Monday, May 26, 2014

Eating the Will of God

My Daddy created a box with dowel rods that threaded through the top edge from side to side.  Each rod had strategically placed tiny rods glued into it that stuck straight up, or down depending on the spin of the rod. It was a homemade version of today's Foosball game. We played for hours and competition ran high. We looked forward to family gatherings and the uncles who would take us up on the challenge to beat us. When the call was sounded to eat, we'd groan in protest, not wanting to interrupt the fierce playing. Child's play was our work, and we loved it.

These days there are marathons of Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders with the grand kids. Now we're on the other end of  just play one more game..., please..  

As an adult there have been other times when work was more important than eating--finishing up yard work on a pleasant summer evening, waiting on the ubiquitous line of customers at the craft show, or lingering past supper time at the coffee shop when a friend needs a listening ear. Anytime we get so caught up in an activity or service that stomach growls and gurgles go unnoticed, the fulfillment of the moment has captured our senses.

Recently as I read John 4, I found Jesus in this kind of concentration. Weary from travel, Jesus takes a break by the town well and sends the guys into town to fetch something to eat. A Samaritan woman comes to use the well. Jesus engages her in conversation. After listening to her heart, bringing her into revelation of who he is, gently exposing her failures and ultimately convincing her to receive his living water, the disciples come back from the grocery run eager to share the food they found.  As they see Jesus speaking with a despised Samaritan and a woman, to add to the disgrace, the food has suddenly lost it's luster. They quietly stand by waiting until the woman leaves. Jesus doesn't reach for the food or ask what's for lunch.  In fact he seems far away in thought, waiting for something. They must have offered the food several times, urging Jesus to eat. He finally answers them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” The disciples probably had one of those pondering- in- heart moments when they just had to shake their heads and wait to see what Jesus was up to now.

Then Jesus says, “My food, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." He goes on to point out that harvest time is several more months away, but in God's kingdom the harvest is ripe and ready to gather now. Jesus was driven by passion to bring in the harvest.

I am challenged to consider where my passion lies. Am I even looking at the harvest fields?  Would I recognize a ripe head of wheat if I saw one? Am I ready to give up other pursuits to invest the time it might take to befriend someone who needs to know God's love?

Father, whet my appetite for the food Jesus ate at the Samaritan well. May you find me willing and ready to be sent wherever you would lead me. Thank you for making us to live not only by earthly food, but by every word that comes from your mouth. May my ears be tuned to hear you.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Review-Mark of Distinction

Not realizing this book is the second in a trilogy, I struggled to follow the story line as I began reading. Even without the background information, the book was an average read and mostly held my interest.  Julia is now a resident at her rich father's estate. She is caught in her father's desperate schemes to make her his rightful heir and  marry her off to Lord Dalry. Julia continues to hold her love for Edward, hoping to someday escape or be rescued from her father's clutches.Almost a recluse, she has few outings and is expected to learn the finery of  high society so she can be presented to the public. Julia resists her father's plans, yet has no power to change her situation.  As she succumbs to the plans, she discovers her intended husband is very kind and patient. He becomes the advocate she doesn't want.

Her father and Lord Dalry work hard to keep Macy, Julia's lawful husband, from ruining their plans and deceiving Julia into believing he has her best interests in mind. I only have a sketchy understanding of Julia and Macy's former relationship, and how she married him when she really wanted to be with Edward is not explained in this book. There are other darker events that are mentioned and alluded to from Julia's past, but seem to have little consequence in this part of the story.

In spite of her father's harshness, Julia longs to be loved and accepted by him. As I read, I root for that to happen. I am drawn to appreciate the goodness of Lord Dalry and consequently for Julia to find herself falling in love with him. The book draws us into these tensions, with Julia only imagining her former life. She has very little contact with Edward until a sudden twist in the story near the end of the book. The unexpected event feels contrived, unrealistic and overly dramatic. I think the author wants us to believe Julia keeps her love for Edward alive during her seclusion at her father's, but I was not convinced.

At times, the story seemed to drag without a lot of action and few characters advanced in growing more endearing or repulsive. I think I could have skipped several chapters and not have missed much in the story's progression.

The book upholds moral values and supposedly has a Christian witness, but any reference to faith or the role of faith in any character's life is very shallow and under developed. Perhaps the last book in the series brings all of these threads together in a stunning, believable conclusion. However, I don't feel a strong compulsion to acquire the book so I can find out. Perhaps, also, my conclusions are unfair since I didn't read the first book in the series.

I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House.

Words That Matter

A special friend died this week. Cancer thought it had the upper hand, but  the Resurrection and the Life knew the right moment to transport this precious saint straight to his eternal reward. I imagine the celebration reception our friend received. Embraced by the Father of Lights and high-fived by the One with the scars on his hands and feet, he is now finally gazing into the eyes of the Comforter, who had always been his unseen yet constant companion.  Familiar faces who arrived there before he did will excitedly greet him. Oh, the delights to explore, the wholeness of soul and body to marvel at, the fullness of joy!

We grieve on this side; his wife mourns deep loss. Hope assures us of his gain and reminds us that our life here is momentary, temporary.  And that the best is yet to come.

The memorial service honored Mike’s life here and gave us pause to remember his kindness, genuine interest in everyone, faithfulness to his family, talents, passion for God’s kingdom and his wonderful, wacky sense of humor. Many verbally shared their appreciation. His was a life well lived.

As friends and family were sharing eulogies, I considered how encouraging it would be to speak praises and appreciation to those we love and spend time with, now, when they can hear us, when it might make a difference how they feel about themselves, or how it might give them the confidence they lack to try that new thing, or to have greater faith to believe God’s purposes for their life. Let us not hold back, from saying kind things out loud, from expressing praise when we see someone’s good deeds or talents shine.

Facebook gives us a platform. Emails and texts deliver words almost as fast as we think them. Thank you to a friend who messaged me this week with words of kind platitudes and compliments. I intend to pay that kind of encouragement forward.

Eph. 4:29
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Friends Who Amaze


 Prov. 13:20a Be with wise women and become wise

A tribute to the friends in my life who love me in spite of my quirks, faults and times of insensitivity.  Their beauty and strength of character have enriched my life and the sum of their add-ends to my life is beyond measurable value. The Master Designer has woven their threads into the tapestry he's stitching of my life. Some are golden filigrees, others strong cords,  while many are colorful floss that outline and define.

You know you have good comrades accompanying you on the journey when the way they travel gives you hope, admiration of their strengths, and desire to learn from their skills.  While reflecting on several friends walking besides me at this time in life, my heart swells in appreciation for who they are and how the Master is working in them.

She ministers to a husband in the final stages of cancer. Although the days are long and new daily losses steal desires, plans and the normal rhythms of life, she remains full of grace. She learns the new skills she'll need when he is gone; things she depended on him to do. No complaining, but accepting. Far from self-absorbed, she still keeps my affairs in mind and cares about my activities. She graciously accepts the gifts I offer and understands when my words seem inadequate. I praise her strength.

She managed the feat of moving into the country homestead...with her one weekend. Her son and wife toted things into her house , the one she called home for over 30 years. The son will rent her place until sometime in the future. My friend's sisters helped with cleaning and packing. No complaining, only looking with expectancy to serving the 'folks', cooking them supper in the evenings and helping her husband keep the house and property maintained. It will be temporary, but I admire her willingness to serve family and to give up her own space in the process.

This friend takes her Bible Study materials, notebook computer or other home-work and rides in the cart when her husband plays golf, just so they can spend more time together.  They are both retired.  Other days she will sit in some isolated corner of the casino, happily occupied with her own non-gambling interests while her husband tries his luck at the games. Rather than nag him about his habit, they have worked out a money agreement where he has a limited fund to play with, and she trusts him to keep his promises. No complaining, even though she would rather he give it up. She is quick to praise his strengths and loves him dearly. I am impressed with how she can entrust it all into her Father's hands and focus on the good she sees in him, knowing he shares her faith, even though  some of his boundaries are more fluid than hers.

And how about the step daughter who sacrificed family, friends and a home to move 700 miles away so her husband could take a job he really wanted? Her new home is bigger, newer and shared with her in-laws. Texting and skyping have helped her stay close to those she left behind.  After 7 months, the grand kids are happy, the husband is advancing in his company, and they have settled into a new home church. She is amazed that the new church has edged its way to the top of her Best Church Experience list. No complaining, just keeping up the prayer vigil so her heart can stay yielded and open to all of the adventure. I applaud her for jumping in with both feet, determined to make it work, eager to find a place to worship and make new friends.

Who are your heroes today? What are you learning from watching them?

Father, may I respond to my challenges, large or small, with grace, humility and no grumbling and complaining. 

My work place is in upheaval; may I contribute positive support, even when I don't understand decisions that are being made. 

I've had more visits to doctors in the last 6 months than I've had in all my previous years; help me trust in you so I remain confident in your goodness.

My church is facing leadership changes; keep my attitude positive and my head in the game.

May others see that you are in me.