Sunday, July 20, 2014

My bargain tent

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. – Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)
This year, with the publication of my first book of fiction, I decided to have a booth at the Groundhog Festival. I’d sell autographed copies of all my published books, let folks know about new and upcoming releases – and “meet and greet.” After all, one chapter of The Heart Remembers takes place at the Groundhog Festival in Punxsutawney.
I’d thought to borrow the required 10x10 canopy tent to set up on my spot from my son, but his didn’t have sidewalls. And I wasn’t sure what condition it was in, since a wind storm blew it over last summer during one of our cookouts, and we couldn’t get the frame down. So it braved the long winter in the yard.
My long-suffering hubby managed to fix the frame and attach the canopy, which had sustained a tear or two when it caught on the garden fence. He set it up on the patio and told me to check for leaks the next time it rained. Well, we got the rain, all right, along with some pretty gusty winds, which blew the whole thing over onto the rocks that covered the back slope of the patio. I managed to unhook the canopy from the frame but couldn’t get the frame folded. But I needn’t worry – without the canopy it wasn’t going anywhere – except to the scrap heap because when fix-it man came home from work, he said this time even he couldn’t repair it.
So online I went shopping for a 10x10 canopy tent with sidewalls that wouldn’t make this whole impulsive affair cost more than I had in the bank. I wanted to at least break even.
I found a nice one with “windows” on eBay for $139.99, free shipping, easy setup.
When it arrived a week or so later, we erected it in the backyard. It went up easily, although Dean said he wanted heavier, sturdier stakes.
Good thing. Because the week of the Groundhog Festival was fraught with storms. Oh, hubby had it tied down good, and it didn’t blow away.
But the roof leaked.
The opening day of the festival had us scrambling to cover my display table and wishing for an umbrella. I’d have to take down my display every night when I closed up and take the books home so the damp wouldn’t damage them.
I kept my eye on the black clouds and the forecast all week, imagining the worse.
And failing to trust the God who watches over me.
Shame on me.
Because the only rain we got all week (except Sunday, when we discovered the roof wasn’t waterproof) was one night or early morning when I wasn’t there. All I had to do is wipe off the table and set up.
All week long I fretted, but each day the storms passed us, and each day I sensed God whispering to me, “Trust Me. I got this.”
I broke even. But more than that, I learned – again – that even when my faith falters, My God is faithful.
You won’t always hold back the storms, Lord, but I know You’ll be with me in the midst of them. Thank You, Abba Father! Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Isaiah 43:1–7; Psalm 91

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Coming to God with expectancy

Guest Blog from Patty Kyrlach
Patty Kyrlach

His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. - Ephesians 3:21 CEV

The wedding guests had been in party-hearty mode for a couple of days. When the maitre d' stepped forward to taste the wine, his eyes popped like a cork.  After a reception went on this long, the caterers usually set out the Hawaiian Chablis—the cheap stuff. But this was some sort of pricey cabernet sauvignon.  Surprise! The host had saved the best wine for last.

The New Testament is full of people who got more than they bargained for. A woman went to a well for a drink, but walked away with living water and a new life. A beggar asked for alms and got his sight instead. Peter just wanted to catch some fish but wound up leaving his nets to fish for souls. Saul was on his way to stamp out the Jesus freaks when he had an encounter with Jesus himself, changing his name and his mission statement.

Our expectations get tired, jaded, and grumpy. They were always rather limited anyway. So
as we come to God today, let's come expecting the unexpected - "far more than we dare ask or imagine."

    Come as a little child.
    Come with a smile of eagerness.
    Greet each new day as a special gift of love.
    Even if you're old and gray,
    Though you've come a long, hard way,
    Come ready to sing and play and dance,
    Ready to risk and take a chance.
    For of such is the kingdom.
    For of such is the kingdom.
                   -Avery and Marsh

Lord, we're ready to be surprised. Ready to expand our thinking. Ready to believe that if we ask for a loaf of bread, you won't give us a stone. "Ready to risk and take a chance. For of such is the kingdom. . . ."

In Jesus' name, we pray with expectancy. . .

. . .for all who are battling serious illnesses and all the devoted care-givers 
. . .for those who grieve the loss of dear spouses and other loved ones  
. . .for all who are facing difficult family situations   
. . .for pastors and lay leaders dealing with discord in their churches  
. . .for all who may feel discouraged, stuck, or even hopeless   
. . .for all who feel overwhelmed

Lord, in each situation we look for you to do amazing things. We await your surprise answers.

Patty Kyrlach writes for Cookies & Milk, a children’s page in several SW Ohio newspapers, and also serves as design editor for the page, now in its eighth year of publication. She is Director of Communications for the Writing Academy, a small but personable writer's group that holds an annual retreat in Minneapolis. She writes mythic tales, children’s non-fiction, drama, songs, poetry, curriculum, and lately—her bloomin’ blog: "Stark Raving Mythopath"

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The nature of God

The ABC’s of knowing God better: the letter “N”

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” – Exodus 3:14 (NKJV) 

“But who do you say that I am?” – Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 16:13 (NKJV)
Back in December, when I first got the idea for this series, “The ABC’s of knowing God better,” I was enthusiastic about using the alphabet to describe an indescribable God, to catch a glimpse into His many-faceted nature, to delve into Scripture to learn more about the One who calls us to know Him, love Him, and serve Him.
I promptly recorded my thoughts, jotting down at least one word for every letter of the alphabet. Well, almost every letter. Two letters had me stumped: N and X. I figured when the time came to write about that letter, I’d have a word.
I didn’t.
So I posed the question to my Facebook friends: “What word beginning with ‘N’ do you think describes God?”
Here’s what they said:
“Never-ending love.” (Jeanne)
“Near, nurturing.” (Ann)
“Ineffable.” (Jodie)
“I know this is an ‘I’ word, but it is silent!” Jodie said. She posted a link to the definition. According to the free Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary, ineffable means “too great, powerful, beautiful, etc., to be described or expressed; incapable of being expressed in words; not to be uttered.”
Intriguing, considering God’s name, Yahweh, was written in all caps without the vowels (YHWH) because the Hebrews believed God’s name, which reflected His nature, was too holy to be uttered or written out. Even today you’ll run across “G-d” instead of God.
While we’re on the topic, the name Yahweh (Jehovah) is a form of the verb to be, which is translated "I AM" in Exodus 3:14 when God revealed Himself to Moses. According to the Children’s Ministry Resource Bible, it signifies “the present One, He who is.” The Amplified Bible translates this verse as “I AM WHO I AM and WHAT I AM, and I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.”
Okay, I’m off on a tangent, but I’m an etymology freak and am fascinated with the origin and history of words. There is much in this short verse, “I AM WHO I AM,” (actually a proclamation) to meditate on for a lifetime and never quite grasp the full meaning.
Moving on . . .
Teresa had a list: “near to my heart, never judgmental, never tired of my neediness, most important NOUN in my life! Never-ending, nurturing, nourishing.”
New life. (Margo)
Necessary. (Cass)
“The word new came to my mind,” Sue B. wrote. “He is new every morning! He always has new and wonderful things planned for us.”
Harry posted, “Nice,” and Susan wrote, “New creation.”
Wow! Ask and you’ll receive!
What about you? What word beginning with “N” do you think describes God?
Dear God, You may be indescribable, but You are not unknowable. You bid us to come to You so You can lavish Your steadfast love and faithfulness on us. How awesome is that? Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Job 38–41:11

Sunday, July 6, 2014

You want me to do WHAT?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2–4 NIV 
As I child, I accepted the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac on the altar to God without question. But when I became a parent myself, I had lots of questions.
I never questioned that God intervened and spared Isaac’s life. Indeed, God never meant for Isaac to be slaughtered on the top of a barren mountain on a stone altar. The whole thing was a test to see who Abraham loved more – his son Isaac, whom he waited a hundred years for, or El Shaddai, the God who promised him this son and who’d made the impossible possible.
I never questioned that Abraham knew God’s voice. I never questioned his mountain-size faith, which made him eligible for the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.
But I always come away from the story questioning my own faith and obedience, feeling small next to this giant of faith who obeyed without hesitation, without question.
I don’t know if I could do what he did. I mean, we read the story with hindsight, knowing the ending, knowing God stayed the hand with the knife ready to extinguish the life of his beloved son.
But what about before?
Abraham didn’t know God would intervene. Hebrews 11:17–19 tells us, “It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.’ Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.” (NLT)
This test was for Abraham’s benefit, not God’s. Omniscient God knew the result beforehand. He knew Abraham’s heart.
Perhaps Abraham loved Isaac more than God. Perhaps Abraham needed to be reminded Who was to come first in his life.
Centuries later, God would issue the first of the Ten Commandments: “I am the LORD your God … You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:1 NKJV).
And centuries after that, God’s own Son would reinforce that: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37 NKJV).
A hard teaching.
But not impossible.
God isn’t saying not to love our parents, our spouses, our children. He’s saying, in the words of Jesus, to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:38–39 NKJV).
I need frequent reminders, too, to put God first in everything – my time, my finances, my relationships. To this ideal I struggle daily.
Someday I hope to say the words of St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Show me, dear God, how I can put You first today. Amen.

Special-Tea:Read  Genesis 22:1–14