Wednesday, February 22, 2017

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Glen and I were prayer-walking around SUNY Potsdam on Presidents’ Day when this quote came to mind.  We were praying for the nation.  Specifically, we were praying that people would stop being so polarized over politics and start joining forces for good.

People so desperately want there to be a line between good and evil, as Solzhenitsyn said.  An easy litmus test.  If you are on my side of the line, you are good.  If you are on the other, you are not.  A neat, clean, decisive cut.

What I saw in my mind’s eye as we prayed was not a line or a cut, but a rope.  A rope that stretched out like the white line in the middle of the campus road we were walking.  No matter which side you walk, if you see the rope as a line of separation, you will find that it ends in a noose.  

But if you can, in humility, recognise that the rope runs through every human heart - yours as well as the person on the other side of the issue, debate, or opinion - it becomes a line of connection.  A life-line.  If we pull together, we can be an instrument for healing. We can be the rope that draws up the bucket from the well of living water to give those who thirst a drink.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Catching Bats

In the night I sensed the presence of a bat.  I woke, startled, just catching a speck of darker shadow flitting above the bed.  

“Stay down!” I commanded the inert form of my sleeping spouse.

I jumped out of bed like a commando and took charge.  Until the bat came around for another fly-by.  I jumped back under the covers.  This time Glen woke up.

“There’s a bat,” I told him, “stay under the covers!”

But then I thought, “ What if that bat has rabies?”  Our (then) young children were asleep in their rooms.

The covers came off and I flew out of bed.  Glen was right behind me.  The bat flew downstairs.

We crept down the stairs in the dark.  Glen still had my back. When we got to the first floor I grabbed a pair of gloves and Glen grabbed a baseball cap.  Bat-protection.

Glen said, “Maybe if we turn on the light, we’ll be able to see better.”  He is a smart man.  We turned on the lights, but the bat disappeared!  NOW we were in trouble!

We searched.  Finally, Glen spotted the creature hanging onto the frame of the antique print above our piano.  The bat looked at us with Bambi eyes...

But still… rabies?  Children?  

So I carefully caught Bambi and placed him in a plastic bowl from the kitchen.  Glen and I wrapped it and - not knowing what else to do in the middle of the night - placed it in our garbage can outside to buy time. We didn’t want to KILL it!

In the morning, the student who was living with us put his garbage out. Wasn’t he surprised when a bat flew out of the garbage can!

Next time the bat paid us a visit, we caught it and drove it far, far away, almost to Massena!  

Next time the bat came to call, we drove it FARTHER away… Almost to Canada.

When the bat returned from that trip, Glen and I were away at a conference.  My mom was home with the kids. Mom’s solution when the bat woke her up in the middle of the night was to call the police.  We never did exactly find out what happened to the bat, but it stopped coming around after that.

Sometimes the solution to a problem looks really hard.  Awful, even.  A bat isn’t going to just move out.  Even if you build it a little bat-house.  Bats take up residence and stay there, generation after generation.  I didn’t want to face the terrible truth that, if I didn’t want to LIVE with the bat, I would have to destroy it.  Somebody else had to do it for me.  (Just so you know, I am NOT advocating killing bats.)

Last weekend, Bishop Bill Clark said that God has brought us to the end of ourselves so that we must rely solely on him.  We are ready to move into a new dimension of New Hope’s existence, but we can only do it through obedience.  He quoted Deuteronomy 7:1-2:

When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.  

Bishop Clark told us that the name “Hittite” or “Heth,” meant “Terror.” My little bat is a metaphor for fear.  Every time I allow fear to dictate my behavior, I make a treaty with it.  I will go no farther than fear allows.  We will live together in peace as long as I cooperate.  If I am gentle with it, it will return.

But what if God wants me to live in my WHOLE house?  Freely moving from floor to floor, basement to attic?  What if God wants my children to be safe in the house?  My friends and neighbors?

Years ago neighbors down the street found a bat-metropolis in their attic.  When I saw the cost, time, and effort it took for them to have it removed, I knew that we couldn’t afford to make space for bats.

We can’t afford to make space for fear, either.  


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Shadow of a Great Rock

See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice.
Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.  Isaiah 32:1-2 NIV

shadow rock.jpgJust the other morning, on our prayer walk, I asked Glen if he would pray for me about my lack of empathy for a neighbor.  This has been an ongoing situation where I have needed to - literally - bless someone who - literally - curses us.  I was finding love in short supply on my end.

As Glen prayed for me, an image of a huge rock in the middle of a desert came to mind.  Instantly I remembered Isaiah 32:1-2, especially, “ the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.”

This has been one of my favorite verses for years.  Before Glen prayed for me - for years and years, actually - I always saw myself and fellow Christians as the rock in the metaphor. There we are, needing to stand strong in the middle of the heat and the bleakness of desert places so weary wanderers can find their rest alongside us.

I was wrong.  As the image grew clearer in my mind, I realized that the focus was on the SHADOW.  The verses are about the coming Messiah (Jesus) and those who are subject to his rule and reign.  HE is the rock.  THEY are the shadow of the rock. Their life is derived from his.  “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God,”  Psalm 18:31 Weary wanderers find their rest alongside HIM.  WE make them welcome.

The pressure was off just like that!  I don’t have to muster up blessings or love or strength.  I am NOT the rock. I am a shadow cast by Christ.  The love I have, the blessings I speak, all emanate from Him.  In him there is NO END to the love I have to offer!  I will be a shadow, a welcome refuge - a place of blessing.


Feet of Clay

Feet of Clay defines Feet of Clay as:
  1. A weakness or hidden flaw in the character of a greatly admired or respected person: He was disillusioned to find that even Lincoln had feet of clay.
  2. Any unexpected or critical fault.

There was a man in the Bible who had weak feet - literally.  His name was Mephibosheth:  

And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.  And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”  2 Samuel 9:3-7 NIV

Mephibosheth’s critical fault was the fact that he was the grandson of King Saul - David’s enemy.  It was expected and accepted that David would destroy the entire household of Saul, so that none of his family would one day seek revenge on David.  Mephibosheth was literally unable to flee David’s wrath because of his weak feet.  Feet of clay.

David’s mercy transported Mephibosheth to his own household and table.  Grace.  Stronger than familial sin.  Stronger than physical impediments.

My weaknesses don't exclude me from God's mercy, and his provision of joy and strength through grace.  I was just as much God’s enemy as Mephibosheth was David’s, simply by being born into the human family. Like Mephibosheth, I was just as powerless to do anything about it. Feet of clay. But God’s grace, through Christ, has brought me to his table.  The food’s pretty good there!
Displaying IMAG0750.jpg

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.”  Isaiah 55: 1-2
Late Bloomer by Beverly Ewart

I had a very close relationship with my dad.  After becoming a Christian my junior year of high school it became imperative that my dad do so as well, but he had so many strong and intelligent reasons for not believing the Word of God.  No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t convince him!  Over the years I tried introducing him to Christian intellectuals. I reasoned that, if he only could hear what THEY had to say, he would believe.  At Urbana ’87 I stood in line to speak with Billy Graham so I could ask him to write a little note to dad. If dad had a note from Billy Graham, there was no WAY he would be able to refute God’s Word any more!  Billy Graham graciously scribbled something short and illegible on the back of my nametag (he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease).

I was crushed.  Seriously, Billy Graham? No convincing argument or plea, just a Scripture reference (which I couldn’t really make out) and his signature.  Still – I brought it home and gave it to dad as a souvenir.

billy graham.jpg

Dad and I continued to have heated debates about religion.  Once he took me aside and grabbed my shoulders and said, “I DO believe Jesus is my Lord and Savior – I’m just making sure YOU know what YOU believe!”  But later he would repeat another one of his arguments supporting the anti-intellectualism of Christians in general and why the Bible wasn’t right about certain things.   

On September 23, 2009 dad had a massive heart attack and died in the ER before I could get there and say good–bye.  I didn’t get to pray with him.  I didn’t get to pray for him.  But dad did ask for me – and he asked for my Pastor…  Which means that he WANTED someone there to pray with him.  And he told my mom (who was with him and had been for 51 years) to “tell the kids I have made my peace with the world and with God.”

After his memorial service, mom found my Urbana ’87 nametag in one of dad’s dresser drawers - he had saved it.  She gave it to me.  I was finally able to make out the Scripture reference Billy Graham had written on the back.  It was Philippians 1:6 … “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”