Monday, July 30, 2007
These talks prompted me to ask of myself, am I a true friend to friends in need? And am I also one who surprises strangers? I think we're called as Christiains to be both... as God leads.
I know in my life there are times I've let others down. Sometimes this is a function of carelessness or selfishness on my part. Other times it's a function of unreasonable expectations on the part of someone else. Maybe I wasn't meant to charge up the hill that time. But if I was... and I didn't... that becomes a burden for my conscience... and I am accountable to God for these faliures.
There are also times I've tried to be everything to everybody. Good intentions aside, this is the recipe for burnout if not disaster. There's one and only one entity that has the power to meet every single need... and that's God.
So, how do we decide, given our resources and time and talents, who to help? I believe that God sometimes gives us very clear direction. He convicts us, sometimes powerfully,when we need to step up to the plate. And He restrains us when we shouldn't. He also puts upon us, whenever we assume a role of leadership, an accountability for the groups we guide, both within and outside the home.
I've been sensitive lately to how often I pray for God to intervene in someone's life... in hopes that someone else will provide... when, hey, it could be me. When someone says "Please pray for me!" it could be that I have a role to both pray and deliver! Sometimes what we deliver would be considered sacrificial. Other times it's as easy as penning a quick e-mail networking someone who has lost a job with someone who could help, or doing a "google" search to help someone learn more about a doctor, or picking up the telephone to make a friend aware of another friend's new business. Then, again, sometimes our role is exclusively to pray, and we must never lose sight of how potent and pivotal prayer is in and of itself. As we think of deliverables, it is an essential "tangible."
If we determine that we are meant to help someone, how do we know what to do? We can't always count on those in need to be clear about what is is that they need. I've found that sometimes people can be so overwhelmed that they can't articulate or even understand what help they could use. This is the point at which we must become detectives. Having someone sleuth out what would be helpful then help provide it can be like manna from heaven.
I'm reading The Biography of Anne Frank (not the diary, but someone's researched account of events surrounding her life and death). I'm struck at a gut level... haunted, really... with the contrast between goodness and evil.
Though the Holocaust stories are familiar, every time I encounter them it's as if I'm hearing about them for the first time. The visage of unrestrained evil nearly takes my breath away. In reading this book, however, I've been equally taken by acts of kindness on the part of protectors and fellow prisoners who also inhabited this unthinkably horrendous moment in time. People who risked their lives to shield persecuted Jews... and those who were also hungry and thirsty and crushed who committed to share what wretched little they had. All in all, I'm prompted to wonder if I'm doing enough today to help those in need. I'm challenged to pray a little differently, perhaps. Less of "Dear God... please find a way to help them!" And more of, "Am I meant to do something here?"
Question: Are you a true friend to friends in need? Are you also one who surprises others with your no-strings-attached love and generosity?
Saturday, July 28, 2007
After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10 (NIV)
We were taught in Bible Study Methods, among other things, to isolate key words in a verse then seek to better understand the meaning of those words as they were originally written and in the context of the time and occasion. As you seek to identify key words, you're usually looking most closely at nouns and verbs... sometimes adjectives. Then there are times words that might seem otherwise utilitarian, even bland, take on significance.
I was glued the other day, actually, to a little, vanilla-flavored preposition: after. I put on my grammarian hat and began to look at the place it holds structurally (subordinating conjunction if anyone cares) within the NIV translation. It struck me as a critical word transitioning from something (prayer) to something (prosperity).
But when I consulted an English translation of the original Hebrew text, the word "after" was nowhere to found.And the LORD turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. (KJV + Strong's Hebrew from Online Parallel Bible)
I could spend the balance of my middle age, I believe, going back and forth between these two versions wondering if a subtle shift of emphasis--if that's what you'd call it--is meaningful. Is there something in the nuance of the KJV/Hebrew version that is important to our understanding? Or this a how-many-angels-can-fit-on-the-head-of-a-pin-sitch -- i.e., practically speaking, we catch the drift so who cares?
No matter how you read it, though, it seems we have "cause" and "effect" going on. After or when Job prayed, the Lord blessed him. (Interesting to note that Job wasn't praying for the blessings... he was praying for his enemies!)
But before we close the text and try to imagine what's happening in isolation, we'd be remiss if we didn't try to glean a better sense of the situation. What's going on around this verse? Going all the way back to the beginning of the chapter, we gain a richer understanding of the "plotline." We learn that Job's presumptuous, fickle friends are in a pickle with God and He has told Job to pray for them so that they might be spared the consequences of His wrath.
After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10 (NIV)
So we learn that Job's prayer not only renewed and super-sized his prosperity, it also spared his friends some dire punishment from God. This happened, as told in the NIV version, after he prayed.
So is there a lesson to be extracted here for those of us living today? Are we challenged, perhaps, to think rather deeply about a desired end state with respect to our enemies. What is the after we hope for in regard to relationships that challenge us?
Job obviously proved in the most actuely painful, unthinkable ways that he was a righteous man whose prayers carried gravitus. He serves as the epitome of one who has suffered and endured. In the last chapter of the book, he also serves to show us how God, perhaps, might want us to prayerfully consider those who challenge, frustrate and anger us.
What might happen in the aftermath of our prayers? Could mean people be rehabilitated? Could our own sufferings be mitigated? Could we see a better picture of their "side?" Is there a "win-win" scenario possibly in the wings for those who can subordinate pride and bitterness and appeal to God to help their enemies?
Prepositions aside... it's a hard gig, isn't it? But certainly worth our prayerful thought.
Question: Matthew 5:44 tells us explicitly to pray for our enemies. As we think about Job's "friends," are they enemies of Job? Enemies of God? Enemies of both? How about your enemies? Are they also enemies of God? Or not? And should this have bearing on your response to them?
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Topic: when the going got tough... the psalmists got real... prayerful... and always turned to praise. Let's pray for our friends on Monday and talk about experiencing the goodness of God in the midst of our trials.
Also, don't forget to check our other blog for updates! See you Monday! Love, Sarah
p.s. is this too... green?
Friday, July 20, 2007
(Photo by deadeyebart a.k.a. brett's; see http://flickr.com/photos/deadeyebart/186019183/ for restrictions)
On my iPod... Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye by Steam (I know, I know... a classic example of what some of us old folks still groove to on occasion...)
Thursday, July 19, 2007
But there's something utterly charming about Ruthy. She is a pure and gentle spirit. Just this week, a grandfatherly man in a jeep missed his green arrow, much to the chagrin of those behind him, as he craned his neck and grinned and waved wildly at Ruthy. Yesterday, we got the megaphone yell for holding up traffic at Camp Thurman when a group of counselors and campers literally stormed the car to try and pet her. She's a source of much joy to our family. I regret that I didn't have a camera to capture the time she jumped into Daniel's car seat for the ride to school. Ninety-two pounds of big, old dog in a booster seat.
On the way to camp this week, John said, "Mommy, can you believe that someone actually dumped Ruthy on the streets of Dallas!" You see, Ruthy had been abandoned four years ago with a litter of pups. She was malnourished and had sores all over her body. Mercifully, someone rescued her. Her next stop would be a place that sheltered dogs. While Ruthy was let outside twice a day and well fed, she spent the balance of the day and night in a crate. Her third and final stop was our home where today I firmly believe she lives as well or better (sadly) than many toddlers in America.
Reflecting on all of this, I said to John, "It is unbelievable. But if Ruthy hadn't been abandoned, we never would have found her."
Several friends from my Monday Sonrise group got together yesterday. Between financial and health concerns, some of my friends now have serious issues. I pray that God will carry them and guard their hearts and show His mercy in tangible, restorative ways. I also know firsthand how hard it is to believe that the sun will ever shine in the midst of a storm.
For whatever reason, I was thinking during my time spent with friends yesterday about Ruthy... and the fact that her adversity was part of the path home. In all of our lives, there are valleys... times in which we feel all but abandoned... isolated, rejected, lonely, even cursed. But we must never lose sight of the fact that God is alive and at work in our times of uncertainty and pain... shaping our hearts... molding our character... changing our perspectives... defining our purpose. Our scars are sometimes the seeds of bountiful spiritual harvest. Keep the faith and hold tight to the hope we have in Christ... and know no matter what... that you are loved.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
On my iPod... Bring the Rain by Mercy Me
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Dietary hopes dashed for breast cancer patients: Extra servings of fruits, veggies fail to prevent disease's return, study finds
What I'm Having for Dinner Tonight: Chocolate cake
p.s. I visted a local mostly homeopathic doctor a while back who put me on a costly proprietary vitamin powder regimen with four times the RDA of folic acid. I choked it down like a good doobie for about seven months. I was consuming so much folic acid I qualified for my own symbol on the periodic table. Come to find out studies now suggest that excesssive amounts of folic acid may feed the growth of microscopic colon cancer cells. Um... isn't that, like, what I'm trying to avoid here? (Of course, someone will come along and reverse this next week.) The study looked at people who have already had colon cancer, and, obviously, adequate folic acid consumption remains critical for women who are or could become pregnant! As for me, I have officially returned to One-a-Day... and an occasional fist full of chips.
My new diet regimen: Chocolate... lots of it.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
here in my heart
i've stowed the truth
sunk and buried
you can't touch it
you can't see it
if i'm alone one day
when the promise has come
that could have been theirs
"Come follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." (Mt. 4:19)
Saturday, July 14, 2007
His response: "You've got to be kidding."
I took that as a challenge. So off we went to the nearby home improvement store for a full array of painting essentials. I picked out a couple joy-and -peace-invoking colors by manufacturer's swatch. My goal was to replicate the hues and spirit of pure, frothing esprit in that memorable painting scene from Bridge to Teribithia. I picked a chestnut brown with subtle flecks of gold and a cheerful shimmery lemon... along with four rollers and brushes for my crew and me.
Taping the baseboards and molding was our first obstacle. This was all the fun of wrapping two seasons of Christmas presents... without the gifts. The spot where the molding meets the ceiling was totally beyond reach. So I went off in search of Todd's fancy schmancy new ladder. I learned it has incredible safety features. It simply doesn't open. So if you can't use it, you can't get hurt! How's that for a winning product feature! I stood on it anyway... just leaned the thing unopened against the wall and went for it. (Todd: well, er, ahem... did I happen to mention this?)
So we're now taped up with a semi-functional ladder system in place. We begin to pour, dip and roll our dreamy paints. But somehow the dream turned frightful. Can someone tell me how it is moral, ethical, even legal in America to sell people paint that doesn't resemble the swatch? So much for sparkling chestnut and lemony shimmer. The chestnut looks like 16-year-old mulch and the lemon resembles pea soup that has sat crusting on the stove overnight. (My compassionate paint supplier assures me the color disparity is attributable to variances in lighting, not his swatches. That makes some sense, but doesn't help us get from pea soup to lemon shimmer...)
So, now I have pulled something in my neck, Colin has a quarter cup of pea soup mushed into his golden locks, John has dripped mulchy gunk behind the tarp and it has oozed onto our slate, and I am three-and-a-half seconds away from Hoover Dam busting waterworks.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
It has what the truly great albums have, and that is a thematic and musical continuity. What I mean is that you have to listen to the songs as a collection of songs: they inform one another, echo each other. U2 badly wanted for this in The Unforgettable Fire, but spoiled it by overdone production and a couple of their lamest tracks ever ('Elvis Presley in America,' 'Indian Summer Sky'). They missed again with Rattle and Hum, a tediously long album with at times all their tendency to self-righteousness and pomposity ('Silver and Gold').
None of that is here, though there are 'issues' and 'issue songs.' America is the theme, but so are death and loss and grief. The people in the songs express longing and don't yet see the way to answer it. The ambiguity of faith and doubt in 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' is matched by the love-hate of 'With or Without You'. And so on. Morever, it is an album with a landscape: it seems to refer to places so often...
Here are eight album highlights for me:
Australian theologian Michael P. Jensen is pursuing a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford. Check out his truly stellar blog here: http://www.mpjensen.blogspot.com/
Monday, July 09, 2007
Friday, July 06, 2007
Send your ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org
OK... the sun is out... we are going to go catch a ray before it goes away!
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Eleutheria in the NT means "freedom, the state of being free." True freedom is not for oneself or for one's own needs; rather, true freedom is the freedom to obey God and to serve others. (Source: Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words)
(Photo of fireworks over Grapevine Lake 2004... will we have waterworks this year?)
Monday, July 02, 2007
(Words and art by El Oso (http://www.flickr.com/photos/championshipvinyl/458825958/) used with permission. All rights reserved!)
Sunday, July 01, 2007
One of the very best things a grieving person can do - and this has been proven over and over - is to go to a grief support group! So, yes, the answer is: seek out others in pain! But do it in a healthy environment. Nobody can understand you like someone who feels like they are you! Don't be afraid of support groups. Many hospitals and churches offer grief support/recovery groups. There is a "brotherhood" among grieving people that others can't understand. When I led grief support groups at the hospital, very often I didn't have to say a word for over half of the discussion time! They helped each other more than I helped them and that's the point!
This may sound like a "churchy/minister-y" thing to say, but cultivating an intimate relationship with your Creator now is really the only weapon you have for getting ready for loss, and for surviving it when it hits.
Good, hopeful concluding thoughts, Kathy Thank you so much!
Kathy Padgett is the Women's Lifegroup and Pastoral Care Minister at 121 Community Church in Grapevine, Texas. Prior to joining 121, she served as a hospital and home-care chaplain. Kathy is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).
On my iPod... Show Me by The Pretenders