DESTROYING THE MASTERPIECE

taiwan-boy-painting_The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. Psalm 24:1

 

A $1.5 million masterpiece was damaged recently when a twelve-year-old Taiwanese boy tripped and fell, punching a hole in the canvas. “Flowers” by 17th century Italian master Paola Porpora was part of a Taipei exhibit showcasing artwork painted by or influenced by Leonardo da Vinci. The boy, who was carrying a can of soda, was listening to the guide and wasn’t looking where he was going. He tripped and smashed a hole in the artwork. A security camera caught the whole incident, including the stunned looks of others around the boy.

 

Late night talk show hosts had a field day and jokes abounded. Who was responsible? Since the average family income for the Republic of China is slightly over $26,000 American dollars annually, Museum Boy’s family could be paying for that painting for several generations. Taiwanese children attend public school, and the boy was on a required field trip, so perhaps the Ministry of Education coughed up the dough. But luckily, display organizer David Sun said the boy and his family had expressed sincere regret and won’t face any punishment. “We had an Italian appraiser on hand and immediately contacted the collector,” Sun said two days after the incident. “We decided to repair the painting immediately on site and (the painting is) back on display already.”

 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had God’s equivalent of “an Italian appraiser onsite” when people damage the earth? Every time a natural treasure is vandalized, or people pollute our waters and streams, or “progress” produces environmental waste that is not dealt with responsibly, our home planet is left with scars. God assessed His creation as “good” (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). He gave people “dominion” over His beautiful, unspoiled creation (Genesis 1:28). We were to have power over the earth and all that is in it, to develop its potential. God has given us the brainpower to care for the earth, not destroy it, which makes us God’s co-workers. If a Taiwanese pre-teen can feel remorse about accidentally damaging a great work of art, why do some people feel not a twinge of guilt when destroying God’s earth?

 

Father, help us to preserve this earth as You would wish us to do. Amen

THE WANNABEES AND THE SHOULDABEENS

Daydreaming 2Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” Isaiah 6:8

 

There once was a church that had two families who were members, the Wannabees and the Shouldabeens. Both families were quite set in their ways, and had no desire to change. Generation after generation, no major variations occurred in the way each family conducted themselves. Of course, their daughters intermarried and changed their names to Mightbee and Oughtabee, but the children were all raised the same way. Once a Wannabee always a Wannabee, and the same went for a Shouldabeen. It was very hard to break out of the mold.

 

The Wannabees spent their time ruminating about all the things they would like to do but just couldn’t. One wanted to be council president, but he didn’t know very many people outside his own family, so he didn’t get enough votes. Another thought being a Bible study leader would be nice, but no one ever asked her to do it, and it never occurred to her to ask if she could. All the Wannabee children wanted to get involved in the youth group, but their parents never suggested it, so they just shrugged and figured those things were for someone else’s kids. Now the Shouldabeens were kind of in the same boat, but they blamed everyone else instead of figuring it might be their own doing. If a Shouldabeen child did not get picked for the part of Mary in the Christmas play, the parents blamed the child who did get the part. Shouldabeen couples, when they got older, sat around in their rocking chairs and talked about all the things the church should have allowed them to do but didn’t. These discussions often got quite heated.

 

Are you a Wannabee or a Shouldabeen? Or are you a Here-I-Am, who stands up in the middle of the whole congregation and says, “I’d like a chance to do that! Let me try!” God loves every single Wannabee and Shouldabeen and all their offspring, but He can’t work with them very well. Like Isaiah, we need to jump to our feet when opportunity presents itself to do something for the Lord.

 

Gentle Father, make me a Here-I-Am! I want to do something for You! Amen

CAPITVATED OR ENCAPSULATED?

 

Man On Train tracksFor on my holy mountain, says the Lord God.., there I will require your contributions and the choicest of your gifts… Ezekiel 20:40

 

Someone once said, “If you’re all wrapped up in yourself, you’re overdressed.” If the only person your “package” is addressed to is you, you won’t be getting much for Christmas. God is counting on each of us to be part of His team. If we spend all of our time and energy in pursuit of only those things that serve ourselves in this earthly realm, we will be sadly unsatisfied when our lives are winding down. We will be like farm silos, each storing our own crops but not sharing with others. Like computer chips that disclose no information. All wrapped up and no place to go.

 

Sin is not only defined as committing an offense against God. Sin can also be defined as shutting oneself off completely from God and His creation, including other people. Now, I know I’m an extrovert and being around people energizes me. So all of you introverts probably think I’m bashing you. But both outgoing and in-looking folks have something to offer the Kingdom of God. If I could still my brain long enough, I could learn volumes from introspective Christians about prayer, meditation, and waiting upon God. Activities that often require long periods of stillness and concentration to be effective are the most difficult for me to tolerate. But it’s when our own pursuits leave us devoid of God’s goodness that we can be on a slippery slope.

 

Getting wrapped up in ourselves is an equal opportunity shortcoming. Everyone experiences it from times to time. But authentic spirituality in one’s life cannot occur unless there is balance. God knows we can get tangled up in worldly pursuits. When folks are asked, “What do you do?” most answer with their occupations. But our livelihoods, by themselves, fall short of describing who we are. If we become so wrapped up in our “doing” that we lose all other significance before God, we will soon find ourselves feeling farther from God than we want to be. Being encapsulated within ourselves leaves us little time to be captivated by all the things God is doing around us.

 

Call us, Father, in small ways or large, to become captivated by Your Word and Your people. Amen

NOTHING

Church GoersWhen Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain…Then He began to speak, and taught them. Matthew 5:1

 

“I got nothing out of that church service today!” Have you ever said that to yourself? What does it mean, I got “nothing” out of church? Was I tired and completely unable to listen? Did I maybe even doze off? Was it some distraction, like the kids with their parents in the pews reserved for “The Least of These?” All the other pews are taken, so “those” people have to sit down in front, where they probably drive the pastor crazy. And the guy behind me sang so enthusiastically, but completely off-key. The sanctuary was freezing when we got there, but then it got really hot. Why can’t the building staff get that right, at least! And the same woman is singing a solo again. She always gets asked. Why not somebody else? Please, God! Fix all this stuff!

 

I’ve come to the conclusion that if I get nothing out of a worship service, then God gets nothing out of me either. If we listen patiently, even the most boring sermon has some kernel of truth. Each song has uplifting words, even if someone sings them off key. How about praying for the family with the kid trying to swing from the banner pole? There is probably far more going on there than meets the eye, and we can pray that God will equip the parents to manage the child’s idiosyncrasies in the best way possible. And if I have a headache or some personal problem I’m wrestling with, a worship service can provide me with a temporary respite from whatever ails me or fails me. If absolutely nothing else works out, I can at least visit with my friends over coffee afterwards.

 

In her book, Give God a Year, Change Your Life Forever, Christian author and speaker Carole Lewis talks about her frustrations in trying to change some unhealthy habits. She prayed, “Lord, I’m not willing, but I’m willing to be made willing.” If something about a worship service doesn’t fit my mood, I’m going to try Carole’s prayer.

 

O Lord, sometimes my humanness keeps me from appreciating Your good gifts. When I’m not willing to see the good in things, help me to be willing. Amen

 

Buy the Book: Give God a Year, Change Your Life Forever by Carole Lewis, http://www.amazon.com/Give-Change-Forever-Improve-Every/dp/0830751327/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1441556756&sr=1-4&keywords=carole+lewis+books

MEMOIRS OF A COLLECTION PLATE

Collection PlateHonor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. Proverbs 3:9-10

 

When the collection plate is passed your way on Sunday morning, you think of it as an inert object, right? But what if that plate, like God’s Word, was a living, breathing being that could talk? What would the Plate say to you? Maybe some words of encouragement to give something to the Lord, even if your income is small and your expenses large. Today’s Scripture passage says we are to honor God with our possessions. Is the Plate saying, “Ten per cent is what the Bible says?” But ten per cent, or tithing, was an Old Testament commandment (Deuteronomy 14:22-19), not intended for today, right? Jesus told the rich young man, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21). And who said anything about being perfect? None of us is perfect! And who can give all his money away? We have to live on something. The Plate must be wrong.

 

Today’s Scripture also says we will prosper if we donate our “first fruits” (our best stuff) to God. But Jesus says the “prospering” part doesn’t happen until we get to heaven. And only farmers have actual “fruits,” as in crops, to donate these days. This is all very confusing! I think the Plate would tell us that modern day Christians don’t have the same covenantal relationship with God that the Israelites had. In fact, Jesus cautioned His disciples about expecting God to reward them with material things for doing His work (Matthew 10:8). And doesn’t God own everything anyway? So maybe the Plate is telling us to examine how we handle all of God’s blessings in our lives, not just our money. We can donate time, talent, knowledge and brain-power, and an infinite array of “blessings” that may be unique only to us. God created us, so let’s get creative for Him! You can’t put your whole self in the Plate, but the Plate can remind you to give more than just money.

 

Lord, You gave us what we don’t deserve. Let us give You what You do deserve. Amen

STUDENT OF LIFE

tree of knowledge. the concept of the learning sciences.the abstraction of the icons on the subject of teaching

tree of knowledge. the concept of the learning sciences.the abstraction of the icons on the subject of teaching

I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. Exodus 31:3

 

My father was a student of life. He spent every waking hour of his life trying to learn something new. I’m certain he already had an inquisitive mind at an early age on his parent’s farm. While he was still in high school, Lee Briggs came to the county fair in his Pheasant biplane, produced right in my dad’s hometown of Memphis, Missouri. Briggs was giving rides for two dollars. My dad pestered my grandfather for extra chores. When he had earned enough, he went up with Briggs in that airplane and had a thrill that lasted a lifetime. My dad graduated from flight school in 1931 and worked as a pilot until he retired in the late 1960’s. He was good at math and mechanics and if he couldn’t fix something, he’d build a new one. He read voraciously and continually surprised me with the things he knew. He spent part of his career as “legislative liaison” from the Department of the Air Force to the US House of Representatives and counted many legislators as his friends. The day before he died, he was still watching C-Span, a cable channel airing the proceedings of the federal government. You had better be prepared if you wanted to have a political discussion with my dad!

 

I seem to have inherited at least some of my father’s desire to learn. I love to meet new people and find out about their lives, their beliefs and their insight. Besides studying the Bible, I read many types of books and magazines, and I try to find some kernel of wisdom in everything in print. I constantly look for concepts and ideas and quotations that help me in me walk with Christ, and I am seldom disappointed. God provides so many ways for us to enrich ourselves in His world that none of us has an excuse for saying we don’t know our Lord.

 

God of all Wisdom, thank You for providing us with things in this life to make us smarter, happier and more at peace that we were a day ago. Amen

BIG GOD THEORY

Big BangIn the beginning…God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

 

On a website maintained by Abilene Christian University in Abilene Texas, Gerald Hall writes about the age-old discussion between “creationists” (those “who cling to a literal interpretation of their own religious story of creation”) and “cold, hard science,” which “appears to paint humankind as a ‘chance of evolution.’” Hall cites Saint Augustine, a fourth century theologian and philosopher, who “accepted a figurative interpretation of Genesis.” In Augustine’s own words, “God did not wish to teach humankind things not relevant to their salvation.” Augustine pointed out that the Bible “does not instruct us on thing such as the form and shape of the heavens.” In Hall’s article, the conclusion seems to be that both a religious explanation and a scientific account of creation can be held at the same time. “Science tells us how things occur,”” Hall writes, and religion is concerned with the question of why!”

 

Why all this fuss about a “Big Bang?” Maybe the Big Bang was what happened when God started moving stuff around to create the universe. Unless you are a Neanderthal, you know that when stuff moves around the atmosphere, things happen. If you knock your best cooking vessel off the rock shelf in your cave, it’s probably going to break. So why can’t people just accept the fact that a Superior Being decided at an opportune time to begin playing with the elements He created and shaped them into the water, the sky, the earth, the animals, Adam and his little friend Eve? There had to be some sort of “bang” going on when all that happened, and maybe some scientists need to rethink the idea that the creationists and the scientists are talking about the same event.

 

The key to this, according to Hall, is that scientists could be more “aware that religion and science are concerned with different questions.” And Christians would get less worked up if they could be a little more metaphorical in their approach to the Bible. We can still declare our dependence on God, respond to His creation with awe, view the world as simultaneously orderly and beautiful, and accept our human responsibility to care for God’s creation. End of argument.

 

O Lord, You are the Architect of the universe, whether You bang around or not. Amen

HITLER’S NANNY

NannyAnd the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Revelation 12:9

 

Did it ever occur to you, as it has to me, that even people we deem to be the most evil started out as innocent babies? Images, such as those in Ira Levin’s book and movie, “Rosemary’s Baby,” cause us to wonder if evil people spring fully wicked from the womb. But most of us think of babies as being innocent and wholly incapable of evil. I once saw a drama on television about Adolf Hitler’s nanny, and how she had a dream or a premonition that this child would be totally evil and would be responsible for the cruel death of millions of innocent people. I don’t know anything else about the plot because I turned the channel right when the nanny was contemplating her next step. But scary as this image is, somebody took care of that little baby and fed him, changed his diapers, and cuddled him, not knowing the horrible things he would do later in his life.

 

Why does God allow evil people to exist at all? Doubters would say that a good and loving God would not permit this. How do we as Christians answer these suspicions? One basic premise that we must accept is that God knows better than we do how to run the world (Isaiah 55:9). And we know from the Book of Revelation that God wins the battle with Satan and his evil minions in the end. I found the most comfort for this issue of evil in a little book called Soul Weavings: A Gathering of Women’s Prayers edited by Lynn Klug (Augsburg Press, 1996). Included was a prayer written on a piece of paper near the body of a dead child in Ravensbruck, Germany, where 92,000 women and children died in 1945. The prayer said, in part, O Lord…remember those of ill will…and when they come to judgement, let all the fruits that we (the prisoners) have borne be their forgiveness. Amen…” God will judge all of us, the “evil” and the “good.” Our part is to live for Him.

 

God of All People, infuse us with forgiveness if not understanding. Amen

HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?

TLIMBOhen Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham. Genesis 17:3-5

 

The Limbo dance originated on the island of Trinidad. A horizontal bar, known as the limbo bar, is placed atop two vertical bars. All participants must attempt to go under the bar backwards, looking up. A person is eliminated from the game when he knocks the bar off the side poles or falls down. Each round, the limbo bar is lowered slightly. The game is won when the last person is able to pass under the bar without touching it or falling.

 

Originally, the Limbo took place at wakes in Trinidad and Tobago, with people beginning as low as they could go and gradually getting higher, to signify the dearly departed rising from this live to heaven. When the order was reversed, and accompanied by Afro-Caribbean drums, the Limbo became widely popular with tourists. The craze was brought to the United States and beyond. Recording artist Chubby Checker’s song “Limbo Rock” rose to number two on Billboard Top 100. Checker also popularized the phrase, “How low can you go?”

 

The Limbo reminds me of another position important to our worship of God. Abraham fell face first on the ground when God addressed him individually and made a covenant with him, which would have been a very big deal. This was no tourist game: God was telling Abraham he wanted him to become the “ancestor of a multitude of nations.” He even got a name change in the deal, from Abram to Abraham, a frequent occurrence when God had some special assignment for one of His chosen.

 

How low can you go to show your humility towards the Almighty? Sometimes, I don’t think I go low enough. My pride often keeps me from admitting my total dependence on God, and I use my stiff joints as an excuse for not physically bowing before my Lord. But humility is a heart attitude that we must practice if we are to realize God’s greatness and our desperate need for Him in our lives.

 

Lord, help me bow low and humble myself in Your mighty presence. Amen

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

Guest Blogger: Nadia GiordanaBible with Doves

 

For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

 

How many times had I heard this verse, spoke it, repeated it, and never understood the full meaning. I don’t know why it took me so long. Perhaps it was because I didn’t go to church regularly as a child or young adult. Somehow I didn’t get the true message until I was about 50 years old. It came by example.

 

During a deeply dark time in my husband’s life, he woke up early one Sunday morning, turned on the television, and saw Dr. Charles Stanley. Something Dr. Stanley said caught his attention and before he knew it, he had watched the entire program. Everything clicked. His explanation: although he had a good Christian upbringing, the program brought him back to the fold.

 

Soon, my husband brought out the Bible and started reading. Then he went out and bought additional bibles and read them too. He began going to church every Sunday, always asking if I wanted to go along. I always declined. Coming home excited and rejuvenated, he would tell me in detail about the service, how happy it made him feel, or what he had learned. He never missed a Sunday for more than a year after that. I noticed the change in him, and finally one day I thought, I have formed my opinions about the Bible and why it is wrong from things I have heard from other people and/or read in dubious books.

 

Then it occurred to me, I’ve never read the Bible myself, start to finish, cover to cover—ever! So I started.

Soon I was genuinely interested. Next I picked up two, then three other Bibles in the house and read them simultaneously, verse by verse, comparing versions, absorbing it all. There were things I still didn’t understand, and some questions were raised, but the hunger to know and learn more was insatiable. I had crossed the threshold from unbelief to being a child of God. Better late than never, it should be my motto. When I think about how few people ever make this transition later in life, I realize how lucky I am.

 

Loving Father, thank You for giving me the chance to know You, even now. Amen

 

Nada Giordana is the author of three books, No Thank You, I’d Rather Be Myself, Thinking Skinny, and Reinventing New Chapters in Your Life at Any Age, all available at Amazon.com.