Looking for a little Narnia

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Lucy and Aslan

I remember a time when the world felt safe. Oh, I know it has never been totally safe, but in my reality it was. Every kid needs to feel safe so that when they grow up and find they have lost their way and everything looks dark and scary they will be able to pull that memory out. Lately the world doesn’t feel safe or kind. I scrolled through my Facebook news feed today and I swear I could hear it screaming.

I heard from the Anti-guns, Anti-gays, Anti-Gods, Anti-Religions, and Anti-Governments, and Anti-Muslims, and Anti-Christians and mostly everyone sounded angry. I looked around for home and reached back to a time before death and sorrow and misunderstandings and hurt feelings and sadness.

I remembered a world brimming with hope. There are so many things I don’t understand. I wish for a little Narnia, a little Middle Earth. In those worlds everything is cut and dried. Forces of evil are fought by forces of good and good prevails. End of story.

Too often in this world we don’t even know who the real enemy is. Everything is twisted and confused and misconstrued. We look for justice and we don’t see it coming any time soon. Sometimes we even turn on each other out of frustration. We wish for a world where everyone is on the same side. We wish there weren’t any sides.

I don’t understand why evil is allowed to flourish. Yesterday I heard someone ridicule a Christian believer for believing in talking snakes, well I happen to believe that impossible things can happen in God’s world because nothing is impossible with Him. I believe that if He has to use a talking donkey  to scare some sense into Balaam, then that’s exactly what He will do.

Then the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam.

I happen to believe God wants justice for donkeys and humans alike. You see, the donkey saw an angel which Balaam was too thick-headed to see. Sometimes animals are smarter than humans. I happen to believe in a world where sometimes God produces miracles out of madness.

And the world is more than a little mad right now. We have known terrorists on our FBI most wanted lists planning attacks yet we can do nothing until they kill scores of people. Instead our authorities choose to go after a little boy who shared some Scripture to his school friends. It’s an upside down world. A world where you can easily lose your way.

Jesus asks us to do just one thing each day. To take the hand He offers and find the courage to get up and start walking on wobbly knees just like those He healed. I don’t know about you, but something in me needs healing every day. And the older I get, the more things need healing.

Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (Note that Jesus first asked the man to get up. Sometimes just getting up is the hardest thing to do.) John 16:33

I remember what Elaine always said when she was going through the Alzheimer’s with her Mom, “I just keep going forward,” she would tell me, “Because if I stopped I may never want to get up again.” Because she knew where her help came from she was able to do what seemed impossible at the time.

Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” The Message

There is an end to this race we’re on and the good news is that He’s already won it for us.

Take a step of healing with me won’t you?

Believing in the Big Buts

Sparrows

“So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”……..Jesus

The past two weeks have been unsettled……..for my household, for the world. It’s easy to be dismayed when you look at the events unfolding all around us. Have you ever talked to someone and even as they are giving you a compliment you can feel the “big but” coming? I hate that. It’s like giving someone a gift and then grabbing it out of their hands  and saying, “Just kidding!” Why say anything? It’s really horrible conversation etiquette. The Bible puts it this way:  “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” 

Coordinating conjunctions aside, there is one occasion where I love the word, “but” and that is when God says it. That’s because when He says it, there is always a wonderfully encouraging promise attached to it. There are probably hundreds of places in the Bible where this phrase is uttered…….”But the Lord.”

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one……2 Thessalonians 3:3

But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. Psalm 94:22

But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. Jeremiah 20:11

The lot is cast into the lap,  but its every decision is from the Lord. Proverbs 16:33

I decided last week to break my “not until Thanksgiving” rule and put up a couple of Christmas decorations in my room. One string lit up and the other didn’t, but the little tabletop tree fired right up, just like it does year after year. It made me happy. We all need a little more happy. So this weekend I plan to do some more. I intent to light up the whole house and proclaim all over again that in our dark world a Bright Light has dawned and never dimmed. And I will have overwhelming moments of that peace that passes understanding in every little thing I lift out of the dusty storage boxes. 

I will remember that Heaven touched down for a brief moment in time and all the shadows in this land sprang for cover, for good. He ended this shadow-land living by paying our ransom once and for all. We have a living Hope that no one and nothing can ever snuff out.  Not isis, not boko haram, not Alzheimer’s, not unpaid bills, not stress or fatigue or anything else under the sun.

It’s crazy. We have Christian refugees who have been bombed out of their homes and lost everything but each other, yet they found their everything in Jesus. The spark of Holy Spirit Hope in their eyes makes them our brothers and sisters. And I am burdened for them.

But God……..He watches over the sparrows and He keeps count of every single one.

Clinging to the big Buts today.

Because I can’t seem to forget her face……….

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Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven………Jesus

I sit here after listening, reading, fearing and going back and forth all morning on Facebook and the news. Part of me is so torn. Part of me wants to jump up and down in favor of Donald Trump’s great wall. The part of me that is patriot American wants to drop bombs and use military might to decimate isis (no caps for them). Part of me remembers some of my family who fought against Germany. I also remember my Mom saying they really didn’t know what was happening over there to the Jews. All they saw were trains filled with people on the movie newsreels while they waited for the movie to start.

There is such confusion in my heart and soul and in the heart and soul of the whole world right now. But one thing I know is always true. Certain things will always be right. Jesus lived out a life that said:

Just because it’s safe, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.

Today would have been my Grandmother’s Birthday. She had a story too, like this little girl. Her family was fleeing Russia and they came to America when she was only six months old. I even found the ship register where they signed in. I know, times were different then. They all went to Ellis Island and got screened and processed, and who knows what else.

And I hate the idea of that evil coming over here, I just hate it. 

But I can’t forget her face. Maybe because something about her reminds me of my niece. And her face is the face of pure innocence. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to ones like her.

In a world where it’s hard to even know who or what to root for anymore, one thing remains. God calls us to love even those who persecute us. There is no wiggle room in that much as I try to get around it. As Pandora plays “Lead me to the Cross” I think of the converted Muslims I heard about in Germany. Churches are filling up, for the first time in years is what I heard. I hope it’s true but I don’t know. I can only assume they are tired of living under a dead religion, they are reaching out for the One who gives life.

But even if they stay Muslim and are in need of help and hope, food and shelter, as Christians can we turn our backs on them, their children in good conscience? Even if some even seek to do us harm? I am asking right along with you…….

Only God knows how this will all go, but one thing is for certain. He will make good come from it.

He always does somehow.

The face of isis is just a new face for an old evil and we don’t even have to pull his mask off to know who it is. As Christians we know how to face down the enemy, the one who only comes to kill, steal and destroy.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

The apostle Paul (when he was still Saul) was dragging Christians out of their homes until he was blinded on the road to Damascus.

Of such were some of you………

It’s time to pray for all of us, to ask God for wisdom. It’s the only place I know where to start.

If you want to put a face on some refugees and here their stories, go here. 

And pray for wisdom, along with me?

photo credit: via David Rupert

 

Greeting the World

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Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

 Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Psalm 37: 1-6

It’s a good Scripture, isn’t it these days when it seems so many evil people seem to be flourishing with no thought of the damage they do to anybody. In essence, it’s saying that God has our back and we don’t have to worry. We can rest easy since we know that He will make everything alright in the end.

It’s been hot here which is normal, but what is not normal is that we have had very little rain. This is our monsoon season and there is no relief in sight. I have missed the pitter-patter of sweet drops falling in the afternoons and sometimes in the mornings.  I padded around the block this morning to say good morning to Mrs (or Mr) Dove, firmly ensconced in the Saguaro cactus–I think it’s a new dove, she seems very uneasy when I get close. The other one last year and the year before just sat and looked at me peacefully with a sense of confidence and safety in her position.

Mr. Woodpecker just showed up on the back wall where I am sitting. I am scribbling here in my journal…….I can’t write much anymore and I miss it. My previous job where I cut heavy leather and other materials makes my right hand tire easily and it gets sloppy fast. I used to love to do calligraphy. No more.

It feels good to address the day in a way other than Facebook or the morning news……Facebook only holds so much……it can’t hold birdsong or breezes or sounds of real life. There goes the coo-cooing of a dove as if to prove my point.

My Jesus Calling devotional tells me to rest by the wayside today. That sounds very good indeed, at least for part of the day.  It also says to remember that I am royalty in His Kingdom…….What a thought that is. Now I believe I will go on with my day.

The Lord’s blessings on yours!

Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
    a future awaits those who seek peace.
But all sinners will be destroyed;
    there will be no future for the wicked.

Psalm 37: 37,38

Why traditional marriage doesn’t need defending

wedding arbor

I was going to stay silent. I thought maybe my two cents really didn’t matter. But then, I kept getting these thoughts and they weren’t going away. Usually the ones that don’t go away turn into blog posts because I feel it’s the Holy Spirit nudging me to speak. I will start with these thoughts:

Marriage is a perfect institution, made up of imperfect people.

Marriage will never go away on this earth because it was instituted by God in the garden of Eden.

Marriage is Holy.

Marriage is a physical depiction of a deeper spiritual illustration of Christ (the Groom) and the Church (the Bride)

These aren’t my ideas, they come from the Bible. That’s why marriage (and when I say that, I mean the traditional kind) can stand on its on. God started it and God will end it as well.

Jesus answered this question when He was on earth.

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you,  ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

So, marriage was started by God and it will be ended by God in eternity. End of story.

Marriage has really taken a beating in our modern society. I have heard it mocked, seen it twisted into all sorts of shapes and sizes and kinds. I have heard cynics blast holes in it, and I have seen people ignore it completely. I have heard the argument that it ruins a good relationship. I have seen people scoff at it and roll their eyes over it. I have seen people marry over and over again until it’s just about stripped of any meaning.  

But none of that taints the perfection or the Holiness of the institution itself.

The thing that concerns me the most about this whole debate is what it means for the future of our nation. For I still believe that a nation that supports a healthy view of the traditional family will remain strong, while a nation that loses its moral fiber will perish. (Think of Rome, for instance)

Those of us who don’t recognize the validity or right of two people of the same-sex to marry will be called all sorts of ugly things. I have already seen it. We will be labeled as hateful, bigoted, homophobic, unkind, and intolerant. Not to mention ignorant.

While those who do support it will be painted as loving, tolerant, compassionate, kind and wise.

Both sides will forget to love.

Both sides will forget that we are all in this together.

And with all this talk of love and rainbows floating across the news feeds of America and the world right now, there is really only One great love worth celebrating.

His name is Jesus, and He came to this world to defeat sin and save sinners (of whom I am chief, right along with the Apostle Paul) He was and is love personified. Love with a capital “L.”

He came down here to defeat sin and death forever, and He had to die a terrible and tortuous death meant for you and me in order to do that.

He even went to hell so we would never have to go there because He doesn’t want us to be separated from Him ever again.

That is the Love I am celebrating today and everyday. And everyday, I am grateful and in awe of His great Grace that continues to cover my great sin.

 That’s a Love worth celebrating.

Of Iphones and Idols……

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Just the other day I was sitting at my workstation glancing idly at my IPhone and one of our bosses asked me if I was “one of those people” hooked on social media. I had to pause for a moment and smile remembering the time B.I. (Before iPhone/iPad) entered my life. And I confess, I caught myself feeling a little bit defensive, like tiny little fists were rising up from somewhere inside. “Well, I used to” I said, “when I first got my iPhone.”

I remember the day clearly. She was going out to get a new cell phone and asked what I wanted since both of us were on the same phone plan. “Oh,” I said,  “I don’t care, just get me a cheapo. I really don’t use the one I have.” At that time I had a little flip phone which was red and cute and mostly it just layed there unless it rang.

About 2 hours later, she came home triumphant and smiling, white Apple store baggies swinging from each arm. She held them aloft and despite myself I was curious.”I got one for you too!” She said. I opened the box and It gleamed at me from its little resting place. It could have been my imagination but I think it might have winked at me.

We were like little kids. well, mostly I was. Me, miss “I don’t care what you get” had turned into a full-fledged IPhone junky. These weren’t just cell phones, these were iPhones after all. The portent of change was crackling in the air.

Finally, I had it in my possession; all backed up, synced and ready to use, I felt a little bit like Mary Lennox when she first discovered the Secret Garden. This was a window to an entirely new world. I was enraptured with all the Apps I could get. And they were free for goodness sake.

I jumped in with both feet. Or both thumbs as it were. I was texting for the first time in my life. This was better than shopping. I got an Instagram account, then I joined Twitter. Later I discovered Pinterest and before I knew it I had over 3000 pins. I got an iPad for my Birthday. I was irrevocably hooked.

I kept trying to convince my Mom that technology and computers are not the Antichrist. When I went back home I would show her things to prove my point. She didn’t budge; though I did sense a weakening in her resolve when I showed her the You Version Bible App.

It was all wonderful until the day my best friend looked up at me with a hurt expression. “We don’t talk anymore.” She had been suffering in silence, carrying a burden I could have helped her bear, but I was too busy to see it. That pulled me up short.

After that I learned to keep a more balanced perspective. I have backed off from some things. Along the way I have learned that technology and social media have indeed enriched my life in ways I never expected. But all things in moderation. Technology is not evil in itself, despite what some believe. Like anything else, it has tremendous capacity to be used for good and evil.

With the help of technology and social media, we have the added blessing of casting our net a bit wider and extending our circle of Grace. It’s a wonderful thing. But it must never come at the expense of the people in our lives. The ones we live with, the ones who need to know we are still there.

I’m sharing this story as part of The High Calling’s community link-up. You can add your voice to the “Technology at Work” conversation here.

Photo credit: www.Icanhascheeseburger.com

Sometimes it takes a Turkey

Tom Kettleman article

Tom Kettleman started showing up last Spring in my hometown of Lodi, California. No one seemed to know where he came from. People learned to watch out for him because he didn’t always use the cross walk, but sometimes he did. Wherever he was, he created a stir. Sometimes he would chase ambulances and patrol cars. I guess they didn’t know whose turf they were on. More often than not he could be found at one of his resting places, behind the parking lot of Lowe’s or hanging out at Panera’s strutting his stuff. Every now and then you could find him behind Wal-Mart. Kettleman Lane and Lower Sacramento road was where you could usually always see him.

People started looking for him and then posting their pictures of where he was that day. Kids and parents alike fell in love with Tom. He became a very popular guy. He never asked for the notoriety, he was just being himself. But something about Tom seemed to bring people of all different walks of life together. It was a curious phenomenon. People who might never have otherwise met started talking about Tom and where they saw him.

Then came the Facebook fan page which swelled to over 3000 members.

The usual trip to the store was somehow brightened by Tom’s antics, especially when he was show-boating, puffing all his feathers up in grand turkey style, it was really something to see.

People might wonder about how this could happen, but the reason is very simple. Tom gave people something to smile about. He gave me something to smile about all the way in Arizona. He gave a little bit of hope to a weary world. A world worn down by work, stress, horrific events in the news. Tom gave people something of a sense of community that is hard to find these days. I guess you could say that Tom was a little bit of an ambassador in that regard.

Sometimes I find that animals and babies have a way of being much more effective at building bridges between people of all faiths, colors, and economic statures.

Or course, there were the naysayers and the haters of Tom as well. There were cruel comments on Facebook, and those who felt that he was a nuisance, a danger to the community. Wherever good and innocence gather, the minions of negativity always seem to spring up as well. Human nature I suppose.

Now Tom is gone and people are saddened. Others don’t understand the sadness. He was just a turkey after all. But I can say that I will truly miss my brother’s pictures and texts about Tom and where he was that day. I will miss the idea of Tom and how he brought my hometown together. Growing up in Lodi was truly a blessing. We had community, we had closeness. It was a safe place where we could walk the streets at just about any time of day or night without fear.

And yet, this thing with Tom makes me realize that community still exists in Lodi. I can already see the good coming out of it on the Friends of Tom page on Facebook. (which is now open only to invitation from other members.)

You see, sometimes it takes something as silly as a turkey to make people believe in each other and their community again. To see something that was there all along. Sometimes God uses turkeys.

The spirit that brought people together while Tom was here has not left. Let it continue to inspire us all to do something good for each other today and everyday. We love and miss you Tom. Inspire on…….

Tom Kettleman, Ron