Spider Bread

I love fresh bread. I think I’d choose it – generously buttered, of course -over any other food. Years ago, I had a dream in which I was taking a bite out of a thick piece of fresh bread, when just in front of my nose, standing on it’s eight legs, I saw a big spider. My appetite turned to aversion, and the dream abruptly ended.

I don’t dream often, so when I do, I ask myself if there is a particular meaning. This time, I knew that it was related to a dear friend of mine, a wonderful Christian lady with many years of experience as a missionary. She loved me and wanted God’s best for me, but when a dark-skinned young man from the Caribbean showed increasing interest in me, she had only predictions of ulterior motives and words of warning to offer about men from other cultures. In her years of ministry, she had undoubtedly witnessed many wrong doings and failed relationships, but was it fair to judge my suitor accordingly? Should she not make an effort to know him as an individual?

Young as I was at the time, and animated as I was with a highly developed sense of justice, I recognized upon awakening that my missionary friend was the bread, and racism was the spider. And young as I was at the time, I didn’t keep the dream’s interpretation to myself! I told that fine Christian lady that she was racist! To her credit, she loved me until her dying day; furthermore, when I married my tall, dark-skinned, handsome Canadian, she was more than happy to give her blessing. There was no spider on her bread that day!

A few decades older and hopefully a little wiser, I realize now that my dream has both a wider and a narrower application than the one I originally adopted: wider, because, as in nature there are over 48,000 recorded species of spiders, likewise, in the realm of the spirit, there are innumerable “spiders” that kill the appetite for fresh bread; narrower, much narrower, is the painful understanding that when I point a finger at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at me, and, for the pure enjoyment of fresh bread, I would do well to deal with my own spiders.

Except

“David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life – except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5). What a fascinating summary of David’s life! I have my own mental scrapbook of memories gathered from Sunday School lessons, sermons and teachings I’ve heard, as well as personal study: He was the youngest of eight boys, left behind when his brothers heroically went to war, a shepherd who killed a bear and a lion with his own hands, and later killed the giant Goliath with one stone from his sling. a feat which earned him a place in the king’s court and the distinction of marrying the king’s daughter. Then life went sour: David’s military prowess earned him the adulation of the people and the blind rage of the king, who for the rest of his life pursued David and sought to kill him….Eventually David became king, reigning rty years and being known to this day as a man after God’s own heart.

Among his many attributes, David was a musician, singer and songwriter. Psalm 18 is his song of praise when God delivered him from the king. He declares that God rescued him because He delighted in him and goes on to proclaim that he is not guilty of turning from God or his decrees; he is blameless and has kept himself from sin, and the Lord has rewarded him according to his righteousness and the cleanness of his hands in God’s sight.

Have you ever read novels with more than one plot? They tend to be gripping and frustrating at the same time. Just when the reader arrives at a cliffhanger in one plot, the story abruptly changes to another. That’s what happens in David’s story: just when we are ready to sweep him up on our shoulders and glory in his triumph for doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord and not failing to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life, our pulse quickens and our breath is bated by the introduction to the second plot – “except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”

What is this “except?” Who is Uriah? He was King David’s neighbour and one of his mighty men. One spring, the time when kings go to war, Uriah is valiantly defending David in battle, while David is enjoying leisure at home; one evening, from the roof of his palace, David sees Uriah’s wife taking a bath. The rest of the story moves quickly: David sends for her; she gets pregnant; David calls Uriah home from the battle, expecting him to sleep with his wife and think the baby is his; Uriah doesn’t fall for David’s scheme; David sends Uriah back to the battlefield with an official letter to the commander of the army, outlining instructions that would ensure Uriah’s death; Uriah is killed, and David marries Uriah’s wife. Who needs novels or movies?

How can these two plots tell the story of one man? That’s where the third and final plot comes in. With his “except” heavy on his heart, David wrote Psalm 51, in which he confesses that he has sinned against God and pleads for mercy. Broken and contrite, yet with confidence in God’s unfailing love and compassion, David begs unashamedly to be washed and cleansed and delivered from his guilt; even more astounding is the fact that David boldly expects God his Savior to create in him a pure heart, to renew his spirit and restore his joy. God’s clear and concise response to David and his “except” comes through the mouth of His prophet: “The Lord has taken away your sin; you are not going to die” (2 Samuel 12:13). All the plots come together in harmony when David opens his mouth to sing of God’s righteousness and declare His praise!

I find that the best way to understand the Bible is to personalize what it is saying. What, then, does this story of David’s “except” mean to us? Is David so different from us? Would a list of our godly traits and good deeds similarly end with an “except?” Is there a sin that plagues us and threatens our reputation or, much worse, hinders our relationship with God? David’s God and Savior is our God and Savior; from a bloodstained cross and a tomb that held only His grave clothes, Jesus openly displayed His unfailing love and His power to forgive, renew and restore. Our “except” will give way to praise as we follow David’s example of sincere confession and expectant faith built on God’s righteousness, not our own.

Timeout

I’ve been mulling it over for the past two weeks – a four-sentence exchange between my four year-old grandson and me.

We were camping, and I was babysitting him while the rest of the family went golfing. Hoping for some quiet time for the both of us, I told him we could go to his motor home and watch TV after a nap, but if he didn’t nap we would stay at my trailer… No nap! Not even the blink of an eye!

So, we were playing outside my trailer when I needed to go inside very briefly. When I came out, there was no little grandson in sight. Calling his name and trying to ignore the knot forming in my stomach, as well as the still vivid memory of losing him in Walmart two years ago, I checked the site carefully – under the table, behind the tree, by the water and sewage hookups. No little grandson anywhere!

I didn’t think he had time to get that far, but I headed for his motor home, which was two sites up from ours. What a relief to see that the door was open, and then to find him inside, a man in the making, watching TV, remote in hand! I wasn’t pleased. Off went the TV, and off we went to Nanny’s trailer – with a few words of correction thrown in on the way! That’s when the exchange took place – an unforgettable mini-clip I’ve played over and over. Picture it, if you will…

A four year-old boy, seating himself on the step of our trailer, head in his hands, elbows on his knees…

Grandson: I’m going to sit here and think about all the bad things I’ve done (He wasn’t crying or visibly upset. He simply made a decision).

Nanny: Then what? (I thought he might apologize).

Grandson: Jesus wants me to have a timeout (which, because I couldn’t believe my ears, I asked him to repeat).

A few seconds of self-imposed reflection and he was up and playing , all thoughts of the interlude apparently forgotten.

Where did he come up with that kind of thinking? When I asked his mother about it, she had no idea. I wondered if he’d learned about time out in Sunday School or Children’s Church, but then I had the shocking realization that he may have learned it from me! I’ve had the privilege of babysitting him and his brother several times for a week or so, and I have a feeling that at some point I may have put them on a chair to think about what they had done, though I really don’t think I would have told them that Jesus wants them to have a timeout; I may be an old schoolmarm, but “timeout” has never been part of my usual vocabulary. Whatever, all this leads to some reflection on my part…

Children really are like sponges, absorbing much, much more than we think or imagine. I haven’t had extended time alone with my grandsons for many months, and yet this little guy remembers something he learned from me. As a teacher, I usually had lesson plans; maybe it would be wise for Nanny to be more intentional about what and how she wants to teach her grandsons.

I’ve also been asking myself if Jesus wants believers to have a timeout to think about all the bad things we’ve done. Is that theologically sound? Is it scriptural? Is it a good thing to teach children? I think it is. Isaiah 1:18 extends an invitation, “Come now, and let us reason together, Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow….” Jesus taught that we must forgive those who trespass against us so that the Father will forgive our trespasses. And 1 John 1:9 assures us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It is good to bow our head and heart and own our sins (trespasses), and then, like my precious little grandson, to rise up and enjoy life in the knowledge that Jesus has completely forgiven and cleansed us.

Does Jesus want you to have a timeout?

Huckleberry Heaven

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” So quotes Michele Cushatt in her stunning memoir, Undone. Personally, I would take it even further and say that a happy friendship – in fact, any happy relationship – is the byproduct of two good forgivers. I have a friend who, over the years has forgiven me much and many times; so, should she read this post and find herself misrepresented, I trust she will forgive me once again and know that no misrepresentation is intended.

This friend lives on a mountainous acreage, where plants and wildlife flourish. It so happens that this year there has been a bumper crop of tart and juicy purple huckleberries, the coveted and crown jewels of the northwest.

I saw her on Thursday last week ,and asked her about her harvest. “Eighty-seven cups,” she proudly announced. She honoured me with an invitation to go picking with her on Friday, which I accepted without any arm-twisting on her part. So, donning my best scarecrow uniform, and in her words, “slathering” myself with bug spray, I met her for a bonus Suzuki ride to a huckleberry patch. An hour and a half later my 1.5-litre container was full, and as we made our way back to the vehicle, she gave me her 2 litres as well . I hadn’t expected such liberality, but she’s not only forgiving, she’s also very generous.

What made me chuckle was her phone call later, wanting to know how many cups I got and telling me that she and her granddaughter had just picked another seventeen cups! She was actually keeping track, and the total was well over a hundred cups!

Saturday, I thought of my friend when I read Psalm 4: 7…

You have put gladness in my heart,

More than when their grain and new wine abound.

These lines speak of two kinds of gladness, one greater than the other, but both desirable and delightful. There’s the exultation of harvesting an abundant crop; then there’s the indescribably surpassing joy that God Himself, for no other reason than love, lavishly deposits directly in our hearts.

I don’t think I’ll ever read Psalm 4: 7 the same way again. For me it will say:

You have put gladness in my heart,

More than when their huckleberries abound.

I don’t think God will mind, and I sure hope my friend won’t either; her gladness gave birth to these thoughts, and may these thoughts open our hearts and minds to more of God’s gladness than we have ever known.

Blessings Uncounted

Before we even started dating, my husband and I were sparring partners:  I enjoyed picking on him, one upping him in an ongoing duel of words. It was one of the things that attracted him to me, and needless to say, one of the things that I am now a little careful of.  That being said, the following lines, I assure you, are not meant to make my husband look bad; it just so happened that as I observed him one day, his out-of-character behaviour caught my attention.

My husband is a pastor and a paramedic.  On the days that he works as a paramedic, I pack his lunch and prepare breakfast, which we eat together. We hadn’t sparred the night before, and I long ago learned not to spar with him first thing in the morning, so I don’t know what was going on in his mind that particular day, but as we sat across the table in our usual places, he ate his breakfast in silence, without once lifting his head to acknowledge my presence or culinary effort.  When he finished, he left the table without saying a word or looking my way – totally out of character!  Straight out of Hollywood! But, no, as the three-line summary in my journal suggests, this scene was both otherworldly and awakening.

“Are we so busy eating God’s blessings that

  we don’t look at Him or talk with Him

or acknowledge Him?”

,

Love The One You’re With

It’s amazing what sticks in our minds! With good reason, we should be careful what we allow ourselves to see and listen to! I have no idea when or where I heard “Love the One You’re With,” a 1970 release by rock musician Stephen Stills, but somehow recently it made its way from the hidden recesses of my memory bank to the forefront of my conscious thoughts. The message of the song is an affront to everything I believe about marriage or any male-female relationship. In keeping with the sexual revolution of the 70’s, it blatantly promotes infidelity and promiscuity, so why in the world was I singing the only two lines I knew?

And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey

Love the one you’re with

Incredibly, as I silently sang these lines and mulled them over, I found myself pulled in a very different and infinitely more positive direction, (which can easily happen when we take something out of context), but it was well worth the turnabout.

I thought about dating and the early days, months , maybe even years of marriage. The one we love is perfect in every way, and should we notice some flaw, we immediately minimize it or look the other way. Years go by…. The one we love changes – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – and so do we. Perfection is hard to see, and flaws are only too obvious, but there’s no going back. Suddenly, we realize we can no longer be with the one we love; they’re gone, never to return as we knew them. What do we do? Run away? Get a divorce? Live miserable for the rest of our days? No, on all three accounts! That’s where the second line caught my attention: Love the one who is still with you! Love the one who has changed with time and who has watched you change. Take your place in the marriage revolution, and “Love the one you’re with!”

Spider Bread

I love fresh bread. I think I’d choose it – generously buttered, of course -over any other food. Years ago, I had a dream in which I was taking a bite out of a thick piece of fresh bread, when just in front of my nose, standing on it’s eight legs, I saw a big […]

Except

“David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life – except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5). What a fascinating summary of David’s life! I have my own mental scrapbook of […]

Timeout

I’ve been mulling it over for the past two weeks – a four-sentence exchange between my four year-old grandson and me. We were camping, and I was babysitting him while the rest of the family went golfing. Hoping for some quiet time for the both of us, I told him we could go to his […]

Attitude

Charles Swindoll, well-known Bible scholar, pastor and teacher is famous for making this statement: “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitude.”

One thing I enjoy about long-distance car rides is that my husband and I usually have some very interesting discussions. I don’t remember how the present subject came up on a recent road trip, but we were wondering about how to keep a good attitude when life – and ministry, in particular – doesn’t go our way, when we don’t get to do or are limited in what God has gifted or called us to do. Some Bible characters came to mind.

God called Moses to lead the children of Israel and to declare to them that He was going to bring them out of Egypt to Canaan. Early in their desert wanderings, Moses lost his temper with the people and disobeyed God’s instructions. For that misdeed he lost the privilege of entering the Promised Land. Did he get angry at God? Did he say, “I quit! I’m out of here?” Did he sulk or get bitter? The end of his life tells the tale: years later, before climbing the mountain where God Himself would bury him, Moses blessed the Israelites, tribe by tribe, declaring, “There is none like God.” His epitaph remains to this day: “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”

It has been widely acknowledged that David was the greatest king in Israel’s history. In his last words he was not ashamed to call himself “the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, the hero of Israel’s songs.” His life had many ups and downs, through which he experienced the power of repentance and forgiveness. Both sensitive and passionate, he expressed his desire to build a temple for the Lord: his heart was in it, but God replied, “You shall not build me a house to dwell in.” David got to plan and gather materials for the temple, but construction wasn’t started until after his death. What was David’s attitude? “With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God… Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God.” And then he led the assembly in praise to the Lord.

In at least one particular personal situation the apostle Paul didn’t get what he wanted either. The language he uses reveals his pain: “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was give a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” Have you ever had a thorn in some part of your body? How often do you use the word torment? When was the last time you pleaded with God for something? Either Paul was a wimp, or he had a real problem! When God answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” Paul determined to “boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me… For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Finally, When Jesus was transfigured before three of the disciples, his face shining like the sun and his clothes becoming white as light, in a burst of overwhelming awe Peter offered to build three shelters – one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah, who had appeared and talked with Jesus. Peter needed no further reply when “a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” God wasn’t interested in shelters! Peter went down the mountain with Jesus and the others, and despite his sometimes misplaced enthusiasm, he followed Jesus to the cross and to martyrdom.

So I ask myself, ” If life is 10% what happens to me, what does my other 90% look like? Specifically, what is my attitude when God says no to me? Am I faithful when I don’t get to do what I want? What will my last words be? How will I be remembered?” Food for thought… And even for change…

Happy Mother’s Day with Honor

red roses close up photography

Some mothers look forward each year to gifts, cards, phone calls or other expressions of appreciation, while others, though they may not say so, are disappointed year after year as their sacrificial love and efforts go seemingly unnoticed.  With the threat of covid-19 still imposing isolation and social distancing, who knows what Mother’s Day celebrations will look like this year?  Whether yours is over the top or not so great, I’d  like to share with you a few thoughts on the subject.

First of all, God honors mothers.   How happy our Mother’s Day would be if we could grasp the meaning of those three words: “God honors mothers.”   He made it plain when He gave the first commandment with a promise, “Honor your father and your mother, so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”   Jesus made the message plainer still when He soundly rebuked as hypocrites those who broke the command,  so they could ignore the needs of their parents.   Plainest of all is the honor Jesus bestowed on Mary when He was hanging on the cross and at the point of death: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”  From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19: 26-27).  God doesn’t require anything of us that He Himself doesn’t do: God honors mothers.  And just so we know what that means, here are some biblical definitions of the word “honor”:  to glorify or make glorious; to prize, revere, value or esteem.  Go ahead, choose the one you like, and celebrate what God thinks of you!

Another thought comes from  Isaiah 49: 15-16…

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.

What a beautiful picture of motherhood and  the mother heart of God!  Nurturing and compassionate, attentive to the point of being unable to forget her baby: that is how God sees mothers, and that is how He wants us to see Him.  In fact, just like God is the best father,  in this vivid metaphor He reveals that He is also the best mother.  He invented motherhood, and all the good and godly qualities of a mother come from Him .  We portray His image as His heart beats with ours in love and concern for our children.

My final thought for Mother’s Day is a word of caution to us all:  Looking to motherhood to gain significance, value, or fulfillment in life is a sure way to find disappointment and disillusionment, not to mention unhappy family relationships.  Children, regardless of age,  can’t bear the burden of expectations that only Jesus can fill.

So, dear mother, I pass these thoughts on to you with an invitation to join me in celebrating (alone, if need be) the gift of motherhood.  From God’s heart to mine to yours, Happy Mother’s Day with Honor!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potsherds, Broken Hearts & God’s Economy

white gemstones

 And Job took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.  – Job 2:8

 If your heart has ever been broken by some form of  rejection, abandonment, betrayal, abuse, or some other act of oppression that left you feeling both powerless and comfortless,  these lines are for you.

The other day I heard someone say, “I must be useful for something.”  I heard the words, but I also heard the deep cry to be useful as well as the accusing doubt that somehow they weren’t useful.  It caught my attention because I’ve been there, and since it’s possible that you have too, I’d like to share a vivid picture that often comes to mind when I’m struggling with low self-worth and accusing doubt.

Job was a blameless and upright man whom God allowed Satan to afflict with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.  In agony, sitting on a heap of ashes to express his sorrow,  Job took a potsherd to scrape himself.

What is a potsherd?  Quite simply, it’s broken pottery, as some versions of the Bible translate.  There are about seven verses in the Bible that mention potsherds, and it’s fascinating to see how they are described.  Say these words aloud and listen to them: jagged, dried up, earthenware, shattered, pieces, fragment .  Have you ever felt like some or even all of those words apply to you?  Do you feel jagged, not smooth, unrefined?  Do you hear accusations that say you are dried up?  One commentator defines a potsherd as “a thing worthless and insignificant”: do you see yourself like that, mere earthenware in a world of beautiful, strong vessels?  Does your heart relate to descriptors like shattered, pieces, or fragments?   I trust you don’t see yourself as a potsherd all the time, but if we’re  honest, I think most of us experience days when we’re on the ash heap.

There’s more for us to glean from this picture of Job.  In God’s economy, nothing is wasted. He uses who or what is available.  Remember the five loaves and two fish?  The disciples told Jesus, “We have here only five loaves and two fish,” then they saw what Jesus did with only:  five thousand men, plus women and children ate and were satisfied and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of  leftovers!  God uses small things that we may consider worthless and insignificant: what about Moses’ rod?  What about a young boy killing a giant with the first of only five stones?  What about Jael, the Bedouin lady who killed the commander of the enemy’s army by hammering a tent peg through his temple? What about the prostitute who saved the Israelite spies and her family by putting a scarlet cord in her window?  So many examples..

What about the potsherd that Job used to scrape his painful sores?  I rejoice that even a broken piece of pottery is useful!  A jagged and shattered fragment it may be  – seemingly worthless and insignificant –  but it can bring relief and comfort to an afflicted blameless man.  If a potsherd is useful in God’s economy (Kingdom), surely, even in our brokenness, you and I are useful; and just as surely as God was with Job throughout his affliction and blessed the latter part of his life more than the beginning, so He is with us to bring us up from the ash heap to a place of wholeness and blessing where we are useful to God as potsherds or any other way He chooses.  He won’t waste our pain!

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

  • Psalms 34:18

 

 

The Towel

hoto by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

rolled gray towel in closeup photo

The Towel

“Now, that I your Lord and Teacher

Have washed your feet,

you also should wash one another’s feet.

I have set you an example

That you should do

As I have done for you…

Now that you know these things,

You will be blessed if you do them.”

Jesus was facing death.

He could have been all wrapped up

In Himself and what was to come,

But He chose to show “the full extent of  his love,”

And wrapped a towel around His waist instead.

His message then is the same now:

“Serve those you love, and I will bless you.

Wear a towel.”

 

I wrote these lines based on John 13:1-17 for a friend on the occasion of her birthday eighteen years ago.   “Strange birthday greeting!” you may say,   but I think these lines  are for me and you this Easter as they bid us  go beyond remembering  to following Christ’s example.   Whatever our taste in clothing,  however full or empty our wardrobe, when we dress for the day, no outfit is complete without the accessory of choice – the towel of servant love.

 

T