Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Inward or Outward?

Today I was sitting in a VA waiting room with a bunch of other vets waiting to be called for my routine physical. As I watched the nurses calling people and weighing them in one nurse seemed particularly rushed and even a little sour. One patient tried joking with her and she was obviously not appreciating it, and she was clearly not in a good mood (I need to say that this is the exception, not the rule, for all the people I have encountered in the VA system—the ones in the clinic I go to seem to truly care about vets and want to serve them).

As my time drew close to be called I thought, "I hope I don't get her!" Who'd want, after all, a grumpy nurse weighing you in and asking you questions and taking your blood pressure? But, almost immediately after that thought, I had this thought pop into my mind, "But what if she needs what you have?"

It was profound. In a mere second I saw my complete self-focus, desiring to make things easy for me, to have a cheerful nurse, etc. My eyes were completely focused on my self and my ease and comfort and pleasure. And in a moment, with a simply thought, it was as if the eyes of my heart spun 180-degrees and I saw myself as possibly there for her, and not for me. After all, I know the One who loves her and who brings hope and joy and peace and love into our lives. I carry His presence, and I bear His image. It was amazing how fast my entire focus shifted and I found myself excitedly saying, "God, if she needs what I have please give her to me as my nurse!" I was actually hoping to get her and eager to see what He was up to! It was incredible, actually, how quickly I went from being there to be served, to being there ready to serve. It was almost funny to think that maybe I'd been brought there not for me, but to do His business there.

I never did get her as my nurse, but I did get a real glimpse into my heart and into how quickly I can slip into a place of inward, self focus and forget just who I am in Christ and who goes with me and in me. I am worried about my own comfort and actually praying, without realizing it, that I might miss a divine appointment. Isn't it awesome how even in a place we go to in order to be served that we can find a place to be the server! May God open the eyes of our heart to see their inward focus and ignite in us a desire to be in the service of others, carrying His image and love and power to them!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Ordinary is Extraordinary!

Mary Ann working on her cast.
Last Sunday our family left for our "weekend" and slipped up to the Sierra Nevada Mountains after church for some fellowship and fishing. We love what happens in our hearts above 5,000 feet when the rivers are flowing with clear, cold water and the breeze blows through the tall trees that cover the rock covered mountains. Bethany caught a trout while we were there, Abigail became an amazing "caster," and Mary Ann and I got to practice fly fishing. There is something so beautiful about that line curling up in the air above and behind a person as they gently drop the fly into the stream or pool. The new header for this blog is a picture of our family from our trip (if you are reading this by email subscription you'll need to go to the blog to see it). It was wonderful, refreshing, and beautiful—and the fact that we shared the couple of days with some wonderful people up there who love the Lord and our family made it especially sweet.

On the way home Tuesday night we headed straight west for awhile, right into a sunset. The sun was slipping down behind the far hills and there must have been a haze or something out there because it was a big, orange ball that you could actually look at. I have seen hundreds of sunsets in my life, and there was nothing in and of itself spectacular about this one, but for some reason it really struck Mary Ann and I at the same time. Maybe it is because this last year or two God has been awakening me to the awe and wonder of His Creation in the heavens and I have been learning a lot, and sharing a lot, about them. Normally, during the day, you can't look at the sun. It is this ball of light in the corner of our eye that we take for granted. It is normal. But Tuesday night we couldn't not stare at it as it was straight in front of us right on the horizon. To take our eyes off it would be to take them off the road. As we stared at it we both were like, "That is a star!"

I don't know that this will make much sense, but there is a sense, at least for me, that I see all these stars out there at night, and then during the day there is our sun. Maybe it is because I equate stars with night, but it often eludes my conscious thought that the sun is a star. I know it intellectually, but fail to focus on that fact. It is just "the sun" in the sky, and it is "normal." Tuesday night, however, we both found ourselves in awe, realizing we were staring at a star—a great big, massive, ball of gas and fire that would consume us long before we ever got to it! We were staring at a star and it was big and it was close! It was astounding. It was awe inspiring. There is this star just a skip away in light year terms that we are circling around. We are feeling its heat. Its blazing light is lighting up our earth. It is so big and so powerful that nothing man has ever created is a fraction of its power. According to one web site, if we could harness it right, enough energy arrives at our earth every minute to meet all of our demands for a year—and that is with only about a hundredth of a millionth of a percent of the sun's energy actually hitting our earth! It is so mighty, and yet we (at least I) take it for granted and take our proximity to it for granted. I am afraid that in this, and in many things, I have let the extraordinary become ordinary.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

God is Amazing

Sometimes we move so fast that we miss the miracles in front of us. I snapped this shot last month in our garden and wanted to share it with you. Notice the pollen on the bee (in FireFox—I don't know about other browsers—you can click on the picture and it will take you to a larger version, then you can hit the back arrow to come back to the blog). Isn't God amazing? I find such comfort in knowing that since He has paid attention to the tiniest details in Creation I can trust Him with the details of my life, no matter how tiny. I really encourage you, today, to stop and "be still and know that He is God" as the Psalm says. Whether it is the details in a garden, the flight of birds above you, or the glory of the night sky above you, just stop and be still and let who He is and His awesome wonder and might and breadth and power wash over you and bring everything you are dealing with back into its proper perspective. God bless you all, and may today be a wonderful day filled with a deep awareness of His love for you and presence with you.

Laugh a Little More 1

I love to laugh. I don't do it enough. I get so serious and caught up in stuff, and yet . . . aren't we a faith of joy? Aren't we a faith of coming like children? Aren't we a faith that, while we deal with serious stuff, we have a great big Father in Heaven who loves us and calls us His own? Some time back I started collecting Christian jokes—clean, God-centered things that made me laugh and smile. I don't think we need to divide our life into compartments where we have the work stuff, the God stuff, the fun stuff, the (you fill in the blank) stuff, etc. I believe that our faith can cross all the lines, and I have found that there really are out there a lot of fun, God-centered, clean jokes. So, now and then, I'll share my favorites with you. I've said from the start that this blog is simply a place for me to share reflections, thoughts, things God is showing me, slices of my life, etc. So, I hope no one is bothered by this or wishes everything was theology. We need to laugh! The world needs to see that side of us too, not just a serious message. I'd love to have you send me your favorite Christian joke(s).

So, here's the first. I have no idea how often I'll throw these in among my other sharings and thoughts. Let me know if they make you smile, too.

Locked Car Door
    A woman was at work when she received a phone call that her daughter was very sick with a fever. She left her work and stopped by the pharmacy to get some medication. She got back to her car and found that she had locked her keys in the car.
    She didn't know what to do, so she called home and told the baby sitter what had happened. The baby sitter told her that her the fever was getting worse. She said, "You might find a coat hanger and use that to open the door."
    The woman looked around and found an old rusty coat hanger that had been thrown down on the ground, possibly by someone else who at some time or other had locked their keys in their car. Then she looked at the hanger and said, "I don't know how to use this."
    So she bowed her head and asked God to send her some help. Within five minutes an old rusty car pulled up with a dirty, greasy, bearded man who was wearing an old biker skull rag on his head. The woman thought, "This is what you sent to help me?" But, she was desperate, so she was also very thankful.
    The man got out of his car and asked her if he could help. She said, "Yes, my daughter is very sick. I stopped to get her some medication and I locked my keys in my car. I must get home to her. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?"
    He said, "Sure". He walked over to the car, and in less than a minute the car was opened. She hugged the man and through her tears she said, "Thank you so much! You are a very nice man."
    The man replied, "Lady, I am not a nice man. I just got out of prison today. I was in prison for car theft and have only been out for about an hour."
    The woman hugged the man again and with sobbing tears cried out loud, "Oh, Thank you God! You even sent me a professional!"
(author unknown)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Turning Our Sin and Inadequacies to Praise

I have been struck recently by the wonderful opportunity we have to turn even our sin and our inadequacies into praise that glorifies the Son. Take, for instance, a sin I commit. There are two main possible responses. One focuses on my sin, my shortcoming, how bad I messed up, how lousy I am, etc. The other stands in awe that God forgave my sin, that He saw it before the earth was formed and created me anyway, that He loved me so much He would erase it with His own blood, that He has completely separated me from it, etc. One puts the eyes on me, the other the eyes on Him.

I tend to think the Biblical response is to dip quickly in and then out of the first, “Father, I’m sorry. I blew it," and then to dive and swim in the latter, “Oh, but thank You so much, Father, that you knew I’d do that before You even formed me yet you still did! I love you, Father. Thank you, precious Lord Jesus that you bore that sin on the cross for me! Thank you that I am completely forgiven of that sin and separated from it! Thank You that You will never leave or forsake me despite my mistakes! Thank you that you are so awesome and holy and wonderful that You love me with a love so vast and so deep and so wide! Thank You that sin matters to You, that you are purely good! Thank you that I matter to You, that You want me with You! Thank You! You are so wonderful and amazing! I praise You!” It strikes me that this is the pattern we see in Paul—he spent a bit of time, now and then, acknowledging his shortcomings, but the bulk of his time was spent praising God and God’s love and God’s complete sufficiency and provision and forgiveness in the face of his shortcomings.

What a difference a shift of focus can make! Our inadequacies can follow the same pattern. Either, “I am so inadequate to do this or that. I fall so short. I do so lousy at this or that,” on and on, etc., etc. Or we can say, “I praise You, Father, that though I alone am so weak at this or that, You are not, and Your grace is sufficient for me, and You are with me, and You will never leave me or forsake me, and that with You nothing is impossible, and that You are faithful to complete the good work You’ve begun in me, and that You both put Your desires in me and You work in me to bring them to pass! You are awesome and amazing and I love You and I praise You!” etc.

It’s about the eyes of our heart and mind. Are they on Him or on us? One path will take us down into the mucky pit and mud of self-focus, self-bashing, negative expectations, bitterness, depression, gloom, and darkness. The other will lift us beyond our shortcomings and into a place of praise and love and awe that stirs in us faith, positive expectancy of the future, and a longing to go on, to get closer to Him, and to glorify Him more. It has never been about us—we couldn't do anything to be born again (except faith) and we can't do anything to lose it. It is not about us, it is all about Him and what He has done. The enemy wants our eyes on us and our work (or lack of) so that we never fully understand the magnitude of the work Jesus did on the cross and our utter and complete forgiveness and acceptance before God, and the position we hold in Christ. God wants us to focus on His Son and the work His Son did, from love, on our behalf so we might walk from our position in Christ—completely forgiven, accepted, adopted, righteous, and with authority over the demonic. May we choose the latter and may all we do point to, and glorify, the Son! He alone is worthy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Clarification on Global Warming Post

If you received my Global Warming post this morning by email I have slightly modified it at the beginning and end to better explain why I wrote it and what bearing I feel it has on our Christian life as we try and make daily decisions, vote wisely, and walk out our faith across our life and not leave it a compartmentalized part of our life that has no bearing on other parts of it. You can read it at the blog site. God bless. Have a wonderful day! —Erick

Monday, September 12, 2011

Global Warming—Another Babel?

Note: This is a slightly modified version from the post that went out to email subscribers this morning. Because this issue is so sensitive I tried to explain a little better why I wrote it and what application I feel it has to what we might face as Christians.

As a Christian who tries to make my faith relevant in every area of life, and not just as a compartmentalized part of my life, I feel like I often have to confront the assumption by others (in error) that I don't care about the environment because I either don't esteem sciences' opinion as high as others do, or because I make values and pro-life a higher priority in my voting. I want to share some reflections on this, and maybe it will help others who face the same thing.

I read today that Al Gore plans on a 24-hour broadcast to defend man’s impact on global warming. I think about this topic now and then because it comes up so much. I am not a scientist, and I am sure I don't understand all the arguments, but I’ll share my struggle with this whole thing, and then close with a thought. I am not bashing on global warming believers in what I am about to say—I am sure they have sincere hearts and I can only wish more Christians shared their passion for a cause. I just can't, at this point, buy what they are saying when I really think about it. I obviously can't personally verify the numbers I am using, but I have tried to find websites that seemed solid. So, here is how I think about it all:

Depending on what internet site you look at, anywhere from 70–75% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. That leaves only 25–30% covered by land.

One web site said that 70% of the world’s land mass is covered by vegetation. So, that means 17.5–21% (70% of 25% and 30%) of the world is vegetated. This means only 7.5–9% of the world is land that is not covered in vegetation.

According to one web site, half the earth’s landmass is unihabitable for one geographic reason or another. So now you are down to anywhere from 12.5–15% of the earth is even inhabitable.

So, of the 7.5–9% of the earth that is land not covered in vegetation, or of the 12.5–15% of the earth that is even inhabitable, what percent is covered by industrial, emissions producing people, buildings, and vehicles? I couldn’t find the figures, but I’ll bet it is tiny! I know I have flown over the United States many times and I am awed by the percent of the land below me that is uninhabited, or sparsely and agriculturally inhabited. One web site I did find says the U.S. Census Bureau qualifies “developed land” as land with 30 or more residents per square mile. According to that qualification, as of 2000 only 5.4% of the United States is considered developed! And we are a developed country!

So, take that fractional percent of the earth's water and land surface that is populated by emission producing, pollution producing people and facilities. Set that aside for a moment and consider that a conservative estimate of the thickness of the critical portions of our atmosphere is 29 miles thick. (The stratosphere is, I understand, the area of our atmosphere where the ozone is contained and it is from 11 miles above the surface to 29–31 miles.) If we take all of the atmosphere it is hard to know where it ends because it fades off into space, but different web sites put it at many hundreds of miles thick.

I can’t even do that math, but if you picture the critical atmosphere of 30 miles thick, spread that thick above every part of the earths surface (almost 197,000,000 square miles according to multiple web sites), that is a lot of atmosphere! Thirty miles thick over close to 200 million square miles! And the tiny percent of the earth that actually produces emissions (and many of those are heavily regulated) is supposed to be affecting that so much that it is altering the earth’s climates?

As I said earlier, I am not a scientist, but that just doesn’t make sense to me. And, honestly, I get tired of it being implied that I don’t care about the earth or the environment because I don’t buy global warming. Our family loves the outdoors. We live where we do, for one reason, because of the wide open spaces, the clear skies, the clean air, the wildlife, the stars, etc. We police after ourselves, and others, when we are in the wilds. We fish. We camp. We compost. We conserve water. We recycle. We believe God made us custodians of the earth, but we also believe He made the earth for us and not the other way around. I guess if you believe evolution then you believe Mother Nature is your equal, but if you believe Creation you know man is God’s shining Creation, made in His image, and given the earth for stewardship and use.

Frankly, the global warming argument strikes me as another tower of Babel. While I am not saying global warming believers are arrogant, I do believe that the extension of what they are saying, laid out as I have tried to do, is another sign of man’s arrogance (intentional or unintentional). To me it is inherently arrogant to think that we are so mighty that this fractional percent of people and factories can affect the earth’s climate on a global scale. I do believe sin affected it—I believe the whole earth groans under sin’s curse. And, I believe we can locally affect it and destroy its air and streams and land. But the claim of global warming is, too me, at this point, not something I can believe. Maybe I just don’t give us enough credit. I just know that there are, to me, much bigger issue at work and that we live in a world that desperately needs to know the love of the God that made them in His image and loves them beyond measure. This is, to me, the crisis that should energize us all, and I don't think it means we have to not care about the earth and be custodians of it, but we remember it is not our equal, it is for us and not us for it, and that it will pass away one day while human spirits will live eternally. I don't like having to choose sometimes in candidates that don't meet all of my viewpoints on things, but when I have to choose I will choose pro-life, family values, and a Christian with a solid, Biblical world view (and witness) every time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Sure Foundation

This afternoon we were all having lunch out on our screen porch and the girls were sharing with me what they’ve learned about science today. Abigail gave me a pretty good 6-year-old’s definition of it, and then Bethany told me about the scientific method in which you ultimately form a hypothesis, test it, repeat it repeatedly, and then form a law or theory around your observations and results.

Naturally (at least in our house), the conversation turned to the theory of evolution. I shared how multiple of those components of even forming a decent theory that is justifiable are missing for evolution across species. One, you can’t observe it. Two, it can’t be replicated or created. Throw in there that there is no evidence for it and you have, at best, a very weak theory.

Bethany then asked about Creation and all of us talked about how it is a theory as well (at least it is presented as one, though we believe it is far from a theory, but rather fact). One major difference, however, between the two is that the evidence supports Creation—take, as just one piece, the multitude of creatures with mechanisms in place that would have caused the creature to die out and not reproduce if those mechanisms were at any point short of completely developed.

As we talked it struck me that there is another huge difference between the two “theories.” Creation has a primary source account of it from the One who not only observed it, but did it. We have the written record from the One who created it all and who told us how He did it. So, in the end, in addition to the overwhelming evidence for Creation, it comes down to the Bible and our view of it. Is it His Word or not? If it is, who are we to doubt or twist it or to try to conform it to man’s opinions? And, if it is not His Word, then we have far bigger problems than evolution or Creation. Thank God that He gives us every reason to believe His written Word is true, and for the revelation it gives us of His heart, His character, and His promises. It is a sure foundation on which to build our lives.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

First Classroom Day . . .

No, despite yesterdays post and now this, I won't be bombarding you with day after day of memory and internet hogging posts filled with pictures, but I couldn't miss my traditional “First Day of Homeschool” post, and I know many of you who know us enjoy sharing this day with us. Actually, yesterday was just the first day of classroom time—we’ve had a pretty amazing, educational summer (see our zoo trip to see one thing we did) and we are more and more seeing why some people call it home educating instead of home schooling. The education never really stops just because you aren’t in the classroom, and we are finding that it is much more of a lifestyle (and full of life skills) than the set number of days or curriculum you can tend to try and compare yourself to if you try and just do "school," only at home. (For those of you new to my blog, I am in no way implying anything against the wonderful teachers and parents and staff at public schools. We treasure the love shown at our local school, have many staff members at our fellowship, and volunteer at it coaching softball.)

The day began with the girls dressed in “baking” clothes and taking lead in measuring out and making up a batch of peanut butter cookies to bless a neighbor with who gave us some veggies, and to take to youth group. Then, after a recess (and Dad sneaking in a cup of coffee with Mom), the girls surprised Mom and changed into some pretty dresses and got to see the classroom and all the surprises it holds. As class began, of course, the Shofar was blown off of the upper deck, and the day and year were prayed for. May the Holy Spirit anoint the year and us for the trust of raising our children! I invite you to share a bit in our day, if you are interested, through some of the pictures I’ve included (they are each worth a thousand words, after all). You should be able to click on each picture to enlarge it, and then hit the back arrow to return to the post (at least that works in FireFox). God bless you, and thanks for being a part of our lives.   —Erick
Eager to start!

Momma/Teacher & her girls.

Baking, and tasting, and . . .

Exciting learning ahead!

A trip to the Grand Canyon . . . at least a poster of it.

Momma even gets a gift!

Science table with microscope, tree rings, Saber Tooth Tiger
tooth cast, fossilized dinosaur bone, obsidian, an old 3 1/2"
disc and a new DVD (do you know that it would take a
stack of those discs as high as 14 Abigials on top of
each other to equal the storage on two DVDs?), and more.

Teacher loves her girls (and "principal" loves
his girls, all three, too!)!


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