Sunday, February 28, 2010

When the earth moves

You are Simon son of Jonah. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).
John 1:42 (NIV)

Earthquakes move rocks--and people. And when the ground under our feet begins to shake, our view of the world changes. Something like that happened to a first-century fisherman named Simon when Jesus came into his life.

The scene is the Sea of Galilee. The crowds had gathered to hear Jesus of Nazareth speak and a small group of fisherman cleaned their nets nearby after a long night of fishing. Jesus sat down to teach, using Simon's boat as a pulpit.

When Jesus finished His teaching, He turned to Simon--who was a captive audience at the time. His instructions to "put out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch" may have come across to Simon more like an order than a suggestion. (Luke 5:1-11) They ran contrary to everything he knew about fishing. Fishing in the Sea of Galilee was done at night near the shore; not in the daytime out in the deep. Even though he had been unsuccessful, he was certainly an expert. Consequently, it's logical that Simon responded, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything."

The story is told that the Duke of Wellington, the British commander who defeated Napoleon's forces at the Battle of Waterloo, once gave a command to one of his generals, who then responded that it was an impossible command to execute. The Duke told him, "You go ahead and do it because I don't give impossible commands." Jesus doesn't give impossible commands either--a truth Simon discovered when he ultimately obeyed.

Initially it may appear that Simon questioned Jesus' command. However, the text also says, "But because you say so, I will let down the nets." Even though all his professional knowledge told him it was a big waste of time, Simon did what he was told. What was the result? Although it seemed utterly impossible, a huge number of fish were caught at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Simon Peter found himself in the presence of the One who could do the impossible.

Simon's immediate response was not about all the fish he caught, but about the One who accomplished it. He recognized that he was in the presence of God, and he was "astonished" because what had transpired was beyond reason, description or explanation. Jesus revealed Himself as supreme in the realm where Simon was most familiar, most skilled and most adequate.

One commentator states that in Simon Peter's response, "Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man," it's as if he says "I'm not worth it, Lord. Give up on me. I failed You when You called me before, and I will fail you again. Call someone worth Your time and trouble. Call someone You can trust. You once said that I'd be called Rock, but there's no rock in me. Give me up. I'm a sinful man." Yet Christ's love would not let Simon go.

Jesus laid claim to all that Simon was, and He began by using what little Simon had. He invited Simon on an adventure of faith that would radically transform his life, and Jesus was prepared to do whatever it took to make him into Peter, which means "rock."

We can learn a lot from Simon Peter's journey to become "rocklike." In the strength that only Jesus can give, we, too, can become stable and consistent. Are you ready to be moved, my friend?

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, February 22, 2010

To go or not to go

Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle two days, or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out."

If you stop in for weekly visits with me here at Nomad Wife, you know by now my husband, Bob, and I have moved seven times during the last 16 years. While the impetus for each of our moves was a change in Bob's job; the facts are, we had a choice whether to go or not to go.

With that said, neither my spouse nor I are independently wealthy. Our immediate family consists of our two children, Bob and me; and we believe it's our responsibility to put food on our table, shoes on our feet and a roof over our heads. We also made a commitment early in our marriage to set aside money for our children's college educations and our retirement. As a result, not working isn't an option. Who works, what type of job and the location are open for discussions. So with notepad in hand, we list the pros and cons of the situation, consider our alternatives as best as we perceive them and make the best decision with the information we have at the time.

When the Israelites were in the wilderness, God's guidance was a clear and visible reality. What appeared as a cloud by day and fire all night covered the Tabernacle at the center of the camp marking His presence in their midst. Had it been a cloud only, it would not have been visible by night; and had it been a fire only, it would have been barely apparent by day. God gave His people evidence of the constancy of His presence with them and His care of them both by night and day.

When the cloud lifted, they moved on. Where it settled again, they camped. No movement of the cloud, no movement of the people. I'm sure the people were anxious to get going in the journey towards Canaan, where they longed to be and hoped to get quickly. Yet as long as the cloud rested--whether two days, a month or a year--they rested. When we are waiting God's time, no time is lost. Waiting contently in submission to His will is as acceptable as working for Him when we are called to it.

No matter how comfortably encamped they were, the Israelites moved on when the cloud was taken up. Whether it moved by day or night, they didn't delay. Possibly there were sentinels appointed to stand watch day and night within its sight to give notice to the camp of its beginning to stir. The people were in constant readiness to march upon very short warning. As long and as far as the cloud moved, that's how long and far they marched. It's uncomfortable staying when God has departed, but very safe and pleasant going when we see God before us and resting where He assigns us to rest.

The people of Israel, having the cloud for their guide, were free from having to decide when and where to go. There was no need for debate or argument about decisions of war. Spies didn't need to be sent ahead to inform them of the country, clear the way or mark out their camp. The pillar of cloud did all this for them. They were focused, flexible and faithful.

While we don't have God's visible presence in the form of a pillar of cloud by day or a fire all night to guide us, we have the sure promise that He will guide us by His counsel (
Psalm 73:24) and lead us by His Spirit (Romans 8:14). He directs our path in all our ways (Proverbs 3:6). As penned by English poet and hymn writer Frances Havergal, when we by faith commit our way to the Lord, we can look forward with confident expectation whether to go or to stay.

I am trusting Thee to guide me
Thou alone shall lead.
Every day and hour supplying,
all my needs.
(I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, The Lutheran Hymnal, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941)

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Actively waiting

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.
Isaiah 30:18

I think I'm actually developing an appreciation for the period of time I've come to know as "actively waiting." You know the time I'm talking about. It's the time in between the time when something you value ends and something different takes its place.

It's the span between your husband telling you he's lost his job and announcing he's accepted a new position. It's the duration between receiving a difficult medical report and the health issue being resolved. It's the period between listing your house "For Sale" and signing closing papers that transfer ownership, and mortgage payments, to another person.

Actively waiting involves living energetically in the here and now while knowing full well the world as you know it is dramatically changing. It's an exercise in blending passion with patience.

To keep a household functioning and children thriving during these periods, I've learned a few fundamental do's and don'ts.

Don't complain or argue. It only makes a situation worse.

Do develop a thankful attitude. Your heart will be much healthier.

Don't panic or worry. It's a complete waste of precious emotional assets, which are already in short supply.

Do hurl your anxieties into God's lap. It makes for a lighter load to carry. Besides, He's bigger, stronger, and more capable of handling anything you cast His way.

Don't go it alone. Remain involved with friends and in church activities, groups, and organizations.

Do get up, get dressed, give thanks, and expect something to happen each day.

Don't get down on yourself when you feel tired or weary. Jesus is gentle and humble in heart; find rest in Him.

Confident expectation in God and His control of the situation is a must. When we actively wait upon the Lord, our strength is renewed. We lose our strength if we wait upon the "thing," e.g., an event, date, or person.

I've been fortunate. The longest span of time I've persisted through actively waiting began the day my children and I watched their daddy drive away to take a job hundreds of miles away in another state. It ended the day we joined him 10 months later. I have friends who've endured much longer periods.

Of this I am sure, my friend. The Lord longs to be gracious. He rises to show compassion. There truly is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Sometimes that time is an in-between time of actively waiting.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Eye of the beholder

If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is--that she is a sinner.
Luke 7:39 (NIV)

From an early age, my children developed a huge affection for spending time on their grandparents' farm. My rather gregarious, outdoorsy-type daughter could barely contain her excitement as she waited her turn to hold a squiggly, bristly-haired piglet. Her more cautious, introspective older brother was a bit less taken with the squealing noises and strong odors of the farrowing house. He'd rather help drive a "four-wheeler" hauling grain to feed livestock.

Their fondness for country life grew out of different perspectives of their visits. Same experiences. Different viewpoints.

Such was the case of a woman in Jesus' day.

Jesus accepted an invitation from Simon the Pharisee to have dinner with him in his house. As He reclined at the religious leader's table, a well-known sinful woman in that town came.

Dinners like the one hosted by Simon were not private; it was common to allow others access to meals given in honor of a major teaching figure. Even so, it took a lot of courage for this woman to go to a house she knew she was not welcome. Unnamed, we're not told the circumstances of her life or about the choices she made. Whatever her sin, her reputation preceded her.

A she approached Jesus, Simon shuddered at the very thought of Jesus being touched by someone with such a tarnished reputation. A teacher in the synagogue, a religious example in the eyes of the people, a self-appointed guardian of proper Mosaic Law observances, Simon passed the verdict in his heart that Jesus could not be a prophet. If He were, certainly He would know "who is touching him and what kind of woman she is."

Filled with loving sympathy, Jesus embraced the woman's expression of lavish love. Turning toward the woman, the Son of Man who spoke with authority, the Word of God made flesh, the One who came to fulfill the law said to Simon, "Do you see this woman...You did not give me any water for my feet...she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair...You did not give me a kiss...this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet...she has poured perfume on my feet." (Luke 7:44-47)

The self-righteous Pharisee took into account the outward appearance of the woman's life. The One who searches hearts and minds saw deep into a heart of humility.

An I-feel-pretty-good-about-myself Simon perceived filthy living. The Light of Life understood the sorrowful tears of a desperate woman looking down into the abyss of a life of shame.

The smell of the woman's perfumed immorality filled Simon with loathing. The Fragrance of God breathed in the sweet aroma of repentance.

Embarrassed by the woman's stained reputation, the synagogue leader branded her an outcast. Overflowing with boundless grace, the Friend of tax collectors and sinners forgave the woman's sins and urged her to experience His peace. Where sanctimonious Simon damned a life not worth saving, the Lamb of God saved a soul that was drawn to new life.

Aaahh, yes. How people, events, or circumstances are perceived depends on the eye of the beholder.

Lord, by Your grace I want to be different. Please let me see through Your eyes. I want what you see in the value of a person to shape the rest of my life.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, February 1, 2010


Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

Eleanor! Stop! Stop, Eleanor!

The high-pitched, penetrating shriek of the dog owner's earnest command boomed across an otherwise tranquil setting. Within seconds, I saw the muscular frame of a dark-haired, mixed-breed dog dart from behind an outbuilding that was set back a distance from the road. Charging headlong in my direction, I immediately discerned that "Eleanor" was intent with a single purpose. Me.

Each time that I walk, I pretty much take the same three-mile route. As a result, I've become familiar with hazardous spots in the road where the pavement tends to dip or loose gravel collects. I'm acquainted with areas where the terrain offers wonderful views for taking in a glorious sunrise or sighting shy wildlife.

Likewise, I've become aware of property owners who don't leash their pets. While my internal radar is usually up, as a rule I don't become overly alarmed by an unrestrained dog. The shrill-sounding voice of Eleanor's master combined with the menacing pace at which the animal charged at me, however, I now thought differently.

I automatically froze in my tracks. Instinctively, my fingers curled inward forming two tightly-clenched fists. My left arm unthinkingly crossed over my right arm, even as my fists sought safety under my arm pits. All the while, my arms intuitively hugged at my body. Motionless, I stared straight ahead and braced my body to meet Eleanor.

Although the impact of Eleanor's large structure against my 5'2" figure knocked me off balance, I stood my ground. The thickness of my jacket provided a barrier between her teeth and my arm as she attempted to grip my left arm in her mouth.

"Eleanor. No! Come!" commanded the dog's owner as she clutched a leash in her hands. Eleanor stopped, turned on her heels, and ran back to her master, who immediately harnessed the animal.

Isn't that just like temptation?

You're going about your day minding your own business. Suddenly, a less than honoring image appears at the forefront of your thoughts. A perceived unfair situation causes envy to grow in your heart. An unkind word in response to a difficult situation forms on the tip of your tongue. You rationalize that a selfish act requires less of your time; besides, no one will know.

We can't predict where temptation will come from. It's something we can't escape. Many times, it's the least likely thing that presents the real danger.

Temptation itself is not sin. It's something we are bound to face simply by virtue of being human. It's essential to a person's well-rounded life. The hazard in temptation is thinking we can beat it on our own power.

What can we do when we are enticed?

Be alert. Recognize the danger. As the apostle Peter wrote, the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour.

Stop. Don't go a step further on your own ability.

Protect yourself. Answer temptation with the truth of God's Word.

Let God take charge of the situation. The writer of Hebrews encourages us that the blood of Christ cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death (Hebrews 9:14). God most assuredly sustains us in the midst of all threats. Ask Him to provide strength and protection in all dangers and carry you through temptations.

My friend, satan no longer has the power to destroy those who belong to Christ. When temptation comes your way, freeze. Call on the True Master. He'll put a leash on the danger.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following