Tag Archives: obedience

Deaf or Just Hard-of-Hearing

None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see.
~Matthew Henry

I just spent a few days with some family members who are on the other side of the green field. You have to make sure they are looking at you when you speak . . . loudly. Otherwise, you won’t be heard.

I’ve been very public about my own hearing issues. Perhaps I’m not so far away from that side of the field myself.

Jesus encountered some hard-of-hearing people, too.

In Luke 14:35, Jesus says, “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Then in 15:1, we find out who has the ears to hear.

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathered around to hear him.”

By now Jesus has a large following. His name is out there. He’s twittered, posted, and chatted for years and his platform is huge. 5,000 men show up for his luncheon. Women and children flock to meet him and call him blessed.

So why is it that the ones listening aren’t the leaders of the community? Why don’t they have ears to hear?

Because Jesus says some hard things.

He says that everyone is invited into the kingdom. Every sheep is brought safely into the fold. Every brother is loved, every sinner forgiven, every child wanted.

He treats everyone the same.

She sits alone at the church potluck, surrounded by groups of laughing people who have more in common with each other than with her.

He stands alone at the conference, his body contorted with spasms but his mind free and frisky.

She sits, eyes lowered, with her ratty-tattered children waiting for your hand-out.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2 NIV

Are you listening to Jesus or are you muttering about the welfare check, the useless riff-raff, the immigrant?

Jesus tells his listeners three stories of lost things being found.

‘But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:32 NIV

Can you hear him? Do you have ears to hear?

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24 NIV

Yogurt Deodorant

In our digital age, the Golden Rule is not enforced online. ~Whitney Wolfe

Several years ago I noticed something was changing. I wasn’t hearing things correctly. It became very apparent the day I brought home yogurt for my son.

“Here’s your yogurt.” I set it on the counter in front of him.

“Thanks?” He looked confused. “Where’s my deodorant?”

“What do you mean?”

I had no clue. The boy had asked for yogurt. Here was the yogurt. Was I supposed to read his mind that he needed deodorant?

It turns out I didn’t need to read his mind, I just needed to listen carefully. He hadn’t asked for yogurt, but he did need deodorant.

In Luke 8, Jesus tells the people to consider carefully how they listen.

Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.

 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Luke 8:18-21

How do you listen carefully?
By putting God’s word into practice.

Is someone trying to sabotage you at work?  Is your ex trying to turn the children against you? Does your neighbor threaten court proceedings for the tree on your border?

Jesus said to pray for our enemies.

Does a friend’s constant chatter about her new car make you want to slash her tires? Do you stay away from the baby showers because you’re angry with God for withholding a child? Maybe you schedule your car for a tune-up so you don’t have to meet the “Happy Pappies” for breakfast to talk about another trip abroad.

God tells us to rejoice with others.

You mutter all the way to work about your children making you late again. -Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.

You call the church fellowship committee to say that you can’t be a part of this weekend’s event. Something came up that sounds like “cap on the pouch.” -Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

Take care of widows and orphans. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t look lustfully or covetously at another. Honor your father and mother.

How carefully are you listening? Are you putting the Word into practice?

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25 NIV

I Will

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

He always wanted to be a missionary, but J. Oswald Smith was susceptible to sickness and disease. One mission assignment after another ended with his return to the States to recover from some new malady. So in the 1950’s, Smith gave up on being a missionary and began serving at a church in Toronto.

He gave up on being a missionary, but not on being mission minded.

He spoke to his members about the great work that needed doing, and they raised $282,000 for missions in one year alone.

He began helping other churches raise funds for missionaries. He helped one church in Boston go from a $3200 missions budget to a budget exceeding $200,000 in only six years.

How many more people heard the Good News of Jesus because of Oswald Smith than would have ever heard it by listening to him alone?

Last month I thought I should offer to host the community Bible study that I attend. I prayed about it, but felt a definite “no” being given.

Why in the world should I not host the study? We have a large house with no children left in it. It is a central location to many in the group. And it’s a Bible study, for goodness sake!

But I put aside my arguments and listened to God.

Another woman, growing in the faith, offered to host. It was a big step for her who so recently had spoken of the tongue lashing her father gave her for teaching Bible class at church.

What do you feel called to do? Is it what God is asking you to do, or is it just what you want to do?

Ask God what he wants.

His answer may not make sense at the time, but you can be sure it is the right answer.

 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 ESV

Doing the Right Thing

Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing. ~Tony Blair

I don’t like rules. I view them as flowers to a happier state of being. Some gardens grow daisies, others produce roses or violets, but they all bloom in shades of gray.

For instance, if someone can clearly see all directions and no one is coming, why should they have to sit through a traffic light? Yet, there I sat in the middle of nowhere in the middle of no one.

Doing what is right isn’t always easy. Knowing what is right isn’t either.

One day Jesus and his buddies were walking through a field of grain. They were hungry, so they pulled off a few heads of grain and started munching. Not such a bad thing, right?

Except it was Saturday. The day that God had said don’t harvest.

The rule followers started throwing the book at Jesus.

“What are they doing? God isn’t going to put up with this! They’re putting us all in danger. Run! Run! . . . Wait. It’s the Sabbath. Walk, walk, but not too far.”

Jesus knew where this fell on the continuum of gray.

“Remember David, THE King of Israel? He and his men were hungry so they ate the bread that was set aside for God and the priests. That was allowed; surely this is, too.”

Some people liked that answer- the ones who needed to eat -but others weren’t so happy. If they couldn’t trust the rules to keep them safe, what could they trust? God’s box was clearly outlined, and they needed him to stay in it.

Do you have two children who both need discipline? Will a spanking send one over the edge of despair and leave the other one seething in vengeful spite?

Do you have two coworkers who need a helping hand? One is overwhelmed by the demands of the boss, while the other spends the day on Instagram and Snap Chat?

Do you see financial struggles but notice that medical bills have drowned one person, while excessive Amazon surfing has plunged the other?

God wants us to do what is right. Jesus showed us what is right can vary according to the situation.

If you aren’t sure what is right, don’t try to box God in. Ask him for direction about where he wants to put the boundary lines.

And if he doesn’t answer, wait a little longer at the red light. It will change soon.

Seek good, and not evil,
    that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
    as you have said.
Hate evil, and love good,
    and establish justice in the gate; Amos 5:14-15 ESV

Fresh Bread Obedience

“I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.”  ~Annie Dillard

I used to read The Little Red Hen to my Kindergarten students.

You probably know the story. The hen wants to make bread, but first she has to put the work into it. She asks for help, but everyone has other things, better things, to do.

It didn’t take long for my students to catch on to the repetition: “Not I,” said the dog. “Not I,” said the cat. “Not I,” said the duck. “Then I will,” said the Little Red Hen, and she did.

And then the bread is ready to eat.

“And who will eat the bread?” asks the Little Red Hen.

You know the answer; don’t you?

How many of us are the dog, cat, or duck? The bread smells wonderful, but the sweat that it takes stinks.

You know what it is going to take to help that single mother- your free nights turned into babysitting, your extra cash spent buying kids’ underwear and socks, your family Thanksgiving expanded to “outsiders”.

Or what about that college kid that seems so lost? You just got your own kids out of the house, but here is this one needing laundry, meals, rides to the pharmacy.

Maybe your story is an older neighbor who needs their lawn mowed, leaves raked, a hot meal, a sidewalk shoveled. He sits in the dark, a glowing television his only companion.

Genesis 11 and Joshua 24 gives us just a hint about what might have been.

Abram’s father, Terah, gathers together his family and sets off for Canaan, but they stop in Harran. Abram is with his father for 135 years before Terah dies. Joshua 24 tells us that Terah worshiped other gods.

Somewhere along the way, Terah didn’t do the work. Was he the intended one for the Promised Land? Was God asking him to begin a new nation? Did God instruct Terah, only to lose him to other gods?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that Terah never saw Canaan- the land of future promise. He never got to eat the bread.

It was given to someone who was willing to put in the work.

Has God called you to work?

What is your answer?

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered. Matthew 21:28-31 NIV

Rich Obedience

money-932401__180My younger son is an optimist. When he was little and I would tell him he couldn’t do something, he would respond, “Yes I can. Watch!” I had to start rephrasing my commands to say, “You may not do such and such.”

That same son is a risk-taker. He always climbed the tree the highest, rode the skateboard the fastest, and built the fire the biggest.

Because of his optimism and his need to take risks, he learned to apologize afterward rather than to ask permission beforehand. That is how a mole ended up in his pocket, a copper wire blew a fuse in the living room, and a spider bit his finger.

The Israelites also decided that it was better to apologize than to ask permission. They built gods to worship, they made treaties with the enemy, and they kept treasures that were intended for the Lord. When they were called on it, they cried and pleaded for forgiveness. And God offered it.

My younger son just turned 17, and though I am sure he will still take some risks that I would not approve of, he mostly does what is right. He has learned right from wrong and most often chooses the right. He has earned the title Stead, with all of its rights and privileges.

The Israelites, too, learned through the years of wandering in the wilderness. They learned what pleased God and what displeased. They grew up and earned the title “God’s Chosen.” They still took risks and landed on the side of wrong, but they also often landed on the right. And because of that God offered them all the rights and privileges of the Promised Land.

The problem is that they often believed they had earned their riches all alone. They forgot the times that they screwed up, needed forgiveness, were given better than they deserved. They thought the risks resulted in their riches.

I have earned the title of Christian, Child of God, Princess of Heaven . . . only because God in his great love chose to give it to me. All riches and privileges that come with the title are only mine at his pleasure, not from anything I have done. I have learned that God disciplines me as a mother disciplines her child. And he rewards me just the same.

“So it’s paramount that you keep the commandments of God, your God, walk down the roads he shows you and reverently respect him. God is about to bring you into a good land . . . Make sure that when you eat and are satisfied, build pleasant houses and settle in, see your herds and flocks flourish and more and more money come in, watch your standard of living going up and up—make sure you don’t become so full of yourself and your things that you forget God, your God . . . If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!”—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today.” Deuteronomy 8 MSG

Permission Granted

park-972173__180There are times in life when a still, small voice speaks to me. Sometimes it is clear and direct, sometimes it vibrates through a thick fog of possibilities. But however it is heard, the voice has a directive. God asks me to do something.

I have been told to be a teacher, to be a writer, to pick up someone on the side of the road, to spend money and to save money, to move and to stay put. Each time God has spoken, I have had a choice to make: Listen and obey or listen and then do what I want.

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh were nearing the Promised Land when they noticed the land of Moab, east of the Jordan, east of the Promised Land, was good for pasture. They had a large number of sheep and wanted to stay put.

They approached Moses and asked to put down roots. Moses called them on it . . . Are you really going to let your brothers go into this land without you? They have wandered in the wilderness as long as you, waiting for the same reward as you, and now you would abdicate to run and do as you please!?

But they were willing to go ahead and do as instructed if that was what was required. Their honest willingness was all that Moses needed. He granted permission.

Now who is to say that it wasn’t good for the tribes to stay east of the Jordan. Gad and Reuben became so intertwined that they functioned as one tribe, and a warrior tribe at that. Having them to the east blocking the rest of the tribes from their enemies was a good defense. The half tribe of Manasseh likely asked to stay due to turmoil within the tribe. Separating the two sides allowed them to avoid fighting.

But we can’t say that their plan was better than God’s. God’s plan was that all Israel live within the Promised Land. But going into the land didn’t mean the other tribes were more faithful. They didn’t completely follow the Lord’s plan either. They made agreements with people in the land, they took wives from the natives, and they didn’t follow all of the rules set up for them.

So was it right for me to stop teaching? Or to take my time writing books? Or what about when I failed to pick up that woman on the side of the road . . . when I held on to my money or when I let it slip through my fingers . . . or what about the times I have begged to stay in an area . . . or to leave when I hear God saying stay?

I guess those are the answers I will only know in the great by and by. But I can be sure that as long as I ask God’s permission, he will be able to work it out. Waiting for his permission is the requirement.

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:25-28 MSG

Prejudice: Answering the Call

tree-402953__180I am often dismissive of what people do for a living. I admire social workers because they get paid to help people, something I enjoy doing. I don’t, however, think as highly of baristas and waiters because they are just convenience workers, even though they are helping me.

I think people who are gifted at mathematics and science are especially smart, and I am in awe of them, but the first time I had a coach in high school teach an academically challenging course, I have to say I was doubtful. How could a PE teacher be smart enough for that? And I remember the first time I realized that my brother-in-law, the sports trainer, was intelligent. It just hadn’t occurred to me that he would be. I remember discussing a book with him and then actually saying, “So you’re really smart?” with great shock. Sorry, Mark.

A little over a year ago I met some friends for lunch. One was telling us that her daughter was thinking about studying theater when she goes to college. We all laughed and commented on her waitressing abilities. It was fully assumed that theater is a nice sideline or hobby, but it is not a career worth pursuing.

Another friend at the luncheon was deeply hurt because her own daughter is already a theater major. Certainly she is not under the delusion that it will be easy to make a living, but following the lead that the Lord provides is obedience, not foolhardiness.

God calls each of us to a different part of the world. We each have the same mission – Bring God Glory – but he asks us to do it in different ways and through different mediums. To choose a job only because it will make a lot of money, or win the respect of others, or make you famous, is to dishonor God.

In our family we joke that we have a preacher, an author, an artist, and a hippie environmentalist. No wonder we aren’t planning to retire.

But before you laugh too hard or shake your head in American materialistic haughtiness, look a little closer. All four of us are attempting to stay true to the calling of our Master, Lord, and Savior. In each of our situations we try to bring beauty and hope to a world of dark despair.

Perhaps you laugh, so does God Almighty, Creator, Artist Extraordinaire, Originator of Words, Grandiose Gardener, Flawless Farmer. . . the laughter of pride, love, and joy. Stand firm in that knowledge.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman

Jesus’ Lifetime of Suffering

The manger and the tree are put away. The returns have been made, the furniture put back in place, and school books are tossed on the stairs. Yes, Christmas is over.

2000+ years ago it meant that Mary’s breasts ached, Joseph was job hunting in an overpopulated town, and the baby cried a lot. Christmas was far from over. Christ had come and, at the same time, had not yet come. Mary and Joseph had a lot of work ahead of them. They were new parents, confused and bewildered, and deservedly so.

Others parents wonder how this tiny life happened and how they will cope. Mary and Joseph really didn’t know how this tiny life happened, and it sure didn’t seem like things were going the way God would want His son to be cared for; confused and bewildered didn’t even begin to describe them.

The days flew by and soon toddler Jesus was walking and talking. The family moved a couple of times and then found themselves settling down in Nazareth. By now Mary and Joseph had a couple more kids and had figured out how all of this was supposed to work.

Perhaps now the gossip that had followed them in Bethlehem would die down. But people are slow to forget a scandal, and children are cruel. I wonder about the Torah lessons and if Jesus was made an example of during class. I wonder if kids whose parents talked too much would later during a game spit the ugly words out at the child Jesus. I wonder if he cried at the sting of the words, or even the sting of a stone.

Having a mother’s heart, I feel the pain Mary must have felt as her son was treated with disdain. Joseph was a good man, treating Jesus as his very own, but a father’s love can only shield so much, and children are cruel. But the times that I want to shield my children turn into the times that help them grow into men. Learning to live through life’s pain is part of learning to live. So Mary held her tongue.

Is that how Jesus learned to deal with and be merciful to sinners when he was grown? Did living on “the wrong side of the tracks” give Jesus some insight into the pain of those he came to serve? When they asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?”, did Jesus remember the childhood of disgrace?

Hebrews says that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered, but he didn’t start by going to the cross. He started by being a baby, a child, a teen; each step of growth a new lesson to learn until ultimately he was ready to obey. Where are you on this journey of obedience? Are you still falling on your toddler hands and knees, or are you stepping forth declaring with your changing voice and body that you “know what you are doing”? Or, have you, like the adult Jesus, learned obedience from what you have suffered?

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5:7-10 ESV

Leash Laws

Captain’s favorite sight, yes, even more than a bone, is of me picking up the leash. He turns into a begging kangaroo, jumping in circles and bounding as high as my chin, overjoyed to be on his way down the lane. New smells, a possible dog fight with the neighbor, romping with the pups, chasing a cat, he never knows what excitement might await him. Captain absolutely adores a walk.

However, he will turn his head as soon as the leash, removed from the wall peg, nears his nose. I have to grab his head and hold him still while I place the gentle lead around his muzzle. Captain both loves and hates the leash.

The leash stands for excitement and new possibilities, but it also means giving me the control. I don’t have any mean ulterior motives in my walking Captain. I want him to enjoy the walk, maintain his health, have some new experiences, and stay near my side. I slow down to let him smell things. I run next to him (don’t tell my chiropractor) when he is feeling extra energetic, and I let him explore new areas.

IMG_20131123_095800943I don’t, however, let him into the muddy ditch. There are ditches I do allow him into, but some ditches are off limits. He may go into the water-filled ditch and get a drink. He may crawl through the weed-infested ditches to satisfy his beagle nose. He may dig in ditches dried from sunshine and lack of rain. BUT, he may not get into muddy ditches.

Why not muddy ditches? Because he will have to have a bath. He cannot bring the filth of the ditch into my house. And in my house is where he wants to be. When darkness falls and temperatures drop, Captain wants the safety and warmth of my house, but the only way that is allowed is if he is clean, smelling only of dog, not old manure, dead animals, or skunk.IMG_20131123_100724625

And that is where the leash law comes in. If Captain follows the laws of the leash, he will stay by my side enjoying the walk, experiencing all of its delights, and then he will return straight home to my livingroom. But if he doesn’t obey the leash laws, he cannot come in until apologies are made and stink-stains are washed.


Sound familiar? The Master leads with the loveliest of leashes. Wear the leash.

“Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord; do not let me put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. (29-32)

“I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. (44-45)

“Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. (165)

IMG_20131123_095803906“May my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word. May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise. May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost pup (sheep). Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commandments. (169-176)” Excerpts from Psalm 119