Friday, January 25, 2008

Prayer Mending

Leave a comment or email me and I’ll enter your name into my January book drawing for a copy of The Stained Glass Pickup.

“Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” Psalm 95:6-7

Two wives were mending trousers, each mending her preacher-husband’s pants. One said, “My poor James. He is so discouraged in his work. He’s thinking about resigning and finding a regular job. It seems nothing goes right for him.”

The other wife said, “My husband says just the opposite. He is enthused. It seems like the Lord is closer to him than ever before.” A hushed silence fell as they continued to mend the trousers—one patching the seat and the other repairing the knees.

My parents knelt with my sister and me at bedtime and we said goodnight to God, and we learned bowing by example. My mother often prayed on her knees through the day, too, behind a closed door.

I remember sneaking peeks at her through the keyhole of an old-fashioned doorplate, the kind unlocked by a skeleton key. God provided my mother with rest and re-creation and will also help any praying mother err on the side of sanity and love.

The postures of prayer mentioned in the Bible are numerous—standing, lying facedown on the ground, kneeling, hands lifted toward the heavens, eyes turned heavenward and more. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he mentions his prayer posture, “I kneel before the Father” (3:14).

Our culture is an ocean and several centuries removed from bowing before monarchs. A bow or curtsey indicated that the performer would defer to the person of higher rank, whether they wanted to or not. In private, when knees are bowed to God, there’s more involved than coerced obedience.

A story of a father and son demonstrates forced compliance. Before seatbelt laws, a traveling dad said to his pre-school son who was standing in the seat, “Sit down, son.”

The child didn’t sit down, but after several more verbal commands he did. Finally seated, the boy looked at his dad and said, “But I’m still standing on the inside.”

In private, when knees are bent in prayer, it’s a voluntary act. When I was a teenager, I strayed from kneeling, but later on in life, I began praying on my knees again.

The first few weeks of adopting that prayer pose were difficult. For me, it meant allowing God to look into all the rooms in my heart, including the locked ones that had skeleton keys.

When kneeling, we’re physically closer to the earth, but somehow our hearts can be transported to the courts of heaven. Try prayer-kneeling this year. Of course, you just might have to patch pant-knees, but, meanwhile God will tailor your life from above.

Friday, January 18, 2008

January Book Drawing

Leave a comment or email me and I'll enter your name into the January drawing for a free book--my thanks for stopping by.

The Rain Dance

At a mall, six Girl Scouts, about 10 years old, tumbled out of an SUV. Just as their feet hit the parking lot, raindrops the size of half-dollars, quarters and dimes pelted them.

I watched from the dry-cover of my vehicle while waiting for a friend. The little girl faces showed pure delight because of the water-pelting.

Arms outstretched, they twirled and tilted their faces skyward. Their mouths opened to catch rain-change and rinse down giggles. They didn’t seem to mind that their green vests, stucco-ed with merit badges, grew soggy.

The adult leader emerged from the driver’s seat, but the girls didn’t imitate her hurried walk under an umbrella. They continued their freedom-dance. Skipping, hopping, side-stepping, they ambled toward the mall entrance.

As far as I know, I alone witnessed their pleasure at encountering rain. So, playing off a favorite line from another author, I ask, Could you dance in the rain, if no one saw you but God?

One of my favorite scriptures about Jesus’ joy is in Hebrews, when the writer quotes an Old Testament scripture saying Jesus’ joy was above any who ever lived, “God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” (1:9).

Bruce Marchiano says that Jesus’ joy is the most “obvious, most overlooked, most disregarded, most neglected, most misunderstood, most undefined . . . reality in all of Christendom.”

I admit that the atrocities of this world come clothed as robbers, joy-consumers. Bad news gobbles up happiness. Even though bouncy joy may be lost for a time, the loss is not forever. Jesus was aware of the horrors of life, but he and believers know that God will eventually right all injustices.

Injustices-righted is one reason for joy. God can and will correct the things we have no power to fix. There’s going to be a happy ending for those whom God acknowledges as sons and daughters.

When I’m reading my Bible and I come across a jubilant passage such as “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10), I draw a little stick figure, its arms raised in praise. It’s my way of taking notice of how many times, praise, joy, handclapping and elation about God’s care is noted in the biblical text.

God is the true source of joy. I know that circumstances often step between us and that knowledge, but the joy is still God’s to give. Ask, seek, and knock for this true joy. Expect to receive it. Thank you, Girl Scouts, for the reminder that it’s possible to dance, even in the rain.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Tax, a Fish, a Coin

Leave a comment or email me, and I’ll enter your name into a January book drawing to win a copy of my devotional book: The Stained Glass Pickup. Sorry, I can only mail them to readers in the continental USA. They are available for purchase at Amazon / Canada and UK for those outside the USA.

A coin, a fish and a tax—all surfaced in a conversation between Jesus and Peter. Scribe Matthew relates the event in chapter 17, verses 24-27. Temple tax collectors asked Simon Peter, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

The temple tax, “atonement for the soul” offering of Exodus 30:15, was to be paid by every Jewish male over 20 years of age. Apparently, Jesus and Peter had not paid, yet. The collected money, used for temple upkeep and services, came due annually.

When the soul-atonement tax-men came collecting, Peter answered for Jesus and said something like, “Of course, Jesus pays his temple tax.” Then Peter trotted off to verify his story with Jesus.

Let me stop here and remind you what happens to Bible readers: scriptures will impact our lives in different ways at different times. Why? Because we are ever-learning-and-changing creatures. At stages in my life, I read the story of the coin, fish, and tax. Each time it impacted me, but in various ways. This time when I read it, I saw the majesty of God in a new light.

Now, let’s get back to Peter’s verifying that Jesus intended to pay his “soul atonement tax.” Before Peter ever uttered one word, Jesus asked, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?” Peter answered, “From others.”

“Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said. Then Jesus said, we'll pay so that “we may not offend them,” and he gave special instructions to Simon Peter, the fisherman:

Go fish. At the lake, throw out your line and the first fish you catch, pry open its mouth and look inside. Inside you’ll find a four drachma coin, the exact amount needed to pay two drachmas each for you and me.

I imagine Peter’s walk to the lake. Some believe the wording indicates he didn’t use any bait. He slings the line out. The cash-fish is swimming somewhere close by and is somehow enticed to swallow the luring line. There’s a tug. The line goes taut, and Peter tugs it in. He can hardly wait, his anticipation had built.

He pries open its mouth, and there near the gills a four drachma coin—just like Jesus had told him. And, possibly the best catch of the day, Peter’s faith must have multiplied.

Freshness swept over me to read in this brief story that Jesus knew Peter’s conversation and thoughts, and also knew that the money-market fish swam in nearby lake waters. Where I worship we sing the song “Majesty,” and this story revealed anew the deity of Jesus.

To me, this is one of those side-step stories. While spectacular, I often wondered why God guided Matthew to include it in the text. Probably for folks like me. For those who need RE-assurance that God knows about all the details of life. Mine. Yours. And even fishes in the deep blue sea.

Friday, January 04, 2008

December 2007 winner of The Stained Glass Pickup

And the winner is............Tammy M. Congratulations! Horns are blowing! Bells are ringing! Can you hear them?

Tammy, I'll email you and get your physical address to mail your autographed copy.....Cathy

Don't Outfly Your Angels

January contest--Make a comment, leave a post and your name will be entered to win a copy of The Stained Glass Pickup. Drawing at end of January.

Not too long ago, my son, Russell, had an unusual trucking job. He transported about 30 very large “retired” trumpeting angels from a shopping center to storage. The job took about eight trips to cart the celestial beings to out-of-service duty. For several decades that chorus of steel and light bulb angels heralded the holiday season at a nearby shopping center.

Standing about 10 foot tall, the angels perched above the façade of the buildings year round, but their lights only shined over the shopping crowd during the Christmas season. On the way to storage, the route took Russell and angels by our home. Neighbor Linda saw him going down the road with three angels trailing his truck. Delighted by the sight, she phoned to say that Russell should be okay that day because “angels are following him.”

While there is information about angels in the Bible, I think mystery still surrounds their work. From the Bible stories of their interaction with man, they are messengers, protectors, providers of food and comfort, among other things.

I’ve never seen an angel, but I think I’ve seen the results when angels are active. When my children were young, two and six, one night divine intervention spared my family as I drove home in our pickup truck.

That night was before seat belt requirements, so my little ones knelt on the bench seat and watched the large moon shining through the back window of the single-cab truck. All of a sudden, their pensive mood changed and they asked if they could sit on the floorboard. They had never asked before and I had never allowed them to huddle in the small confines. I granted their request.

Just as they hunkered in the small area, the pickup truck slammed into something in our lane. I later learned that trespassers had cut a rancher’s barbed wire fence and four of his horses were out. We hit one. The poor horse didn’t make it and neither did our totaled truck.

The only undamaged areas were the driver’s space and the passenger floorboard where Russell and Sheryle crowded together. Over them, the passenger side of the cab crashed in close to the bench seat.

This weekend, our neighbors, Linda and Donald, had us over for dinner. We talked about the day she saw the angels trailing Russell, and she teased and said, “It’s a good thing not to travel faster than your angels can fly.”

Her words remained with me. I’ve shortened them for my 2008 motto: “Don’t out fly your angels.” The coined angel–phrase is a good prompt for living in this newborn year, both a caution and reminder of God’s multiplied blessings, because “[God] will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways (Psalm 91:11a).