Sunday, September 2, 2018

Practical Gifts vs. Extravagant Giving

Yesterday, I heard the most interesting radio broadcast. It was while I was in and out of the car running errands, so I did not catch who was giving this particular commentary.  If I knew, I would totally give them credit for this idea. It was a man, and he was comparing the Biblical story of the Wise Men's visit to the young Jesus with how it probably would have been if the visit came from Wise Women.

If the women had been coming over, they would have called before they just showed up, brought casseroles, assisted during the birth, and had the whole place cleaned up in record time. And, this is the part that has really gotten me to thinking:  women would have shown up with much more practical gifts.

I laughed out loud when he said that part, but realized how true that probably was/would be. What would those practical gifts have looked like? How about diapers (or the 2000 year ago equivalent)? Stretch mark creme or fenugreek tea for nursing issues? A much deserved mani/pedi once she returned home from Bethlehem? And the most practical of all - a gift card to the Nazareth Super Center?

Nope--these men showed up with gold, frankincense and myrrh. I have come to learn that these are significant, symbolic gifts that signified the life and purpose of why Jesus was even on earth. The gold symbolizes that He was a king/ruler; the frankincense symbolized His priesthood, and the myrrh showed something about the way He would die. It is pretty interesting stuff when you think about it.  The symbolism of it all would certainly not have been lost on Mary and Joseph. The Bible even mentions how Mary "pondered these things in her heart". Did she worry about what it all meant, or was she too exhausted to care very much? I mean, Jesus may have been perfect and all, but I am pretty sure He woke up every couple of hours just like all those other babies throughout history.

I think about my own gift giving habits, and I realize I fall into basically two different types of categories when it comes to gift giving. I am either extremely practical, or I give something that someone would never buy for themselves because it is not very practical or useful, like monogrammed mugs or something that doesn't match anything else, but is just so cute. I love to give 'little happies' to unsuspecting people for no particular reason, like a CD or a book, or an anonymous gift card to the little frue-frue specialty shop that sells nothing practical at all. Because I am always on such a tight budget, these happies are usually token gifts at best. But not so for the Wise Men.

I do not know how much money it cost for their gifts to Jesus. I do not know if it came from their own personal stash, or if they were delivering for someone else. I do not know the level of sacrifice involved. It was all most likely loved and pondered and cherished.

But I bet Mary would not have minded having all those nooks and cranies swept clean.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Shooting Stars

All of my life I have been a nature girl.

Part of it was likely due to the time and place that I grew up. It was in the '70s and '80s, when kids everywhere roamed the back roads and trails. Or at least the kids in my close knit community that surrounded various lakes and ponds and 100 feet tall pine trees. Walking, biking, swimming, laying out, volleyball in someone's front yard with a net hastily tied between two trees--that is how we rolled.

Oh, the night sky in that place--to this day it remains a stunning display of stars, without too much background light to block the brilliance. So many hours were spent just looking up at that sky, wishing on the first star of the night or searching for various constellations.

I was always, always, searching for shooting stars. Statistically speaking, given the number of hours I spent looking up at night, combined with the clearness of an out-in-the-country sky, I should have had plenty of sightings. It even became something of a joke during youth group outings for a while--everyone would see the cool awesomeness of streaks in the sky when I had turned away or headed inside to load up on snacks.

In college, there was even a season of using the 'shooting star challenge'-like Gideon's fleece- to determine who God did or did not want me to date.

       "OK, God.  f I see a shooting star in the next five minutes, then I will know that it is Your will for me to date ____________"--(I used this approach multiple times--wanting to make sure I was in the center of God's plan and all.)

Fifteen minutes later with no special celestial activity:

     "OK, God. If I see a shooting star in the next 5 minutes, then I will be sure that ____________is NOT for me."

Five minutes and 2 seconds later:

     "Well, I guess You're fine with me dating him, then. Right?"

(I was so spiritual in my dating choices back then, don't you know? ☺️  But still no shooting stars.)

Fast forward a few years--

I was two years into a five year dating relationship with the incredible guy that would eventually become my husband (chosen without the benefit of any celestial confirmation, by the way). We were both working at different camps that summer. Every other Saturday the staff would have a free night off between one set of campers leaving and another set arriving the next day. This was a luxury and one that we usually spent together out in the real world, dressing in regular clothes and going to see whichever movie of the week held the most mass appeal.

One particular week the movie was Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, with Kevin Costner. I was all ready to pile into one of the cars that was heading into the nearest real town, when I heard the news that there was a pretty significant meteor shower on tap for that night in the area, with a good chance of little cloud coverage and excellent viewing. And if my childhood lake provided a clear night time sky, it did not even compare to the one at that camp and the minimal outside light pollution. So, I semi-reluctantly decided to stay alone at camp to try my chances once again at finally seeing at least one of those elusive shooting stars.

The projected time frame for optimal viewing was between 9:00pm and 11:00pm.   headed to the pier on the camp lake around 8:30pm, armed with my pillow, blanket, Skin So Soft lotion (the insect repellent of the early '90s) and my mini-boombox loaded up with new batteries and a Rich Mullins cassette tape.

It was quiet and peaceful with the the camp nearly empty, and I spread out my stuff on the pier, popped in the cassette, laid back, and prepared for the event that I had literally been waiting on for almost two decades--my first glimpse of a shooting star. My excitement level bordered on downright giddiness, especially as my watch edged closer to 9:00pm.

9:00pm came--and went. Plenty of bright stars that were twinkling, but none of them moved.

9:30pm - nothing but the sound of Mr. Mullins playing for me and the fish and the tree frogs.

10:00pm - Nothing. I flipped the tape over for the second time, wondering how long the discount brand batteries would hold out in my portable music machine.

10:15pm-ish - The staffers started to return to camp, singing "Everything I do, I do it for you-u-u-u" enthusiastically as they unloaded and converged on the kitchen for some late night snacks. I started to contemplate loading up and joining them, but decided to at least stay until 11:00pm, just in case...

Shortly after that, the song Awesome God started to play for the second or third time that night.  Awesome God was, and remains, probably one of the most recognized songs that Rich Mullins is known for. I liked it--it was my favorite song on that particular tape, with cool and catchy '80s sounding lyrics.

Only this time, it was different.

Oh, when He rolls up His sleeves
He ain't just puttin' on the Ritz (see what I mean?)

Our God is an awesome God.

(And during that particular line - Our God is an awesome God- a single shooting star shot across the sky.  WIN!!!)

There's thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists.

Our God is an awesome God.

(And once again, during that single line, synced up perfectly with the lyrics, a single shooting star came from the opposite direction.)

And the Lord He wasn't jokin'
When He kicked 'em out of Eden.
It wasn't for no reason that He shed His blood.
His return is very close and so you better be believin'
That our God is an awesome God. (Once again, a single shooting star)

Then, the chorus came, with about 20 shooting stars keeping perfect time with music (WHAT!?!)--

Our God is an awesome God,
He reigns from Heaven above.
With wisdom, power and love
Our God is an awesome God.

(Shooting stars stop and the sky returns to normal as the song continues.)

And when the sky was starless in the void of the night
Our God is an awesome God. (Yep, a single shooting star again.)

He spoke into the darkness and created the light.
Our God is an awesome God. (Again.)

The judgment and wrath He poured out on Sodom.
The mercy and grace He gave us at the cross.
I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten,
That our God is an awesome God. (And again.)

(The same thing happened with the chorus as before, about 20 shooting stars.)

Then, the chorus repeated a few more times--BUT, this time shooting stars came from EVERYWHERE, going in all directions across the sky. It was like the most spectacular fireworks show, all in perfect time with the music. Three hundred of them would be a conservative estimate in a short amount of time.

'Our God is an awesome God' is repeated twice, with a short instrumental part, as the stars continue to light up the night.

The song ends with 3 notes - something like Dum! Dum! Du-u-u-u-u-m-m!

And I kid you not - with those last 3 Dums, there were 3 perfectly timed humongous shooting stars that covered my entire sky viewing field.

And then - nothing.

I stopped the tape, completely and totally awestruck, waiting for the residual flashes in the sky.

There were none.

I quickly rewound the tape and replayed the song, willing and hoping for a repeat performance. The song was the same, but the sky had returned to its regular sparkly beauty. I waited for three more hours, until there was a full cloud cover and the batteries had drained away, just in case. But there was not even a hint of flashing brilliance.

So I loaded up my night time stash, with a mind and heart absolutely full of wonder and privilege of what I had been able to witness. I told everyone at camp about it the next day. I shared it with the rest of my campers that summer. I have told various friends and youth groups about it over the years. I am reminded of it every single time I hear the song, as well as when I make my yearly drop offs/pick ups for summer camp for my children, at the same camp of that long ago summer.

Many seem to think it is a great story, and it certainly is. Some have come back years later and said it inspired them to seek for glimpses of God and His wonder in their own lives, and I love that. Most probably forgot about it over time, which is understandable.  It has taken me almost three decades to actually get this story written down, more for my own benefit than for anyone else, because I know that nothing I write or describe can do it justice.

So many wonder how I 'keep my faith' or 'stay positive' or whatever when the storms of life are raging all around. I suppose I have all kind of reasons or verses or explanations for that, but in so many ways I think it is best explained in this story of a girl that was stretched out on a pier one night looking for a single sign, and was graced with what surely must have been one of the best planned and orchestrated concerts of awesomeness in the history of man.

It was not random. It was not coincidence. It cannot be rationally explained.  The God of that song, that is filled with wisdom and power, chose to display both in a beautiful expression of love, just for me. That is just the kind of God that He is. He loved me then, and He loves me now. So I will just rest on that promise for now, and cling to it in all manner of storms that are sure to come.

And you know what? Even though I still love looking up at the night sky, I have never seen a shooting star again. And I am totally fine with that.




The pier today, but it still looks the same as it did back in the day.


Where I was on that fateful night

The view from my back--only during the day and with clouds














Saturday, November 4, 2017

My Friend Died Today...

My friend died today.

(Even after ten minutes of staring at that one sentence, I still do not know what to think or how to begin processing that.)

I am not a stranger to people dying. Life in general and cancer in particular have a way of bringing people front and center that die in horrendously sad circumstances, and way too soon. This is most definitely the case with my friend.

My friend chose to end her life today.

I am not quite sure what do with that. As the hours and days go on, and heartfelt Facebook posts are made, and people rally around her husband and son, tiny bits of the puzzle will fall into place. Small details of her story will emerge--a story that is not mine to tell.

But I do have my own stories--

--We met on our very first night of college at the Baptist Student Union--me as a Freshman, and she was a Junior College transfer. It was also the night she met her future husband, but that would take a couple of years to make official. We were in several Bible studies together over the course of our college time together. A few years ago, I came across some old Bible Study journals from those BSU days, tucked away in the corner of my old closet at my parent's house. The very first prayer request entry was a request my friend had made for her then boyfriend/later husband--something about wisdom about a major. As I flipped through the journal that day, I was reminded of what a pray-er she was. One that I learned from by example. I told her about that some time later, letting her know that I would show it to her one day.

--My friend was one of the most genuine people I have ever met. She had a sweet Southern drawl and a 'bless your heart' mindset that was evident in every interaction with her. We reconnected about fifteen years or so after college, when a chance meeting at a local library brought us back into each others lives and she introduced me to the homeschool group and people that continue to be part of a tribe that still claim me as their own.

--My friend did not forget the seasons of struggle. No matter how many years have passed since my automobile accident that CHANGED. EVERY. THING, she would ask how I was doing. Really doing. When one of my children got cancer, and then recovered, and then relapsed, my friend knew to still care and ask the behind-the-scenes questions.  And when another child decided to go his own way and fell off the traditional church radar, my friend was one of only two people that ever told him that he was missed. I thanked her for that, in several different ways. I am so glad that I did. Her simple text months ago sent me on a journey of re-evaluating the ways that I interact with and encourage other teenagers in my own circle--the ones that are forgotten or have slipped off the radar and are just desperate for someone to notice and care. My friend reminded me how simple it is to do that. 

That old Bible Study journal still exists, now in a box in the deep recesses of my own closet.  One day I will run across it, and my mind will go right back to my friend--a reminder of her genuine heart and her crazy deep love for her people. I will pass it on to her husband and son, hopefully serving as some small reminder for them of the true heart of my dear friend. Because no matter what those puzzle pieces are that were part of my friend's last moments, I know--I KNOW--that her amazing love for those two, and so many others that she has touched over the years, did not die with her.

I hope it will bring them some measure of peace--the kind that my sweet friend is without a doubt resting in right now, in the arms of her precious Savior.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Another Merry Christmas--music

I LOVE listening to Christmas music. Some of my earliest holiday memories involve singing and dancing in the living room while listening to a vinyl 'All Star Country Christmas' record playing in the background. One of my favorite songs from the record was 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus', which was amusing but a little disturbing to my early elementary imagination.

I was a sucker for singing chipmunks wanting a hula hoop, and hearing about Grandma's tragic encounter with that reindeer. The Charlie Brown song still sets off a reaction of dancing side to side like the little curly headed twins that were part of the Christmas pageant (I was and remain a girl with hopelessly naturally curly hair.)

When I started driving, a new music component was added to the mix--cassette tapes. I usually liked to listen to the radio when driving (with the windows down and the T-top open), but every now and then a trip to the mall right after babysitting would line up just right, and I would purchase a tape.  And then proceed to play that tape over and over and over in my little red Civic.

I do not remember the FIRST tape I bought--I was a huge fan of mix tapes, and had plenty of them.  However, I do remember purchasing the Beach Boys Christmas tape and Amy Grant's 'Tennessee Christmas' tape at the same time (it must have been a GOOD babysitting gig beforehand), and quickly fell in love with Amy Grant's tape in particular. The tape is long gone, and I do not remember the specific songs, other than the title song, but I do remember playing it over and over, and getting all kinds of feels from it. Seriously, who would even think of choosing the parades and New Year's Eve tans of California over another tender Tennessee Christmas, where the love circles around me, like the gifts around the tree...?

That was over 30 years ago. (You have GOT to be kidding me!)   still love listening to Christmas music. While my kids listen exclusively to digital music on whatever little rectangle devices are in vogue, I still prefer hard copies, and have graduated from tapes to CDs.   have seen holiday music trends come and go, and tend to gravitate to old school (Rat Pack, Tony Bennett/duets, Dolly and Kenny). Needless to say, I was very excited to realize that Amy Grant has released another Christmas album, this one also called 'Tennessee Christmas'.

The first track immediately took me back THERE--the back roads and lakes and friends I grew up with. A good place. The song itself is slightly different, but not in a bad or distracting way for folks who loved the original. And sadly, it brings to the forefront images of the massive destruction of eastern Tennessee by wildfires that are currently still raging.

The next twelve tracks are an eclectic combination of songs with different feels and sounds and genres. I get the feeling that Amy Grant and the makers of this album just sat around and said, "OK, what ar some of our favorite songs that we sing at Christmas time?  'O Come, All Ye Faithful'?--Check.  'White Christmas'?--Sure. And don't forget "Baby, It's Cold Outside'."

My favorite songs are some of the ones that Amy Grant wrote herself, and that were new to me.  'Melancholy Christmas' kind of has a depressing feel about it (with lyrics about posting on social media and wondering if you will get any 'likes'), but was very real and raw. Christmas may be commercially promoted as all happiness and bows, but that is not the reality for so many that struggle with all the feelings that Christmas can bring up.

And "Another Merry Christmas'? Oh, my goodness. Simply beautiful.

Mary is in a nursing home
She puts her favorite records on
Reminds her of the years long gone
Another Merry Christmas

Billy's home from overseas
The pride of his whole family
Still fights a war that no one sees
Another Merry Christmas

It's happy and sad
The good and the bad
Someone's up, someone's barely hanging on
It's everything all at once
If we're honest enough
Everybody wants to be loved

Every year on Christmas Eve
Jill hangs four stockings
Now just three
Wonders if there'll ever be
Another Merry Christmas

Our painted old nativity
Is fragile like the lives we lead
Silently reminding me
God is with us

Another Merry Christmas 

I think this CD is a keeper.  

I THINK most of the audio tracks are available on YouTube.  This is a link to the second song, 'To Be Together'













“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.








 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Weird Sermon Notes from a Gen-X Girl

For the past year or so, I have been taking a little journal to church with me. I do not take typical sermon notes in it. I keep up with all the times a churchy word is mentioned. What started out as a snarky activity to keep myself awake during an early morning service where I "already know all this stuff" very quickly (as in less than five minutes) turned into very tangible reminder of the awesomeness of the life and belief system I have daily access to. Words like 'grace' and 'faith' and 'believe' and 'pray' have been hijacked in popular culture, and it is so very easy for me to forget their power and purity. So, each week I write and reflect and reconsider the words of my life.

This morning started out the same way. My initial words included:

--Peace
--Worship
--Fulfillment
--Welcome
--Missions

But as soon as the preacher began to speak, my churchy words list morphed into something else, from a place as foundational to me as all of my many Sundays and Wednesdays spent at Itty Bitty Baptist Church---music, specifically the '70s and '80s variety. Just about every point he made triggered a song lyric or title.

And so I present today's sermon notes, American Top 40 style:

--50 Ways to Leave your Lover--Paul Simon
--Is There Life out There?--Reba McEntire
--Let it Go--Frozen soundtrack
--Gotta Have Faith--George Michael
--You've Got a Friend in Me--Randy Newman/Woody and Buzz
--Rehab--Amy Winehouse
--I Can't Get No Satisfaction--Rolling Stones
--To Everything--Turn, Turn, Turn--There is a Season--
--You're So Vain--Carly Simon
--Open Your Heart to Me--
--La Bamba (Soy Capitan, soy capitan)
--Fame!
--You Can't Always Get What you Want
--We Didn't Start the Fire
--(One Hit Wonders)
--The Answer, My Friend, is blowing in the wind...
--Looking for Love, in all the wrong places
--Coke Adds Life (have a Coke and a smile)
--I go out walking, after midnight...
--Freak Out
--Help, I need somebody. Help, not just anybody--Beatles
--I Feel the Power--C. C. Music Factory
--Freedom--Aretha Franklin (specifically the Blues Brothers version)
--Take this Job and Shove it
--Don't know much about History...
--(Cause she's got) Personality
--Shut De Do, Keep Out the Debil--
--Alone Again, Naturally
--A Star is Born
--The Greatest Love of All--Whitney Houston
--Hey Ya! Shake it like a Polaroid (This was a tangent song.  He mentioned SHAPE, not shake.)
--Back to School-- Grease 2 soundtrack
--My Own Two Hands--Jack Johnson
--Walk This Way, Talk This Way...--Aerosmith
--Jesus is just all right with me
--I saw the light, I was baptized...
--Conjunction, Junction (another tangent.  His word was 'subjunctive')
--Manic Monday
--Never Surrender--Bryan Adams
--Walking on Sunshine
--Big John, Big Bad John
--Jesus Loves Me
--Discovery. Discovery. Dis-covery! (from Day of Discovery TV show from back in the day)
--Father Figure--George Michael
--Money Changes Everything--Cindi Lauper
--Longer Than -- Dan Fogelburg
--Yesterday (love was such an easy game to play)
--Bend me, shape me, any way you want me
--I Honestly Love You--Olivia Newton John
--That's Why We Pray (we've got to pray just to make it today)--M. C. Hammer

Seriously, these are the places my mind went today, all while tracking with the ultimate message, which was that in a world where normal leaves us unfulfilled, Jesus is about so much more.

Which brought more songs to mind from way back in the day.

"I am a promise. I am a possibility.
I am a promise, with a capital P.
I am a great big bundle of potentiality.

And I am trying, to hear God's voice.
And I am trying, to make the right choice. 
And I will promise to be, 
Anything He wants me to be."

And this one by Keith Green, which happened to be one of the Bible verses used today from Ephesians 2.  Oh, Keith Green....

We are God's Workmanship, 
Created for good works in Christ.
He calls us to offer up ourselves, 
A living sacrifice.

And...

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.  

And what true Generation X child would not be moved by this stirring message from Peaches and Herb?

Reunited, and it feels so good.
Reunited, 'cause we understood.
There's one perfect fit, 
And sugar, this one is it.
We both are so excited 
'Cause we're reunited. Hey, hey!!  


We live in a world where we need reminding of the love and power of churchy words, which is ultimately just a poor reflection of the true love and power of Christ. We need to be united and reunited with Him.

'Cause it feels so good.

As soon as this particular sermon is posted online, I will leave a link to it here. Aren't you even a little curious about checking out this rabbit trail?)




  





Friday, July 8, 2016

Unexpected



With the advent of social media, I have been able to discover the stories of many people who have had their lives changed in an instant, with a call--a diagnosis--a death. These stories are so fascinating to follow. Over time, many trends emerge.

--Stages of grief
--Outpouring of support (and over time, a marked decrease in visible support)
--Likes and Shares
--Expressions of shock and pain

And for the introspective (and those who are willing to be this open), there are questions.

Why?
Why me/him/her/them?
Why THIS?

Again, such an interesting process to follow.

Earlier today I sat in the waiting room at the state University Hospital. It is a cross section of the sickest of the sick, the poorest of the poor, and the strangest (diagnoses) of the strange. It does not take long here before 'they' start to roll by--children and adults with various family members nearby that have hoses and tubes and braces and collars and wheelchairs or special carriers.

I may not know the specifics of their backstory, but I do know this:  Their lives have been forever changed. They have questions. They are tired.

So.Very.Tired.



As I was waiting with the masses, I happened to be reading a book by Andrew and Rachel Wilson called The Life We Never Expected, which they have written in response to having had two children diagnosed with regressive autism.  In the past several years I have sought out and have been given various "Coping With…" books.  And "Why Does God Allow…?" books, along with the "Been There, Doing That, and Please Buy My Fundraising T-shirt" books. Somehow this particular book touches on those themes, but in a much more real and realistic way than I have become accustomed to reading.

The Wilsons are undeniably Christ followers and their insights and experiences are shown through this filter. However, topics such as prayer and healing are not expressed with cookie cutter Bible verses or the "I am so grateful and blessed' response.  Their struggles are real and raw. And refreshing.

Their day to day physical struggles are portrayed in the same real way. Personal family situations are interspersed, but are not the main focus of the narrative. This adds to the merit of the book in that it deals with issues and feelings, not just specifics. This makes it so much more than parenting or autism book.

Causes and 'cures' are not addressed, which is refreshing in that people have very strong opinions on both subjects, and the conversation can quickly dissolve into meanness and idiocy in an open forum. 

There is so much to appreciate about this book. I had to stop underlining passages because the text just lends itself to non-stop underlining otherwise. When life does not turn out as expected, there are rarely any easy answers. Sometimes there are no answers at all. Stories like this serve as a comforting reminder that we are not alone or abandoned. And sometimes, that can make all of the difference.

You can find more info and reviews about The Life We Never Expected here.







"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Messing Up

From March 2011

I think one of the most difficult parts of being a parent for me is dealing with 3 kids who have tunnel vision.  They only see events and circumstances in terms of how it affects them, which is often at odds with the overall big picture for the family.  Most of the time they just can't seem to grasp that the plans and decisions my husband and I make for them are not some master scheme to make their lives more difficult and less fun, but are truly part of something bigger and better for them in the long run.  They complain and whine and argue more than I ever thought any children of mine ever would.  Seriously, those kinds of kids were the products of bad parenting and uninvolved parents, right?  Judge not...

Which brings me to my Bible reading for today.  My new Bible has a reading from the Old Testament, the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs every day, and each of the passages for today all pointed to stories of misinformed, bad judgment making, often whiny people who made bad decisions because they didn't see the bigger picture--that life is not all about them. 

The Old Testament story was from the book called Numbers.  It tells of a time when Moses and the Isrealites have been away from Egypt for over a year, but still not in the Promised Land that they were headed toward.  God had been using this time to give very specific details and instructions about what He required from each of His people, because He knew that they had to be prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually for when they actually went to the Promised Land, otherwise they would accept and follow the customs of the people who were already there.  Th0se people had their own ideas about gods and worship, which did not include the true God.  God, knowing the big picture, was getting them ready.  But the Isrealites, what did they do?  They complained.  A lot.  Today the complaint was about not having meat.  "Oh, Moses.  We are so hungry!  We never have anything good like we used to--fish, onions, melons.  You know, when we had it so good and easy in Egypt (You know, when we were SLAVES!).  All we have is manna, manna, manna--all day long."  Even Moses got in on the complaining:  "Why me, God?  Why do I have to deal with these whiny people?  I don't know why you have made them MY problem, God.  Can't you just give them meat and be done with it?".  My reading ended with God about to go off.  Seriously, had Moses never heard the story of Job?  It's supposed to be the oldest recorded story in the Bible, happening long before Moses was even born.  Did he not know that there are times when it is best to just back off?  And, for that matter, why have my kids not learned the same thing about me yet?

The next reading is one of the saddest in the whole Bible for me.  Jesus has been telling His disciples for several days that He is about to be killed, but they aren't getting it.  They happen to be having a meal when a lady comes in and breaks a jar of expensive perfume and pours it on Jesus.  I mean, picture it:  meals were definitely segregated by gender at that time, and in busts this girl (reportedly a 'bad girl' at that) who starts pouring stuff all over one of the men.  There is a lot of symbolism and backstory here, but the focus is on Judas's reaction.  He wasn't the only one that was angry. Several others went off on the lady, basically calling the whole thing wasteful and inappropriate.  Judas took the stance that it was a waste of money and that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor.  I've heard several commentators say that Judas probably really meant this, and wasn't just being goody-goody.  He was the disciple in charge of the group's money, which probably meant he was the most trustworthy of the twelve, so he would be the one with the most insight as to their finances and responsibilities.  He knew that the Passover was the next day and that there wasn't even any money to cover a place to have the meal together, much less the mandatory food involved.  By the way, Jesus took care of that problem just a few verses later...

So, this is the breaking point for Judas.  He leaves that meal and immediately goes to turn Jesus in.  This latest scene is just further proof for Judas that Jesus is not who He says He is, and that He has lost His mind.  When I was little, I just thought of Judas as the bad guy in this story.  The older I get, though, I see this disillusioned man who truly loved Jesus and believed in His vision--up to a point.  When Jesus's teaching became too impractical, he just couldn't follow through.  This is the lure of and disillision of money.  We can become so imprisoned to it that we lose sight of what really matters in God's economy, an economy that makes no sense in a world focused on 'stuff' instead of people and relationships.  I don't think Judas was money or power hungry.  I think he just didn't see the big picture, only his perception of it.

And then there is David.. King David.  He decided that he didn't have enough wives and concubines to satisfy his needs when he noticed a lady named Bathsheba.  The problem was that Bathsheba was already married.  Well, I guess it wasn't too big of a problem for David, because he brought her over anyway, and when she came up pregnant, he just had her husband killed.  David had lived a life full of God's presence and provision, and truly loved Him, but at this point had become too big for his own britches, so to speak.  He had forgotten that there are boundaries that God had placed on his life, until God sent a man named Nathan to remind him.  This Psalm is one of my favorites, because it shows David's brokenness about what all he has done, and his need for God to make him right again.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. 
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don't take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.

I love that last line:  and make me willing to obey you.  David got it.  He had messed up and only God could make that right.  He was restored.  Moses got it.  It took him a little longer and he still didn't make the wisest of decisions at times.  He didn't get to see the Promised Land, but he was restored.  And Judas--well, this one is tragic.  He did betray Jesus, and the weight of it all caused him to kill himself.  He couldn't get past what he had done, and didn't believe God enough to know that he could have been restored, too.

Three stories.  Three different outcomes.  All serve as reminders and examples that only God has the big picture in mind, and even when I don't understand the circumstances, He's got my back and wants what is best for me.  Maybe my kids aren't the only ones with tunnel vision issues.
                                                                   

 (taken from Numbers 11, Mark 14, and Psalm 51)