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Peering thru a window

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Peering thru a window

Into the center of the old forsythia

That sits just outside the dining room window

I see life that struggles to lift itself out of the grays of winter

Blooms that hope the sun finds them in the tangle of its branches

I lift prayers up to God

Through the tangles of my life

Fragile flowers tentatively open

With praise for the sun

With love for the Son

Even though they’ve been hiding for so long.


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Not just for kids

4 kids readingI think that the first stories that I learned as a child were Bible stories. They were stories of adventure and courage. Stories of people in far away places who got to do amazing things, like sailing the sea with all those animals or battling giants. And through it all was a loving God who was overseeing everything this world has to offer. Looking back over those stories with adult eyes gives us a different perspective of those old favorites.

Adam and Eve -a story of Grace

We teach this story of Creation and focus on God’s power and authority but upon closer inspection we start to see the story of grace starts right here in the beginning of Genesis. They never asked to be created yet they were brought forth and placed in a garden paradise. They had done nothing to gain them any reward, yet they were given animal companions and all the food they could eat without having to earn any of it. Even in their disobedience, they were shown grace and given another place to live – the world we live in today which as difficult as it can be is still a very beautiful place. If grace can be defined as being given what you do not deserve, then this story is a picture of God’s grace to his creation, undeserving though we may be.

Cain and Abel – a story of justice

This story is a dark one but we teach it to our little ones as a cautionary tale. These two brothers were each cut from very different cloth. Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the land. While Abel was grateful to God for all he had, Cain seems rather indifferent. When God smiles upon Abel but not Cain, Cain responds with jealousy towards his brother and anger towards God. God first warns Cain that his angry thoughts will head him down the wrong path. Cain ignores the warning and eventually murders his brother in a jealous rage. Here we see God’s justice at work. Justice for Abel in Cain’s punishment but also justice for Cain. His disobedience drives him from God’s presence, but his story doesn’t end there. The Bible records Cain’s family tree where we find people like Jubal, the father of all musicians. Only God could bring something as beautiful as music from a family rooted in something as ugly as murder. God’s justice is designed to bring us the hope of restoration.

Noah’s Ark – a story of compassionnoah

What kid didn’t have a story book showing all the animals lining up two by two or was told to look for rainbows after a storm. This story is a favorite for many reasons. It captures kids’ imaginations with it’s images of exotic animals and high seas adventure but it is much more than that. It’s a story of God’s compassion on His whole creation. Noah is introduced as being the only righteous man in a world that had strayed very far from its Creator. God will destroy the corrupted earth and basically start over but goes about it in a very unusual way. Noah instructed to build a huge boat that will save his family and all the animals from the coming calamity. Yet, the building of this ship will take a very long time and as Noah is gathering supplies and constructing the boat, his neighbors would have had to notice what was happening. This  would give many an opportunity to question and possibly repent. Sadly none did, but the chance was always open to them. Those who did enter the ark, were the only people on earth who were willing to place themselves in God’s hands. And of course, there is the rainbow at the end of the story. The ultimate sign of God’s compassion for his people. Compassion is described as loving someone enough to share in whatever they suffer. This is how God loves. Scripture records how He cries over our sinfulness, always holding out that offer of forgiveness. We can see how God cares for and protects Noah and his family through one of the darkest times in human history. And surprisingly, we can see how God has compassion on the very people who have brought about this darkness.

david and goliathDavid and Goliath – A story of obedience

Who doesn’t love a good “kill the evil gaint” story? Isn’t it great when you see the underdog emerge victorious? We all  love a classic good vs. evil battle and this story delivers. David, the youngest of his family, has watched all of his  brothers join the army to fight the Philistines. David himself must have wanted to go but he is too young. He stays on the family farm and helps his dad take care of things at home. Then dad send David out to where the army is encamped with bread and cheese for the soldiers instructing David to come back with news of his brothers. While at the emcampment, David hears Goliath, the giant Philistine, threaten the Hebrew army and the rest is history. While this is certainly a story of faith and courage, it is also a story of the importance of obedience. I’m sure that David thought often of his older brothers and looked up to them as they defended the homeland. More than anything, I’ll just bet that he wanted to be with them and fight the Philistines. But he obeyed his father and stayed home. In fact, he only shows up at the battlefield as an act of obedience to his father by delivering sandwiches to his big brothers. He will not be given the opportunity to fight the giant until after he obeys. When we make obedience to God a bedrock principle of our lives, we might be surprised at what God will build upon it. After all, He made David, who started out as a delivery boy, the greatest king of Israel.

Jonah and the Big Fish – a story of Mercyjonah

I always found this one a little disturbing. Jonah is thrown overboard into a stormy sea, swallowed by a large fish and then vomited up on the beach. Disgusting! But that’s the only parts a kid generally remembers and there is much more to it. Simply put, Jonah tries to run away from God but God turns him around. Jonah has to tell the Ninevites to repent and they do. Jonah now sulks because he thought the city deserved punishment from God and can’t understand why God is forgiving them. Jonah was happy when God gave him another chance but apparently doesn’t want to extend that same courtesy to the people of Nineveh. Mercy is not something that comes naturally to us. We can understand the concept of justice but His mercy often confuses us. Mercy is the very nature of God. Though we all deserve death (sorry to be so blunt), God offers us life and that is what mercy is all about. God shows mercy to Jonah, the Ninevites and you and I.

The Bible – a story of love

All these stories have a central theme that runs through them. They speak of a love that is beyond the limits of this earth – the love of God. As I read through these stories again and again, I gain new insights. We may first learn these stories as kids but when we relearn them as adults, we can see so much more.2 kids reading


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Torn and Broken Hearts

images (1)When you take some time to read the Biblical books of the minor prophets, you can find some really amazing verses. I have been hearing many not so nice comments lately about baking cakes and our immoral society and then today, I ran across this verse:

“Rend your hearts and not your garments.”

Joel 2:13a

It seems like Christians, of which I am one, spend a lot of time and make a big show of fighting the wrong battles. While we may have the higher moral ground on some issues, we cause an incredible amount of pain and heartache by insulting non- Christians or Christians with differing doctrines in the name of a righteous veiwpoint. I think that we would do a lot better if we loved others as Jesus instructed us rather than fighting about conflicting choices. We will be living out Christ’s words only when we engage in compassionate conversations with adversaries rather than marching across moral battlefields and drawing blood with legalistic swords.

Rending, or tearing of clothes was a pharisaical reaction to heresy. I can’t think of a single instance in Scripture when a Pharisee let his heart be torn apart by grief because he was so saddened by those who differed from him. Jesus did not tear his clothes, yet his heart was constantly broken by the everyday sinful behavior that he saw. Whether it was his own disciples cloudy vision, his society’s twisted religiousity or the outright evil of the Roman empire, Jesus allowed his heart to be broken time and time again. He showed us how broken hearts can lead to reconciliation with Himself, and also with each other. It was his sorrowful attitude towards those who disagreed or simply misunderstood him, that would bring them into relationship with him and give a face to the God described in his own words as gracious, compassionate, patient and all loving.

“Rend your hearts, not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and he relents from sending calamity.”

Joel 2:13

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Lord, take this thorn from my side…

images (3It’s hard to believe that it was snowing just last week. Today, though overcast and cloudy, it is in the 50’s and most of my crocuses are blooming.Finally, the roads are cleared of snow and ice and I can start walking again. But the long winter has taken it’s toll. I’ve packed on a few pounds and those joints that were starting to stiffen a bit anyway, have now forgotten whatever elasticity they might have had. I guess I’ll keep walking and add some basic yoga strecthes to loosen up. Since my year round, part time job is rather sedentary in nature it is natural that I slow down as the seasons turn cold. But my other seasonal, part time job will be starting up at the end of this month and I will need to get back into some kind of shape to withstand to rigors of long hours on your feet in the retail world. I go through this every winter and you’d think that after a few years I would catch on but the spring shape-up has become an annual ritual.

The thing we need to remember is that our bodies were meant for regular physical exercise. Even as we age and muscles lose strength, it doesn’t mean that we can stop moving or even push ourselves to move a bit more. The bursitis in my feet, the stiffness of my nerve-damaged knees and the soreness of my shoulders and elbows give me plenty of excuses to stop, but the struggles to get up despite the pain is actually rewarding. In fact, this perserverance is a great confidence builder. As I keep trying to strike that downward dog pose (my wrists don’t seem to like that one), i can feel my self esteem rise and some days I surprise myself with how much i can do.

This is why struggle is such a good thing. It pushes us forward and keeps up focused on goals. Struggles – the very thing that we keep asking God to remove from our lives – serves a purpose. They allow us to stretch and grow and extend ourselves beyond what might have been limiting you just the day before.

But there is more…

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned , this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

John 9:1-3

So why do bad things happen to good people? We have been asking this question for a long time now. Books have been written, movies produced and still we ask “Why?”.  Yet, Jesus’ answer is very simple. It has nothing to do with the person and everything to do with God. In other words, our struggles help us to see God at work in our lives. Not only that, but if you continue to read on in the chapter, you will see that as the man’s faith and trust in Jesus grows, his vision becomes clearer and those who witness this miracle are being given hope for their own struggles. You see, when you trust God with your struggles, you will always see good come out of it. Didn’t the Israelites come out of bondage in Egypt with gold and other riches from their former captors? But all that wealth was never meant to make their lives more comfortable. It was meant to be used in the building of the tabernacle so that they could continue to worship God, their very life source. It was never meant for them, but for God’s glory. And this would bring others from the pagan nations around them into a relationship with God. This same principle is at work in the story of the blind man that Jesus healed. His changed life points people to the God who changed him. And it still continues today. As we face trials in our lives, if we look to Christ, we will see His glory lining up with our needs. And our faith will cause those in our lives to look to God also.

One more thought, Jesus prayed in John 17:15:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”

Even as we are asking God to lift whatever burden we might be struggling with, we need to realize that He may say “No, I’m not taking this one away but I will protect you as you deal with it.” He is always there to help us,

as we struggle…

                               …as we grow…

                                                         …as we dream…

                                                                                     ..as we live the life that we have been given by the One who wil carry us through and then carry us

                                                                                                                                     … Home.

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Heavens Child (for Troy)

yeah, I put this up last year and was thinking of it again.

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(I wrote this song for Easter about ten years ago.  It’s a little about Mary and a little about me and a lot about a compassionate God. I think any parent who has lost a child looks at Mary a little differently than the rest of the church.)

Heaven’s Child

I tend to think of Mary

as a mother only can

standing on that hillside,

was she questioning your plan.

for you trusted her with your son

an infant needing care,

then you made her watch him suffer

as her eyes filled with tears.

for that baby was a man now

and the hope at his birth,

had given way to your purpose

a mother’s tears fill the earth.

and did Mary say….

If he can’t be in my arms, I’ll put him in yours.

he was yours from the beginning, mine for just a while.

I held and I…

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