A Model We Forget

 

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Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

 

It’s that time of year where the calendar gets filled up with more things to do, places to be, and things to remember. Between now and the end of the calendar year it seems we try to connect with everyone we care about and handle the crammed season with hospitality despite how busy it can be.

 

We may decide we want to keep it simpler and recall promises we made last year about that very thing, but somehow there is a creep that starts to wind us up almost without our notice. Then we feel stuck!  We have once again committed to too many things with too many people and our energy, time, and budget feels stretched to the max once again.

 

We probably have read, watched and heard more about time management and self-care than we can even recall. Yet somehow, we keep repeating a pattern of busyness that can slip up on us.

 

Maybe it relates to the cultural mindset that says (or at least implies) that we can do everything without consequences to our physical, emotional, mental, relational, spiritual, and financial health. Since the culture is permeated with the mindset of “doing”, it can be hard to let go no matter what age or season of life we find ourselves in.

 

We don’t want to retreat from life and live like a hermit nor live life like a gerbil caught up in one of those little wheels that keep spinning around.

 

container-cook-cooking-45247Believers are as guilty as anyone and sometimes more so during the last few months of the year when our desire to bless, serve, and reach out is appealed to from every quadrant.

 

I was reminded while reading in Mark 1 in the Bible today of the model evident in the story about Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law. It appears Jesus is spending time with Peter and his disciples in more of an intimate setting when Peter asks Him to help his mother-in-law who is ill with a high fever. Jesus responds in this private setting among friends and the woman is restored. No public fanfare accompanies this event.

 

But in the evening when the Sabbath has ended, people come knocking on Peter’s door because they have seen and heard about the miracles Jesus had done in other settings. They want the help He can offer even though they may not know nor care that He is the Messiah. And Jesus appears to respond to the many who come to Him.

 

That’s the kind of day that could be exhausting. We can forget in the midst of looking at the divine nature of Jesus that He was living in time and space in a human body now. As such He needed rest and time away from the many who sought Him out for what He could give them.

 

It’s impossible to miss what happens after this long evening of ministering. Jesus slips bird-s-eye-photography-of-mountain-1624496out of the house before dawn to be alone, to pray, to take in and replenish from God. He was clear about what we know and yet don’t always discipline ourselves to do – take time alone in a quiet place to hear the Lord’s voice.

 

The Lord can and does speak to us in a myriad of ways, but it is in quiet places alone where we tend to hear Him best and receive a rest and refreshment that goes beyond physical rest.

 

What’s the model we forget?

 

Jesus understood when it was time to work, minister to others, and serve, but He also knew when it was time to rest and be alone.

 

John 5:19 points to some of the “why” of that:

 

“So Jesus said, “I speak to you timeless truth. The Son is not able to do anything from himself or through my own initiative. I only do the works that I see the Father doing, for the Son does the same works as his Father.”

John 5:19 (TPT)

 

Jesus knew his daily schedule was to follow the pattern his Father had for Him. Getting in touch with Him at the outset allowed Him to accomplish all in God’s design and plan and that included time for fellowship in intimate settings with friends and time alone.

 

Medical science proves God designed our complex bodily systems with a need for rest as well as exercise and when we don’t allow time for it, our bodies, minds, and spirits get overwhelmed and don’t work as well. If we don’t pay attention more permanent effects develop. And how can He use us then?

 

“God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which he must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.”

A.W. Tozer

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Memories of Glass

 

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Memories are fascinating! They give us glimpses of what was or what we believed was, but we may not recognize they are incomplete or a false narrative we’ve been trained to believe. The newest book by Melanie Dobson, Memories of Glass, will include both.

 

This latest historical fiction offering will complete the memories of several generations of the Kingston and West families with surprising intersections spanning from Holland in June of 1933 to the present-day story of Ava Drake.

 

Ava knows little about her family. Her father left her mother, brother, and her. And her mother walked away from the wealth and prestige of the Kingston family to live in coastal North Carolina. Ava is left to care for her brother many nights while her mother works to help provide. But on a night that haunts Ava’s dreams, her mother and brother die when there is an explosion and fire that take these family members’ lives.

 

Her father doesn’t want Ava, but a case worker locates a family member of her mother’s (Marcella Kingston) who takes her into her New York home. Ava is eager to have a family again but has no idea the secrets that hide beneath the families’ wealth and the source of that wealth.

 

When Ava is asked by Marcella to head the Kingston Family Foundation and travel to Amsterdam for the opening of a Memorial Library Ava stumbles upon information that leads her to look more carefully into the family story no one is telling her or talking about.

 

Her journey takes her into the story of what was happening in Holland in 1933 when the German Nazis began to take over the beloved country of Josie, Michael, and a captivating cast of characters caught up in a web to gain wealth. Some of the characters scheme to gain great riches through a purported resistance effort against the Nazis while secretly investing in the Third Reich and its war machine.

 

The beautiful country of Holland is stunned when Jewish friends and neighbors start being rounded up by the Nazis. A few (not unlike Corrie Ten Boom’s family) determine to try to save as many as they can and especially to try to save the children.

 

Melanie Dobson does a masterful job of weaving the true story of how heroic men and women risked all to rescue more than six hundred children from the Dutch theater where Jewish families were “collected” before transport to the east.

 

Ava’s search for the truth takes her from New York to North Carolina, Amsterdam, Oregon, and Uganda. In her journey she learns the truth of the family wealth and who she is.

 

As Ava says near the beginning of the story:

 

“Memories are curious things. Some I want to remember, and others…well, I simply don’t. Most of my memories – at least the ones from childhood – are curdled into lumps anyway. No amount of stirring will separate them.”

 

But the separation and clarification of the memories do happen and Ava’s mother’s Bible becomes the anchor for Ava to hold to as the truth is revealed. Her courage to uncover the truth points to redemption and forgiveness not only for her, but others as well.

 

This story captivated my heart and reminded me again of the valor of some during WW II who demonstrated a courage to risk all for those who were condemned to die.

 

“There comes a time for forgetting,

For who could live and not forget?

Now and then, however,

There must also be one who remembers.”

Albrecht Goes in Das Brandopfer (The Burnt Offering)

 

How Do We Respond?

 

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As I consider the things happening around me with a telephoto lens, so often my prayers are smaller than they might be if I were to widen the lens to see more. I think our prayers can be that way as well. I pray for what I wish and desire so many times and hope the Lord will agree that I have sought wisely and answer as I have asked, but in doing so have not always sought His direction for my prayers.

 

I don’t think He condemns me, as Paul writes “we see through a glass darkly” (some versions say “dimly”) and He knows my frame well. Certainly it is true as Isaiah says that His thoughts are not mine and His ways are higher than mine. He sees everything and I do not. Even so, I am reminded to seek His direction about how to pray many times in situations that I cannot begin to unravel.

 

Sometimes I have discovered later that it was good He did not answer a prayer I had prayed because He had a “better” for me than I had asked.

 

I love what Mark Batterson says in his book, In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day:

 

“Many of our prayers are misguided. We pray for comfort instead of character. We pray for an easy way out instead of the strength to make it through. We pray for no pain, when the result would be no gain. We pray that God will keep us out of pits and away from lions. But if God answered our prayer, it would rob us of the greatest opportunities. Many of our prayers would short-circuit God’s plans and purposes for our lives if He answered them. Maybe we should stop asking God to get us out of difficult circumstances and start asking Him what He wants us to get out of those difficult circumstances.”

 

 I confess that doesn’t appeal to me on many levels and I certainly do not pray to find myself in hard places. What I see whenever I pick up my Bible is the truth of how difficult circumstances shaped the character of those we most revere in Hebrews 11.

 

It was the tough situations fraught with danger and uncertainty that made the timid into the tenacious, the fearful into the courageous, and the uncertain into the sure.

 

Difficult seasons and times come to us all, but where do you or I place trust and how do I or you face fear?

 

As believers we should not be surprised that trials will come and with them, suffering. The writers of the New Testament make clear we will face such things. Their writings speak of suffering beyond illness and poverty common in their time and more about standing firm in faith and belief when those things will result in persecution.

 

When I read those things, I am sobered. I want to think and believe I would stand, but I cannot forget that Peter was sure that he would do so and when crunch time came in the courtyard he failed even as Jesus had told him that he would.

 

We talk often about that failing of Peter’s, but talk less often about how Jesus used it to a greater good. Peter came to know his own heart and weakness better and Jesus offered him grace and then used his boldness to build His church. The boldness was different than at the start for Peter. Now it was not based on His self-confidence, but rather his God-confidence and love.

 

I see that so clearly in 1 Peter when he writes to believers who were dispersed in the midst of difficult times. His character shines brightly as he exhorts believers to stand, as he seeks to encourage their hearts in the midst of suffering, and as he gives wise counsel on how to walk during such times. His words show he cares, tends, and feeds the sheep and lambs even as the Lord asked of him after He met him on the shore after He arose.

 

So how do I respond when difficulties come? When prayers go unanswered or answered differently than I pray?

 

Do I yield to Satan’s tactics of discouragement and fear or do I face what has come because of who Jesus is and who He is making me to be?

 

My prayer is found in 1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV:

 

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

 

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Better Than GPS

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Photo by Pixabay

 

I confess that I love GPS and cannot imagine life without it now. I was never (and am not now) a very good map reader like my husband is. The newest GPS devices or apps appeal to my best learning style – auditory – and combine it with seeing the path I am to take.

 

Older ones we have used are already eclipsed by much better tools as technology grows. My car does not have the screen displays that will allow it to be projected for me, but my smartphone can certainly do that with ease. My favorite choice when I am heading to someplace new or going on a trip is to input the address in the Waze app.

 

I have other options that work, but I find this app suits me since it not only points to and tells me the way but also gives me additional information. It will let me know if there is an obstacle or pothole in the lane ahead as well as cars that may be stopped along the road or where the police are. It tells me when construction or an accident has brought traffic to a crawl or stop and if there is an alternative route to get me out of that mess. (That latter one has saved us a great deal of time when traveling on various interstates on trips.)

 

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Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

I know I should not hesitate to use a map, but it is hard to do while driving and doesn’t give me as much information as the latest devices or apps. I somehow feel that knowing all this additional information can not only help me get to my destination the easiest and best way, but also help me do it more safely.

 

One downside to my preference is how much I now depend on this new technology to make my travel easier.

 

Sometimes I think we would like to have a GPS like this to do life, something to let us know in advance what is ahead of us and how to avoid accidents, potholes and obstacles in the path. But that is not how the Lord designed us and I have no doubt He has excellent reasons.

 

You see the Lord has the advantage of knowing the beginning as well as the end of the journey we take and sees the long view instead of our more short-sided approach to much in our lives. He also knows where He plans to lead us and despite all that we may have planned or hoped, his design is the one that matters. His wisdom knows that the easy straight path will not develop maturity, trust, or strength of character for the end game.

 

Little by little from birth until we return home to the Lord, He designs the path for the task or goal. He may give us a glimpse of the path ahead, but not a clear view and not very far.

 

adorable-boy-child-1006103All along the way the Lord allows persons, places, and circumstances to intersect us in preparation for what lays ahead. We never see that when we are younger and sometimes not even in mid-life. As we age, we can better see how one thing built upon another to equip us for the next thing and to get us to our destination.

 

Corrie Ten Boom spoke to this in her well-known book, The Hiding Place, in the following quote:

 

“Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for a future only He can see.”

 

Unlike the GPS that is designed to get us to our destination the fastest and easiest way, the Lord knows that will not serve us for that “future only He can see.”

 

It is easy to think of people along my journey who have encouraged and affirmed me and give them due credit for that. But I am persuaded that when I think of those who have been most challenging or critical, most difficult or disappointing, I know they have been used by the Lord in powerful ways to prepare me for now and maybe beyond now.

 

A simple illustration to consider that is looking back at the teachers we had in our school life. Hopefully we have had many great ones and we recall them with fondness, but those we tend to recall the most are those who were the toughest and often demanded the most of us. They gave us no quarter with their expectations or grades and accepted no excuses for not doing what was required or asked of us.

 

We may not love this latter group of teachers, but they prepared us for college professors and bosses who thought they were working with adults who followed directions and understood the requirements. They recognized our weaknesses and cared enough to help strengthen them instead of being overly concerned about being liked by us.

 

Good parents, loving parents, understand that training and discipline of their cuddly adorable babies and toddlers are needed for them to succeed. And there is no greater nor loving parent than God, our Father. He has purposed to lead us back to Him and bring us home one day. He knows our favorite GPS will not get us there.

 

“ There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”

Romans 5:3-5 (MSG)

 

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Photo by Rob Blair

 

 

 

 

Some Mornings

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Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

 

It would be wonderful if every day started well. We’d awaken with a good night’s sleep under our belt. The sun would be shining, and we had enough energy to take on what the day’s agenda called for. A nutritious breakfast would taste better than our usual Danish and cream-laden coffee and that walk that always gets set aside actually happened. Little by little the items on our list for the day would get handled without a glitch and we’d be surprised how much was accomplished by lunch time.

 

Sound like an ideal day?  The description would make it seem so.

 

We like to think days will start that way more often than they do or maybe even hope they might happen occasionally. But for most of us a day doesn’t sound much like this.

 

Most of us according to statistics don’t wake up refreshed because we didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Unless we live in certain places in the world being greeted by sunshine is only a 50-50 shot and no matter what we read about a nutritious breakfast, many of us skip eating or grab the nearest thing hoping it will wake us up.

 

As we drag ourselves up from a chair for another cup of coffee and notice the time, we decide that walk will need to wait for another day. We have a “to do list” that is already longer than the hours we have and besides, we would need to really get dressed to go outside for a walk or run.

 

Many of our days start from a far from ideal place and by afternoon our frustration can be simmering. It happens whether we are a stay at home or a person out on a job. This kind of day leaves us feeling empty and the frustration grows because the things that need to be done don’t go away because the day ends.

 

The truth is that most of us can identify with days like this. We don’t have lovely quiet times every day where we are clear on the Lord’s voice to us and feel assured of His design for the day.

 

As I was reading Luke 5:1-11, I was struck by the story of someone else who started his day with things not going very well. Peter as a well-respected and seasoned fisherman was used to having all sorts of days on the water with his nets. Some days the catch was good. Some days it was barely enough to provide for his family, but on the day in this passage he had worked hard all night and on this morning the nets were empty. Talk about a frustrating day of disappointment.

 

Peter knew all the best spots on the lake and best times to cast out his nets. He surely had other bad days, but this one may well have been one of the worst.

 

Now imagine your boat is already tied up and your boat was commandeered by Jesus to preach from and once He is done, He tells you to take the boat out again into deep water and put your nets out for a catch. You may have been listening to His message and one thing you are pretty sure of is that He is not a fisherman. So, you remind Him you were already working hard all night and the fish aren’t biting, but you agree to go out again and follow what He says to do.

 

Some of you know the story well.

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This time the nets are so full of fish they are nearly breaking and Peter needs help to haul in the catch. What a turnabout in Peter’s day. Looks like quite a success, but Peter knows it’s not his success and falls on his knees and tells Jesus to leave because he’s a sinner and can’t handle the evidence of such holiness.

 

Peter has been humbled in a way that is clear to him – in the area of his gifts and calling – but Jesus has a new calling in mind. The haul of fish was amazing, but it was what spoke to Peter’s heart that made all the difference that morning.

 

As Eric and Kristen Hill write in The First Breakfast:

 

“Peter is brought to his knees in humility, not because this incredible gift has landed in his lap, but because his eyes are opened to the Giver that is standing in front of him with an open hand.”

 

Peter’s morning started as an exhausted, disheartened fisherman, but his day ends as one who is a convinced follower of Jesus accepting a new call to be a fisher of men with and for Him.

 

Our mornings may not start out the way we hope, but we (like Peter) need to have our eyes opened to see beyond what our natural eyes see when we crawl out of bed in the morning. That will make ALL the difference.

 

“To see who Jesus is and who we are in Him ushers in a necessary brokenness that helps us to see everything more clearly.”

Eric and Kristen Hill

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