my catcher’s position, I lost sight of the ball; looking for it on the ground at my feet, the air over my head, and the fence at the backstop.  While frantically searching, the winning run for the other team crossed home plate.  To my dismay, the third baseman had the ball all the time, and I failed to notice.  (Pause for Thought:  “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the FatherJesus Christ, the righteous one.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”—I John 2:1-2.  Have you ever felt like the “weakest link” in a family, community, or group?  How did you deal with these feelings?  Have you ever felt like you were a “spiritual weak link”?  Who did you turn to?)
 
The damage had been done.  The coach worked us hard and silently the first part of the following practice.  After about an hour, he made us sit on the bleachers.  He began to voice his displeasure with me in no uncertain terms.  The coach even did his best whirling dervish imitation to mock my failed attempt to locate the bunted ball.
 

Then something happened out of nowhere.  As I sat alone at the end of the bleachers, covered in my sweat and the dust from the field, Charlie, our centerfielder stood up and interrupted the coach’s mocking.  Charlie was a few years older than me and the brother of the boy I had replaced as catcher.  He said to the coach he was wrong to single me out for the loss, and he pointed to the team’s inability to win the game.  Charlie came over to me and shook my hand, and all my teammates surrounded me.  I saw Jesus in Charlie that day, and I can’t help but remember both of them every Spring.  (Pause for Thought:  “Even now my witness is in Heaven; my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.”—Job 16:19-21.  When has someone stood up for you?  How does knowing Jesus stands at the right hand of God vouching for your body, soul, and spirit change the way you look at living life and taking risks for the Kingdom?)


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The Art of Recovery

Fishing Fletcher’s Floodwaters through the summer—Memorial Day to September—was a pleasure.  The water levels of the flooding stayed high enough to make for excellent catches of fish.  By Labor Day weekend, the water level diminished to the point all stumps and snags, once well below the water’s surface, lay exposed.  Fishing became problematic.  It was time to take slow boat rides and collect the summer’s lost fishing lures from their underwater tombs.  (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.”—Psalm 16:9-10.  When have you felt abandoned?  What circumstances (finances, relationships, work, etc.) seem to overwhelm you with dread and loneliness?  How have you been rescued from these circumstances in the past?)
 
It was a treasure hunt for my family and me.  My dad and I would get in our boat and my grandpa would get in his.  We meandered through the once submerged forest looking for shiny, colorful, patches on the starkly dark, gloomy, tree trunks and branches.  Often, the lures and baits were so corroded and decaying, the hooks would disintegrate as you pulled them from the bark and grime.  The rust and pitting betrayed how long the baits had been left and forgotten.  It became a contest amongst us as to who could collect the most and best baits.  (Pause for Thought:  “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’  ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me’.”—Isaiah 49:14-16.  What emotional scars and distrust (fears) do you experience because of past abandonments?  Does knowing Jesus, through his crucifixion, empathizes and sympathizes with you help you to recover and, if yes, how?)
 

My grandpa would take the recovered lures, and using his God-given talents, restore them to pristine condition.  Many times the lures were improved with little flourishes and “touches” unique to my grandpa’s talents as a craftsman and fishermen.  Trolling lures received squirrel tail dressing to add life-like movement.  Spoons and jigs received fish-appropriate paint jobs that could withstand the stresses of rocks, wood, and fish teeth.  I loved receiving these baits back from my grandpa during Christmas and birthdays.  It was purposeful art created from long lost possessions recovered by those who took the time and effort to care.  (Pause for Thought:  “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.”—1 Peter 5:10.  How does this Holy Week culminating in Jesus’ resurrection and restoration to the throne help you in your current circumstances?  What joy do you have for your future now that sin, and its consequence of death, has been defeated?  What hope and strength can you gain from your association with Jesus’ suffering, death, and recovery from the grave?)


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