Sunday, June 19, 2005


In life, at the age of 57, I know the direction I'm supposed to travel. Earlier in my 50's, I was sometimes paralyzed, not in the limbs of my body, but my forward motion stopped.

Why did stall-out corrode my days? I think there is a clue in 1 Kings 13:1-7.
King of a portion of Jews, Jeroboam ruled Israel. He failed God, and manufactured ways to keep his subjects allegiance. He invented gods, two golden calves. He manipulated God-ordained feast days, creating alternate celebrations to God's ordained ones. He deliberately misled citizens to maneuver their loyalty to him. He set aside undesirable priests to serve, not from the tribe of Levi as God had commanded. At all these junctures, Jeroboam could have revered God, but instead he chose to finagle false worship for idols.

One day as Jeroboam offered a sacrifice on his altar, a man of God, delivered a message literally to the altar. The prophet predicted that the altar would eventually hold the human bones of Jeroboam's family. Why? Because the king/dad/leader idolized himself.

God split the altar in two pieces, and the ashes of the sacrifice to golden calves spilled onto the ground. A sign of destruction to come. Jeroboam faulted the messenger. He pointed and shouted, "Seize that man!" (4). Immediately, his hand became paralyzed.

Jeroboam's paralization made me think about my days of non-production. They remind me of those new rims on cars, the ones that keep spinning once the car has stopped. God's given me a car load of ways to serve him, but my forward motion is sometimes immobilized by baggage.

I'm not writing about regrets as much as unfinished projects from years ago. Needlepoint half-starts, quilt tops, and boxes of fabric homesteading closet shelves. Jars of artist brushes, tubes of red ochre and burnt umber make silent threats.

Fabric doll bodies, canvas for a floor area rug, old linens waiting to adorn new shirts, they rose like a phoenix and shadowed my days. Their unfinished states clawed at my conscience. For years, I kept them around because I knew how much I'd money I'd spent on each. Sewing kits, each bolt of fabric could be redeemed, if only they finished their intended mission. I couldn't abide putting them out with the garbage.

But then Paul's teaching about moving forward with life, impressed me more than my guilt. God had something better in mind for my future than regrets or whining about un-accomplishments.

First, I told God I was sorry for planning to build large calico barns and then not finishing. Next, I asked God to help me detach from the supplies. I really wanted to paint the canvas rug for the back porch for summer. I envisioned big melon-pink slices with green rind. In reality, the south Texas heat rarely allows us to enjoy our back porch. Our lovable mutt dog usually tracked dirt onto the cool cement and sat there and scratched away his misery.

My sentimental feelings about projects may seem silly to some. But others can relate. I spoke with a woman this week who used to make dresses for her daughters. They're grown now, and she's having guilt feelings about the quilts she wants to make for each out of the dress fabric scraps.

All to God's credit, he helped me focus on the future instead of the wants of the past. I packed up the fabric. The colorful cloth went to the Dorcases in my home congregation. They turn out quilts at the rate of 40 a year. Smaller blankies go to children's homes, flood victims and the homeless. My fabric had "gone on to a better place."

My craft supplies went to the Rainbow of Love ministry, where women fill shoeboxes with several gifts and seven scriptures and deliver them to the ill in our congregation, relatives of members, new mothers, college students and citizens in our community.

With my house more free of clutter and my mind clear of old want-to projects, I could spend more time in study and at the computer keyboard, my destination for this time of my life.

In some ways, my attachment to old projects became my golden calves. Monuments to what I wanted to happen, monuments that would rust, decay and stymie progress.

Guess what God did? He restored Jeroboam's arm movement. I think God gave him another opportunity to get right with God and to make needed changes for walking in God's will.

He did it for me, too.

Monday, June 06, 2005

For First and Final Answers Ask God

"Are you asking yourselves what I meant?" (John 16:19 NLT).

When Jesus met with his disciples near the end of his life here, he revealed new facts about God.

A few of the things he told his disciples went into their ears, but not their understanding. But instead of asking Jesus who was present with them, they wondered among themselves. Wondering with peers alone may cause wandering.

Bible studies, Christian literature, one-on-one conversations, lectures and sermons are all ways to increase our knowledge about God and his plan. The Bible is a God encyclopedia. But sometimes I don't understand or comprehend what I read. The white-space margins in my Bible are littered with question marks.

How do I get answers to the question marks on the pages or the question marks in life? Most often I talk with friends who are on the same path. Even when Jesus was within sight, the disciples were asking themselves what Jesus meant. Me? I'm guilty of that same mindset.

Even though Jesus is not visible for now, he still wants to answer and be the answer to my questions. On that night, a little later in Jesus' conversation he gave instructions for seeking wisdom after his ascension to the Father. "You haven't done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy" (16:24).

On that night, Jesus also talked about The Comforter, the Holy Spirit who would "convince the world of its sin, and of God's righteousness, and of the coming judgment," and he concluded by naming the prominent problem in the world. "The world's sin is unbelief in me" (John 16:; 8,9).

When I need answers to life's perplexing problems or understanding of a commandment or a story in God's word, I want to first whisper in Jesus' name, "Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, please, explain this to me. Help me understand. Give me wisdom so that I can do you will. I don't want to wonder and only ask of others. I want to ask you because I don't want to wander."