Friday, June 22, 2012

Where Are You Camping?

It is a long trip from Indiana to Alberta, Canada. Young and full of adventure I anticipated the family trek to see cousins far away with enthusiasm. After convincing my parents to include another mouth to feed and another body with luggage to cart along, I squeezed my boyfriend into the mix of our family of six. Not until much later after three kids of my own and being the matriarch in charge, did I understand why my mother approached these glorious times of vacation with snapping, snarling and stressing over details. I give her much credit now for agreeing to host an outsider; she and this family intruder clashed and clanged more than once as I recall.

With the gold-colored Chevy van towing a pop-up camper, jammed full of camping equipment, three teens and four adults (me and my beau very young adults), personal belongings, our entertainment stash of books, puzzle books and the van radio we were off to exotic excitement! After stops that included Walls Drug Store, Mt. Rushmore and Banff and Jaspar State Park we'd find a campground every night to be our sleeping spot.  Imagine seven voices offering advice on which site to choose and how to park at the perfect angle! Once the tedious tasks of setting up camp were completed we ate supper and explored or relaxed. Even though we never lingered longer than overnight at these reststops, we were glad for the relief from driving and a chance to sleep in a prone position.

I grabbed this definition for CAMP from

to settle down securely and comfortably; become ensconced

I sometimes do this with a section of Scripture---  Just hang out in a certain book for a few days, or go back to a favorite passage and settle down securely and comfortably with the familiar words of the text.  I became ensconced in Deuteronomy the last few weeks. I encountered tense feelings where God seems harsh and confusing at times. Yet amid all the commandments, blessings, curses and warnings of this austere book, I found some observations worth sharing.

These repeated imperatives run rampant through this book...Hear, Obey, Observe, Be Careful, Follow, Watch, Teach, Remember...
Moses is giving his last address to a people he loves and has endured for over 40 years.  He understands the human tendencies of this multitude of Israelites and also knows the heart of the God who loves them.  You can feel Moses' passionate appeal to them as he pleads for them to stay on the right path and keep themselves distinct and different from the heathen nations around them.  In text 5:29  Moses shares God's longing. "Oh, that their heats would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always so that it might go well with them and their chidren forever!"  My parent heart prays this, too. AMEN! Please help me stay inclined to you and your ways, Father

4:9-"Only be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live".  Heb. 2:1 reiterates this thought-"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away."
Yikes, I wonder how leaky my God-container is.  My memory and hearing are susceptible to slipping and drifting.  Father help me to take in more and to guard your words more closely to make up for any deficits.

Yes, there were verses of comfort to me in Dueteronomy. 
"What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?" 4:7 I'm so glad for your closeness, Father.

"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of LOVE to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." 7:9  I'm in this chain of convenant love. Thank you, Father!

"For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory."  20:4  Thank you that your presence and your leading go with me in the battles I face.

"And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands." 26:18  I'm a treasure to you, Father!

Committed for a Cause!
Chapter 12 was interesting.  Moses asks the people to 'seek the place where God will choose to put His name for his dwelling'.  This is the tabernacle or will be the temple when it is later built. They were to bring their tithes, offerings, sacrifices and special gifts vowed to the Lord to that central place of worship.  This was commanded for several reasons:
--So everyone wouldn't sacrifice as they saw fit, independently v. 8
--So it wouldn't be just anywhere they pleased v. 13
--To rejoice corporately together v.12
--So the Levitical leaders wouldn't be neglected-they were the recipients of the tithes and had no allotment or   inheritance of their own v. 19
--So they wouldn't worship God in the way the heathens worshipped their gods v. 31

Are we gathering with other believers regularly? It can keep us from all doing our own thing in our own way any way we please. We need the rejoicing-with-other-believers piece in our worship.  Our gifts, sacrifices, and offerings encourage and inspire each other.  God's design for support and livelihood for pastors is our tithes. How many leaders are being neglected? This meeting together thing, lastly, is a safe-guard against false worship and worshipping at foreign altars.  The further we get from the real thing, the better we become at exploring alternate paths, reasoning with unreasonable things and losing discernment of God's truth and heart of love towards us. Who would have guessed Deuteronomy could be so contemporary!  Forgive my independent spirit, Father!  Help me love your church like you do.

"He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God , as he promised." v. 26:19. He still wants a holy people who belong to him.  I want to be set apart for you and only you, Father!

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever..."  v. 29:29. We'll never understand everything about this awesome God but:  help me live in what I do know and to pass it on to the next generation.

"He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he." v.32:4

Take a camping trip soon! You never know what you may discover.  That young man I wriggled into the family vacation became my fiancee on the trip!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

On Aging and Beyond

I wearily walked to my car, tired but gratified.  With paint brush in hand and red paint in the can I had just finished coating a stairwell in the youth center building that accomodates a ministry to teens in our home town.  A church friend worked with me, and the time went quickly as we chatted and tried to maintain even, get-close-to-the-edge-without-smudging-the-wall brush strokes.  I extracated the cell phone from my front jeans pocket to call my husband to say I was on the way home.  A key pad had inadvertently been pressed into calling mode and as I glanced at the postage size screen I convinced my naked eye (didn't bother to also extracate the reading glasses from another pocket) that the call was merrily microwaving its way to my spouse. When a women's voice answered with an uptalk "hello" I knew I wasn't making the right connection. Do I hang up? Do I babble, hoping to identify the callee? Do I say I have the wrong number?  I said "hello", she said "hello" again and I hung up. Not much stays private when it comes to cell phones. My mind quickly thought through two truths; she could trace my number eventually and it had to be someone in my contact list. I checked my outgoing calls and realized I had sprung a call to a friend far away who I hadn't talked to for a long time.  Let's make the most of my phone flub-up, I reasoned. So I dialed her again, greeting her with gusto this time and explained why I was calling.  Her response was warm and sympathetic, acknowledging her own similar slip-ups.  The faux-pas had turned into bonding time with a buddy.

I know misdialing phones isn't partial to those worried about bone density or who cash social security checks, but senior living does bring more gaffes and laughs at oneself.  The stories my peers tell!  Of searching for items and finding them later in weird and unlikely places-the trunk of the car, the bottom of a purse used everyday...and not remembering how they reached that destination.

Now that I've arrived at this era of life there are some things I didn't know before when I was thinking this time was still far away.  That it could be a time for new humor because I have peers who identify with me-I'm not alone in my over the hill excursion. That I still believe I have lots to live for and I can hold on to the dreams not yet realized or embrace new ones because life responsibilities change.  I like a quiet house, less housework, fewer laundry days and long hours of visiting with friends.  We've replaced disjointed conversations interrupted by clamoring kids with peaceful discourses on any subject we choose.  I didn't know I'd have all these cool devices to keep me connected to family far away, or to keep me occupied with apps, ebooks and movies I can hold in my hand. 

I also, didn't know how important it would be to have the example of those who are aging gracefully to blaze the trail ahead.  My precious mother-in-law just suffered a stroke this weekend.  In spite of garbled speech, she quickly recovered her wit, communicating in winking, smiling and nodding.  Just the day before we had had a phone conversation where she encouraged me by her optimism and contentment. 

I did know about and was hoping for that wisdom that comes to those who have lived longer and experienced many mountain tops and valley lows.  I think it's showing up at times. When someone younger asks for advice or when I don't freak out as often with overwhelming windfalls of worry at troublesome circumstances. When I'm more sure about the foundational truths of my belief in our awesome God; a greater surety that gives me freedom to be more vulnerable to others and to trust that I won't be 'taken captive by every wind of doctrine' if I dare to love those who don't yet know their Creator. I don't have to have all the answers or make sure I get my point across.

2 Timothy 1:12 puts it this way:

...I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I've comitted unto him against that day. KJV

...For I know the one in whom I have placed my confidence, and I am perfectly certain that the work he has committed to me is safe in his hands until that day. JB Phillips

...but I am not ashamed, because I know Jesus, the One in whom I have believed. And I am sure he is able to protect what he has trusted me with until that day.  NCV

...Still I am not ashamed, for I know (perceive, have knowledge of, and am acquainted with) Him Whom I have believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on), and I am [positively] persuaded that He is able to guard and keep that which has been entrusted to me and which I have committed [to Him] until that day. AMP

Growing older is aching muscles and age spots and well, what you'd expect.  But God is faithful to us in this stage of life and the plans he has for us haven't changed; those plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give us a future and a hope.  Anyone else in for the long haul with promises like that?! 

Now, where did I leave my cell phone???


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Those Favorite Things

Much ado continues about thankfulness, gratitude and contentment. Pastors preach it, writers ring its praises, and those in the process of rebirth and regeneration live the message in vibrant color.  Despite these multitudes of voices, how quickly we veer into discontent and discouragement, whether jolted by out -of -the- ordinary developments or feeling hoodwinked by the boredom of routine.  I need all these reminders, just like my potted flowers need daily watering to keep from wilting and dying.

I've just finished reading the book of Leviticus.  Not my favorite book of the Bible, but even in the details of rituals and ceremonies God reveals his character and longing for a holy people to call his own. In this Biblical textbook, All You Need to Know About Sacrifices, are specific instructions for making Thank Offerings. Our creator knows our need to express thankfulness. And how much we have received to give thanks for! Starting with the gift of life.  I'm sure we'd have many common blessings on our thankful-for lists were we to share.  Here are specific ones I'm reflecting on today.

A Sunday morning of sunshine and warmth enjoyed on my front porch with a cup of rich, strong coffee warming my hand. Any direction I turn, my eye beholds the beauty of a variety of blooming plants.  Birds move gracefully and serenade my ears with their sonnets and calls. My husband joins me in this restful place to pray together for the children we love, a gift times five. Later we join friends at church to offer thanks together to the God who has given us salvation from sin through the death of his son and welcomes us into his presence as beloved children.

I've started with the heavy weights  on my list, but I have many small, maybe not -important -to -you things, too.  Makeup to hide some flaws, and the magnifying mirror my eyes depend on for applying it. Hair products to keep my do looking good. The bike that is parked in the garage, standing ready for my next pedaling jaunt. A faithful friend who calls from a store to tell me where I can get a good deal on a red pair of sandals she knew I was looking for.  My Netflix subscription and a free evening to stream some good entertainment.

And I can't forget the community of bloggers who keep me accountable to write. Or the creativity of others who inspire me to try making something new.  Oh, and the opportunity to volunteer time to help someone.  There are a stack of books in the bedroom promising me new insights and stories to enter and enjoy. In a few hours I'll enjoy a favorite snack of Sunday popcorn, the kernels heated in oil over the stove in an old kettle just for this purpose, patiently stirred to popping perfection by one of the best ever popcorn chefs-my husband.

Could you get carried away with counting blessings, too?  It could be an endless list as we appreciate what we have and how we were made.  No matter what circumstances we're encountering, an attitude of gratitude is always appropriate.

I'm thankful for you, reader.  May you feel refreshed and stirred up to thankfulness just by visiting here today.