Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Story Everyone Knows, and the Part I Never Knew

They were practically superheroes!

At the very least, they were the equivalent of today's Secret Service, Special Forces and 5-Star Generals rolled into one.

David's Mighty Men, 37 warriors named and honored for all time as Hall-of-Famers in the history of Israel. Many of them joined David after God had named him Israel's next king, but while he was still on the run, trying to stay alive in the face of then-King Saul's attempts to kill him. They risked everything to support and protect the man whom God had chosen to be their next king. David had been in caves and foxholes with these guys, had lived on the razor's edge of life and death with them, had been protected and defended by them, knew their names and their stories and where they were from. His relationship with them was forged in the fires of combat and they must have been closer to David than his own brothers.

Fast-forward a quarter of a century . . . David has been on the throne for some 20 years, and his Mighty Men are now the commanders of his armies, powerful leaders in their own right. After fighting for years to solidify his kingship over his empire, David takes a break and allows his trusted generals to handle the battlefield on their own for a time while he relaxes at home.

I'm sure we all know the story of David and Bathsheba. David, the warrior-king, lounging at home with war raging on a distant battlefield, was sleepless one night with unaccustomed time on his hands. In the cover of darkness, he was spellbound by the shadowed sight of the beautiful and unsuspecting (and married) Bathsheba, bathing as he watched her from the roof of his palace. He sent for her so he could have what his lust craved, and it wasn't until she sent word to him of her resulting pregnancy that he realized he had a problem on his hands.

The intrigue begins with David's desperate and extreme plot to cover up his dishonorable actions. First he sends for Bathsheba's soldier husband to come home from the battle to spend a night with her so the pregnancy will appear legitimate. When that fails, twice, because of this man's remarkable integrity, David loses all restraint and orders him sent to the front lines and for the army to pull back so his death will be inevitable. Still shocking in its heartlessness after countless readings!

What I had never known for the longest time (until studying the history of Israel one day), despite all the times I've heard this story preached, and the many times I've read it myself, is that Bathsheba's husband, Uriah the Hittite,
was one of David's Mighty Men! Not some nameless, faceless private among the ranks of tens of thousands of soldiers who David would not know by name, but one of his BOYS, someone who had been loyal to David, who had risked his life for David countless times in the 25 years since joining him at the Cave at Adullam! Not only was this brazen adultery and abuse of power, but it was mind-blowing, cold-hearted betrayal of the worst kind!

The focus of this story always seems to be David and his horrendous failure, devastating consequences and sorrowful repentance--an important cautionary tale to be sure. Too often overlooked in the story is Uriah the Hittite, the one who displayed all the honor and integrity and faithfulness David lacked at this time in his life.
  • While David idled in luxury, Uriah was out fighting with his men.
  • While David took what did not belong to him, Uriah denied himself time with the beloved wife who WAS his own as long as his men lived in tents away from home.
  • While David was busy betraying his long-time friend with adultery and lies and ordering his death, Uriah remained a faithful friend to David and a true comrade to his fellow soldiers.
  • While David destroyed his honor in a selfish attempt to avoid public shame, Uriah conducted himself with such honor that he selflessly gave his life for king and country.
From the way the prophet Nathan framed his illustration to rebuke David and from the fact that Bathsheba mourned for Uriah when she learned of his death, it seems clear that Uriah and Bathsheba were a deeply loving couple. I think it is the mercy of God that Uriah died not knowing how David had used his wife and then ordered his murder. I can't say the same for Bathsheba, who paid dearly for what happened between her and David; she spent the rest of her life as one of many wives to the man who had murdered her husband, and suffered the loss of the son fathered by David in their affair.

This story is so rich with lessons for us. We know well the obvious warnings against adultery and lies, and the progressive desperation of shame that can lead even a godly man to murder . . . even murder of one closer than a brother. I hope we will also notice the beautiful example set for us by Uriah the Hittite, who, despite the way his life ended, should not be remembered as a hapless victim, but a gloriously honorable man, a hero among heroes, who was faithful to the end. I love it that God made sure we would remember Uriah's name (which means "the Lord is my light"), and the strength of character that made him worth remembering.

David did not have the last word in Uriah's story, and wickedness did not have the last word in David's story.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, 
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10 NIV

"God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart . . .'" Acts 13:22 NIV

What comfort there is in knowing that God will have the last word in my story! It is both sobering and encouraging to know that God knows and remembers it all--the shortcomings, the weakness, the failure, the rebellion AND the honor, the integrity, the courage, the faithfulness. Even when we fail, His faithfulness ensures that His grace will be the final word in the story He is writing in us.

Are you ever surprised when you study God's Word?
What will you remember and apply to your life about the story of Uriah the Hittite?

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

581. Cat feet

582. The Bible I've been using since 1983 and the colorful story it tells of my walk with God
583. Making homemade pasta with She So Sweet for lasagna for her daddy
584. A new dessert creation for Hero Husband's birthday, and that he enjoyed it so much he ate two pieces!!
585. An impromptu birthday photo session with the family 
586. Drummer Boy's good report from the dentist!
587. Watching Drummer Boy stand tall in his convictions, despite the cost
588. Hanging in there
589. The thoughtfulness of She So Sweet
590. Crazy things to laugh about and people-watching at Starbuck's
591. The sound of She So Sweet's laughter when *he* is near
592. Beautiful, bossy, bright blue Scrub Jays with their sassy white eyebrows
593. Sleeping through a heat headache
594. Horses, shiny in the sunshine
595. Pineapple on pizza

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:

A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

God Is No Dangler of Carrots

Woody Allen is oft-quoted as saying, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans."

Now, Woody Allen is an agnostic on his best days and an atheist on his worst, but even Christians sometimes use this quote as though it were true. How many times have we all heard testimonies of missionaries or pastors that follow an arc something like this: "I never wanted to be a missionary/pastor; that's the LAST thing I wanted to be!" They sigh wistfully . . . remembering the passion they once had . . . and say, "No, I dreamed of being a . . .

professional golfer
business owner
(fill in your own)"

then, steeling themselves, carrying grimly on with their story they say, "but God had other ideas, and now I am doing His work. You should be doing God's work too!"

What they don't say out loud, but fairly scream from between the lines, is,

"God is a dream killer!"
"Don't tell God your dreams, He'll just take them away from you!"
"God is going to make you do something you hate!"

After hearing these testimonies (often at missions conferences, Christian school chapel services, youth summer camps) I think secretly some of us are a little worried that in order to be truly spiritual or obedient we have to be doing something we find loathsome . . . or painful . . . or at least something that is responsible for dashing a cherished dream or two.

(yes, I am shouting!)

THIS is what I DO believe:

"You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him." Matthew 7:9-11 NLT

Our God is a good God!  He's so good, we can't even fathom the depths of His love for us, and how passionate He was about the mix of gifts and aptitudes, skills and desires He gave us when He personally wove them right into our very DNA! Do we really think He made us who we are just to watch us squirm and writhe against the acute discomfort of being round pegs in square holes? Do we really think the God who loves us is going to dangle big juicy carrots in front of us only to keep them ever out of reach, or to snatch them away when we get close? If we think that, we make Him out to be something He absolutely is NOT--God is not cruel.

God is the original Dreamer of God-sized dreams, and the imprint of His Dreamer-heart is upon us. We are not wrong to dream God-sized dreams, the kind only He can make come true, the kind that are way beyond our own capabilities! Never fear my friends!! 

God is no dangler of carrots!!

It would only be wrong to dream and pursue God-sized dreams
out of pride,
for our own glory,
in our own strength
just for this earthly life
or purely selfish gain;
that is to make the dream an idol and it is
the one way
to invite God to kill (or seriously delay) our dreams, no matter how grand or glorious!!

Never hide your God-sized dreams from God!
Never TELL God what YOU are going to accomplish!
Never believe the enemy's lies about God being a dream-killer!
Never give up on your God-sized dreams!

Always entrust your dreams to God in prayer!
Always stay humble and submit your dreams to God's authority as your Father!
Always believe that God designed you, and all that sparks your dreams, according to His own dreams!
Always pursue your dreams with excellence, and pursue God even more!

Does this mean that every dream we fancy is part of God's dream for us? Not necessarily. Sometimes we dream with wrong motives, sometimes we're just not ready, sometimes one dream denied moves us toward the real dream, and sometimes God tests the strength of our commitment and intensifies our passion with a series of obstacles and delays. Whether they all come true this side of Heaven or not, dreaming God-sized dreams is part of our faith-walk, and God is delighted when we bring our dreams to Him, trusting Him for the outcome and giving Him all the glory. That is a lot easier to do when we know this about Him:

"God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

   Glory to God in the church!
   Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
   Glory down all the generations!
   Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!"  Ephesians 3:20-21 MSG

Do you have a hard time believing God for your God-sized dreams?
What Scriptures encourage you to trust Him anyway?
What action will you take TODAY in pursuit of your God-sized, God-honoring dreams?

Joining Bonnie for her Faith Jam:

and joining Emily for:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Hero, My Champion, My Daddy

The best basketball coach I know teaching
She So Sweet the game he loves.

Daddy, I hope you know that you’re my hero
   My hero, my champion, my coach
And every good thing a father should be and rarely is
   You have taught me such important things
In such creative, memorable ways.

Daddy, you’ve always made me feel so wanted
   Wanted and beautiful and loved
Things every girl should have a chance to feel but seldom does
   You always encouraged and believed
And somehow you made me believe in me.

Daddy, when it was time for me to leave home
   Our home, our family, our bit of heaven
All the safe, sweet things the world wants and hardly ever sees
   You gave me the courage to step out
To go find my life and to live it well.

Daddy, I hope the way I live makes you proud
   Proud and hopeful, and certain
That all the things you taught me have settled down and taken root
   My life is so much better, richer
Because you are my hero, Daddy.

I was almost 13 in this picture standing in our
cherry orchard, behind a fence
I helped Daddy build.
This was taken my senior year, the last time
I was home for the annual family pictures.

A wonderful day doing one of Daddy's favorite things, hiking in the mountains!

The summer he retired after 40 years of teaching Phys. Ed. and coaching high school football and basketball.
I was sharing with him the scrapbook I had made of pictures and notes and letters from his former students and players.
I've told you a little bit about my daddy before, here, and here.

There is not a better father anywhere, except God! You see, my daddy built fences for my horses, he helped catch them when they got loose. He taught me humility, compassion, and the cost of procrastination . . . and grace. If he was disappointed that I wasn't a better athlete, he never showed it, not even a hint. He was proud of the things I pursued, even to the point of letting me cram my guitar in the back seat with my two brothers and I on a 3000 mile trip around the Western US.  I should have counted the number of times he packed and unpacked the Volvo to get out my guitar so I could sing--in campsites between British Columbia and Iowa, Grandma's house, an FCA camp in Washington--it didn't matter.  If he thought we could bless someone and remind them of the love of Jesus by having me share a song, he didn't mind a little rigmarole.

The same daddy who wrestled horses and guitars, the same daddy who put me up on his shoulders when I was a little girl, puts me on his shoulders every time we talk.  He lifts me up where I can see with his perspective, he encourages me like the outstanding coach he is, and the fathering he's done my whole life keeps me living to love God and to bless people.

"God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out,
'Abba! Father!'"

"Abba," an Aramaic word that is the equivalent of our word papa or daddy.  My daddy is so much like Jesus he has made it second nature for me to climb up on my Heavenly Father's lap and love Him. I can always come to God like a safe, secure, loved daughter, because that is what I've always been, both on earth in my daddy's arms and in Heaven's throne room with my Father God. I am able to know God as my Abba Father, my Papa, my Heavenly Daddy, because my own daddy knows God as his Abba Father so well.

Daddy, when there are too many miles that separate us on holidays and the ordinary days in between, please know how crazy I am about you and about being your daughter!! I am the blessed-est of blessed girls and I love you to pieces!!

     Happy Father's Day!!   


Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


566. Novocaine!
567. A dentist who knows how to fix it!
568. The ability to rest
569. Artistry in music, dance, acting, writing
570. That we went back to check
571. Paperwork on its way
572. Previous bad haircut repaired after weeks of hating my hair!
573. A rare trip to Burger King
574. Drummer Boy finding a college group he really enjoyed
575. The ability to "gift" someone in need
576. An important thing accomplished 
577. She So Sweet's Triple Berry parfaits made with Grandma's vanilla custard recipe and topped with chocolate granola
578. Having old pictures to reminisce over
579. Twenty-three years of proof that I chose my children's father extremely well!
580. The pure blessing of being Keith Allen's little girl!

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:

A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Aches, Pains and Horrible Thoughts

Some aches and pains are easier to ignore than others. There's the "Ooh, it hurts to move my finger," variety or the "Gee, what did I do to my knee?" kind. Those are usually fairly easy to ignore, or at least to create some mental distance where you can carry on pretty much unhindered. Then there's the, "Hmm, lunch didn't seem to agree with me, I think I'll lie down for a little while," or the "This sore throat is no fun, maybe I'll stop for a cup of hot caramel apple cider." These slow you down and may even make you ease up on your work schedule somewhat, but no big deal, right?

Everyday ordinary aches and pains--we all have them, we all live with them, we all try to make the best of life with them. I am blessed to live with very few and very minor aches and pains--I hope you are too. However, I have a recent experience with pain that opened my eyes to something in me that lurks just beneath the surface of my personality that I never dreamed was there!

Last week I felt a stabbing deep shock of pain in a lower molar, one my dentist has been watching for many years, having told me long ago that this tooth would one day have to go. I thought, "Uh oh! Here we go." For a couple of days I tried some home care strategies, but nothing was working and the pain was increasing, radiating out through my jaw and neck and ears and head. It was a pretty easy decision, staring at a brand new x-ray with my dentist, to say, "It's time--pull the tooth."

Now, I am not really a happy dental patient, and was preparing myself for this to be a bad experience, but my dentist was awesome and had the tooth out before I knew it. Easy-peazy! Done deal, right?


The next day, not only was my pain not gone, it was worse and continued to get worse over the weekend. I was back in the dentist's chair Monday morning, where I told him he'd better get out the Novocaine before he touched my mouth or I might deck him! I wasn't joking. The pain was so incessant, so intense, and so in-my-head, that all my reserves of patience, tolerance and flexibility were gone! He determined that the tooth right in front of the one he pulled was also causing me problems and needed some work--ugh! It was a little more involved than expected, but he got at least the first steps of the fix taken care of and sent me to the pharmacy for antibiotics and pain medicine on my way home.

After driving 20 minutes and battling my way to a parking space, I arrived at the busy Costco pharmacy, put in my prescriptions and inwardly groaned when they said it would take 30 minutes. The Novocaine was beginning to dissipate and I had no idea how bad my pain was going to get before I could take something for it. While I sat there, fairly pulsing with impatience, I was flooded with a barrage of uncharitable thoughts toward every person unfortunate enough to wander through my field of vision. Suddenly everyone struck me as annoying, obtuse, ugly, stupid, inconsiderate, idiotic . . . well, I could go on, but you get the idea. Like the contrast between these two versions of the same picture, what I looked at was not what I saw--my pain distorted everything.

Even in the throes of this emotional mishmash of pain and fear and need and urgency, I was horrified at these thoughts that were so foreign to my normal way of thinking! Believe me, I'm not saying I never have a critical thought toward people, because sadly, I do, but NEVER like THIS!!! It was like the light was too harsh, every sound came through like a screech and everything I saw was being filtered through my pain and colored some horrible shade of ugly.

I hated the way it felt to think like this, but in the moment I felt powerless to think differently. Lord help me!! was the best I could do. Thankfully nothing I was thinking came out of my mouth!

Later, when the medicine had begun to help and I had escaped my feelings of desperation, I took the opportunity to think about those few long minutes of horrible thoughts and what they might mean. I couldn't help thinking about my recent experience when a stranger spoke ugly words to my daughter and me for no reason I could understand. Could this be why she acted as she did? Was she in some kind of unspeakable pain, physical or otherwise, that completely clouded her view? Does pain help explain (although, not excuse) why so many people are doing and saying such horrendous things in the world today?

I don't know, but if my recent experience is any indicator, pain can have a drastic impact on a person's disposition and their ability to interact with people. Pain is NOT a good enough reason for anyone to harm or mistreat others, but it may be a factor in what drives them. Maybe the next time I see someone being horrible to the people around them, this experience will help me see through the eyes of compassion, rather than the eyes of judgment and disapproval.

Jesus Himself set the most unimaginable example of this, when at the worst of His suffering on the cross, He said the unthinkable,

"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
Luke 23:34a KJV

Does pain ever cloud your vision?

Joining Ann:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grappling With Truth

I don't ever remember not believing in Jesus.
The Children's Bible: The Old Testament, The New Testament
I always knew the stories in my storybook Bible were different than stories in other storybooks--these stories were really true.

I knew that Jesus was real and Santa was . . . well . . . real in a different way, and that Santa loved Jesus too. There was no "wink, wink, this is a fun game we're playing" expression when we talked about Jesus.

I knew that God created everything in six days . . . six evening-and-morning days . . . and on the seventh day He rested.

I knew that when the Bible said that God saved Noah and his family and the animals from the flood, protecting them in Noah's ark, it was really true that the whole earth was flooded.

Story after story came alive for me, and I really did know the difference between fairy tales and the truth.  I was abundantly blessed with parents who faithfully read these stories to me, explained them with love and reverence, and lived the truth of them every day in front of my brothers and me.

As I grew, my faith grew with me. I have been walking with God a long time now and while I am no scholar, I know enough to hold my own in most discussions of faith, doctrine, and theology.

As I got older, and my observations and experiences of life became more complex, I had many questions.  All the usual ones--why do bad things happen? if God already knows who will believe in Him, why does He create the people who won't? how will the world end? is God really in control? can I really trust Him with my life?

I vividly remember a crisp Canadian autumn afternoon in 5th grade when a girl tossed a cryptic comment my way one day, saying, "If only you knew."  Well, the obvious question was, "If only I knew what?!"  She proceeded to tell me, in the hushed tones of a secret-teller, that the world was going to end in 1975 and only the people from her church were going to heaven.  Since I was not part of her church, I was rather alarmed!  For several days, I stewed in my anxiety alone, until one night at bedtime I couldn't stand it any longer and blurted out my panicky questions to my awesome mom. She knew exactly how to share her Bible knowledge with me (the knowledge she purchased with countless hours of study time at our dining room table), and how to reassure me that I didn't have to worry because 1) Jesus said that NO ONE knows the time except God the Father, and 2) Heaven was for anyone who puts their faith in Jesus. Period. Scripture was always her authority, and my heart was filled with the peace of knowing I could count on the Bible to be true.  Nevertheless, I was secretly just a smidgen more excited than usual to ring in the new year of 1976 and to watch 1975 fade uneventfully into history.

I learned from that experience at age 10, that it was always best to ask my questions straight up rather than to worry that maybe there wouldn't be a good answer.  I still operate that same way. When things happen, when people challenge the validity of the faith I profess, or when I observe something that just nags at me, I go into study mode.  I become a hunter in hot pursuit of the truth. I read, I learn, I question further. I grapple with it like Jacob wrestled with God. I would never presume to claim that I have everything figured out, but I always come out of these wrestling matches with a better understanding of who God is, just like Jacob did.

"Buy the truth and do not sell it—
wisdom, instruction and insight as well."

Gospel according to Moses, The: What My Jewish Friends Taught Me about JesusWhat I love best about taking these questions to God and His Word is that in all my years of walking with God, I always find Him more than able to stand up to the scrutiny!  It's okay to ask God my questions!!  He can take it!!  One of my favorite books is The Gospel according to Moses: What My Jewish Friends Taught Me about Jesus.  Author, Athol Dickson learned from his study of Torah that "God loves an honest question."

Yes. He. Does!

Have you grappled with the Truth lately?

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

551. Conflict turned to cooperation
552. Hot showers on cool days . . . and clean hair
553. Bougainvillea in wild profusion
554. The way we all help each other--crazy about my family!
555. Awesome sound system in my dream car!
556. A trusted friend to walk alongside
557. Having the alarm system of pain to tell me something needs attention
558. Getting it over with
559. That if I MUST have a tooth pulled, I have a dentist like Dr. Wolter to walk me through it with such ease!
560. A good book to rest with
561. The chance to be a helper to my kids on their big project
562. Herbal wrap, cold out of the freezer and the relief it gives
563. Good morning hugs
564. Sticktoitiveness
565. Knowing I'll feel much better when the pain goes away (thanks Daddy!)

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:

A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!


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