Running Away

I started running away when I was five years old. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized what I really wanted was somebody to come after me when I was running away. ~Willie Aames

Last night I asked Matt if we could go to England. He looked at me dumbfounded.

“I just want to run away,” I explained.

We’ve had a chaotic month and I’m feeling done. The kitchen is torn apart for some remodeling. Our younger son was bitten by a rattlesnake. My mother-in-law had emergency surgery and her 102 year old mother had a stroke. I went away for a little over a week to attend a conference and then a little vacation, but that meant that the yard has needed constant attention ever since. My shoulders ache, it’s hot and humid, and some people aren’t nice.

Running away sounds like a good idea.

Running away is a common solution. Adam and Eve were the first to bolt. Then there was Jacob; his brother was making homicidal plans. I would have run, too. The most famous runner must be Jonah. His plan was kind of fishy though.

Maybe you want to run away, too.

You’re in the sandwich generation with aging parents and young children.  . . . You’ve been called into the boss’s office but aren’t sure why. Rumors abound. . . . The doctor’s report wasn’t what you wanted to hear.  . . . Or like me- everything is happening at once and chaos reigns.

There is a story of a man who tried running, but God told him where to run.

Ahab was out to kill Elijah, and Elijah knew it. So he took off running. He was exhausted and terrified; fear and defeat were all he saw.

God told him to go to Horeb. Elijah obeyed, hiding in a cave near the summit. It was scary as a fierce storm blew across the mountain. But Elijah stayed put this time.

And he actually got to meet God. He was encouraged and instructed by God.

Are you waiting on God in the scary times or are you running away and hiding?

Stand firm in the storm, so that you can be encouraged and instructed by the only one who knows the safe places to run.


The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV

Deception

God shows us the path; the devil shows us the possibilities. ~Ljupka Cvetanova

The family of Israel is divided, but after many years of divorce, the two heads try getting along with each other. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and Ahab, king of Israel, are united through a marriage. They couldn’t be united as one kingdom in God’s family, but evidently thought they could get along as earthly kin. Go figure.

So Jehoshaphat goes down to Samaria to visit Ahab. Ahab, the school bully, asks if they can go together to war against Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat is amenable if they first ask a prophet of God.

Ahab brings in 400 prophets who all say, “Yep, go for it. Good idea. Attack Ramoth Gilead with God’s blessing.”

But when everyone tells you it’s a sure thing, you might want to ask someone with a different perspective. So Jehoshaphat asks to hear from another prophet- enter Micaiah, son of Imlah.

Micaiah tries to tell the kings what they want to hear, but they don’t believe him. So Micaiah lays out truth like a Thanksgiving feast . . . and Ahab is the turkey.

The prophet says that there was a brain storming session in Heaven. A bunch of spirits got together with God to come up with ideas to get rid of Ahab, because, you know, school bully and whatnot. One of the spirits has the brilliant plan to tell Ahab what he wants to hear and deceive him.

“Go for it.” God approves. A deceiving spirit is sent, and now here we are.

“You’ll die in battle,” Micaiah predicts.

Now don’t you think that would turn Ahab back?

Nope. He goes into battle in disguise to fool the enemy.

Guess what.

He died.

My point here isn’t, how stupid do you have to be to hear the word of God and flippantly ignore it. No. There’s a bigger issue.

And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there? . . . “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.” 2 Chronicles 18:19, 22

The bigger issue is how long will God suffer your bad behavior, your flippant attitude, your nose-thumbing, sand-kicking, bullying behavior? You see, at some point, God has enough. He is long-suffering, no doubt, but there is a limit to his patience.

What consequences are you suffering now because God put up with something as long as he could? Do you really want it to get worse?

Don’t be an Ahab and die in battle.

Listen to the Lord and turn back to him.


 But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the breastplate and the scale armor. The king told the chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” All day long the battle raged, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans until evening. Then at sunset he died. 2 Chronicles 18:33-34

Protect the Body

The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him – that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free. ~Swami Vivekinanda

My children have been raised in the South. They know about sunscreen. We spray it, slather it, and squirt it. Experience has been a hard task master when it comes to sunburn.

These two boys have kept me busy with ER visits, Urgent Care trips, and calls to the aunt who’s a nurse. We have a closet full of steroids for poison ivy, allergy pills for sudden attacks, antibiotic ointment for cuts and abrasions, and syrup of Ipecac just in case. Thankfully I never needed that one.

I have a special box for Band-Aids, wrapping bandages, and adhesive tape. Boxes of heat relief pads stand near bottles of aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen just waiting for pulled muscles or aching heads.

We do our best to protect our body from pain and disease. We feed our body nutrient-rich foods, drink plenty of water, and exercise. We wash our hands, brush our teeth, and trim our hair.

Sometimes, . . . we even have ice cream. Shh.

But.

You’re asked to teach the children’s Bible class next quarter and just can’t find the time or energy.

The church teens are going to a youth rally and need a chaperone. You can’t even imagine.

The seniors’ group is looking for someone to head up a card ministry. That’s too outdated for you.

A Christian sister needs a ride for an MRI scan, but you’re just too busy . . .

The Christian family is more than just family. We are a body. We are here to protect each other, heal each other, help each other, love each other, even spoil each other.

Are you treating the church as well as you do your own body?


For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:3-5 ESV

 

Quiet Perspective

From my perspective, I absolutely believe in a greater spiritual power, far greater than I am, from which I have derived strength in moments of sadness or fear. That’s what I believe, and it was very, very strong in the forest. ~Jane Goodall

A tall birch grows on the south side of the house. Its willowy branches sway in the tiniest breeze.

From my bedroom window I spy a dead bough wedged in the forks of a main branch. At the base of the tree grows a clump of gnarled roots, searching for a bit of grass to cover them. The gray-brown trunk, stripped by goats during the winter months, stands in naked disregard.

This window gazes upon a homeless man who whines about the way the world has treated him. Behind him stands a bent old woman complaining about her never ending aches and pains. Glowering above them both is a young man staring into the distant horizon, his anger twisting the branches into a crown of hatred.

From my armchair in the study I stare at the same tree. It is full of life; green leaves twist in the soft summer wind. The rising sun filters through it causing shadows and golden light to dance in sweet harmony. Through the glass I hear the songbirds greet the coming day.

This window looks out on a wizened old man who needs a helping hand after a family disaster. Behind him, bowed from years of serving others, a woman rubs her aching back. The young man squints in the morning sun searching for a stump to offer the old woman some rest.

Daily life can make me hardened. I see only flaws and disappointments. Anger tinges my rising sun with bitterness and hostility.

God often takes us into wilderness to change our perspective. He sends Hagar into the wilderness to tell her that he is still watching over her and her son. He sends Hosea’s wife into the wilderness to remind her that he is her first love. Moses wanders in the wilderness and sees that it is God who is leading. Jesus retreats to the wilderness to restore his energy and perspective.

Time with God spent in quiet solitude refocuses my vision. It allows me to see the same tree again, but to revel in its beauty and grace.

Changing your perspective can be as simple as looking out a different window. Spend time alone with God. And as the sun rises, let him pull back back the curtain.


 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,  for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.” Acts 17:24-28 ESV

Forgetful Remembering

Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice. ~Anton Chekhov

I have a pair of green leggings with purple and gray flowers. I love those leggings, so soft and comfortable. I would really like to have several shirts that match so I can spend days in the pants unnoticed.

But every time I go to the store to buy some tunics or over-sized shirts, I buy the wrong color.

Why?

Because in my mind’s eye the pants are yellow with purple flowers.

What is it that blocks my mind? I think it is a pair of stirrup pants I had in high school that were pink and yellow. Even now, sitting here in white and pink pjs writing about green, purple, and gray pants — they are yellow.

One of the New Testament authors warns of this crazy phenomena. He makes a ludicrous statement that sounds impossible.

” . . .he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” James 1:23b-24 ESV

How could you ever stare in a mirror and then forget what you look like? James says it happens by looking at God and his Word and then walking away from it until you chance to look again. The time in-between is empty, thoughtless time filled with the wrong memories.

God tells us to care for those less fortunate than ourselves, so you spend the last of the paycheck on a splurge of popcorn and a movie. Not such a  bad thing until you realize that the bulk of the paycheck was spent on restaurants and credit card bills.

God tells us to comfort the sick and visit the prisoners. So you comfort your children and visit the zoo.

He says pray for your enemies, and you pray that they get slugged upside the head.

Be content is translated give me more contents.

Love your neighbor becomes lie to your neighbor.

And your green leggings are now yellow.

The answer to such ridiculous confusion is found in the verses all around our mystical mirror:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-25 ESV

The mirror is the Word. When you look at Jesus, when you read the Bible, you see what you are supposed to be AND do. Without the “do” part it’s all too easy to forget what you should be.

Are your green pants yellow?


Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. John 13:14 NIV

Here Comes the Judge

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. ~Aristotle

I met a young woman at a dinner party recently. She was obviously a homewrecker. Nearly twenty years her husband’s junior, she was attractive and well-spoken. Any man would have had his head turned. I didn’t know many people at the party, but everyone seemed to know the story behind this woman. Bimbo was appropriate.

Somehow we ended up across from each other on the sofa. She didn’t know anyone either. We started talking.

She has two young children. They are her sister’s kids. She took them in as a twenty-one year old when her sister abandoned them. She worked hard at her job where she met her husband who was already divorced. He has a teen daughter who now lives with them. In her free time she volunteers with the homeless.

As we continued to talk I found her to be sweet, charming, and likable.

How quickly we judge appearances. How often our impressions are wrong.

The young beautician covered in tattoos and piercings turns out to be a responsible adult making her way in the world.

The sweaty, smelly homeless guy is actually a mechanic who stopped to help a stranded motorist.

The teen-aged, floozy cheerleader heads up a neighborhood Bible study.

I wonder what it was like for Mary, the mother of Jesus. People must have looked at her sideways. Certainly names were whispered behind her back. Perhaps friends and family tried to dissuade Joseph from making a mistake with the town trollop.

I would be horrified to find out that the ones I am judging are actually the mother of my Lord . . . or that they are all the children of my God.

Shame.


“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10 NIV

Thwarted Expectations

In spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser and happier as a result. ~Joseph B. Wirthlin

Great expectations swirled around John for as long as he could remember. He was educated as a priest, admired by his community, an up and coming man.

He was sent by God for a special purpose. His cousin, Jesus, had also been set apart; his mother had told him.

Now John was hearing other stories. Unbelievable stories.

Healing diseases. Driving out demons. And now . . . Raising the dead.

So in Luke 7 John sends his disciples  to Jesus to ask if he is the one or if there is another to come.

What?!

You’re Jesus’s cousin. You know the stories. You hear about the miracles. And you ask if there is another?

How can you be sent from God and not know that it is God walking through your countryside, healing your people, destroying your enemy?

Maybe it’s because those who are supposed to know God best are against you.

God tells you to feed the homeless, and no one at church wants to help. The Father tells you to parent someone else’s children, and all your friends remind you of your advanced age.

God whispers, “Follow me to a distant land.” And your family shuns your ministry. God writes on your heart to teach your children at home, but you are met with disbelief and anger.

Jesus tells John’s disciples to return with a message: Remember what you have seen and heard, and do not stumble on account of me.

You, too, remember what you have seen and heard. Recall the message you received, and do not stumble.

No matter what the naysayers shout, snicker, or proclaim.


Then he replied to John’s disciples, “Go, report to John what you have seen and heard. Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled now walk. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. And good news is preached to the poor. Happy is anyone who doesn’t stumble along the way because of me.” Luke 7:22-23 CEB

Imitation: The Real Thing

Those who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls. ~Charles Spurgeon

Lynda Resnick paid a LOT of money for fake pearls. They were being auctioned through Sotheby’s and were expected to go for $300-$700. Resnick thought she would need to pay $25,000.

Neither Resnick nor Sotheby’s anticipated the value of these pearls.

At a final sale price of $211,000 they were the most expensive fake pearls ever sold.

What made these pearls so special? They originally belonged to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Owning these pearls gave Lynda Resnick the right to copy them. At $200 per copy, she made millions.

Even though the pearls were copies, they were copies with credibility.

I often feel like a fake pearl. I am not worth much. I’m plain and simple. I don’t offer anything special. We all feel that way.

Your friend’s promotion is posted all over Facebook while you sink lower on the totem pole at work. Your cousin’s new baby is all the talk at the family reunion, while you stuff Aunt Rita’s pie in your face to stifle the tears that threaten to brim over at your barrenness.

Your high school reunion proves that your genes were always your worst enemy.  Yours is the only rusty car in the church parking lot. And why can’t anyone ever remember your name at these conferences!?

Fake pearls were bought at a great price, because Lynda Resnick saw value in them.

You too were bought at a great price. And it was none other than the King who saw your value.


Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it. Matthew 13:45-46 CEB

But Also

“As worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. Holy obedience saves worship from becoming an opiate, an escape from the pressing needs of modern
life.” ~Richard Foster

Treachery reached out its dark arm, separating bone and muscle until the Kingdom of Israel could stand no longer. Hoshea in his palace in Samaria made a pact with the Egyptians that cost him his throne and cost his people their land.

Shalmaneser carried off King Hoshea, siezed the city, and destroyed the kingdom. The people were carried off into captivity. Then Shalmaneser replaced the Israelites with people from other nations.

But this was God’s land.

Lions attacked the new occupants, tearing into the flesh of young and old alike. There was no safe hiding place from the crouching, lurking enemy. The lions hunted continually, tearing the people limb from limb.

So a priest was sent back to Samaria to teach the people how to worship the God of their new home. And he taught them well.

32 They worshipped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. 33 They worshipped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. 2 Kings 17 NIVUK

They worshipped the Lord . . . but they also.

You listen to Christian radio, but you also worry about the news from Europe and Asia, and you look to the leaders of our countries for deliverance and answers. You go to church on Sunday and give your tithes and gifts, but you also stare glumly at the Dow and squirrel away more money in retirement accounts.

They worshipped the Lord . . . but they also.

You wear Scriptures on your clothing, but you also talk yourself up hoping the ladder to success includes a rung for you. You pray in the house of God, but you also jealously long for your neighbor’s house, working harder and harder to buy the perfect home additions.

41 Even while these people were worshipping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did. 2 Kings 17 NIVUK

What do people see when they look at your worship? Do they say you worship the Lord . . . but you also . . .?


Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the Lord your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.’ 2 Kings 17:38-39 NIVUK

Good Job

I knew what my job was; it was to go out and meet the people and love them. ~Princess Diana

When Matt finished his doctorate our family traveled to Southern California to watch him graduate. Our young boys and I stood outside in the heat, sweat poring down my back. Matt’s name was called, people politely clapped, he walked across the stage, and . . . the next name was called.

That’s it?! I remember being so let down. I mean, he had worked for many long years to get this far. And not just him; we all had worked and sacrificed. Our family had eaten bean burritos and pasta with butter for YEARS. Where were the fireworks? Where was the crashing cannon? Shouldn’t the Blue Angels be zooming overhead?

Can I tell you a secret?

I like to be told when I do a good job. I even let my husband know when to praise me and how to say it.

“When you get home you need to notice how nice the yard looks. I spent five hours out there and my arms are shaking from the weed eater. It needs to be a really impressed, ‘Wow! Traci, what a great job you did. I can’t believe you did that all by yourself!'”

And if he walks in and says something of that sort, but I don’t feel the appreciation in his voice is at the appropriate level, I ask him to go back out and come in again. “This time with feeling, Honey.”

I’m not even joking.

You spend your weekend writing up report cards with personal comments on each student, and you wait for a thank you from parents and principal. Nothing. You buy flowers for the front yard at the homeless shelter and spend Monday evening working in the beds. No one speaks to you. No one?! You make dinner for an elderly couple at church and take it by on Wednesday afternoon. Maybe it just comes out in your conversation that evening at Bible study . . .

You want to do the nice things because it’s the right thing to do, but deep down you want people to notice that YOU are nice.

I tell my husband I’m just trying to help him be godly and follow the proverb: Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth;
    an outsider, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2 NIVUK

The truth is that it is hard to be selfless. We want someone to notice when we make an extra effort, when we go beyond expectations, when we . . . act like Christ.

And it is noticed. Jesus said when you do good deeds, do them in secret so that God can bless you. He also said when you pray do so in secret so that God will hear you. And he added when you fast, don’t let others know, and the Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6)

It isn’t easy, but the reward is much better than the instructed praise I give my husband.

I’m certain I will never ask God to go back out and try again.


“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV
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