Category Archives: What about the truth?

Ordinarily Extraordinary Amid the Extraordinarily Ordinary

DishesSometimes we become restless, bored, and dissatisfied with the seemingly incessant pace of ordinary life.   One of my former professors once stopped for the night at our home on his way across the country.   He had only known me when I was a university student in a specialized academic context.  When he visited us, my husband and I were in the throes of keeping our five young children properly fed, clothed, and out of danger. My days primarily consisted of preparing meals, grocery shopping, washing and ironing mountains of clothing, supervising outdoor play, and taking various toddlers to the bathroom.  That didn’t count homeschooling the homeschooled ones and helping the public-schooled ones with their homework assignments.  To top it off, we had moved from a beautiful, mountainous European nation to a dry, barren wilderness town in the Panhandle of Texas.  We were culturally, physically, and spiritually challenged.

As our professor friend prepared to resume his journey after less than 24 hours in our home, he inquired how I managed to survive in that environment.   I responded by explaining that I really didn’t have time to engage myself in any academic or cultural pursuits beyond my own routine of caring for the children.  “Do you find it fulfilling?,” he asked.  “I know it is my job at this point in my life,” I replied.

The fact was, I longed for significance.  Although I was familiar with the old adage, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,”  I failed to see any evidence of such greatness in my life.  Despite the fact that I adored my children, I began to wonder who I was.  The days were a blur of activity, yet I wondered whether I was pleasing God or not.

I had much yet to learn about the extraordinary nature of God and how He intervenes in our ordinary lives.  I did not understand the extraordinary power He imparts to our lives as ordinary people in our ordinary places.  The story of leprous Naaman the Syrian warrior in 2 Kings 5:1-19 illustrates this point well.  Naaman made the trek to visit the prophet Elisha for the purpose of requesting healing from his leprosy.  To Naaman’s astonishment and annoyance, Elisha advised him simply to wash in the Jordan River seven times, and he would be clean from the leprosy.   Naaman was clearly disappointed and even angry at this proposed solution to his problem, as he had expected the prophet to pronounce powerful words from God;  he had hungered for a more dramatic encounter.   Washing in a river seemed rather banal, as he could have done the same at home and spared himself the trouble.   However, Naaman’s servants persuaded him, saying, “My father! If the prophet had asked you to do something really difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So, doesn’t it make even more sense to do what he says, when it’s only, ‘Bathe, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13)

The story concludes with Naaman’s change of heart to obey the prophet’s directive to wash seven times in the Jordan River.  He was then completely cleansed of the leprosy that had afflicted him.  

This story grips my heart, as I realize that the Lord often injects His extraordinary power and presence in the humblest and most ordinary aspects of my life.  As I reflect on various scenarios of life with our children, I see certain glimpses of God’s glory, glory of which I was unaware or to which I was blinded at the time.  Their gifts, their quirks, their enthusiasm, their questions, their beautiful smiles and whimsical antics were expressions of God speaking of His extraordinary creative power.

He often works in ways we do not see.  He does not always trumpet forth His plan in advance.  He works extraordinary wonders in our daily, ordinary lives.   Our Lord is ordinarily (typically) EXTRAORDINARY and reveals Himself in our extraordinarily ORDINARY lives.   How wonderful He is!  Many of the miracles He works use very normal props:  loaves, fish, a stick, a rock, a word of hope.  Often, He has not exaggerated or dramatized His work in my life; He has simply done what He wanted to do, sometimes in the quiet, secret places of my daily routine.

Lord, open our eyes to see Your glory in the smallest things, in the most ordinary moments!  May Your Presence infuse our very being and transform us to experience Your miracle-working power in the apparently powerless places of our days!

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What Glasses Are You Wearing?

How do you see others?  Through dark glasses tinted by hurt?  Through rosy-colored glasses which gloss over problems?  Or through clear glasses, seeing as God wants you to see?  It makes a huge difference how we relate to others depending on how we see them.

Through prayer I’ve realized that I’ve sometimes seen others with dark or rosy-colored glasses.  I have been especially prone to this regarding people close to me.  Where there’s been problems in the past, related to the individual or not, I’ve found that my hurt and brokenness have given me poor vision at times.  I used to think it was how the others were, and, of course, there is truth to that.  After all, both individuals enter into relationship with their own brokenness that needs healing by God.  However, what I am responsible for is myself and my part in the relationship.  I can’t fix another’s problem.  I am to pray for healing for us both and do my part to promote a God-centered, healthy relationship.

What do I mean by dark glasses tinted by hurt?  Where there’s been rejection, perceived rejection, mistreatment, abuse, or neglect, we can wear dark glasses.  The relationship is filtered through the darkness.  Often there is anger, explosive or silent.  Unexpressed feelings or withdrawal because of fear.  Mistrust.  Misunderstanding heaped upon misunderstanding.  Thinking the worst when the facts prove otherwise.  Seeing the other with a skewed perspective, not a right perspective.  This all describes seeing the one who hurt you as well as others who have not hurt you that way but who resemble one who has.  Do you see anyone with dark glasses?

What about rosy-colored glasses?  When these glasses are worn, things look better than they are.  Rosy, bright, one could call this view optimistic although it’s not.  Why would anyone want to see things this way?  Sometimes we want it to be that way.  We don’t want to deal with the problems at hand in the relationship.  It seems easier to sweep the mess under the rug, so to speak, and ignore or deny it.  We can be afraid of the truth, afraid to confront when it’s necessary, afraid the relationship couldn’t hold up to working through problems.  Wearing rosy-colored glasses is a way of coping.  Do you see anyone with rosy-colored glasses?

The Lord wants us all to have clear vision, and He gives it to us as we ask.  The Spirit of Truth witnesses truth to us.   Truth brings clarity and right understanding in the relationship.  God’s Word is Truth and God heals.  “…(love) does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:6-8a NKJV)

We can hold onto hurt and pain or we can give it all to God asking Him to heal us.  We can choose to love and forgive unconditionally.  Even with what we thought were impossibly difficult and painful relationships, we can see with clear vision, we can be healed, and we can see what God will do in restoring and rebuilding our relationships.

“The LORD will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”      (Isaiah 58:11 NKJV)

May His living water spring up in you anew today, bringing clear vision and healing!

 

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The Word as Gauge and Guide

We who are called on mission for God must abide in His Word.  It is easy to get distracted, postpone, or neglect our daily time with the Lord.  We can slide into a pattern of picking up the Bible when we have “more time” or something else does not take precedence instead of making our priority Jesus as the Word.  Great benefits and blessings are ours as we give the Lord the “firstfruits” of our attention and devotion.  Additionally, we simply cannot complete our mission successfully if we don’t.

How is success measured?  In God’s eyes.

Joshua was called on mission to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River to a new land the LORD was giving them (Joshua 1:2).  He was to divide the land as an inheritance (1:6), which required defeating the enemies resident in the land as described in the book of Joshua.  It was a God-sized mission.  Joshua couldn’t have done it without depending on God and His provision.

When God called Joshua to it, He outlined the scope of the mission and also told him how to succeed.  “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (1:8, NKJV)

There are three things to note from the first sentence in verse 8.  First, the Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth.  Like Joshua, we are to speak the Word continually.  We are to speak truth over our circumstances from the Word.  We are to speak in faith knowing the power of the Word.  Secondly, like Joshua, we shall meditate in it day and night.  The Word is to be our focus, our go-to, our joy as we go through our days and nights.  This is true in the easier times as well as in the times of great struggle and difficulty.  The Word gives us the perspective, the wisdom, and the hope we need all the time.  Thirdly, we, like Joshua, are to “observe and do” (v. 8, AMP) according to all that is written.  It’s not just about agreeing with the Word, it’s about doing it.  It’s about making decisions about how to proceed with the issues at hand based on the Word.  And then, we are to take action based on the wisdom and truth of God’s glorious Word.

Verse 9 is God’s mandate to Joshua as well as to us today as to the way to successfully complete the mission.  “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and of good courage;  do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  When the going gets rough, when we feel stuck, when the obstacles seem too great, God is with us giving us all the strength and courage we need to overcome, press through, endure, and complete well His assignment.  He shows us how to replace fear with faith and dismay with renewed assurance.

How are we to do our mission?  By following God’s command to Joshua:  keep the Word front and center and go for it, trusting in the Lord to make the way.

 

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Holy or Unholy Roots?

RootsRecently, when on an evening walk in our neighborhood, my husband alerted me to a significant unevenness in the sidewalk. He wanted to alert me to a very real tripping hazard.  As I looked down, it was glaringly apparent that the sidewalk had been forcibly lifted up by subterranean roots of a tree adjacent to the edge of the concrete.  The lesson was not lost on me.  Aside from the obvious need to observe where I placed my feet in order to avoid stumbling, tripping, or even falling on my face, I suddenly realized that roots affect more than the plant they support.

In some cases, roots stretch deep into the soil below the plant they support; in other cases, roots spread out from the base of the plant and suddenly surface in unexpected places, thereby disturbing what has been placed there.

This disturbance can work both for good or for evil.  In the case of evil, unholy roots, the pernicious effect may remain underground, and therefore invisible, for a season; eventually, however, eventually those roots will surface and wreak destruction in the foundation of whatever has been established in the path of those roots.  Similarly, in the case of good, holy roots, the effect may be delayed until the plant reaches a significant point of growth.  At that critical point, the holy roots have the power to crack the foundation of darkness, no matter how long those roots may have lain invisible, seemingly powerless, below ground.

What’s the lesson?   Let’s examine the roots of our problems and not merely medicate the symptoms.   Those roots MATTER, and they impact those around us.   Are we striving valiantly to stuff our painful experiences from the past and move on, without truly processing them with the help of the Holy Spirit?  At some point, something will trigger those painful roots and cause additional pain.

Conversely, we can trust the holy ROOT (Revelation 22:16) — the Root and Offspring of David, Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ).  He is the Holy Seed that will continue to bear fruit that remains, fruit that transforms, fruit that is for food and leaves for healing (Ezekiel 47:12).

Moreover, the root affects the plant, including its branches.  Romans 11:16 admonishes us:  “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” (NKJV)  We can therefore conclude that our good and bad roots affect our branches, our fruit, and the impact we have on those around us.

Father, search my heart and expose any unholy roots in me!  Help me uproot anything unholy in my life, that I might be healed of everything unholy from my past.  Connect me  more strongly to the holy Root, the Offspring of David, Jesus Christ my Messiah, that I might bear good fruit AND have impact for Your Kingdom on those around me, in Jesus’ Name!

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Pass the Salt, Please!

As a young person growing up in an American household, I do not recall having a fondness for the squishy, nearly flavorless bread available on American grocery store shelves.  As a result, the only time I actually enjoyed eating bread was when my mother baked it herself, which usually was in conjunction with a special meal.  However, when I spent time in France and Germany as a university student, I discovered the marvels of REAL bread — bread from ordinary local bakeries that tasted heavenly, was surrounded with delicious crust, had substance, and actually required chewing prior to swallowing.  I suddenly understood what BREAD should be.  Although my personal preference in physical bread probably does not matter to anyone but me, I do believe God desires me to cultivate a taste for spiritual bread, bread that nourishes, bread that brings life, bread that has eternal weight.

As an adult, sometimes I feel overwhelmed and wonder if there is anything left of me!  When I am depleted — or close to being so — , I remember that I most likely need another serving of REAL bread — the Bread of Life. In John 6:48-51, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (NKJV)  

When I feel exhausted, used up, and empty, I can always turn to Jesus, the One Who loves me better than anyone else could ever love me.  He is the living Word, the Bread of Life, Who infuses me with His very own life.  He is always available, and He always listens.  He never grows stale.  He gives me His life to share with others, as He is the God of more than enough.  He gives me what I need, plus enough to give away.  The Living Word of God — Jesus Christ — is the source of strength and power in my life, and He wants to manifest Himself to others.

Sometimes, however, those around me may not be receptive to the Gospel; they may not wish to hear about God’s faithfulness, power, or sacrifice on our behalf.   Perhaps they have not yet acquired a taste for the Bread of Life.  After all, I have met people who do not realize that there is a better loaf than the ubiquitous and inappropriately-named “Wonder Bread.”  In that case, I need to remember that Jesus, the Bread of Life, also stated that those who believe in Him are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).   As salt, I need to be willing to be poured out on behalf of others (just as Jesus was poured out and sacrificed for me).  

I recall devouring my mother’s homemade dinner rolls with a generous sprinkling from the salt shaker at the table.  Somehow, those rolls, though light and deliciously buttery, tasted even better with salt.   Is it possible that the Holy Spirit is inviting me to be sprinkled over the Bread of Life as I share God’s love and kindness with those around me?  Am I truly the salt on the Bread?  Is God inviting me to enhance the flavor of His Presence as I am poured out for others?  He surely can show me creative ways to present His life to them, ways that will help them desire His goodness for themselves.

Father, help me to be the salt that attracts people to taste of the Bread of Life!  Show me where you want to turn me upside down and sprinkle your goodness on those in my circles of influence!

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The Wedding Garment

IMG_20190303_130717982Less than two years ago, a friend and I decided to visit the owners of a local business as a simple act of kindness.  It turned out that the business was owned and operated by a family from India.  Unlike some American-born business owners, this family was very receptive to our unexpected visit.  They did not seem to mind taking the time to simply chat with us, even though we were not purchasing anything at all from their company. We were intrigued by their receptivity, and we continued to stop by a couple of times a month.  Sometimes their young adult son would welcome with us, and other times the owner’s wife and mother-in-law came to the door to greet us.   Ultimately, we met the owner, one of his other young adult children, and one of the grandchildren.   Over the course of that first year, we discussed food, travel, family, ethnic customs, language, challenges, and shopping.  It was clear that they were not bothered by our visits, which we never announced in advance.  We simply stopped by on our way to another regular errand we planned, and this place of business was on our way to that location.  

One evening, the son in the family announced to us that he was getting married in less than a year, and he invited us to the wedding.  Naturally, we were surprised and delighted at the prospect, as we counted it a privilege to be included; after all, we were outsiders with respect to their cultural and religious circle.   The parents then began talking with us about the wedding plans and clearly assumed we would be coming.   We could hardly believe that they would invite us to this momentous family event!   

As the day drew near, the mother made the arduous journey to India to shop for materials for the extra-festive sarees for herself, her own mother, and for a few of the close relatives who required special wedding clothes for the various ceremonies.  She explained how important the clothing would be for the family, and she showed us photos on her phone of some of the exquisite dresses worn by brides, grooms, and their families in India of late.   We were in awe of the bright colors, the beautiful fabrics, and the extravagance of the beading on many of the sarees.

When she returned home from India, we stopped by to visit the family again.   This time she presented us with small, exquisitely woven clutch bags as gifts from her trip.   She spoke of the food she would be preparing and the organization of the various ceremonies in different locations over the course of the wedding week.   These conversations were intriguing to us, as the wedding celebration seemed much more extensive than a typical American wedding.

A few weeks prior to the first event, which was to be hosted by the groom’s family, she presented us with exquisitely designed wedding invitations. Not only were we ourselves invited, but she and her family were inviting our husbands as well (even though our husbands had never met the family!).  Of course, we readily accepted this generous invitation and were excited to witness this wedding!

About ten days before the big day, when we asked whether we should wear short or long formal dresses for the ceremony, this precious woman brought out complete wedding garments for us to wear!   We were overwhelmed at the sight of the sarees and matching tops!   Then she and her mother gladly demonstrated how to put on the elaborately jewelled material by wrapping it around themselves multiple times and how to secure it at the end of the process.  

When the wedding day arrived, we each (predictably!) had some difficulty in wrapping ourselves in the beautiful fabric.  I had to enlist my husband’s help, and my friend’s daughter helped her.  The clothing was heavy with jewels and challenging to wrap properly and tuck in securely.  It was unfamiliar to us, yet we made every effort to ensure we looked appropriately dressed for this very special day in the life of our new friend’s family.

For me, the parallels to my relationship with God were poignant and moving.   In response to the least overture on my part, our Father receives me warmly and kindly.  He draws near to me whenever I cry out to Him.  He calls me His friend when I have done nothing to deserve that status.  He clothes me with a garment of praise and garments of salvation.  His Son shed His atoning Blood for me and  now dresses me in a robe of righteousness, “as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”  (Isaiah 61: 3, 10 NIV)  Jesus  calls me His bride and invites me to the wedding feast.  And, although I may have difficulty learning to wear those garments of praise and robes of righteousness, and I may find it a challenge to walk in my new clothes, I am thrilled and grateful for His overwhelmingly generous provision for me!

The fact that this hospitable mother-of-the-groom decided to call us her friends, though we were foreigners to her culture, and  bought us the wedding garments (mine was red, no less!), when we did not deserve to be included in her family, reminded me of all that Jesus has done for me.  God used a woman from India to demonstrate to me what He has provided for Me through His Son! 

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Father, help me to allow You to clothe me in Your righteousness! Help me to keep the garments of praise and salvation securely fastened, and empower me to walk steadily when I feel I cannot take another step without falling.  Teach me to wear well the clothes You have given me at such a high price to Yourself! 

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A Girl Named Gomer — What’s in a Name?

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Many of us are familiar with the character Gomer Pyle on the old Andy Griffith television series. For decades, I associated the name Gomer  with that type of character — a simple, naive, good-hearted MA.   Because that name was locked in my brain as a man’s name, I always felt sorry for that poor woman in the Bible — a prostitute, no less — who bore the name Gomer, which I considered too masculine (and far from enticing).   I even wondered why God would call a prophet like Hosea to marry a woman with such a homely name!

Studying Hebrew one day a few years ago, I was engaged in conjugating the verb that means “to finish or complete or perfect, to bring to a close.”  That verb is rendered as לגמר (ligmor), and — guess what! — the form of that verb that means he finishes, completes, or makes perfect is nothing other than GOMER!  So, that means that Hosea (a variant of Yeshua or Joshua, meaning he will save) will complete or finish or make perfect his bride!  Hosea the prophet serves as a type of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who completes and finishes His Bride!  What a picture of our destiny as believers in Jesus!

When we read Psalm 138:8, we hear the psalmist declare:  The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”  The word used for will perfect is none other than yigmor, the future tense of gomer.  Moreover, Paul reiterates God’s promise to complete the work He begins in us through Christ Jesus.  In Philippians 1:6, he writes “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (NLT).

Evidently, Gomer is not a bad name at all!   Do I want Jesus to complete His perfect work in me?   Absolutely!   For that matter, have I been unfaithful to His commandments and character at times in my life?   Definitely!  In that sense, I am no better than the prostitute Gomer in the Book of Hosea.   As such, I welcome the completing, finishing, perfecting work of my Messiah Yeshua, and I myself am more than honored to be reminded that my name is really Gomer, for My Lord is in the process of completing and perfecting me to reflect His glory!  I suppose that, if a boy can be named Sue, a girl can be named Gomer!  🙂

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