Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gotta Love the Accent.. and the Message....

     This is really just to share a book that I downloaded on my kindle.*  It's called Nine Minutes Past Midnight by Dr.  Earnest Crocker.  He is a well-known physician who was the first to really use ultra sound. I'm not up on medical things (clearly)  but I gather that he was in charge of the nuclear medicine department in a teaching hospital.  At any rate, that is all waayyyy over my head.
      He's a Christian and in his book he tells how he, a Christian rationalist, came to understand that God sometimes heals patients when their need is beyond human capability.  Eventually he  came to see God as the silent partner in his practice and found that rationalism and faith could coexist well both in and out of the medical field.
    The book  begins with a description of  the medical case which  convinced Dr. Crocker that God does heal.  And then the rest of the book describes accounts he has garnered from reputable Christian doctors all over the world explaining how they also  became convinced that God was working along side them and at times producing results that went beyond their own medical skill.
    I went to the You Tube video because... I like Australian/British accents, honestly!  But the message, which only lasts about 30 minutes, made a lot of sense and is inspiring so I decided to re-post it here (for your viewing pleasure???)  :)
*I haven't read much of the book yet so if it gets flaky, I'm not responsible for its contents.
  Come to think of it, I'm not responsible even if it doesn't... :)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

No Small Thing....

     Back in the old days... and I mean the really old days, thousands of years before I was born, friends (and also enemies) could enter into a covenant agreement with each other - an agreement usually sealed with some type of blood ceremony.
     I don't know if  a lot of Christians realize this - I didn't until a few months ago - but when a person becomes a follower of Christ, he enters into a covenant relationship with God.  Covenant partners share their possessions, their homes, their wealth, and "cover" each other with their reputations if possible. As in: he is my covenant brother.  If he owes you anything, I will guarantee that it is paid even if I have to pay it myself.
     Leaving that thought for a minute, I want to transition to another one:   a case of identity, true, mistaken, stolen, or otherwise.:)  Christians frequently hear or see lists of who they are according to Scripture.  These lists may go something like this:
    I am a new creation.  II Cor. 5:17
    I am saved from sin.   John 3:16

    Those lists don't help me much because they don't always feel like they "fit" me.   Some do; some don't.   So today I started making my own identity list of things I've not only read about  in Scripture over the years but that also God has shown me in various ways.  I started with Eph. 3:17 which was in my last blog:      I am rooted and grounded in God's love.
    My next one was:  I have a title deed to a dwelling place in Heaven. Jesus is preparing it for me even now.  John 14:1-4
   And then:  I am rich in all the things that matter to God.  II Cor. 8:9.
   And then:  I am cloaked in God's righteousness.  II Cor. 5:21.
   As I was making my own list of who I am in Christ, the truth of covenant suddenly hit me again and if I can, I'd like to show you how:
   When I believed in Christ, He came to live in my heart.  Someday I will live in His home.  Covenant partners share their homes with each other.
   Christ is divine, royal,  and fabulously wealthy in an other-worldly way that I can't imagine.  But II Cor. 8:9 says that He temporarily became poor so that we might become rich permanently. In other words, as covenant partners I brought what I had to the table - poverty - while  He brought His riches.   There we "sat down" and made the exchange - He handing over His riches to me while accepting the poverty of my broken humanity, taking the title for a while of Son of Man. While I changed from Daughter of Eve to a Child of God. (John 1:12) 
    In the same way, according to II Cor. 5:21, on the  day we became covenant partners, Christ brought His reputation, His righteousness to the table while  I brought, um, basically mine - characterized by sin -  to the table.  There  He covered me with the clean robe of His righteousness while taking my stained garment of sin and wearing it  to court, to the place of execution,  and to the grave where it remains to this day and forever.
   And now He lives forever at the right hand of God where He makes intercession for me and for all His covenant partners, He the strong partner who ever reaches down in love to me, the weak one.

   So now I can add to my identity list that  I am a forever covenant partner with  Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
   And that, my friend, is no small thing.*

*He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the rightousness of God in Him.  II Cor. 5:21.
  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.  II Cor. 8:9
  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1
 And according to Romans 8:37-39, nothing will ever be able to separate me from the love of my covenant partner and Lord.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Grow Where You Have Been Planted... :)


     True confession... :)
      When I was in my twenties, I joined a Bible study and was assigned to a discussion group.  My discussion leader was a woman about my age and I immediately felt barriers rising up in me as soon as I sat in her group that first night.  Why?
      Because... Nan was everything I wanted to be... and wasn't. She was drop dead beautiful with a sweet voice and personality to match.  She was married and she was expecting her first child.  Me?  I had never even been nominated  for the job of handing out programs at the school pageant  let alone been confused with a potential  beauty pageant contestant.  And while my plan was to get married at the age of 19, it actually didn't happen until I was, um, 32.... So when I went into the Bible class, I was very single and very much aware of it. And as for having children, which I desperately wanted, that wasn't on the cards for me until I married sooo... In my mid twenties I was loving my nieces and nephews but also wondering if I would ever have any babies of my own.

      Then, one night at our first fellowship, I noticed that Nan had on a beautiful necklace with a heart-shaped pendent.  Someone  asked her if her husband had given it to her and she replied that it had actually come from her dad.  Apparently he gave her a gift on every Valentine's day.
     Oh!!!  What I wouldn't have given for a father like that!!!  I would have killed to have had a dad like that!!!
     For me, that was the final straw.
      I went home that night, got into bed with my Bible study materials, bowed my head, and told God that He would have to put me in another discussion group.  I patiently explained to Him that I could not learn from Nan because every time I looked at her, all I could see were the gifts  that I had not been given: great beauty, a husband, children, and most of all, a loving dad.  After I told God what He needed to do for me :), I added this caveat: so please show me how to move to another discussion group without hurting anyone's feelings .. .or change my heart.
     Ha!  Let me tell you, in a benign situation like that - don't even bother with the other stuff - go straight to the "change my heart" deal because that's what He's going to do, trust me on this!
    After I had prayed - rationally and reasonably, I thought -  I opened up my Bible to Genesis and began doing my study.  Soon a cross reference sent me to Ephesians 3:14-21.  I was familiar with that passage and  didn't expect anything new from it.  However, when I got to v. 17, these words seemed to jump off the page towards me:  rooted and grounded in love....
    And then I felt as if God were speaking to my heart and this is what I believed He was saying to me:  Cathie, do you think that just because you can't call Me on the phone or see me write out a check for you - do you think that I am any less of a father to you than Nan's father is to her?
    It was a powerful moment in my life. I immediately got out of bed, fell to my knees, and thanked Him for being my Abba.  Then I started to watch for practical signs of His father love for me -  and they came!  One after the other, they came! And I knew by the time I turned 30 that God is indeed a great Father to the fatherless.  And, as you've probably guessed, God changed my heart so that I came to love Nan deeply and missed her when she was no longer my discussion leader.
    But that was a long time ago so why am I writing about it now?
    Saturday evening, after reading a few chapters in Undaunted by Christine Caine, I was deeply impacted by her account of how God's love sustained her through a major crisis. As soon as the crisis hit, she fell back on Father love and found it more than sufficient.   I wondered:  why don't I live everyday and walk everyday in the assurance of my Father's love?  I had experienced His love.  I had seen evidences of it.  I knew He was real and living and more powerful than I could imagine.  So why were most of my days lived apart from that sense of:   God loves me, God is near me?
     Since I didn't know, I went to the only One who does.   I asked my Heavenly Abba and in answer, He brought to mind that evening over 30 years ago when He so clearly spoke to me from Ephesians 3:17.   In my mind's eye, I could distinctly remember seeing the words, "rooted and grounded in love" and I could also remember thinking something like, "That will be wonderful when it happens!"  As I thought back to this time, I felt that God was saying to me, "Cathie, I wasn't telling you that you would be grounded in My love; I was telling you that you already were rooted in My love."
      I wanted to argue:  How can that be?  I'm still a mess!  I can still fall out of bed and put my sweat shirt on inside out and not notice it until noon when someone points it out to me!  I'm still the one who sticks my foot in my mouth and then literally  cringes later as I think about what I said! I'm the one who fails friends and loses my temper and slinks out of some of my responsibilities (I don't like housework....)  I'm the one who lives in a world of "what ifs" and often is startled like a rabbit at the sight of my own shadow, so to speak.  God! This is me You are talking to!  Remember????

      And then it hit me.  Ephesians 3:17 is using plant terminology. I can't grow much of anything besides Amaryllises and Morning Glories. But I know from watching the Amaryllis plants grow that they can be half dead and then, when they seem beyond all hope, you can re-pot them in better soil, turn a fluorescent light on them 24-7, water them faithfully and many times they will go on to produce beautiful, exotic blooms.  First however, their initial stalks may produce stunted flowers or nothing at all. Then, as the new stalks spring out of the new soil they will produce huge, vibrant flowers.  And then, voila!  Change happens once more - only this time it doesn't look so good!  The beautiful blooms die, a new stalk springs up while the old one is wilting and the process begins again.
     In other words, being rooted and grounded does not mean that the plant looks good all the time or never undergoes change of any sort.  In fact, the plant is constantly changing during its life time.
    When the plant looks great, it's roots are drinking deeply of the potting soil. And then when  the first stalk is starting to look sickly and another is just beginning to show above the dirt, the plant is still drinking deeply from the very same soil.
     And so it is with God's children.  Once we are saved, we are rooted and grounded in His love. It's a fact. It's our foundation for living.  But in the warp and woof of life, sometimes our fruit will look beautiful and sometimes our stalks will be drooping and our flowers will be stunted or non-existent.
      But this is the deal - if the gardener is good at what He does, the soil hasn't changed!
     The last thing that came to me about all this was: sometimes I just don't consciously think about God's love because... I'm uncomfortable with it.  Let me switch from plants to people for a minute and then I'll be done with this  - promise! I'm just wondering, generally speaking, which is better for a child?  To have parents that are belittling, unloving, demanding, and difficult to please?  Or to have parents who are loving, affirming, able to discipline and also able to guide?
    In other words, getting really crazy here and mixing potted plants and unpotted kids in altogether, I'm asking:   which environment provides better soil for a child's heart to grow in?
    I think the answer is obvious.
    So which kind of Father is God?
    I think the answer to that is also obvious.
    So why  do I sometimes  relate to God as if He were belittling, demeaning, and hard to please?
    As if He gives love when I do right and snatches it away when I mess up or do wrong?
    How did I get that idea?
    I mean, isn't the ground where life begins, where it springs from? And doesn't the soil nurture the plant on days when it looks good as well as  on days when it's undergoing necessary changes and maybe looks like a plant reject?
    You can see where I've had things all wrong. For decades, I've thought that God's love is what I earn by the plants I produce. I never fully realized that it's the soil from which my very life, made up of temporary successes and temporary mess-ups, springs from.
     I guess it all comes down to this:  who's your daddy?
     If you have the same one as mine, you are - not will be, but are -  rooted and grounded in His love. And to paraphrase Paul, may your tendrils (and mine!) grow further and further into that foundational love until we know through experience the breadth, length, height, and depth of it.



Monday, January 21, 2013

Jennifer Rothschild.... a Neat Lady!

     This is not really a blog... :)
     I just love this and wanted to share it.
     The woman who sings it, Jennifer Rothschild, has been blind since the age of 15 and I'm soo attracted to her sweet spirit and her serenity.
     I'm sure she has her moments where her feathers get ruffled, the dog goes bananas, the wash is towering over the washer, and the kids are searching for her last nerve... I'm not saying she's perfect, just that I think she's light years ahead of me and I hope I can learn from her!

By Our Father's Love...

     Who am I?
     When I say something stupid - which I do from time to time - does that mean I'm stupid?
      When my father's last words to me were, "You are nothing but a d___ fool woman like your mother!" - was that true?
      When my friend was reminded frequently that she was just an "accident"... was she?
       By the same token, I had an acquaintance who was repeatedly told growing up that he was brilliant.  He wasn't.  He was probably above average but not brilliant.  But did that matter?
       What I mean is: do you have to be brilliant, beautiful, wanted, or even acceptable, shall we say, in a parent's eyes?
        I don't know about being beautiful, brilliant, or wanted as being necessary for life.  But I do think that everyone needs to be accepted by someone, preferably a parent.
       Christine Caine, in her book, Undaunted, talks about how she had everything stacked against her.  She came from a poor housing development in the poorest part of her province.  Her family were immigrants and therefore despised by the locals.  She was a girl in an ethnic culture that devalued women in general.  And she was repeatedly abused by several men from the time she was 3 years old until she turned 15.  And then, when she was almost 33, she learned to her total shock that she had been adopted at birth.
       And if that weren't enough, when she finally saw her adoption papers, she learned that her biological father was unknown and that she herself had been unnamed by her birth mom.  Shaken to her foundation, she grappled with the fact that at birth she had been nothing more than just a number to her birth mom.
      However, after she read her adoption file, she turned to Isaiah 49 at the prompting of the Spirit, and read, "The Lord called me from the womb;  From the body of my mother, He named me...."  From there she went to other passages such as Psalms 139:13-16.
      Finally, she took her adoption file in one hand and her Bible in the other, held them up, and asked herself which one she would accept as "truth".  Her choice to stand on Scripture has made all the difference in her life.
      Sometimes my husband and I help out at  a local  food bank. I see all kinds of people walking through those doors on Sunday afternoon.  Some look healthy and fit. Others limp into the building.  Some enunciate simple ideas with great deliberation and effort. A few have been ravaged by old age.  At the opposite end of the spectrum,  there are young adults who bring their children into the building and - probability being what it is - I would guess that some of those kids were not exactly wanted at one time.  But you can't tell it by looking at them or their parents - at least I can't. The kids all laugh and play, fuss and whine like kids the world over.
      Actually, I think I can look at the adults and probably predict with greater accuracy which of those are currently unwanted and unloved as they limp through life, emotionally and/or physically.
      And as I look at the ones who are maybe not easy to love, I have to remind myself that there is Someone who loves them.  A Father who knew them before they were born and who cherishes them regardless of where they've been, what they've done, what life has done to them, or what "label" others have stamped on them.
      And that's why we volunteer at this food bank.
      Because they can not only get a hot meal and a box of food on Sunday afternoons, they can also, if they choose, hear the truth:   that they have a Father who loves them just as they are...
      without one plea...
       but that His blood was shed for them...
        For them...
        In a society that prides itself on its intellectual achievements, may we learn this simple truth:
        Every child is loved...
        And we are not defined by what we do or how others see us...
        We are defined by our Father's love.


Friday, January 18, 2013


     Sometimes you just need a friend.
     Sometimes you just need to chill.
     Sometimes you just need for the electric fence to start working and/or one of your four dogs (2 males and 2 females) to go out of heat until said fence starts working again. (There is something about an electric fence transmitter that doesn't like lightning...  There is something about me that doesn't like 4 dogs in the house, one of them being in heat... 'nuff said...)
     Sometimes instead of looking at the mountain in front of you,whatever it  may be, you need to sit down, grab a cup of herbal tea and remember that the mountain will still be there when your sanity is restored and your feet don't hurt anymore.  And that it's easier to climb mountains when your feet don't hurt.  And, to borrow a couple of cliches, this too shall pass and somehow it will all get done... or maybe the quotes should go the other way round.  Don't know - still working on the cup of herbal tea.
     And sometimes you just need to go visit a friend, sit back and laugh, learn from them - and their friends - and just get away from the mountain entirely.
    Today was a day to visit friends and friends of friends, talk about dogs, snowmen, eyebrow waxing, the trials of being female, the fun of  home schooling, and the incongruity of an early morning sale  at Dollar General out in the middle of nowhere... sort of.  Like will people really line up at 5 a.m., coupon clutched in hand, for bargains at Dollar General???
    Only time will tell... tune in for the next thrilling installment in a life restored, sanity re-born..:)
    Thanks, Angie.  Even if this blog doesn't make sense to anyone else, it will to you:)  I owe you!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Thoughts From Acts...

      The Gospel matters.  
      As in it's summarized in chapter 1:1-9.  Again in ch. 2:22-38.  Again in ch. 3:13-23.  Again in ch. 4:8-12.  Again in ch. 5:29-32.  And I know Stephen is fixing to lay it on them yet again in ch. 7 even though I haven't gotten there yet.  
    In fact, recounting the Gospel  matters so much that the apostles literally took beatings, imprisonment, etc. and kept on ticking... They just kept telling the story and seemed happy to do so.  This man, Jesus the Nazarene, whom you crucified... the King of life... the Prince of Peace...  Whom God foreordained to die in your place... Repent and believe.... There is no other name given under Heaven by which we may be saved... 
  Wow.  They just seemed to love to tell the story.
  And they didn't vary it to suit their audience.  There is no other name given under Heaven...
  And after they were beaten for being redundant and telling this story again, even after they had been warned not to do so, they were still happy.  I think the text says they went on their way rejoicing, already planning their next sermon (or something like that).
  I guess they didn't realize that everybody goes to Heaven, regardless of what they believe, and that those beatings, imprisonments, and executions were totally unnecessary. Not to mention the death of Christ Himself.
  Unless they were right in which case...
 The Gospel matters...
  And maybe we should be telling it?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

More than a bowl of tomato soup - 10 on 10th

Our church is doing the Daniel fast for 21 days.  Phil and I are doing a modified version of the fast since we didn't make it the whole 3 weeks last year. Hopefully we'll stay the course this time.  The things below are just thoughts that have surfaced over the first four day period.

1.  Thankfulness.  It seems to  comes much  easier when there's much less.   Right now, when lunch rolls around and it's time for my bowl of tomato soup, I really, really appreciate it. I actually savor it.   Before I might be out shopping and trying to decide what I'd have for lunch, which restaurant I'd go to if I didn't go home to eat, etc.  And often, no matter what I got, I wasn't totally happy with it because there were so many other places I could have gone. I wasn't truly thankful. Now I have much less for lunch, fewer options, and yet I'm really grateful.

2.  Simplicity.  Last year I went out and bought expensive "health foods" that were allowed on the Daniel fast, some of which we just never ate.  (Regular oatmeal can't go much lower on the food scale and still be palatable.  And Ezekiel bread isn't bread...  Ditto for all natural peanut butter..)  This year we're sticking with some simple, cheaper options which means our expectations are not for a major feast but rather for something else. Or Someone Else, we hope...

3. Priorities.  I have it so easy because I'm retired.  Phil has it tough. Last night he went to bed early (day 3 of working without any caffeine) and when I came into the bedroom an hour or so later, he was asleep in a semi-sitting up position, lamp on beside his bed, his Bible and journal spread out on his lap, and his pen still upright in his hand.  I know he was exhausted when he came home and I know he wanted to watch a movie.  But he didn't.  He gets upset with himself when he falls asleep reading his Bible which happens occasionally; to me it just says he's trying to keep his priorities straight after a long day at work.  And I think God will honor that.

4.  Affirmation.   Many mornings the first thing I want to do is check Face Book.  I look for "likes" on my last status updates, for news of what is going on with my friends, and for any comments my friends have made.  My heart tells me I need to go to God for affirmation (and correction, guidance, etc) but often I give in and hit FB first "for just a few minutes."  Sometimes those minutes stretch into an hour or so.   Now there's no struggle about  getting alone with God first thing in the morning. Basically He has no competition!  (As part of the fast, some people went cold turkey on FB and I am one of them.  And yes, I did have withdrawal symptoms ...which we won't discuss...:)

5.  Humility.  See point number 4 above.... :)  What I'm saying is maybe I need a little more humility instead of so much affirmation from FB.  If that makes sense.  Is it really good for part of each day to be driven by the number of "likes" and comments I get on the things I've posted?  Not sure.  Thinking it through.

6.  Listening.   Frankly, I find that I'm not very good at listening for anything God might tell me. This was a bit of a surprise to me.  God has spoken to my heart in times past and it's not always been what I wanted to hear but it's always been good.  Right now, however, I find that I want to do more talking than listening.  Is this because I've simply gotten into the habit of  being in the driver's seat, doing all the talking?  Or am I holding Him at bay with "prayer chatter" the way a relative does with us because she doesn't want to give us the opportunity to discuss deep seated issues that she has?  Also thinking that through.

7.  Knowing.   On the fourth day of this fast, I find myself hungering to know God.  When the trips to this place or that are pared down, as they are while I'm on a simplified diet, it has really dawned on me that the most important thing in all the world is ... knowing Him.  As He is. Not as I sometimes want to make Him out to be.  Maybe He's not always Comfortable God... but He's God.

8.  Love.  We've been studying Hosea in our Sunday School and these verses have been riveting for me:
     Break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord... 10:12
     Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in  My arms; But they did not know I healed them...  11:3
     How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I surrender you, O Israel?...My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled.  11:8
    I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely....14:4
    Does God love this much?  Is He willing to make Himself this vulnerable?
     I heard someone announce recently that their husband had found a younger woman and so she (the wife) was having to move suddenly, without any warning, after 20 years of marriage.  I knew she had to be hurting but she hid it well, showing only a brief flicker of disdain and anger before shrugging her shoulders and saying, "I'll be fine."  She didn't want to make herself vulnerable by showing how much his adultery and rejection had hurt her.  And I understood that - it's natural to protect ourselves when we've been slammed by a loved one.
    So again, I look at the story of Hosea and ask with tears in my eyes...
    Does God love us this much... this deeply... with this much longing.. to the point that He is willing to make Himself, almighty God, vulnerable to puny,always straying,  disdainful man?
    If so, this is love.

9.  Weightiness. If what I've written above is true, then His love is no light thing.  It's huge, weighty, worth more than anything else that we can find or grasp.  Can this be true? Is there such a deep longing in His heart for even me? For all of us?  Even on the days when my thoughts center around, "What's on FB...? Where will I eat today...? Why didn't I get  a steak instead of a burger...?  How can there be another load of clothes to wash...?  Why don't I have the things that my neighbor has...?  I need  ______(a nap, a riveting mystery novel, a new purse, a fun movie, anything but God....because He's always there, right?)
     Sorry for being redundant. But if this is how He loves me, it's weighty (for lack of a better word!)

10.  Thankfulness. Back where I started. If God loves me that much in spite of, not because of, then I have more than just a bowl of tomato soup to be thankful for. Ya reckon???

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

There Is always Hope...

      I sort of knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  But not totally.
      Sometimes it's easier for me to figure out who or what  I don't want to be as opposed to the other...
      Right now I'm working my way through an Old Testament book that I've avoided for almost 60 years, if that tells you anything. And I have to say that I now know without a shadow of a doubt I would not want to be in Ezekiel's shoes...er, sandals.
       Years ago, when I had the privilege of sitting in on an international Bible class, I remember vividly a lesson on Abraham and Isaac. How God promised Abraham a son. How Abraham waited quite a while for that promise to be fulfilled.  And how, after the long-awaited son had been given, one day God told Abraham to sacrifice that son.
       I remember to this day when  the teacher stopped in the narrative and asked the students to put themselves in Abraham's place.  Then she asked them how they would have responded to God's request.  One student from S. Korea looked at the text, looked at the teacher, looked at the text again and blurted out, "I would say, 'God, You are crazy!"
     I can only imagine what he would say to many of the passages in Ezekiel...ha!
     How do you read a book like Ezekiel... or is it even really meant to be read?  Maybe someone else  just slipped  it into the canon of Scripture when no one else was looking?
     I can't say I understand the book totally (and I'm only up to chapter 20...).  But I can say that using a modified form of Kay Arthur's study method (which I am sure is not unique to her) has helped a bunch.  For the first time, the book actually makes sense to me.
     This  study method centers around answering who, what, when, where, why, and how and also encourages the student to color code key words and repetitive phrases. I don't try to answer every question on every chapter. And sometimes I don't find the "when" information that helpful.  This time, however, I did.
     For one thing, Ezekiel's messages were delivered over a 20 year span. Reading it chapter by chapter over a period of days is like cramming a 100 course meal into a 30 minute lunch; it can lead not only to spiritual indigestion but can  also give a mistaken impression of Ezekiel as the 24/7 gloom and doom CNN prophet of the ancient world.
    Second, the list of impending judgments in Ezekiel is pretty severe.  But early on God tells Ezekiel to lie on his side fora little over 400 days - one day for every year of Israel and Judah's apostasy.  When I started reading the "woe-unto-you" messages, I found myself thinking, "Wow. God is really pretty harsh here!"  Then  as I read farther into the catalog of Israel's sins, it suddenly hit me, "Wait a minute!  Is he saying that these people engaged in wholesale murder, witchcraft, idolatry, and child sacrifice off and on for 4 centuries???"  Okay... I'm saying that if I knew my neighbors were putting their firstborn through the fire, I wouldn't wait 4 seconds to do something, let alone 400 years.
   So then I had something new to think about: the long-suffering patience  of God toward His people.
   As I continued to read in Ezekiel, I realized that God, through the prophet, is laying out a case against His own people and that "case" involves  enumerating their sins which involved a cycle of sorts.  The cycle went like this:  God would reveal Himself to them and the people would obey.  Then as they became prosperous, they would begin to rebel, wanting to be like the pagan neighbors surrounding them.  This would break God's heart and endanger the people as they relied on  false allies (instead of God) and adopted cruel "worship" techniques as well as a sort of "anything goes" type of mentality.  So God would send or allow national trauma to come their way, often in the form of rotten kings who would exploit the people for their own purposes.
     These difficult times would lead the people to repent and cry out to God for help.  He would always hear and rescue them.  But then the cycle would start again: prosperity to arrogance to blatant national sins to judgment.  Now, after 400 years of putting up roadblocks periodically to turn the people back to Himself, God has obviously had it.  Israel is headed for judgment on an unprecedented scale.
    And yet, through Ezekiel, God is still trying to reach them, still trying to warn them.
   Understanding this time frame - the long record of sin in their history as a nation and the decades of warning and prophecy that God gave them through Ezekiel - all this gave me a different perspective on this prophetic book.
     But there is one more thing about the timing of these messages that is so typical of most, if not all, of the prophets and that is future hope.  This message encompasses the past, the present, and the near future of Israel and none of that looks very good.
     Yet in the midst of the litany of sins committed by the people and the judgments they are in the process of bringing on their own heads, there is a word of hope and that is that these judgments will not be in vain.  Their suffering will not be wasted.  The ones who survive the harrowing times that are coming - those will eventually  be regathered into their land. Because of their afflictions, they will seek God, abhor idolatry,  and experience His blessings once again without straying.  Beyond that, there is an even greater time coming when dry bones will live and the people as a whole will experience a heart transplant, God's heart for theirs, His ways for theirs...
     To have a new heart, one that instinctively wants to love God with every fiber of it's being and one that  also desires to love others as himself, that's no small thing.  What a promise!
      Maybe their past was not so good... (Can we say understatement?)  And maybe the present is pretty bleak... And maybe things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better...
     But when God promises "better", no one can beat it.
    The God of Abraham, Isaac, and, yes, also Ezekiel, is not crazy except perhaps in His patience and overwhelming love for us.  He is just, yes. And He allows us to make our own beds and then lie in them, as we say in the South.  But He never leaves us in the painful  past or the frightening  present, always He points us to a future day... of hope... with Him.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Looking back...

      Somehow  I learned how to read.
      I don't think I was always in the Bluebird Reading circle.  Somehow, I think I ended up in the Happy Squirrels reading circle in second grade, which was not a stellar year for me as I recall.  But I still learned how to read.  And do cursive.
      I don't think I ever liked my school clothes.  I mostly wore hand-me-downs from my older sister and, therefore,  was seldom an icon of elementary high fashion.  If my jeans were patched, it was because they really needed to be.  But I don't remember being scarred by any of that.
     I really didn't like saddle oxfords.  In first grade, my assigned hallway and bathroom "buddie" would kick me with hers when no one was looking.  To this day I have no idea why we didn't like each other.  I just know saddle oxfords are not the thing to be kicking people with.  After I figured out she could kick faster and harder than I could, I asked to be assigned another hallway buddie and that took care of that.  Today, I guess my parents would sue the school and demand that the school provide counseling.  And maybe people would watch me for the next ten years or so to see if I was going to retaliate for being bullied by  bringing a gun to school or not... Sadly...
     I don't remember scintillating reading/workbook material in the elementary grades.  As I recall, Spot was pretty slow off the mark and Jane wasn't in the running for Wittiest Girl in the yearbook line up.  I do remember spending about an hour a day two or three times a week practicing writing in third grade, usually at the end of the day when the teacher was a bit frazzled.  When she told us to sit and write, we did.
    And I recall waiting with baited breath for the day when I could use skinny pencils with real erasers instead of the fat ones without.
   I also recall being assigned a memory verse to work on each week - the teacher gave it to us on Monday and we had to recite it on Friday. By second grade, I had already decided that the Bible was too wordy.  One verse in particular gave me fits because it was "too" long; as a result, I totally disliked it.  In my college days, it would come back to me and be my favorite verse for those tumultuous years.  It was Matthew 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you."
   A hundred years ago, when I was in junior high and high school, my parents could not check on my grades with  the click of a mouse. This probably saved my life several times over. Seriously:)
   But the main thing I recall learning, along with science, math, history, language, etc was that the world did not revolve around me.  If my grades were slipping, my parents dealt with me and not the teacher. My grades never slipped for long.  Somehow, in spite of lost reading notebooks and a sour attitude toward math in the seventh grade, I graduated from high school and college with honors.  I guess my parents and teachers also knew how to correct "sour attitudes..."
   In fact, when I made the mistake of complaining about a junior high teacher being "forgetful" and "stupid", my mother made me cut a piece of paper up into 130 tiny squares.  Then she explained to me that my teacher dealt with this many kids every single day and that if she occasionally forgot something, it was small wonder.  Then she lectured me about respect. And then she made me pick up the pieces and throw them in the trash.  I never called a teacher stupid again after that. (Although we did imitate our college professors once I left home.. .Actually great fun... :)
    I don't know if the educational system was "better" back in the 1960's - I just know that, for me at least, it worked.
    Somehow, I learned the things that I needed to know.  And that didn't include just math, history, science, and language...
    And perhaps the most important thing I learned was that the educational system (and indeed the world) did not revolve around me.