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Archive for February, 2009

A Camping Trip

Every week, I do a minimum of two preparations to teach Bible content to children. Currently that means I’m preparing a Bible lesson from the Old Testament book of Esther for a little group of neighbor children who come to “Good News Club” at my house every Wednesday after school. Also on Wednesdays, I coach a Bible quiz team. They are currently finishing up their season of studying and quizzing over the Old Testament book of Exodus.

I have found that I have to guard against coming to God’s Word only for the sake of lesson prep. This morning, I was rereading the chapters in Exodus that we will be reviewing at quiz practice this week; we are at the end of our season, so all our material in these weeks is review. As I opened my Bible, I asked God to teach my heart in a fresh way, to show me Himself. A few minutes later, I found myself with tears of joyful discovery in my eyes.

Just after the Israelites had made their nighttime exodus from under the oppressive hand of Egypt’s Pharaoh, God did a gracious thing for them: he led the people a longer way around so they would not immediately face the doubt and discouragement of having to do battle with the Philistines. Then, he told their leader Moses to have them camp near a place called Pi Hahiroth. He told them exactly where to bed down: “…by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon”. Then He told what was going to happen–Pharaoh and his Egyptian army would have second thoughts about having let their slave labor force leave the country and would pursue them.

It happened just as God said–you can read the whole amazing story in Exodus chapter 14. But here’s the thing that struck me this morning: To the Israelites’ eyes, they were in danger. Pharoah’s hoardes were closing in on them from behind, the Red Sea was impeding their escape in the other direction. Imagine your heart beating faster and faster with the sound of every pounding hoof and thundering chariot getting ever louder in your ears. The “fight or flight” response has kicked in big time, but you seem incapable of doing either of those things.

But, remember–they were right where God had told them to be. If ever there was a moment for the “WHY, GOD?” question, this was it.

In what must have been nothing less than a situation of sheer terror as “the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them” (Exodus 14:10), Moses told them, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Through obedience they were exactly in the place God intended them to be. Their doubts got the best of them; before Moses’ imperative, their terrified, desperate complaints betray their inability to trust God in crisis. This is in stark contrast with Moses’ confident words to them.

It may be simplistic to think this, but when I look at the scenario, I sense that Moses learned something from the previous 13 chapters’ worth of events that the Israelites as a group missed: As one of God’s children, my job is to trust and obey; God’s job is to work out the details for my good and His glory. Sounds so easy on paper–but the practical begins with the theoretical.

I am going to think of the Israelites encamping at Pi Hahiroth in the months to come. Our family is in transition, not knowing where the job journey after May 31 is going to take us. But I want to be at our “Pi Hahiroth” when the “Red Sea” parts so we can walk through to the next part of the adventure–even if the Egyptians are on my heels when the time comes.

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Actually, it was the day before Valentine’s Day: I was at Wal-Mart–two different times, two different stores that day. In the morning, a young woman who couldn’t have been out of her twenties stepped behind me in line and, when my order was complete and it was her turn, proclaimed to the cashier, “I hate men!”  Without missing a beat, the cashier seconded the motion: “Well, yah..!” Because I have learned that “butting in on a conversation that’s not yours runs the same risk as grabbing a dog by the ears” (my paraphrase of Proverbs 26:17), I did not turn around and speak what was on my mind to those two women. But their interchange made me sad, and if the circumstance had been right, I would have said to them, ” I hope you meet a man someday who will change your opinion. They’re out there.” As it was, I said a prayer for those two ladies and asked God not only to open their eyes to real love but to the Lover of their souls.

This one only goes in the “I can’t believe somebody asked that” file–no great philosophical gleanings here. Later on that day before Valentine’s Day, when I was at my second Wal-Mart of the day, looking for inkjet printer cartridges, I overheard some lady, who also had to be in her twenties, ask what appeared to be a random stranger, “How many days until Valentine’s Day?” After what seemed like a stunned pause–that would have been the thing that put a two-or-three-second delay on my answer to the question–the stranger replied, “Why, it’s tomorrow.” The questioner went away mumbling that she thought she had more time than that….

Love today, while there is time. And God spare us from the cynicism bred by the love of many that has gone cold.

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It’s the Little Things

Pastor Bob is preaching on the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. It is very timely, as our family goes through a season of uncertainty (Michael’s current job ends May 31st), which in turn puts us face to face (again) with life’s big questions.

My gleanings from yesterday’s sermon include: We often dance to a tune not of our own choosing. Permanence in life–not so much. God is in control. Choose happiness. Choose productivity. (This is not a sermon outline–some “handles” I’m recalling without looking at my notes.) Any one of these could be a sermon in itself and each is a good mouthful on which to chew.

This morning, I’m thinking about the “little” things. Those things that bring a moment of joy or comfort or light in life. Just a few that come to my mind, in no particular order:

  • Kleenex with lotion
  • A bag containing a jar of olives, a box of birthday candles, and toddler hair bow–enough of a reason to stop by my daughter’s work station to say “hi” on a Monday morning
  • Candlelight at breakfast
  • Hot water when you turn on the shower
  • A car that starts
  • A refrigerator that didn’t quit after making funny sounds
  • Eyesight for reading
  • Waking up to music instead of an annoying alarm
  • Azithromycin, resulting in the fact that I’m no longer coughing myself silly
  • A shiny red heart sticker to put on a letter to my mom and dad
  • A mom and dad to whom I can write a letter
  • A word from my Heavenly Father: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46: 10)

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Heroes

I caught this on talk radio this morning and found the details online http://cbs2.com/local/Sullenberger.Hero.Pilot.2.924944.html.  Apparently the hero of the “Miracle on the Hudson”, the pilot who safely landed his plane preserving the lives of all aboard a couple of weeks ago, isn’t a hero just when the camera is on. A borrowed book went down with the plane and “Sully” did what he needed to do to make it right with the library. No big fanfare–he just did it.

The interesting thing about this story, to me, is that it made the news. I’m sure someone thought, “Here’s yet another evidence that we’re right about this guy–that he’s the real deal” when it comes to integrity and to everything that’s been said about him. I think it’s great when someone who does something remarkable also ends up being a person of integrity.

Still…why do we find him so remarkable? Is it because he is truly the exception rather than the rule? Is it because we are so used to hearing about the negative exceptions in society that we are surprised to find integrity out there in surprising quantities?

When I heard the latest about Sully, it made me think of our devotional reading this morning. Chuck Swindoll’s words caught my attention: “The Christian’s greatest goal is to be like Christ…No greater compliment can be given than this one: ‘When I am with that person, it’s like I’m in the presence of Jesus Himself.'” The verse that went with the reading seems to me to be a great description of Biblical integrity: “We have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” (II Corinthians 8:21)

Heroes, indeed…

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