When a Damsel in Distress

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Renee, Flickr

A series of tests were required to be passed for my railroad training. If they were not passed, trainees had to leave the facility immediately, go the hotel and pack their belongings, and go home. It was a betrayal to us all.

After our initial interview sessions, testing included, and notification to start training, we were assured by trainmasters that the job belonged to us. There was never a mention of additional, consequential testing, not until we arrived out-of-state for the 3-week training and realized there were 3-4 paper tests, a riding test, and strength tests to be completed. The failure of any of them meant going home posthaste. Continue reading

My Top 10 in the Bible

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DξβS, Flickr

What are you favorite parts of the Bible? What draws you back again and again? The Bible is a marvelous anthology written by men and touched by God. It never bores. We should be thankful that we get to read the completed canon in our own language, something many people never got to do, if only because they were illiterate.

Selecting my best parts of the Bible was not easy. Yet this is what I present to you now and encourage you to consider what most intrigues you in biblical history. Continue reading

Meet Cutter Mattock

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Stemonitis, SA Wikimedia

Do you have a favorite tool? Is it an outdoor or indoor tool? Manual, automatic, or digital—didn’t think of that, did ya? Although I consider myself a bona fide city-boy, I love nature and I like getting out in it. My favorite tool is a cutter mattock—doesn’t that sound like it might be your uncle in the country? “You know, Uncle Cutter said the wind took down Cousin Mable’s ole spook elm the other ni-igh-t.”

A cutter mattock is the combination of an axe and an adze blade.

I like the cutter mattock (there are other types) because it’s a simple tool that is very useful outdoors. I’ve used it and a bow rake alone to transform a property of dense brush into bare ground. It will unearth the toughest root balls and fell small trees. I’ve even lopped off the heads of a few snakes with it. Continue reading

Tithing: My Journey

Church lecturnEvery Sunday at offering time it was the same scripture, Malachi 3:10-12, declared from the pulpit, King James Version: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house”.  It became one of those things you couldn’t help but memorize because it was recited every Sunday. Some people know the Apostles’ Creed for the same reason. “And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts”. My pastor always misspoke “delightsome”—“for ye shall be a delightforsome land,” he would say. Continue reading

Called from Isolation

CC Vincepal, Flickr

CC Vincepal, Flickr

What is it that halts you from serving God? I mean, the way you know you’re called? Maybe you’re already walking in your calling, and that’s great; but many people aren’t. Can we be honest and admit that sometimes there are areas in our lives that keep us struggling at fulfilling God’s purpose for us?

Am I qualified? Will I fail? What if others learn this about me? How do I overcome this sin? Is God pleased with me?

Let me share a text with you that the Lord shows me when this pattern forms in my head.

Jesus and the Lepers

Luke 17 features the account of ten lepers who encounter Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. It’s a popular passage because of the one leper who returns to thank Jesus and perhaps for the amazing level of faith that characterizes both Jesus and the lepers.

The Law of Moses imposed several requirements on the leprous (Lev. 13-14). They include procedures for diagnosing and confirming healing, instructions on ceremonial cleansing and reintroduction into society, as well as rules for confinement. For instance, lepers were required to: 1) tear their clothes and leave their hair uncombed; 2) cover their mouths and call out “Unclean!”; and 3) live in isolation outside of their villages as long as the disease remained (13:45-46).

Leprosy upended a person’s life in every conceivable way physically, emotionally, and socially.

Verses 12 and 13 say, “They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’”. We gather that their band was perhaps travelling toward Jesus and his disciples and, removing themselves to maintain the required distance, recognized him and made their desperate plea.

God’s Unrelenting Call

CC Dan Grogan, Flickr

CC Dan Grogan, Flickr

This is where I always discover myself. They stood at a distance—because parts of them were not normal and unacceptable and sick and putrid. And people often correctly surmise this about areas of their character, morality, or actions. It doesn’t mean they are not fully clothed in the righteousness of Christ, but the unwholesome areas of their lives are nothing less than a festering sore that continually antagonizes the call of God in their lives.

In their minds the distance between them and engaging God’s call is a canyon of woe.

I pause to praise the God who sees us right where we are, knows how we hurt, and understands our desire to please him even when we aren’t everything we should be. David wrote, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me…you are familiar with all my ways” (Ps. 139:1, 3).

When Jesus saw them, he matter-of-factly stated, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” This meant they would have to walk for about a week and nearly 70 miles south to Jerusalem to show evidence of their wellbeing, which they did not yet possess and that Jesus did not expressly communicate (read my Crazy Faith).

What leaps out and pierces my heart here—especially when I’m assailed by “Me questions”—is the character of Jesus’s compassion toward these folk. He sends them on their way with only an expectation, one hinged on their obedience. He doesn’t heal them outright or interact much with them; and whether they murmured as Naaman had hundreds of years before is inconsequential; they obeyed. They clung to his word and the certitude that by the time they reached the priests, they would be whole.

This is how the Lord reassures me and quiets my fears, calling me out of the shadows: he tells me to keep moving forward, that his purpose for me remains, that my hang ups don’t disqualify me. He promises me that there is hope for what I don’t have the ability and strength to heal. And he asks for my obedience and trust, for he will heal me as I go, following his commands.

Learning to Do The Tough Things Well

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Parker Anderson, ND

Let’s have a moment of silence for the end of the 2014-15 football season. (Thank you.) Before we let it go completely, however, I need to raise the point of something we witnessed at its very end: Cam Newton’s display at his post-game press conference.

Now I’m not picking on Cam because I like him, although I cheered for the Broncos. I love his talent and style; I appreciate his attitude and goodwill. I think he rightly deserves to be MVP. But what we saw of him during that press conference was beneath him and opposite the persona he’s created for himself–the one being an awesome role model to kids, hurling the biggest smiles in football, and dabbing all over the place.

I know it can’t be easy losing the Super Bowl. Losing is just an all-around sucky thing; and when you’re a true competitor, you have to eat, sleep, and breathe it, just like when winning. Yet Newton knew he had to face reporters; it’s part of the package. And already having detractors, it would’ve been better to have seen him come out with at least a half-smile and explain how proud he was of his team, congratulate the Broncos, and stoke the Panther Nation about next year.

Instead, he let his emotions get the best of him, displayed an awful attitude, and walked out. What’s more, he offered a poor excuse explaining his behavior.

Training Matters

I drew a lesson from this. In 2 Peter 1:3-11, the apostle explains how God has granted us the privilege of being partakers of his divine nature–and the corollary of seizing on that by perfecting ourselves through spiritual discipline.

Partly a lesson on assurance and the Spirit’s work of bringing us to lasting godliness, Peter also implies that such regimen guarantees that we’ll meet God’s expectations of us when hardship comes (Ch. 2). It’s easy for a parent to know how their child will act under pressure when over the years they watch them perfect their character. Ask any previous coach of Cam’s–or Newton himself–and they’ll tell you that his prowess and success now are no surprise. He did the tough work until it became easy all along the way and never betrayed those lessons.

It’s no different spiritually. I don’t need to wonder how I might respond if I’m told to recant Jesus or repudiate truth if I’ve consistently trained myself in godliness. It’s like strengthening a muscle until it’s rock-hard and reliable. But a weak faith cannot expect to be strong in the day of trouble.

Closing the Gaps

There’s no doubt that Cam Newton is a remarkable athlete and has the future by the neck. He’s where he is today because he’s rigorously prepared himself for football greatness.

But his press conference partly showed us an integrity not as proven under pressure as his physical ability. Many of Newton’s peers stated at the time that there’s more growth for him, mainly in learning how to be a complete success, which includes losing.

Losing can be winning. But letting competition get the best of us and make us shortsighted can cause us to miss valuable lessons. Always abounding in life doesn’t mean always winning; it just might mean losing gracefully when the stakes are high.

A Prayer for All Travelers

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CC BY-NC, le calmar, Flickr

God, give me the courage I need to learn the lessons I must know to be the person you desire, because the lessons will not be near as glorious as I shall be made by them.

God, make me discerning of the opportunities that present themselves, to read open doors carefully, for not every one is from you; some are traps only leading to great trouble.

Lord, let me never forget humility, to always be more interested in others and their needs than in myself and my own, to be kind and civil, righteous and godly as becoming of you.