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Provisions for the Soul …

July 10, 2016

You can find my latest ponderings and posts at Provisions for the Soul.

a new YOU

June 15, 2015

Beware of harking back to what you were once

when God wants you to be something you have never been.

Oswald Chamber. My Utmost for His Highest, June 8

 

That pretty well describes where Peter was – he was “harking” back and God was stretching him into a new shape. God was expanding Peter’s view of what to expect as he followed hard after the Master.

 

Previous to Acts 10, Peter had just finished another stretching exercise. He been to Samaria where he and John had joined Philip to care for new believers. (See that story in Acts chapter 8) To get the impact of that situation, we need to remember that the Samaritans were ethnically mixed – part Jewish and part Gentile. Traditionally the “real” Jews didn’t have much to do with the Samaritans. They were not part of the purest elite in the culture – not people you would hang out with or help if you wanted to keep your place with the cool people.

 

But the Lord Jesus had broken down that Samaritan barrier while He was still here. Remember the woman who gave Him water at the well? (See the disciples’ reaction – including Peter – to His conversation with this woman in John 4.) So, when Peter saw God at work in Samaria, he stretched out of his ordinary pattern and followed where Jesus had already gone – followed Jesus’ example – and welcomed the believers from Samaria into the family of God. He had submitted to God’s stretching in order to be in harmony with Jesus. He was okay with THAT new normal.

 

But the Lord wasn’t ready to let Peter settle into a new normal yet.

 

He gave Peter some unusual accommodations for his work in Joppa. (see Acts:10 6) He was staying with Simon the tanner and not everyone would have been okay with that. But this was a stretching season for Peter.

house by the sea

Simon the tanner lived by the sea. That is not an insignificant detail. Simon the tanner’s occupation made that location necessary. The tanning business meant being surrounded by odors most unpleasant.*** The neighbors would have complained if he set up business next to them. Property values would definitely go down. So it was better to live a bit apart from other folks – down by the sea where the breezes would take the smell away. And the sea would have given him access to lots of salty water, which was helpful to the tanning process.

 

tanning

 

Not everyone would be willing to associate with that tanning process just because of the smell, but there was another reason too. In order to tan the hides of animals, a tanner had to touch the dead animals, something the most strict Jew would not do because of the long “cleansing” process that followed any contact with something dead. So a tanner, continually touchy the dead, would be perpetually unclean in that culture. He would be obviously, undeniably and continually in need of washing. In his usual state he would be unacceptable in the inner circle of the religious elite. (See Leviticus 2, Numbers 6)

tanner

So that is where the still stretching Peter, who considered himself to have a very fine ceremonial record, (see Acts 10:14) was staying. He had stretched his code of conduct so that he had at some point accepted the hospitality of a man who might previously have been on his “not a buddy of mine” list. He still had a code, though. He still had his limits. He still had his standards. He hadn’t thrown everything out the window.

 

But God still wanted to stretch Peter some more in order to reorient him to Heaven’s perspective – to the Gospel of grace. Peter, like all of us, was a work in process. And God was using him on kingdom assignments even though he wasn’t a finished product. Even with his abiding rough edges of inflexibility, God moved Peter intentionally for very specific work, stretched him very intentionally. God put him in unexpected places to accomplish unexpected goals. And all the while, the stretching continued – more than Peter expected.

 

 stretching

Heavenly agendas are often beyond our human comprehension. Far above our pay grade, you might say. Heavenly stretching requires walking confidently forward when we don’t quite know where we are going but we are confident that our God knows what He is doing.

 

Peter left a place where he had friends who were caring for him: helping him, feeding him, letting him rest and work. And he went with unknown people who sought after God, but differently than he did. He had to lay down his fond assessment of his own stellar religious track record in order to accept God’s unique work in them.

 

He went into new territory knowing that some of his present companions would misunderstand and perhaps come to erroneous conclusions about him and maybe cast aspersions on his character and work. He went without knowing whether the cost/benefit factors would even out. As a result of yielding to the stretching, Peter found himself doing things he might never have thought to do, shedding old skin he hadn’t realized was unnecessary.

 

All the reasons for going were not clear to Peter. All the repercussions weren’t evident to him. He didn’t know how well it would work out. He didn’t really comprehend the end game.

 

That is what makes this obedience so beautiful. That is what makes his response an example of faith. He measured his instructions against what he knew to be true of Jesus, rather than what he understood. He followed Jesus’ example rather than what he was used to doing. He used the life of Jesus as his guide rather than what he thought was traditionally, normally true or what was true according to popular trends or marketing strategies or corporate policy or ….

 

Peter got out of his comfort zone because his commitment wasn’t to a comfort zone, his commitment was to live in harmony with Jesus. His commitment was to live to invite others to know that same sweet place of acceptance and rest.

 

Peter stretched under God’s formative hand and ate new food and went new places and befriended new people – because that is what is necessary to live next to Jesus.

 

The trade-off is a no-brainer. Leave the “ordinary” and “usual” and “familiar” in order to have “extraordinary” and “unusual “and “faith. ” We can choose one side with “I can handle this on my own” or have the other option which is “faith without borders” and desperate dependence and the knowledge that if God doesn’t show up, we are in a big pickle!

 

Reassuring truth sings forth from Isaiah 43:19

 

images005CDNDX

 And the verse right before that:

Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past

 

Pause a minute and let it soak it, preparing you to stretch:

untitled

Are we ready for the stretching? A new thing is coming.

 

Beware of harking back to what you were once when God wants you to be something you have never been.

Oswald Chamber. My Utmost-June 8

 

***Regarding the odor of a tanner’s occupation: to remove the hair fibers from the skin, the tanner would either soak the skin in urine, or paint it with an alkaline lime mixture, or simply allow the skin to putrefy for several months and then dip it in a salt solution. Once the hair was removed, the tanners would bate the material by pounding dung into the skin or soaking the skin in a solution of animal brains. (See http://www.leathernet.com)

I am Thine, O Lord – Time to GO!

June 8, 2015

I am thine

When I had coffee with the Lord this morning, He made it very clear that it’s time to get on with it. The “it” being living fully, abundantly, in the zone.

Now, to some of you this will be a “no duh” revelation. But, I’ve been stuck in “fly below the radar,” “stay inside out of the rain,” “leave no wake,” “be as neutral as possible,” and “turn the dial down to safe” mode. It’s really understandable, given some circumstances, but even with some soft wooing by the Spirit of God, I’ve been slow to emerge.

So this morning when I read My Utmost for His Highest (June 8), the message came through pretty clearly from John 13:17, “If you know these things happy you are if you DO them.”

Oswald Chambers wrote this piece with a nautical theme: Launch all on God; go out on the great swelling tide of His purpose … If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the smooth waters just inside the harbor bar, full of delight, but always moored; you have to get out through the harbor bar into the great depths of God and begin to know for yourself………. It is a great deal better to fulfill the purpose of God in your life by discerning His will than to perform great acts of self-sacrifice.

 old hymnal

Then I remembered the words to the old, old song that played as I made the aforementioned coffee: I am thine I Lord, I have heard They voice and it told Thy love to me.

I am His. I am confident of that.

And the fact that He wants me to be His is most incredible! But I know it to be true because that is what His revelation to us in the Scriptures has said from the beginning. Over and over He communicates His loving desire to befriend us, to commune with us, to lead us, to adopt us, to possess us, to guide us, to be glorified through us, to bring us near – into His presence.

Then, just in case I missed it, He gave me Psalm 100:3-5 this morning too.

Know that the LORD, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,

and his faithfulness to all generations.

I found that passage as I read sweet truth from “Jesus Calling”: I want you to be all mine… Hold back nothing from me. . . Anything you bring to me I transform.

So I go into the rest of the day singing that old, timeless, comforting, exciting truth…

I am Thine, O Lord … And I long to rise in the arms of faiths and be closer drawn to Thee.

Where will this “rising” in the arms of faith take me ?

 holding on

I have no idea. But I know regardless of the physical circumstances, He will be there and He will draw me close to Himself.

And I know that, though the launching “out on the great swelling tide of His purpose” may be will be hard, it will be good! And I know that His purposes will be accomplished and His work will be finished!

I am Thine, O Lord.

I am Thine – all the way Home!

home

Here is a beautiful, fresh version of that old song.  I Am Thine, O Lord. (If an ad comes up first, I apologize, I have no control over that.) 

He’s got your back

May 29, 2015

One of my most favorite things about the Scriptures is that every single word is placed there intentionally by God. Every single detail is in place so that we can know Him better. So, when we read a part of the inspired narrative and we see that some things are obviously missing or are unusually included, it will be worth our time to stop and pay attention.

 giant sword

Such is the case in the story of the giant killers found in II Samuel 21. The absence of battle details and strategic minutia regarding these military engagements tell us that there are other things to focus on. The details that are there tell us what is important.

God’s people are at war with a long time enemy.

Their usual “go to guy” no longer has the staying power he once did. Their familiar hero, David, is “exhausted” and needs to stay out of the thick of the battle.

New giant killers are brought into the picture.

One of the giants they face has a 7 pound spear and a new sword.
One is the brother of Goliath and carries a spear like a weaver’s beam.
One has six fingers on each hand and six on each foot and, most distasteful, a tongue that defames God.
They are all descendants of the Rapha, extraordinary in size and prized warrior specimens.
And, incredibly, they all end up permanently horizontal.

The details of this part of His Story tell us that it’s not about the battle and it’s not about the military prowess. It’s about the size and fierceness of the foe and the totality of the victory. It’s about warriors facing impossible odds and God’s faithfulness to have their backs.

That’s the point of the story.
That’s the promise of the tale.

We are called to resist and do battle – God will have our backs and take care of the final defeat.

 battle

No matter which old enemy you are resisting, no matter the manner of weapons brought against you, no matter where you are engaging the giants that threaten and taunt you, you have the same God that the ancient giant killers had. And in the middle of the chaos and the dirt and the struggle and the impossible odds, you will find His voice right in your ear, “I’m FOR you!” “I’m on your side. I’ve got this covered!” “I’ve got your back.”

Read II Samuel 21:15-22. Also read Psalm 18.

My deep appreciation to our pastor, Clif Wilcox, who faithfully shares the Word with us every week. You can listen to the message which gave these insights at http://www.circlepca.org/sermons/

PS – This little clip of a bear cub helps us remember the need of having someone significant at our back. (3:15 is amazing!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIYcDqOTEBY

For more on the reality of Biblical giants see http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/biblical-giants-unearthed-in-golan-heights/ 

Reclaim Grace: Pure not Polluted

May 26, 2015

The wonder of grace is that it allows us to live with our eyes wide open.

 

Grace means we can look our sin (our brokenness, our weaknesses, our regrets) full in the face with unflinching confidence that sin can’t condemn us or identify us. We can look at the weight of our mess without being overwhelmed by it. It is real. It is ugly. It is despicable. BUT we can face it from behind the immeasurable grace of God. Grace pardons. Grace cleanses. Grace restores.

 

Pure grace. True grace. Biblical grace, that is.

 what-is-grace

Living in grace is not about diluting or denying reality. Grace doesn’t allow us to rewrite history or spin the facts to our advantage.

Inherent to the concept of grace is guilt.

We can’t enjoy “unmerited favor” until we take hold of the slime of our human condition and hand it to the Savior, asking for an exchange. Pure grace wraps us in the cushion of humility so that we can take the hard hit of reality without being destroyed by it.

“He gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

Grace and pride cannot coexist.

Confidence in grace protects us so that the thorough, full-color truth of our condition doesn’t become the weight that drags us to the bottom of the Dark Hole of Despair. From the time we meet Jesus and begin to really know Him until the time we will see Him, we will keep on needing grace. We can’t deny that fact and still live in grace.

The amount of clarity we have about our depravity becomes the measure of our capacity to receive His grace.

 

If self – and sin – is continually taking up less and less room where we live, then there is more and more room for grace. Making more and more room for grace is a continuing process.

 

When I got up about midnight, though there was just the two of us in the house, I could hear my dad talking – too softly for him to be using the telephone. He was ending his day in a conversation with his Friend of many decades. Words of thanks, words of supplication for others, and words of request for himself: Enable me, Lord, to *“take off the old man and put on the new man” every day.

 

He was 92 years old and still acknowledging his need of grace, still humbling asking for the gift of grace, still aware of the preciousness of grace. Without a human audience, just him and the Savior, a prayer for pure grace.

 

Pure grace lived out simply is a rare prize more to be treasured than a tainted gospel lived out with panache.

 

Casually flashing Grace Recipient like a rewards card should horrify us. Being a Grace Recipient isn’t about being cool, it’s about being humble. Entitlement perverts a gift with an eternally costly price tag.

 

Polluted grace, distorted grace, manipulated grace is as toxic as the sin that propels us toward the necessity of grace in the first place.

 

Living pure grace and staring down our track record does not mean discounting our sin as if the sin isn’t dangerous and disgusting and disruptive.  The only way we get to live in grace is because our dangerous, disgusting and disruptive sin is paid for, leaving our legal debt with holy Heaven at a zero balance. We can stare down our sin because our Advocate, Jesus, not only represented us and pled our case before the Righteous Judge, but He took our place and received our deserved punishment.

 crown_thorns-64839_960x332

The wonder of grace is that it allows me to live with my eyes wide open – seeing my sin and seeing His sacrifice at the same time. And even as I look at both only the Pure Grace of His sacrifice overwhelms me.

 

Lord Jesus, I sin.

Grant that I may never cease grieving because of it,

never be content with myself,

never think I can reach a point of perfection.

 

Kill my envy, command my tongue, trample down self. 

 

Give me grace to be holy, kind, gentle, pure, peaceable,

to live for Thee and not for self,

to copy Thy words, acts, spirit,

to be transformed into Thy likeness,

to be consecrated wholly to Thee,

to live entirely to Thy glory.

Valley of Vision

 

* Col 3:8 – 11 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Pinterest and the Parable of the Blueberries

May 17, 2015
tags: ,

They were dead. Very dead. That’s all there was to it. We might as well admit it and move on. And it wasn’t really anybody’s fault. Life got too busy to give them the attention they needed initially and then we were gone to see grandchildren celebrate birthdays and there was the business trip and …

The blueberry bushes. We left them in the pots too long. See what I mean?

brown leaves

 They were in great shape when we got them and I had every reason to believe Lot, my new greenhouse friend, when she promised that we would pick blueberries off them this  year! I could see the little baby blueberries on the branches just waiting to get plump enough to garnish my ice cream, I mean my organic granola. (Just in case my health coach/daughter reads this.)

I was very sad, more than just disappointed. It was part of my anticipation about nurturing the wildish open spots  behind our house. You know the dream … resting in the hammock. Gentle breeze. Sound of the creek. Eating freshly picked blueberries.

Truth be told, I often have dead dreams about plant life. Like the lavender. 1 out of 3 is barely making it.

lavendar

I am just not that great at horticulture. (I had to use spell check on the word even.) I can visualize grand, beautiful things but it doesn’t take long before I’m in over my pay grade. Which is why I thought the blueberries that already had some baby fruit would succeed where the roses had failed.

And the roses should have worked because I got extra advice from Pinterest.

I needed to prune the rose-bush by the back deck (on Valentine’s Day, according to my Garden Club friend) and whatever I pruned off that bush I would take around to the front flower bed so that the scrawny bush there would be full and lush and lovely.

rose bush

See what I mean about scrawny?

(I imagined a result kind of like these beauties that my friend, Norma, gave me for Mother’s Day.)

roses

pink rose

  The Pinterest steps were clear: place pruned rose shoots in a potato. Bury the potato. Watch the potato nourish the rose-bush. I was very confident of success in spite of the silent raised eyebrows from The Dietz. This would not be a dead plant dream.

potato roses

From the ACTUAL Pinterest post!

A couple of weeks after the rose transplant, it was obvious that the pruned shoots from the back deck were not going to flourish in the front bed. So, I pulled them out and tossed them in the garbage to avoid the neighbor’s questions: Why is Becky filling that front flower bed with sticks?

A couple of weeks later when The Dietz got home from work, I greeted him with “Ta Da! Look in the front flower bed! It grew after all!”

 potato

“Babe,” (He calls me that when he’s preparing me to hear hard news.) “THAT is a potato plant.” And a glorious potato plant it is indeed! But, it didn’t go in the Great Gardner win column.

Now you understand how that whole potato/rose saga made me a little skeptical when we finally got around to planting the blueberries. Trust me, they looked D.E.A.D. I was ready to admit defeat and go see Lot again to get a fresh start.

However, The Dietz stepped up as a man of faith – and action. He believed the bushes could be rescued. He decided to move them from the greenhouse buckets and put them in actual earth. And actually water them.

Lots of gentle water. And often. And water them again. He said a past rose-bush – potato calamity did not mean that all of our future horticulture efforts would end badly. And then he watered them again.

I admit, my skepticism continued until he took me out to the bushes today to show me …  SPOUTS of new leaves! All over the bushes! Beautiful little buds!

blueberry buds

Ok I admit this one is from Google

little bud1

THIS little bud is actually on our bush!

We won’t have blueberries this year. But, they will come.

With nurturing that is ridiculously tenacious,
radically faithful,
redeemingly tender … the fruit WILL come.

And I’m thinking there is a lesson to be learned from this blueberry parable.

About people and relationships and calamity of all kinds.
About not giving up too soon.
About not letting hard history dilute hope.
About ridiculous tenacity, radical faithfulness, and redeeming nurture.

blueberries

Also a Google image

Do you have any “blueberry bushes” in your life?

“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage. Wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:13,14

His Story – Our Story

May 10, 2015
“The Scriptures are the revelation of God written 
and we, God’s people, are to be the revelation of God 
lived out.” 
(from The Dietz's message on Mother’s Day, May 10, 2015)

Bible

God’s plan has always been to reveal Himself to the world that He created, to the people He loves. He does that through the written Word and through our lives. Our stories are meant to show others in our world something of God’s character: His kindness, His protection, His love for justice, His forgiveness, His faithfulness…

 

As we read the Scriptures we learn the purest Truth of who God is. God has preserved His Word for thousands of years so that we might know Him, understand His ways and enjoy His companionship. In addition, He orchestrates our life stories to echo who He is so that we remind each other of Him and call each other to live out His redemptive purposes. (Hebrews 10:24 calls that “inciting one another to love and good deeds.”)

 my story God's glory

As we read His Word and saturate our minds with His thoughts, His purposes, and His desires, we are filled with Him so that His life, His story overflows in the way we live out our story. His story infiltrates our story and our story echoes His story. That’s the plan that God initiated in eternity past and fulfilled when He sent His Son, Jesus. He invites us to participate with Him as He reveals Himself to His world.

 my life God's story

A *hymn written in 1866 gives voice to this joyful practice:

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love;
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true,
It satisfies my longings as nothing else would do.

Refrain: I love to tell the story,
’Twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and His love.

.

God invites us to tell His story as we live out our story.

 LivingGodsStory_logo_webpage_subtitle4

There is great value in looking at our life story through the lens of His story. To remember the times when kindness was a vibrant reflection of His kindness,
when self-sacrifice was a resounding echo of His sacrifice,
when full-colored forgiveness demonstrated His forgiveness.
Even chapters of failure to live out His loving ways can be used to point to His perfect love – when our imperfection is acknowledged and forgiven.

.

There is great value in hearing the stories of others and listening for reminders of who our God is.

open story book

Maybe you’ll make it your spring project to hear a story – or tell a story – that will “incite” someone to live out a more clear reflection of our loving, powerful God. If you want to pursue that ministry of listening/story telling, here are some questions that can jumpstart a story telling session:

What is the most clear demonstration of grace that you have ever encountered?
What is the best example of unconditional love that you have ever experienced?
Can you tell me a time when you had the chance to show fierce protection?
What can I learn from your life story about forgiveness?

 Tell your story. Hear His story.

Find His story in someone else’s story.

You’ll meet some strange and wonderful people along the way.

……….

*I Love to Tell the Story – Arabella K. Hankey (1866)

  1. I love to tell the story of unseen things above, Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love; I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true, It satisfies my longings as nothing else would do.
    • Refrain: I love to tell the story, ’Twill be my theme in glory, To tell the old, old story Of Jesus and His love.
  2. I love to tell the story, more wonderful it seems Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams; I love to tell the story, it did so much for me, And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.
  3. I love to tell the story, ’tis pleasant to repeat, What seems each time I tell it more wonderfully sweet; I love to tell the story, for some have never heard The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.
  4. I love to tell the story, for those who know it best Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest; And when in scenes of glory I sing the new, new song, ’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.
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