Plowing and tilling

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reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
— from Hosea 10:12, NIV

Seems like after 63 years of life including 35 following Christ, I would have no unplowed ground in me.  But I do.

“To God, our lives are like fields that need to be worked. Once we have worked one field of change, we move on to the next plot, where He bids us to get back to work on other character flaws by tilling weed-infested soil.  Sometimes this takes more time that we’d like, but we have to keep driving that tractor back and forth across the (stingy) soil.”*

Pulled this from a daily devotional I recently started following again.  “Driving that tractor back and forth,” struck me.  Back and forth, over and over again captures the arduous process well, of working on an ingrained problem or sin. Drawing from farming, tough, unforgiving work under a hot, relentless sun...when tilling only seems to churn the dirt into dust that coats and clogs everything.  

I’ve got this “unplowed field” to somehow make ready for tilling and another “field” that is under-performing.  

While I’m resolved to toil, I discourage easily, more inclined to quit than continue.  The rough field is so set in its manner, resistant and synced to my brokenness. Ofttimes the process seems to cause more worsening than correction.

Meanwhile the underproductive field tempts me to abandon further trying because it is in fact yielding a decent crop, even if short of its potential.

The devotional draws from Biblical stories to offer hope for continuing.

“Change will happen, and the Bible gives us insight into how it happens.  Think of Joseph in an Egyptian jail. Moses in the desert. David’s fugitive years. Jonah in the whale.  Gideon in a cave. Job’s catastrophes. Elijah’s encounter with the widow. King Nebuchadnezzar’s riches-to-rags-to-revelation.  The apostle Paul’s blinding encounter with God.”*

Seeing these stores cast this context, many of my favorites, the analogy of driving a tractor back and forth, back and forth, over and over settles into me.  Guess that’s what I’m doing as well. Imagining God's watchful eye, supervising from the deep blue sky overhead is evenly oddly romantic. 

Sow righteousness for yourselves,
   reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;

   for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes
   and showers his righteousness on you
(Hosea 10:12, NIV)
--------------------------------------------------

Notes

1. * Excerpts from devotional “Every Day for Every Man” by Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Kenny Luck, May 25.

2. Image source site: Tractor plowing a field

 

 

Guided Detours

 Photo by  Jeremy Bishop  on  Unsplash

Nearly ten years after being dismissed from a 30-year endeavor that, at the time, defined my entire career and much of my calling, my new normal continues to evolve. Somewhat comforting is that setbacks and detours and the sense of having lost my way is a widely shared experience with those I most admire.

In his book, “Detours, the unpredictable path to your destiny,” Tony Evans insists that “Everyone has a destiny and a purpose to fulfill.  Each member of the body of Christ has a unique role to play.”

He cited several of my favorite Bible heroes whose life purposes are virtually indisputable…

  • Abraham, patriarch of Israeli people
  • Joseph, saved Israel from famine
  • Moses, rescued Israel from enslavement
  • and Paul, evangelist to the Gentiles

In none of their stories was the line between purpose and fruition straight or short.  Each endured a series of detours that prepared them for their purpose. Drawing from Joseph’s story and many of his own experiences, Evans offers insight about how the path to purpose may unfold and  factors that may influence the duration and difficulty encountered along the way.

Purpose realization is often influenced by the degree that we trust and obey God and accept and submit to the challenges he allows or leads us to face.  

While no one who knows me well would hesitate to label me stubborn, I find my own stubbornness more than a little frustrating because God has always provided and proven his goodness to me over and over.  What’s with my resistance to “let go and let God?”

I recently prayed about the vagueness I feel about my life purpose.  Several years ago, I developed a personal mission statement to guide my search for a new career.  A Lent project in 2011, version one emerged in April of that year. Since then, I’ve revisited and tweaked it often.  Here is its present form (with footnotes in [brackets]):

GLENN’S PERSONAL MISSION[1]
“We matter to God”

How God regards human beings[2] informs my calling[3] to engage and exhort people to “know[4]” Him and to convey how much we matter to Him. I acknowledge certain gifts such as creative expression, encouragement, administration, leadership and humor to engage people I encounter along life’s roads.[5]

I labor[6] to responsively encourage people to recognize our world as “God-bathed and God-permeated”[7] while, with fellow believers, I “work out my salvation with fear and trembling.”[8]
— revised 4/21/2018

For all the effort devoted to developing this mission, my search suffered a series of setbacks before I retreated from mission guidance to simply securing a job to help pay the bills.  Having tweaked our lifestyle to balance our means with our needs, we are doing OK now. Meanwhile, I emotionally vacillate between simply being content and wondering whether God has something more in mind for me.

This “Detours” book was recommended by a friend, prompting me to consider that my personal mission statement may speak more toward my life in general than my career in particular.  Indeed, experiences and detours have altered my perspective.

Noted Evans, “it took forty years in the wilderness to develop Moses” and “Abraham was on a twenty-five year detour...The greatest apostle in the New Testament, Paul, went on a three-year detour to the desert” before launching fully into ministry. Then we have the convoluted story between Joseph’s dream at age 17 and being elevated by Pharaoh to  prepare Egypt for famine…

My latest thought is that all my setbacks including my present “just pay the bills” job is all part of how God is guiding my life.  

I suspect my story is similar to yours, that purpose is more often vague than clear, more meandering through agonizing detours than zooming fast and straight to a stunning destiny..  

Only when I pause, take a slow, deep breath and tend to God’s still, small voice do I recognize and appreciate how his hand is guiding me..


Mission footnotes

[1] This Mission Statement was inspired  by Dan Walker who spoke at a Career Ministry workshop on 2/24/2011 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church.  I began the project on 3/9/11 (during Lent). The first version emerged 4/20/11.

[2]  People engagement is a prominent theme in my life. It is reflected in an idea I’ve titled One Cor36 based on 1 Cor 3:6 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God makes it grow.” (NIV).  Also, “ the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a human being. (Genesis 2:7).

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare…There are no ordinary people.  You have never met a mere mortal.” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, pg 15.)

[3]   I am guided by a conviction that processes and people are the “soul and heart” of all worthy enterprises (organizations, companies).   Jim Collin’s books, “Good to Great” and his companion monograph “Good to Great and the Social Sectors” (read in 2006) articulates ideas that resonated with me along this line.

[4]  To “know” in the “biblical” sense.  My 2006 ornament, “Bride of Christ” expounded on this inspiring principle.

[5] “roads,”  specifically curvy, black-topped “back roads” with a freshly painted yellow centerline. I so enjoy driving roads like these with my wife that I have many road photos taken during these drives. Black-topped road driving inspired the name and banner of this "Road Report" blog, launched in 2012.

[6]  “labor “ as in “my effort in concert with God’s will and empowerment” Vs default to “forget” to engage God as I push into life thus rendering me more critical  than joyful and more guarded than engaging.

[7]   “Jesus’ good news about the kingdom can be an effective guide for our lives only if we share his view of the world in which we live.  To his eyes this is a God-bathed and God-permeated world. It is a world filled with a glorious reality, where every component is within the range of God’s direct knowledge and control—though he obviously permits some of it, for good reasons, to be for a while otherwise than as he wishes.  It is a world that is inconceivably beautiful and good because it is of God and because God is always in it. It is a world in which God is continually at play and over which he constantly rejoices. Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not yet fully seized us.” (by Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy, page 61)

[8] Philippians 2:12, ESV

 




 

Lost to Found

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The day after I die, God’s prayers inbox will be so greatly reduced that He might take a day off. 

Not because I’m a prayer warrior, quite the contrary.  Lots and lots of little prayers seeking guidance to find stuff absentmindedly misplaced .

I generally think myself organized. All the items I routinely misplace have a home base where I keep them when not in my possession - car keys, glasses, cellphone, favorite pens, journal and wallet. However, when something else is on my mind, I put stuff down in an odd places. Invariably, I don’t discover the loss until I need them next , often when I am hurriedly flying off to somewhere.

After quickly searching primary and secondary home bases where the item(s) should be, my anxiety builds as the item remains lost.  Prayer is often a last resort.

The apostle Paul offers a great insight for how to approach all forms of lostness encountered in life.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7, NIV)

By “anything,” I presume all the little items I mentioned earlier are included.  Seems to me he’s saying that a properly postured prayer draws God’s peace that “transcends” whatever I think is important at the time. When God’s peace reigns in me, lost priorities change.

So far, I’ve never lost something that was necessary for my next breath.  If I ever do, God would still be in control ensuring my good and His glory. (See Romans 8:28)

 Lost to found was particularly on my mind because I celebrated another birthday last weekend. Birthday on Friday followed by Easter on Sunday. The close proximity and order of the two celebrations this year really struck me.

My birthday marks the path of my life that gained an entirely new context when 35 years ago, I was presented with and accepted an invitation to align with the one, true God.  Easter marks the reality of that encounter for me.

Every person born is seemingly “alive” but, in reality lost and dead until we encounter and submit our life to Christ.  We can mark a lot of birthdays but if we don’t also mark Easter, we sadly miss the essence of true living no matter how we measure or are measured according to the standards of this world.  

Embracing this reality has taken me a long, long while to grasp and appreciate because, quite frankly, my natural inclination and preference is to fit in, be relevant and liked by the people, community and society where I live.

See, the radical gospel that Jesus Christ came to reveal is that worldliness and godliness are mutually exclusive. This was what he lived and sacrificed himself to make a way for you and me to discover, embrace and enter into. Welcome to the upside down gospel.

A birthday without an Easter is like hanging tinsel on a gallows. Thanks entirely to the grace and mercy of Christ, I gratefully mark this and every birthday with an even more significant Easter. (See Romans 5:8)

Thanks to Easter, every lost item presents a new opportunity to give thanks for the finding that redeems the losing.  Even so, I’m a work in progress toward STARTING the next loss with prayer instead of ENDING there.

Lost to Found is something worth celebrating!

 

40 Days of Decrease

 

As Lent draws to a close, I thought I would share some highlights from the guide I used this years that was recommended by a new friend, Jessica - “40 Days of Decrease - A different kind of hunger. A different kind of fast  by Alicia Britt Chole (pronounced show-lee). Each features a themed reflection about Jesus' journey "cross-ward," a fast and a reading from John's gospel.  Unusual, refreshing, intriguing, and sobering.  


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Days 34 & 35: Seven distinct groups surrounded Jesus at His crucifixion:

1) passersby who hurled insults;
2) unnamed disciples who observed from a distance;
3) watchers who occasionally taunted;
4) rulers - chief priests, teachers of the law and elders;
5) named disciples - his mother, mother's sister, and Mary Magdalene and the apostle John;
6) the two thieves crucified beside him and
7) the soldiers for whom Jesus was their job, not their God.

That five of the seven groups incessantly mocked and taunted Jesus prompted this caution by the author, "Though occasionally accomplished constructively, criticism is often a cowardly act. Criticism knows a little, assumes a lot and airs judgments with conviction."

Today, fast criticism. "Seek to know more, assume less, and air prayers" instead of judgments. (pages 177-180)

Day 33:  To fast willful sin is not a simplistic call to stop sinning. No, this is a sincere call for us to start loving Jesus to a degree that compels us to walk away from sin where we can and get help where we cannot....Savior, am I caressing anything you were crucified for? If so, I repent: forgive me, heal me, send help to me, and strengthen my love for You. When I am tempted, may I see Your cross, remember Your cost, and let love "bind my wandering heart" to You. (page 175)

Day 30: Earthquakes reveal faultlines that were previously unknown. We think we know our strengths and weaknesses but even though we don't, Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves - like how we predicted Judas' and Peter's betrayals. But to falter when you think or even pledge we won't is HUMAN. So when the ground shakes and 'we fall into our own disillusionment, we need to remember to get back up, receive forgiveness and call upon our newly acquired humility to strengthen others.' Today's fast: self confidence. (from pages 154-155)

Day 27: Recall the Last Supper scene described in Matthew’s gospel when Jesus mentioned that one the apostles would betray Him.  

“Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Judas inquired.  To which Jesus replied, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:21, 25)

Judas’ betrayal was a manifestation of satanic opposition. We expect satanic opposition from the world. But when it comes from around the table, it takes our breath away.” (page 136)

Having been on the business end of betrayal from around the table on a few occasions, the weight of her remark settled in my chest. I can testify that not only does it take your breath away but getting back to breathing normally again can take a long, long while.

That Jesus forgave, readily and unconditionally paved the way for me to do likewise.

Day 25: "Is there another way?" asked Jesus of his Father, God, praying, deeply distressed that fateful night in Gethsemane.  Along with, "If so, I want to take it."  Three times he asked. (See Matthew 26: 39, 42, 44)

Indeed, "Is there another way for mankind to be reconciled to God?" queried  Chole.

"Within our global culture, it sounds enlightened and egalitarian to believe in many ways to God, which makes wrestling with this text all the more critical."

We moderns who revisit this moment on the other side of it know how the question was answered.

"Clearly, by the events that follow, Father's answer was 'no' - another way did not exist.  Jesus was and is 'The Way' (John 14:6)."

Fortunately, the Father's "no" was Jesus' "yes.".

Day 21:  "Obedience is not a moment: it is a process connected by countless moments."

This remark regarded Jesus stating his heart was "troubled" as he shared deep thoughts about his "hour" that was soon to arrive. Although troubled, he was nevertheless obedient to see the redemptive plan to its earth-shaking conclusion.(See John 12:20-28) ...[from pages 104-105]

From Day 17 - Twice, Jesus cleared the temple of merchants and moneychangers. "Jesus no doubt witnessed many injustices during His life on earth, but He did not turn over many tables....Taking action because there is a need is a very different motivation than taking action because there is a God. In addition to being exhausting, the former is led by what our eyes see and what our hearts feel. The latter is led by loving listening and dependence-inspired discipline...Said Dr. Beth Grant, friend of the author, 'Choose carefully what you are willing to die for because you can only die once.'" [from pages 79-82]

From Day 13: I am challenged by today's fast: Stinginess. "...seek an opportunity to be irrationally lavish toward someone who cannot possibly return the favor."

Day 8: Today's fast, Fixing it is for life's many miscarried miracles, the "this could only be from God" openings that later close leaving us to wonder, "What gives, Lord?"

Lazarus, raised from the dead, later died again; a long-awaited pregnancy that ends in miscarriage; fired from a promising job....We panic, search for explanations and "scurry clumsily about to prop up God's sagging reputation." (page 34)

Day 9: Fast rationalism - the belief that reason is king.  Our lack of understanding cannot sabbotage the power or the purpose of His voice.  It is not possible to prove with the mind what is born in the Spirit. (pages 38-39)

Day 1: Fast Lent As Project.  Instead, consider Lent as less a project and more a sojourn. A sojourn is a 'temporary stay at a place,' And a 'stay' is about presence, not productivity. For the next forty days, fast measuring your "success" statistically... Instead, invest your energy in seeking to remain present to the sacred history of Jesus' walk to the cross....enter Lent as experience.  (page 3)

Prayer: Lord, you are truly amazing, unpredictable, striking, scary and so very attractive.  Thank you for coming to rescue me and opening life and eternity for me and all who truly seek you.


Notes:

Banner Photo by Mario Calvo on Unsplash

Betrayal ... Redeemed

Holy Week.  The annual Lenten journey descends to the darkest of all moments before culminating next Sunday in the most ascended moment ever.

This Lent, I’ve followed along a book by Alicia Britt Chole, “40 Days of Decrease.” Each day, Chole (pronounced show-lee) offers a reflection, reading, and fast.  Although adaptable for times other than Lent, she dedicates about a half-page at the end of each chapter/day to the history of Lenten practice.

The word “different” in the book subtitle, “A different kind of hunger. A different kind of fast” understates how different a journey Chole offers.  Consider the fasts:

Day one: Lent as a project
Day two: Regrets
Day three: Collecting praise
Day four: Artificial light…

I found her reflections unusual, refreshing, intriguing, and for Day 27, sobering.  The focus was betrayal by Judas, the apostle who made a deal with the Jewish leaders leading to Jesus’ arrest and execution. Recall the Last Supper scene described in Matthew’s gospel when Jesus mentioned that one among them would betray Him.  

“Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Judas inquired.  To which Jesus replied, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:21, 25)

Judas’s “betrayal was a manifestation of satanic opposition,” Chole remarked.  “We expect satanic opposition from the world. But when it comes from around the table, it takes our breath away.” (page 136)

Chole then pressed into this betrayal by depicting Jesus and Judas’s final interaction during the arrest sequence that ended, she wrote, “with some name-calling.”

“The last name Judas called Jesus was Rabbi.  The last thing Jesus called Judas was friend.”

That word rendered as “friend” is the Greek hetairos, “used culturally to refer to a colleague, comrade, fellow worker, or friend. It appears only three times in the New Testament, exclusively in the gospel of Matthew.* In biblical context, ‘the implication [is] of a distinct relationship in which there is generosity on the one part and abuse on the other.’ To the point: a co-worker’s betrayal.” (page 137)

So this particular betrayal “from around the table” is betrayal by someone close, someone we trust, who we let our guard down with, who we never even slightly suspect would betray us.  

Having been on the business end of betrayal “from around the table” on a few occasions, the weight of her remark settled in my chest. I can testify that not only does it take your breath away but getting back to breathing normally again can take a long, long while.

That I still feel so raw about my own experiences of having been betrayed took me by surprise. Then came a dawning of how others in my life must feel and still feel raw about due to betrayal by a spouse, a niece, a grandchild, a brother, a buddy, a colleague, a neighbor….

Here is yet another iteration of the depth and detail of Jesus’ humanity.  While this particular betrayal factors hugely in Jesus’ story, what is most said about Him is that and how He redeemed betrayal and all the dismissal, rejection and injustice heaped onto His huge shoulders.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,

And by His stripes we are healed.
— Isaiah 53:5, NKJV

Sobering. Indeed. We must really matter to Him.

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Referenced pages from “40 Days of Decrease - A different kind of hunger. A different kind of fast” by Alicia Britt Chole


 

In the surrounding atmosphere

 Photo by  Jason Briscoe  on  Unsplash

I meet and pray at our church with three guys on Saturday mornings.  Officially we meet from 8 to 9 a.m. but our time together often meanders for an additional 10 or 20 minutes.

We discuss, confess and pray with each other about our lives and faith and the life and ministry of our church.  To meet there where we as church convene to worship, do life together, plan and serve is important in a manner similar to how God himself confers sanctity to certain places in his grand story as cast in the Bible.

On any given week, one or more of us brings something from our personal life and faith to weigh into together. I especially appreciate their insights and prayers when I am wrestling with something personal or regarding my relationship with the Lord..

The particular matters are less important than the sense of tough love and wisdom the guys extended even if difficult for me to initially receive well.  Their emphatic guidance that I turn away from myself and dial instead into the Lord is how iron sharpening iron works.  (See Proverbs 27:17)

Sometimes I am frustrated with striving as much as I do.    Why am I so often anxious, so distracted, so often seeking comfort or joy where it cannot be found?  Why would I ever want to engage in escapism from life that is so vibrantly radiant with God’s very essence?  Why indeed?

Perhaps because I don't truly grasp that Jesus’ straightforward claims and teachings about the “at-handness" of the "kingdom of God” is as accessible and near as he so emphatically asserts?  The present reality of life on earth vehemently refutes all such claims.

I'm reading for the third time a book that really spoke to that idea of God's nearness on a day-to-day basis better than anything I ever read before or since - “The Divine Conspiracy - discovering our hidden life in God” by Dallas Willard.  Published in 1998, I first read it in 2003 then again in 2013, and now I am listening to an audio version.

Bringing the kingdom or realm of God near was in Jesus’ teachings and mission and not because this was something new.  Rather, Jesus ministry demonstrated and his message conveyed that the kingdom of God or the heavens was nearer due to him.

A concern of Willard's was that translators of Jesus’ messages sometimes chose words that convey the kingdom as not so near.  For example, phrasing that Jesus used to express the idea of the “kingdom of heaven” (Greek, tou ouranous) could have been literally translated as “air” or “surrounding atmosphere,” instead of the words that were used, like “sky” or “heaven.”

“Now our English sky means something quite different from air, and heaven means something quite different from either,” Willard explained.  “The translation becomes entangled in these meanings. The sky is more a limit than a space, and as a place it is farther away than the air.  Hence, we say, 'The sky’s the limit,' not 'The air’s the limit.' Heaven, of course, is strictly out of sight for us, beyond the moon for sure and quite likely “beyond” the physical cosmos.”  (The Divine Conspiracy, page 71)

I don’t know about you but the thought of heaven as near as the surrounding air or atmosphere feels a lot nearer than it residing in the distant sky or unreachable cosmos.

I bring this up not because its essential to know, only because it shows yet another way how much we regular people living out our mundane lives matter to God and Jesus. Frankly, I never thought of the kingdom of God as far away or lacking access but I'm inspired by the idea that the kingdom is as close as the thin air around us. How about you?

As inspiring as this is for me, my most applied experience of the "kingdom of the heavens" comes from regularly doing life with fellow Christians, such as Saturday mornings with the guys. Us sharing life and faith and mulling over the God’s word in Scripture together personifies another message Jesus offered that posed no issues for translators to clearly impart.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
— (Matthew 18:20

God draws near to us when we draw near to each other in relevant faith discussions, supporting each other, musings and prayer... 

Right here in the surrounding atmosphere.


Notes:

1. If you've not read Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, here's a little excerpt from my book’s cover jacket:

In an era when many Christians consider Jesus a beloved but remote savior, Willard argues compellingly for the relevance of God to every aspect of our existence. Masterfully capturing the central insights of Christ's teachings in a fresh way for today's seekers, he helps us to explore a revolutionary way to experience God - by knowing Him as an essential part of the here and now, rather than only as a part of the hereafter.

2. My practice of Saturday morning fellowship with godly guys actually began in March 1983.  The “Christian Men's Fellowship” ("CMF") met many years at St. Owens Catholic Church in Franklin, MI.  I withdrew from that group in 2001 in order to devote Saturday mornings to personal devotions and later to join the prayer group meeting at our church that I reference in this post.  Meanwhile, CMF still meets including a few of the original members from a study facilitated by the late Fr. Dwayne Stenzel in late 1982 at (then) Duns Scotus Monastery attended by some 200 or so Catholic men from all across southeastern Michigan.  After the study concluded in the Spring of 1983, local fellowships were formed to continue meeting, including ours. At one of those meetings in September, 1983 I recommitted my life to Christ.

If You Had Only Known

Are you tracking destiny in this season of life?  Solidly connecting with the Lord each day of life?  Is his word and calling your primary guidance source?

I am asking myself questions like these this Lent.  A friend recommended a daily Lenten study that is drawing me into Jesus’ journey to the cross.  

Day 16 shadows Jesus’ emotions and actions following his “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem that we now mark as Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. Luke captures Jesus’ sobering words as he processes on a colt into Jerusalem.

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes.”  (Luke 19:42, NIV)

Then, a chilling prophecy about the fate of the holy city that would be fulfilled just 50 or so years later.

“The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19: 43-44, NIV)

The passage riveted me.  Whereas I generally read this as a modern observer of past history, not this time.

“If you … had only known what would bring you peace….”

You, as in me!  My first thought, “Do I know what brings me peace?”  

Peace from living up, syncing in my giftedness, purposeful, relationally strong, nurturing others in my life and who cross my path, in tune with my Lord, resisting temptation and keeping short accounts when I falter.

Some of that is going on but way too often I’m skidding right by the sweet spots.  Overly focused on myself, I am often disappointed, even angry, when things do not go my way. Instead of automatically taking my doubts and questions to the Lord, too often I cheat by soothing myself with escapism which only leaves me feeling guilty and crippled.  

I, I, I, me, me, me.  See the pattern?  Searching for peace where it cannot be found.

When I repent, doubt often lingers as I wonder how much longer the Lord will tolerate me. How long until his offer of peace is withdrawn, no longer available - “hidden from my eyes?”

Here is where regular reading, studying and meditating on Scripture pays off. One of many promise rises from my memory.

“persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:9, NIV)

My take is that Jesus’ frightening warning regards those who refuse his redemption invitation.  Many years ago, the Lord’s persistent pursuit of me FINALLY broke through my hard heartedness.  Now I pray for others to also let the Lord in. I believe the invitation extends through our mortal lifetimes.

So if not from God, the discouragement and fear comes from elsewhere.  Scripture instructs that its hold on us continues until we resolve to deploy the tools God puts into the hands of every believer - his word, obedience, and faith.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6: 11-12)

I love that about the Christian faith - lots of mind, body and soul engagement.  Nothing mamby pamby about it.

From Day 15 of the study: “Actions reveal beliefs because beliefs inspire actions.”  

To give myself over to sin is to reveal diminished belief in God.  Fortunately, God only sees me only through the lens of Jesus so while my grip on him may be feeble at times, his hold on me is not.

True peace in this life is ONLY found in the Lord.

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
— Isaiah 26:3, ESV

We trust and he holds  How very peaceful.

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Notes:

Lent study: “40 Days of Decrease” by Alicia Britt Chole

Dubious Undertones

Not for lack of writing, Road Report posts have faltered a bit.  A growing list of paused messages await further inspiration.

An off-blog comment from a reader a few months ago scored a direct hit to some of my strongest  doubts about this blog project - that my writing lacks the fluidity I desire, that a labor over messages.

Too often, Road Report Journal is way too much like my actual journal and thoughts - choppy and meandering and only occasionally lucid, natural and crisp.

I realize that doubt and brooding have dubious spiritual undertones.  The song, “Through His Eyes” by Jenny and Tyler regards how Satan taunts along those lines.

Blank pages for months
And the sound of his voice rings in my head
Saying I should give up
And all that I write is meaningless

He says, no one else has to know about this
No one else has to know

Discouragement and secrecy gives “him” away. (See Zechariah 3: 1-2; Revelations 12:10)

Abandoned guitars
Dust covered shelves, laundry piled high
Tell me I’m not enough
And I know that they are wrong
But I still believe these lies

He says, no one else has to know about this
No one else has to know
No one else has to know

More discouragement and secrecy and, of course, lies.  This is Satan’s M.O. (See John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:14)

To recognize a counterfeit, study the real thing.  Our enemy’s intent is that we give in to our doubts and despair, set aside our resolve and by all means, abandon and question the claims of our Bible while slowly succumbing to "his” lies.  

Faith is the antidote to doubt.

...whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. (Jesus, Matthew 21:22)
… faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (
Romans 10:17)

Satan deceives believers into trusting feelings while Jesus teaches that faith intentionally engages God’s word, developing discipline to connect feelings with the power of the Holy Spirit at work within our beings (hearts, mind, spirit).  

Mature believers still doubt but they languish less before bringing doubt and disappointment directly to the Lord.  Siding with God is the best way to rebuff and the lose the tempter.  (James 4:7).

When what I’m doing isn’t going where I think it should be going or working out how I  thought, I tend not to notice the “I” part of “my” desires while the urge to silently slink away and not attract any attention is very, very strong.

At these low points, Jesus will find us if we don’t go find him first. (Psalm 139)  “Transfer your load to me,” he essentially urges.  He takes everything and frees me to live large no matter what is going on or how I feel about it.  

Jenny finishes the song with a flourish

Ooh I want to see myself through Your eyes
Ooh Father help me see myself through Your eyes

To see ourselves as God sees us is to reflect the radiance of Jesus. Others might notice us doing so.

-------------------------------------

Notes:

1.  Jenny’s explanation of their song, "Through His Eyes"
2. Photo by Tobias van Schneider on Unsplash

Meanwhile, Lent

 Photo by  Ihor Malytskyi  on  Unsplash

Seems I disappeared awhile. Did you miss me?

Truth is, I’m sorting some things out and rethinking about when best to write and about what.  I am still sorting.  Meanwhile, Lent has arrived and I am following the practice of a book recommended to me by a new acquaintance, Jessica.

“40 Days of Decrease” by Alicia Britt Chole is the book name.  Subtitle: “A different kind of hunger: a different kind of fast."

40 chapters, one for each day of Lent.  Sundays excluded, of course. To follow along, I made a table to sync the chapters with the actual dates of Lent 2018 and a little space to write a reflection each day.  

The fasts are unusual:

  • Day one: Lent as a project
  • Day two: Regrets
  • Day three: collecting praise
  • Day four: artificial light
  • Day seven: a meal

Here, from Day two:

At least since the Council of Nicea in AD 325, Lent has been a forty day, communal focus upon the most disillusioning season of the first disciples’ lives.  Jesus, having confessed to be the Messiah, prophecies His soon-coming death.  Jesus, who commands winds and waves, allows Himself arrested.  Jesus, who bests the brightest Pharisees and Sadducees, refuses to defend Himself when falsely accused.  Jesus, who raised others from the dead, chooses not to save Himself.

In Jesus’ journey cross-ward, the disciples’ illusions of what Jesus could and should do with His power were shattered by the reality of what Jesus actually did with His power, and their personal illusions of commitment-unto-death were shattered by the reality of fear-inspired self protection.  Meditating on Jesus’ suffering and the disciples’ disillusionment creates a framework within which we can spiritually process our own loss of illusions and gaining of realities.  This is critical, because… reality is where we meet God.

In Jesus’ journey cross-ward, the disciples’ illusions of what Jesus could and should do ... were shattered by the reality of what Jesus actually did
— Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days of Decrease

 

This is always the case with God.  We typically attempt to pull Him into our lives only to find that nothing about Him syncs with anything that we are or desire to be in our own intellect. The only way to overcome the constant crisis of that misfit is to yield, to submit to His incessant but loving tension to be drawn, pulled into His life, manner and ways.  

Painfully we learn and as/if we choose in faith to continue, we yield to how God works transformation in us - through crisis, friction, discomfort, stretching, chopping out, suffering and, yes, death.  

These are the only ways to the new life God offers in grace through Christ.

So here I continue, sorting and being shaped. You?

 

The Husband Store

http://www.staywow.com/Files/article/HUSBANDSTORE997.jpg

As tomorrow, my wife and I mark our 39th year of wedded bliss, I offer this bit of humor that was shared with me by a friend and brother who married before us and is still going strong. 

A store that sells husbands has just opened in New York City, where a woman may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates. You may visit the store ONLY ONCE !

There are six floors and the attributes of the men increase as the shopper ascends the flights. There is,  however, a catch .. you may choose any man from a particular floor, or you may choose to go up a floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!

So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband.

On the first floor the sign on the door reads:
Floor 1 - These men have jobs and love the Lord.

The second floor sign reads:
Floor 2 - These men have jobs, love the Lord, and love kids.

The third floor sign reads:
Floor 3 - These men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, and are extremely good looking.

"Wow," she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.

She goes to the fourth floor and sign reads:
Floor 4 - These men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are drop-dead good looking and help with the housework.

"Oh, mercy me!" she exclaims, "I can hardly stand it!"

Still, she goes to the fifth floor and sign reads:
Floor 5 - These men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are drop-dead gorgeous, help with the housework, and have a strong romantic streak.

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor and the sign reads:

Floor 6 - You are visitor 4,363,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store. Watch your step as you exit the building, and have a nice day!

(I think my wife found me on floor 2 although I admit to have fallen to the basement now and then over the years.)

 

 

Whatever...!

Ran across this great post by Robert J. Morgan when I was researching the use of the word "whatever" in Philippians 4:8.  Thought I'd share this with you.  Enjoy!


Oh, whatever...

In our culture, that little generalized word “whatever” has come to indicate indifference or apathy, an attitude of “who cares.” It’s our response to anything we don’t like but can’t avoid, or to anyone whose opinions become tiresome. It’s the verbal shrug of the shoulders. But try looking up this word in Scripture. I’ve been studying the Bible practically every day for forty years, and I’ve often found refreshment in chasing word studies and exploring obscure topics. Jesus said we’re not to live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God — and that includes the word “whatever.”

Recently I spend a wonderful morning looking up all the occurrences of this term in my New International Version. In Scripture, “whatever” is a term indicating the totality of our commitment to God. It occurs 173 times, and many of the references speak of wholehearted obedience and blessing. As I studied these references, I divided them into seven headings.

First, we’re to do whatever God tells us. Mary, the mother of Jesus, told the workers at the wedding of Cana of Galilee in John 2:5: “Do whatever he tells you.” That’s good advice for all of us. In the Old Testament, the Children of Israel told Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go” (Joshua 1:16). My own personal commitment to God is expressed in those two words: “Whatever... wherever...!” When the Lord called the prophet Jeremiah into the ministry, he told him, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.... Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them” (Jeremiah 1:7-8 & 17).

Second, whatever we do we should do it having spent time in the Scriptures. According to Psalm 1, those who meditate day and night in God’s Word will be like trees planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. “Whatever they do prospers.” The apostle Paul said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8). Since by its very nature the mind of God is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, and since His mind is revealed in His Word, those who meditate on Scripture day and night will increasingly have minds tinged with the same qualities. That kind of thinking leads to prosperity and peace.

Third, whatever we do, we should do it prayerfully. Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.... If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you may ask for whatever you wish and it will be done for you” (Matthew 21:22; John 15:7). The apostle John gives us the all-important qualification: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us —whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). Prayer isn’t a matter of demanding God do what we want. It’s a way of adjusting our souls to whatever He wants — and acquiring it by grace.

Fourth, whatever we do, we should do it earnestly. There’s an Old Testament and a New Testament verse about this. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” And Colossians 3:23 adds, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.” As a Christian, I want to be wholehearted in my efforts, whatever they are, for I’m doing them for the Lord.

Fifth, whatever we do, we should do it with integrity. Philippians 1:27 says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of God.” Recently I reached an agreement with a man who wanted to “sign” the bargain with a handshake. In shaking his hand I felt like I was signing my name to the contract. In earlier days, multimillion deals were reached with a handshake, for a person’s word was his bond. That’s seldom true now, but it should always be true among Christians. We do whatever we do with integrity and in a way worthy of the Gospel.

Sixth, whatever we do, we should do it with others in mind. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” The apostle Peter added, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others (1 Peter 4:10). This simple principle accounts for the incredible history of Christian benevolent and humanitarian actions.

Finally, whatever we do, we must do it for God’s glory, for the Bible says, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is the Reformation cry of Soli Deo Gloria — “To God Alone be the Glory.” It’s one of the five “solas” of the reformation and one of Christianity’s greatest abbreviations: SDG. Johann Sebastian Bach penned those initials to the bottom of each of his musical scores to remind himself and his listeners that all the glory belonged to the Lord. In the same way, it’s a joy to put those initials at the bottom of every passing day of life.

Whatever happens today, do as the German hymnist Paul Gerhardt suggested: “Commit whatever grieves thee into the gracious hands of Him who never leaves thee, whom heaven and heart commands.” He is the God of whatevers, and He can handle whatever comes your way this week.


1. Original post: The Word 'Whatever" in the Bible
2. Image source: Metro News

 

 

Momentary Glory

As I write this, the 2018 North American International Auto Show is underway in nearby Detroit, the self-proclaimed center of automobile manufacturing worldwide. While science and technology is generally credited with shifting human potential into hyper mode, automotive technology puts all this accumulated know-how on the road and into the hands of everyday men and women.

A driver of older cars myself, I cruised the internet for views about must-have automotive technology for 2018.

1. Connected Mobile Apps - to remotely lock and unlock the doors, check fuel level and tire pressure, and start the car on cold mornings.

2. Teen Driver Technology - notify parents if the car is driven over a certain speed, disable the stereo if seatbelts aren't used, and even keep the stereo from being turned up past 7

3. Adaptive Cruise Control - automatically match the speed of the car in front of you, allow  car to be brought to a complete halt and then resume automatically in stop-and-go traffic

4. LED/Xenon Headlights - LED bulbs that never need replacing, swivel to illuminate around corners and auto-high beams that prevent blinding other drivers while maximizing driver’s view

5. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - Plug in your smart phone and it replaces the often user-unfriendly do-it-all screens of the automaker with an interface more like the more familiar look your phone offers.

6. USB Ports - every new car comes with one or two, but the Chrysler Pacifica has nine. Some vehicles are even coming with the same 110-volt power outlets that you'll find in your home.

7. Rear Cross-Traffic Alert - sensors alert to approaching vehicles, shopping carts, or pedestrians in low-speed places like parking lots where many accidents occur. Some cars can even automatically brake before a collision occurs.

8. Lane Departure Warning - cameras that determine if a car has drifted across a marked lane line. Some systems even help nudge you back into the proper lane, a life-saver if you were heading into opposing traffic.

9. Automatic Emergency Braking - sensors to determine if a forward collision crash is imminent and automatically applies the brakes to diminish the severity or avoid a crash entirely.

10. 360-degree Camera - that can show a virtual top-down view of your surroundings and avoid the mishaps that insurance claims indicate are the most likely to occur.

Against this technological dazzle, a recent adventure in our family revealed that even the latest and greatest innovations have their limitations. My wife drives our “newest” car, a 2006 SUV declared “pretty basic” by our son whose lease car is one of today’s “electronic-everything” varieties.  However, I just helped him haul his all-of-a-sudden, non-running car to a repair shop due to a mysterious electrical issue triggered by the recent sub-zero cold snap.  The car starts but cannot be put into gear. (Fortunately, the truck we borrowed to pull the car hauler trailer featured an older, “mechanical” shifter that performed reliably!)

Wrote the prophet Isaiah,

“All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
   surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades,
   but the word of our God will stand forever." (Isaiah 40: 6-8, ESV)

While we love to boast about our gadgetry and credit technology with taking humanity to new heights, all we are and ever will be pales before the majesty of God, like grass that withers and flowers that fade.  

A good perspective to fall back on when our stuff lets us down, as it surely will.

-------------------------------------------------

Notes:

Top auto technologies in 2018

Wise Men Too?

17-17 Wise men mug (1).JPG

New Year’s Day starts the wave of packing up Christmas and hunkering down for the balance of winter here in the north.  For those who observe the tradition, only the Epiphany remains, marking the arrival of wise men from somewhere east to honor the Christ child.

Our legend of them is larger than what we really know.  That learned people like them are part of the Christmas story certainly adds another layer of intrigue to this already incredible story.

A virgin, a census trip, no suitable birthing place, a manger/animal stall, a star, angels, shepherds and now these scholarly men from afar.  

While the they adorn most of our manger scenes, the new family was in a house when the wise men or “Magi” arrived (see Matthew 2:1-23). The actual story doesn’t say how many they were, only that they presented three gifts to the child - gold, frankincense and myrrh. Wise “men” suggests no less than two of them.  

I find their inclusion in the story fascinating because the supposedly learned people of our day stake all knowledge on soley, evidence-based reality that is generally devoid of cosmic and divine inputs.  Conversely, more than the star guided the Magi to Jerusalem.  They new about one to be “born king of the Jews.”

How would they know?  If they hailed from Babylon, the writings of the Babylonian exile, Daniel would equip them as would other ancient Jewish texts like this fourth oracle of Balaam:

“A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17b, NIV).

While they might not be astronomers per se, Pastor/teacher Alistair Begg regarded them as “theological scientists” in his recent radio message entitled “The Wise Men.”  Through the ancient and medieval periods of history spanning some 62,000 years, the divine and material realms were unquestionably complimentary.  Sterilizing the material realm by dismissing all divine elements has taken hold in just the last 500 or so years.  

I’ve recently begun some reading to improve my understanding of the historical basis for my Christian beliefs.  While on one hand, all that is known literally stands on the accumulated knowledge of the past, most modern people are historically naive and have no interest in becoming less so.

I confess to and I am bothered by that bias.   Nevertheless, that notably wise people, like these wise men, Magi, are unabashedly drawn to the Lord fascinates me.  

While I don’t think myself particularly wise or astute, my faith is bolstered by fellow, believing men and women whose grasp of literature, science, history, and the cosmos unquestionably reflects serious intellectualism.  I am an appreciative audience when they articulate their faith.

Think about it.  These learned men, probably guided by considerable study, inspiration and conviction, undertook a perilous journey to find to worship a newborn they resolved to be from God.

I am so glad God included them in his story.


Notes:

1. Banner Photo by Inbal Malca on Unsplash
2. The Wise Men by Alistair Begg
3. Also see "The Wise Men Visit the Christ Child" at HeReadsTruth

Basking in the wonder

 Christmas morning 2017

Christmas morning 2017

While the snow that started around noon made for dicey driving to and from our family’s annual Christmas eve celebration, it also ensured a snowy Christmas day. Growing up here in the north, snow on Christmas added to the wonder of the holiday, unchanged for me even though I’m also now north of 60.

“Snow-geeked” Christmas morning, I clicked on the holiday lights then bundled up to clear snow from around the woodpile.  A while later, I settled into the early morning lull with a fire roaring and fresh coffee in hand.  Soon enough, everyone would awake to launch into Christmas day.

During my childhood, a Christmas eve snowfall might lure me away from ravioli dinner to press my nose to a window pane to scan the night skies for signs of a reindeer-drawn sleigh. While I would feign difficulty falling to sleep, I was long gone when “Santa” crept into my room to leave a stocking stuffed with surprises to hold me until mom and dad’s signal next morning to traipse down the stairs to check out presents gushing out for under our Christmas tree. But first, we always looked for telltale crumbs from the cookies and milk left for Santa the night before.

As I recall those memories, I’m grateful how mom and dad managed to build ceremonial moments into Christmas morning to gather around the manger scene to mark the baby Jesus’ birth. We carried that forward when raising our family.

Gradually I grew then eventually I knew the difference between the fantasy and the reality. Turns out the reality’s wonder bested the fantasy and we raised our own children in that wonder while respecting traditions fellow parents chose. Our children are now grown and gone but, thankfully, come home for Christmas.

We’ve really been “into” Christmas this year, launching into it all Thanksgiving weekend.  We added to our outdoor display and got caught with my ornament project, gifts, greeting cards, church and various “convenings’ of the season.

We’re wearing out favorite Christmas CDs. One song in particular is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “I heard the bells on Christmas day,” written in 1864. Remakes on Christmas CDs  by Casting Crowns and Steven Curtis Chapman are particularly good but my favorite is MercyMe’s version. [click and listen while reading on...]

Recall how it goes?  The Christmas day bells herald a familiar refrain, “peace on Earth, good will to men.” The listener is initially bolstered by hearing the bells but later despairs as the reality and persistence of strife and hate on earth mocks the claim.  

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

We Christians live in this tension that sometimes overwhelms and teases our faith.  But as we  meditate and persist with sound doctrine and counsel and prayer and obedience, God’s presence and power rises, rallying the refrain to a building crescendo.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor does He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on Earth, good will to men

MercyMe’s ending stirs me,

I can hear You! I can hear You! I can hear You! .....
Oh yeah, yeah
I could still hear You!
The world can hear You!
— MercyMe from Christmas Sessions, 2005

 

Sometimes I think we’ve applied too much fake fairy dust to Christmas that needs no such treatment from the likes of us.  Its wonder stands on its own. Nevertheless, at this moment, I want to stay in the stillness of Bethlehem for just a while longer before venturing back into the harsh realities of day to day life and ultimately, to the cross.

Beyond Bethlehem, Jesus’ real work beckons, where the world takes issue with what we believe and know to be true, that Jesus is indeed who he says he is.  Nevertheless, I’m staying put today, basking in this moment of wonder and stillness.

Tomorrow will come soon enough.


Notes:

Banner photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

 

 

Divinely Human - 2017 Ornament

My 2017 (18th annual) ornament was inspired by some conversations this year about legacy. With next generations in mind, we wondered out loud what we would include and exclude if we could control our family legacy.  And what about when something “messy” pushes its way into our story?

 Consider Jesus’ genealogy in Luke 3: 23-38. Through layers of human messiness, God navigates his redemption plan culminating in the birth of a promised Savior who is “Divinely Human.” I pray this nuance of his amazing story blesses you.

 Glenn Trevisan (Christmas 2017)


 Divinely Human - 2017 Ornament

Divinely Human - 2017 Ornament

The cover of our church bulletin reads: “Real God, Messy People, Changed Lives. The Gospel Changes Everything.”  The explanation begins, “The gospel is the story of God’s work as He restores a broken world full of broken people through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Broken people are God’s specialty. Any faltering that we fear would mar our legacies is lovingly handled by a God who separates each of us from our sin. Not only is our broken state where he begins his redemptive work in us, often he transforms our lowest points into inspiring testimonies!

Perhaps to prove the point, the human ancestry of God’s son includes several instances of indiscretions that would no doubt be voted off the family tree if that option were available. Instead, these ancestors are openly included along with everyone else in genealogies featured in not one but two gospels, Matthew and Luke.

Matthew’s genealogy starts with Abraham to establish Jesus’ Jewish lineage while Luke goes all the way back to Adam to establish a relationship with the entire human race. “Divinely Human” illustrates the Luke genealogy:

  • A Christmas "family tree"
  • with God as its trunk
  • and beads depicting some ancestors of Jesus, the treetop star.
 Top to bottom "bead "key" for Divinely Human ornament based on  Luke 3: 23-38

Top to bottom "bead "key" for Divinely Human ornament based on Luke 3: 23-38

“Divinely Human” highlights the ancestry of Jesus Christ whose birth Christmas marks and celebrates. Divinely sourced and sovereignly orchestrated through a human lineage marked by both faithfulness and foibles, the baby Jesus arrived “in the fullness of time” to Bethlehem, as foretold. (see Galatians 4:4 & Micah 5:2)

Genesis 49:10 establishes that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah, fourth son of Jacob and Leah, a marriage arranged through a deception on the part of her father, Laban. Jacob’s preference for and subsequent marriage to younger sister, Rachel was cause for jealousy between the two sisters whose vying for Jacob’s favor literally “produced” the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel!

Years later, Judah would be party to another deception, fathering descendent Perez when lured into sex by  daughter-in-law Tamar posing as a temple prostitute.  Further down the line, former prostitute  Rahab married Salmon, one of the Israeli spies she sheltered in Jericho.  Their son Boaz was the kinsman redeemer of Ruth who he met gleaning grain in one of his fields.  They married and had Obed who brought much joy to grandmother Naomi. 

Ancestor Solomon (of Proverbs ”wisdom”) was second child of David and Bathsheba,  whose first husband’s death was arranged by David. Finally came Jesus whose mother Mary’s conception story was probably a closely-guarded secret known by only a select few before the gospel accounts were written and circulated.

“Divinely Human” illustrates God’s divine sovereignty that assures everything “works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) undeterred by the human ancestry of our Messiah that features more messiness that most legacies can handle.

The “Good News” we celebrate at Christmas is this: In Christ, our redemption that is 100% dependent on God and 0% dependent on us. God’s legacy is us redeemed!


Notes:

COMMENTS: Are WELCOME and ENCOURAGED here about how the ornament and/or message struck you ESPECIALLY from ornament recipients. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO RECEIVE a 2017 “Divinely Human” ornament, simply request one at RoadReportJournal@gmail.com. My "extras" supply is very limited but if I can get one to you, I will.  If shipping is required, I will ask you to cover those costs.

Acknowledgements:

  1. Genealogy resource: “The Biblical Genealogy,” an awesome 11x17 chart detailing lineage from Adam to Jesus that is available at www.amazon.com/shops/biblegenealogychart
  2. Materials:
    1. Tree: This project was a definite go thanks to finding the “Pine Tree Rustic Tin Shape,” at AllTheMemories – Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/shop/AllTheMemories )
    2. Treetop star: 2nd key element was the treetop "Jesus" star found at GingerlilyFrance - Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/shop/GingerlilyFrance )
    3. Beads & Wire
      1. 6 beads were purchased from a Michael's Crafts store
      2. 3 beads were found at ScaraBeads – Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/shop/ScaraBeads)
  3. Scripture References: (see hyperlinks in text above)
    1. Anchor scripture is Luke 3: 23-38
    2. Also Galatians 4:4 and Micah 5:2
    3. 9 “birth verses” are listed on the ornament card
    4. A resource but not referenced is Matthew’s genealogy: Matthew 1: 1-17
  4. Advisors, editors, helpers: Grace Chapel Pastor Doug Walker and my wife, Cindy for editing assistance.  Thanks to Karol Gee for help with printing the ornament card.

The Making of "Divinely Human"

I enjoy watching the featurettes about "how this movie was made" sometimes offered on DVDs.  Fascinating how it all comes together, the approaches the director and actors took, etc.  In that vein, I offer this pictorial featurette on the making of the "Divinely Human" ornament. For those of you who like that kind of thing.....

Interchangeable

17-1204 Journal 40.jpg

I just launched journal number 40 with a thematic cover that is similar to journal 39.  Usually, journal covers are different, each reflecting a theme in my life at the time.  This time however, I felt I needed to correct for #40 "incorrect" phrasing on the cover of journal 39.

Notice the "Doug Walkerism" statements near the bottom of each cover.

Journals.JPG

P.S. A "Doug Walkerism" is my own coined phrase in honor of Doug Walker, the pastor of Grace Chapel, our church since mid-1997.  He usually follows this and many of his "isms" phrases with something like, “The Gospel changes everything.” This phrasing derives from a greater, gospel philosophy Doug brought to Grace Chapel when he became our pastor in 2004.  

 Journal 28 cover by daughter, Laura - a 2006 Father's Day gift

Journal 28 cover by daughter, Laura - a 2006 Father's Day gift

I've been keeping some kind of notebook or journal since 1972, my junior year in high school.  Thematic covers like these started with journal #28 in 2007 when our daughter Laura gifted me a journal with a decorated cover for Father's Day 2006.  I liked it so much, I decorated all my subsequent journal covers.

After I locked the “Grace” version onto the cover of #39 in March (2017),  Doug used the term in one of his messages.  Only he used “Gospel” not “Grace.”

“Darn," I thought.  "I got it wrong.  How could I after hearing him say this all these years?”

Resolving to get it “right” with the next journal, I created the cover for #40 a month or so prior to completing journal #39. After replacing “Grace” with “Gospel,” I locked the cover in with a contact paper layer.  

Didn’t have to wait long for Doug to use the phrase again.  Except this time, he used “Grace” instead of “Gospel.”

Turns out they are interchangeable! Dah.  Apparently, I'm not one of Doug's star pupils. Perhaps I should invite him to grade me on this next sentence. The Gospel is the source of Grace and Grace flows from the Gospel. Gospel and Grace go hand in hand - interchangeable as long as grace always contexts the gospel.

A two-sentence statement on our Grace Chapel monthly bulletin summarizes the philosophy, beginning with, “The gospel is the story of God’s work as He restores a broken world full of broken people through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

The gospel restores brokenness through Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the work of Jesus and Grace is the redemption we receive through faith in Christ.

So you see, Gospel and Grace build off each other.

So did I “waste” this #40 journal cover to correct what didn’t need correcting?  What do you think?


 Subsequent journals also "covered"

Subsequent journals also "covered"

Notes:

Other favorite Doug Walkerisms:

  1. Upside down gospel
  2. Bad Heart; Bad Record; Broken World
  3. That every book (of the Bible) contains an entire gospel
  4. Real God, Messy People. Changed Lives
  5. Others?

In My Father's House

 Treadmill reading light mount

Treadmill reading light mount

(Banner photo: Manger creche building created by dad along with mom's ceramic figurines.)

I do much of my reading on our treadmill.  In support of my treadmill reading, I made a gizmo, a small shelf that is mounted on the cast-iron drain pipe next to the treadmill. I attached a reading light, drilled a pencil hole and have little room left over for a highlighter and ruler.

I come by gizmo-making from my dad.  He was gizmo-making guy able retrofit any space for maximal purposefulness. It seems I am my father’s son.

My wife would agree a little too wholeheartedly.  She would probably lead with how I am dogmatic like him, claiming certain “principles” as true and certain and ranting about ideals.  Along with his bent toward creating practical household gizmos, like him I build and fix stuff, am systematic - a place for everything, and have a strong work ethic.

Dad went home to the Lord in December 2014.  Thinking about him on the date he passed, I recalled a remark Jesus made about his Dad.

 Me and dad, 2003.

Me and dad, 2003.

My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2)

As he looked ahead to his death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus offered this assurance to his disciples and all, like us, who receive him as Lord.  I’m going ahead to prepare your room, he promised, then I’ll come back for you and take you there as well.

 Dad's toast grabber - a Christmas gift to each of his 10 children.  (Year?)

Dad's toast grabber - a Christmas gift to each of his 10 children.  (Year?)

As the oldest of my father’s ten children, I have lived in many, “many-roomed’ houses. Skilled with tools, design, building, painting and fixing, dad’s loving touch literally graced the rooms of all those houses.

Dad also crafted many beautiful objects that still grace our lives - a keepsake box and an initialed chest, a tool for plucking hot toast from a toaster, and a creche for our manger set.  My basement workroom is modeled after his - the workbench, pegboards, even a radial arm like his.  

Dad is home with the Lord and I look forward to seeing him again when the Lord calls me home.  Perhaps we will reunite in one of those many rooms Jesus mentioned.

Wonder what kinds of cool gizmos dad will be working on when we do?

All Is Bright

 Our 2017 Christmas lights

Our 2017 Christmas lights

Took advantage of the mild temperatures to get our outdoor Christmas lights up on Thanksgiving weekend.  

Our outdoor decorations show well both day and night.  Garlands, bows and ornaments for daytime while lights take over after dark.  Nearby neighbors also put lights out so our end of the street is nicely "Christmasy" during the holiday season.

When I was growing up, my dad decorated our house with holiday lights so I often think of him when I put our lights up. Something about Christmas lights….No matter how cold the weather, I stroll our block several times during the season to enjoy Christmas lights.

My wife and I usually plan at least one Christmas lights driving tour every season. A neighborhood across town is a favorite for its many large homes that are stunningly decorated. However, ours is my favorite house because our outside Christmas lights reflect the faith we live inside our house year-round. As we walk life out with the Lord, we grow more and more grateful for the gift of salvation in Jesus.

Just inside our front door is a little ceramic plaque bearing the last sentence of Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  

Our outdoor Christmas lights proclaim the same message.

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8, ESV)

Deregulation Notice

 Photo by  Stefan Cosma  on  Unsplash

Seems overly “governmenty” to declare deregulation for Road Report Journal (RRJ) but I thought some kind of notice was in order.  Been thinking about this awhile - to pull away from weekly RRJ posts arriving on Tuesday morning and ease into a more spontaneous schedule.

Less regularity may look like less or more than weekly with posts; And days other than Tuesday too.

With sympathies to my pastor friends, I do not have their Sunday sermon grind to hold to.  No one is showing up to read RRJ posts Tuesday morning.  I imposed that schedule on myself as a sort of test for putting content “out” with enough regularity to warrant having a blog at all.

According to marketing gurus, a couple important keys to building brand and audience are frequency and repetitiveness.  Note commercials on TV, radio and annoyingly scrolling across or blocking your reading view when you’re on the net. Blogwise, daily posting is considered optimal so my weekly posts are falling way short of the minimum.  

Much as I still enjoy writing in general and Road Report Journal in particular, I hoped it would be develop into more a dialogue than a monologue.  In my mind’s eye, reader comments and my replies would be the backbone of us fellow believers walking out faith together in a pseudo public context that other readers along the way could benefit and grow from.  

Alas, subscribers are few, readers fewer and, besides one particular friend, commenters virtually non-existent.  Often, remarks to posts striking closest to home do not appear in comments but circle back to me offline because someone suspects I’m writing about them in particular and wants me to answer directly to them.

I’m heading that kind of stuff off with some new policies.  See the “About” page for more on that.

To you who both subscribe and read, thanks for supporting RRJ with your attention. I’m particularly grateful for your comments because others can also benefit from your insights.

Looking forward, Road Report Journal posts will arrive “as the Spirit moves me” to coin an over-worn idea.  Although I’m not holding myself to a weekly schedule, perhaps posts over a given period will average to once weekly or more.  Arrival days will vary but only on a weekdays.

Gonna cue more on the rhythms of life and resurrect some focuses shoved aside due to time constraints the writing process has eaten up.  A few house projects are pending and my guitar is gathering dust.

Perhaps (hopefully?), Road Report Journal will emerge better.  

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. (1 Thessalonians 5:1, ESV)

Paul wrote this regarding the Lord’s next arrival.  He followed by insisting that we who follow the Lord and cue on him know him, are known by him and will (or should) be awake and sober of mind when he arrives.

Take it from Paul.  You don’t really need me to write the Lord into your life but I delight to reflect to you about how we matter to him in the context of my own journey along the roads of life.  Also, writing helps me to internalize the life lesson I'm writing about.  I'm pretty sure I get more out of this than you.

Most of all, I pray that all forms of my expression are ultimately blessing and grace to you. 

Because you matter to God!
— Road Report Journal

Thankful ... For EVERYTHING?

 Photo by  Zac Durant  on  Unsplash

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

How will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year? We will go to a sister’s home and I imagine a special prayer will be offered, perhaps participatory.  What to say if invited to reflect what I’m thankful for?

My inclination is to think about what I feel best about in my life right now, according to me.  The Bible, on the other hand, offers a somewhat BROADER perspective on thankfulness.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.    (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV)

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20)

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:5)

“All - Always - Everything-Continually” doesn’t leave much room for what seems good to me at any given moment.

At work, one of my regular jobs is making different sizes of rubber pads for installing racks in commercial vehicles. Although learning this job was somewhat involved, I’ve got it down now and let’s just say that when I get on a parts-making roll, I struggle to keep my brain engaged.  

I did production work in my younger years so when this job came along, I resolved to mentally prepare myself for the mind-numbing aspects of factory work. Turns out, plenty of positives with this company as well - friendly and supportive management and coworkers, steady and predictable hours, optional overtime, a comfortable and casual workplace. Still, the production doldrums sometimes gets to me.

 At my lowest moments, my resolve to be thankful languishes into pleading with the Lord, something like, “Lord, does all-always-continually cover repetitive, mind-numbing factory work that didn’t even exist when you created the world?”

For drama, I sometimes expand the criteria.  “Lord, what about when someone is wronged or mistreated or victimized by violence… instances of suffering or injustice...suffering losses due to natural disasters?

Something Jesus said that I quote often and think about even more - that believers are to “take heart” when we experience trouble because he has overcome all such trouble. (John 16:33).  What does he mean by “take heart?”  Other translations use “take courage.”

Seems like the Lord is conveying something along the line of, “I know life in the world is tough and troublesome but hang in there because I’ve got you. Trust me.”

I just re-read Joseph’s story in Genesis. At some point, he realized that nothing got to him that the Lord didn’t allow. What others meant to harm him, God used for good.  (See Genesis 50:20). Grasping that, he was freed to receive and forgive the brothers who wronged him.  

The Lord said something along that line to me the other day. “Glenn, I’ve got you, no matter what.  Be thankful for everything.”

Other Bible stories besides Joseph bear this out, such as Job, Moses, David, Esther, Ruth, and Rahab to name a few.

In the third chapter of  Ephesians  Paul prays that we believers would “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, ..." (Ephesians 3: 19b-20)

Assured that the Lord has me in hand and is able to do more than I can ask or imagine, I am free to be “Thankful for everything!”

I’m going to give that a go.