Friday, February 26, 2010

wearing the fig leaf

I am thankful for the host of characters described in Your holy book. I find myself playing the role of one or another of them often. When I feel inept, in no position to accomplish any task You may ask of me, my name becomes Moses and I remember You used him in spite of his lacking. When I am temperamental and rash, I am Peter and I am thankful to know that You transformed him and filled him with You so that he ardently spread Your message.

But right now, I think I'm Eve, hiding from You. Running from our times of communion. Reminiscing times when I clung to You, times when my heart seemed firm on Your path, times when I again like Peter insisted "though others may abandon You, I will not" and now knowing in the midst of a trial instead of standing firm, I'm wavering. I feel like I'm wandering through the garden of what You have blessed me with, covering my shame with fig leaves, hiding from You. Keeping away, avoiding You.

Of all of them written about, Eve is not one I see hope in. She is not the one I want to be...I do not remember a major transformation in her. I do not remember her accomplishing anything great for You. I only remember the transgression and shame.

Maybe my focus is targeted at the wrong one...I do remember the story and in that story the focus is truly on You and what You did for her. Yes, there was shame and consequences, but there was great love as You sacrificed the innocent for the first time ever and covered her shame. Death had never been known before then, but it was not hers that happened first. You allowed death to come first at Your own hands before allowing her to experience it. You sacrificed first.

Too often I focus on the wrong ones, instead of seeing You.

A Century Turns--Book Review

I've been reviewing the last twenty years lately with my most recent book received from Thomas Nelson Publishers. A Century Turns by William J. Bennett covers the last twenty years of our country. Occasionally, I receive a book that I know I'll share with the whole family and this is one of those. I enjoy just about anything Bill Bennett manages to put into print so reminiscing the last twenty years from his perspective reminds me of so much I want to share with my children about the years in which I became a "grown up".

I appreciate the insight he shares about events beginning with George H. W. Bush becoming President of our country and ending with the election of our current President. This book, however, is not centered only on political history. It covers events throughout that time period that shaped our country, events like the Pan Am bombing, the fight against the drug culture, race conflicts, the Branch Davidians, technological advancements, hurricane Katrina, and many other events of that time period. There is, of course, a massive amount of information on politics and foreign relations, too though, including terrorist attacks, elections, and controversies that were linked to politicians of the time.

His book includes a wealth of bibliographic material to back up the accuracy of the events as told, but as he mentions early on one of the main sources is Bill Bennett, himself, as he was there. That is a perspective I have much appreciation for as he was a voice of reason and calm I remembered through many of the events he writes about.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bible Maps and Charts--Book Review

Recently, I received for review Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts. I planned to give this book to my high school son as a resource for his Bible studies, but we will be sharing this one. The book covers three time periods: Old Testament, Intertestamental Period (just a brief description with maps), and New Testament. The charts, maps, outlines, and timelines included in this collection help in understanding the settings for each time period.

The Old and New Testament sections are divided according to the types of books and then a brief introduction is given in the beginning of that section of books about what they contain before a detailed outline of each of the individual book is given which includes authorship, dates, themes, an outline, timeline of events, and finally maps that show where all the events of that book took place. For example, as we open to the Old Testament section, there is a chart showing an overview of the Old Testament and afterwards an introduction to the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible). This introduction discusses what is contained in the Pentateuch as far as the books and what events take place and it includes two charts, one tells brief information about each book and the other tells a brief chronology of events. Then comes the detailed story of the book of Genesis. After telling about the author, the date of writing, and the themes, we are given a chart showing events, locations, and topics, as well as a timeline showing the book covers the period of Adam to Joseph. Then comes the outline of Genesis followed by details, details, details, and many charts and maps to assist in understanding where events took place.

It should be understood that these charts are not repetitive. They do not only contain events in the books and time period information. The charts are designed specifically for each book's contents. For example, in Genesis, under the section "Does the Bible Really Say That?", there is a chart showing common phrases or sayings we hear today, what the phrase means, and the original context from the Bible. Here is one from that chart:
Saying or Phrase Meaning Today Original Context
Babel or a Tower of Babel A symbol of confusion Gen. 11:1-9

My description does not contain the full description, but that's the idea.

Overall, this will be a great study guide for our family and I look forward to using it again and again. It contains much more information than can be included in a study Bible so it is a very useful resource.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

prayer to You

Sometimes there is only You. No one else to talk to.

I You design times like this in our lives so that we-the ignorant, the unwise, and the incapable-will be left no other option, but to turn to You. Or are these times to be blamed on a lurking enemy seeking to destroy Yours. Or perhaps is it just our fault. We refuse to seek Your guidance in all things, go it alone and end up causing strife and confusion for everyone around us.

Whatever the case, it is frustrating. You once baffled men by causing them to not understand one another's language. I'm involved in the chaos of the Tower of Babel myself lately. I speak and no one knows what I'm saying. They speak and their words do not penetrate my heart. I'm standing in the rubble, alone, wondering what do I do now?

I only know the answer is--do not speak anymore, to anyone! My answer is full of errors as it encourages me to stay away, but I am Your rebellious child right now so I withdraw. I see the error of my ways, but I do not see errors in my thoughts lately, as others seem to, even those most intimate who spoke similar things when alone with me, but when confronted with speaking them before others refused to speak.

Anger has found a home in me and only You are left for me to hope in for a cure.

There is a hope. Just as You once confused languages, You also once allowed clarity to come in the midst of strange languages. When Your Holy Spirit arrived to mankind, languages were spoken by men who did not speak them by learning, but by miracle. And those around who spoke such languages from birth were amazed as they heard words about You spoken by the simple. You made the language make sense to those who needed to hear it. You are the only one who can do that.

I have tried to speak when you have given me words before, but for now I am quietly Yours, no more words.

Friday, February 12, 2010

ten years ago

Our middle guy's journey into this world began with heart break for me. I knew that particular pregnancy was different very early on...much sicker, clothes tighter much sooner. I suspected there were two of them in there. The doctor asked about doing an ultrasound on my first check-up. Our last pregnancy had ended in miscarriage and he said oftentimes they like to have an ultrasound early on in the next pregnancy to make sure all is well. I knew that might be true, but I also knew he suspected two were in my womb also. He had already said my uterus was larger than it typically would be at that stage, but I didn't let on that I knew what he was trying to confirm.

He confirmed it...there were two. But Luke's little partner had not made it, only Luke's little heart was beating.

I did not cry in the doctor's silly how we sometimes muffle the emotions so we don't make others uncomfortable or so others won't know our sorrow. Like wounded animals that run away to die, we carry our grief to a quiet place and then suffer alone.

Sometimes after Luke made his grand entry, I felt like the loss I still felt for the one who didn't make it overshadowed the love I felt for Luke. When the "twin" word was mentioned or if there were a set of twins Luke's age nearby, I felt bitterness or anger because my something special had been taken from me. After two years of having him, I realized I had concentrated more on my loss than the precious one I had gained.

My something special turned ten yesterday. My special one who cares so deeply for others and hurts more deeply sometimes too...he marked a decade of life. He knows about his twin. I shared that with him very early on. But I never told him how I felt I had failed him the first two years of his life while I was grieving, how I've tried to make up for those two years ever since by showering love and affection. A mother's heart can experience a deep repentance when she feels she has failed in some way.

That feeling of failure lingers. Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of him or hear him saying words that amaze me and I think how could I have ever dwelt on the lost one so much and not spent that energy relishing every sound he made or every facial expression he exhibited as a little baby.

He enthralls me. He reads constantly and shares facts with me...some that I've read myself as an adult, others that are news to me. He reminds me to pray for people he's heard about, people his heart is concerned about. He watches movies and sees messages in them that are filled with lessons from the Bible. He shares everything with his little brother. He cherishes friends. He loves people. He gave his life to Christ last year and has struggled through his own fight with his flesh even this young, learning to go his Lord's way instead of his own.

This weekend his big brother came home from a church youth trip with a new Bible. Jake had recently received a new Bible so he didn't need it. Luke wanted it so badly so yesterday for his birthday, big brother gave it to him with this inscription "Presented to Luke Rhoden by Jake Rhoden, From the brother that loves you. Keep Christ first."

So many times good moments are experienced in a family and you know it is simply God's blessing because you're just not worthy of the goodness in those moments and nothing you have done has made them happen, but He has set it in motion when little ones have let go of you the parent and grabbed hold of Another.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

he's rebelling and I'm glad for it

Genesis 25:29--"Now Jacob cooked a stew..."

Recent events have me somewhat unsure of how to proceed in areas of my life. Sometimes when you stop and analyze things a bit much, the picture just gets fuzzier. This has been a good time to set the burden down, refuse to look at it, and focus my attention in other directions.

Today the attention belonged to our big guy who made it back from a weekend away, a weekend centered around teaching and discussions of Scripture. He turned eighteen while gone, celebrating his birthday away from us. Eighteen sounds momentous, but we've always taught them all that chronological age means little if there is no growth in character. He has had growth in character.

As a two year old, his tantrums concerned me. As a four year old, his shyness kept him from others. As a six year old, he read poorly. As an eleven year old, his temper flared viciously. As a fourteen year old, he realized he needed Someone bigger than himself to help him through his problems. As a sixteen year old, he decided he would sign up for every missions trip he could go on. Now as an eighteen year old, he reaches me when others can't.

Tonight we sat on his bed while I prepared some of the school lessons that will finish his schooling by me. While I worked, he shared some of his favorite sermons by pastors who refuse to preach what is popular instead insisting on preaching the truth. He smiled at me at times when one of the speakers made a statement he knew I would appreciate. He told his dad and I about his new opportunities that have been offered to him. He talked about his next missions trip.

He is rebelling against the ways of the world. Somewhere along the way, he left our arms and walked boldly into Another's, deciding to follow the only One who will not fail him. Now he shares that faith with us...with me, at a time when I need it, but cannot receive it from anyone else. All this and he's learning to cook too...tonight he made venison stew.

There was another Jacob who cooked a stew once. His flaws were obvious and his character experienced growth through adversities also. He never became perfect, but he had a place in a plan designed by the same One who's made the plan for this Jake.

Friday, February 5, 2010

the pressure cooker

Life hurts. Nothing really profound in that statement, just writing it based on recent events. I have a terrible tendency to hold things in and allow them to stew. It reminds me of my mom's early years with a pressure cooker. I don't know what she did wrong, but she would begin cooking something in her cooker and within thirty minutes we would hear the deafening sound of catastrophe in the kitchen. Our kitchen ceiling bore the marks of many cooker recipes that shot straight upwards through that little spout on top of the cooker.

That is me, the pressure cooker. We were taught to hold things in, not actually instructed to, but children learn by watching and experimenting. This is a lesson I wish I had avoided, but unfortunately I've carried it into my grown up years.

Of all my lacking in character, this is the one I don't want to pass to this precious bunch of five He's given me. I want them to live in freedom, speak freely without apprehension, speaking boldly what is right.

I am not so bold nor so free. My staying quiet over a period of time has consequences that are costly, consequences I bring on myself. Eventually the pressure intensifies to a degree that I spout off and leave marks, not on the kitchen ceiling, but on everyone who's in hearing distance. My regrets come when I realize I should have spoken to someone about the aggravation that was growing, but I didn't. My words are of no effect, but to confuse and disturb. My solution? I'm no hero, I plan to run in the opposite direction. Not in an effort to hide, but more in realization that I am poison to people and need not speak anymore or I'll spread more grief.

Lessons never stop in life. I stay too long in some places where I hope to belong eventually, places where I see others trying to belong too, but then they disappear without a word. As I enter their same abyss, I understand where they search of the place where they do belong. Sometimes in the most well meaning of places people segregate themselves, others cannot force their way in so they walk. I had hoped to be stronger and always stay and hold a spot whether invited in or not, but I am not a strong one and my staying so long has been more out of protest than truly wanting to fellowship. So my guilt lands heavy on me now, guilt for wrong motives, staying for the wrong reasons and not being a vessel of love myself.

I am ever thankful that the "feeble" still have a place in His plan.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

aggravation of futility

I once visited a woman who was dying. She laid on her back for months unable to catch full breaths only able to get up once or twice a day for a few minutes each time. I would just stop by and read to her or talk to her for a while. She wanted to have the Bible read to her so that's what I did. After that, she wanted to talk even though that was difficult for her, but she had regrets that she wanted to share. I remember her regrets clearly.

She regretted not knowing the Bible better. When I first visited her, she asked me to read the 23rd Psalm and then she asked me where it was in the Bible. She didn't realize that it was found in exactly the place that it was named--the twenty-third Psalm. She also regretted not having done more for the LORD. She even wanted to volunteer right there in her last few days to do something for her church. She wanted to use the last bit of time she had for Him before she saw Him. Her regrets reminded me of Solomon's in Ecclesiastes.

Solomon had been king of Israel forty years. He accomplished every goal any person today could attain to be considered successful in the eyes of the world. He built the temple and homes for himself and others. He gained respect by those who knew of him because of his wisdom. He built relations between his country and others. He had more wealth than any other king of that time. In the eyes of mankind, he was the epitome of a success.

But as Solomon's body gave way to age, his own mortality loomed before his eyes and the finiteness of all he accomplished plagued his mind. "Vanity of vanities...all is vanity" (Ecc. 1:2).

The LORD told him early in his reign "if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked...there shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel" (I Kings 9:4,5). Solomon knew that though he accomplished all that the world considered great, his accomplishments meant nothing. He didn't walk with the LORD as his father had and now as he faced the eternal, the prospect of what may happen to the throne reminded him of what was most important, the thing he had not done...fearing the LORD and keeping His commandments.

I feel quite a bit like Solomon myself minus the great accomplishments, but including the frustration of realizing how much of my time has been wasted by not concentrating on simply fearing Him and keeping His commandments but instead paying heed to much of the traditions of mankind even in our churches.