Monday, January 31, 2011

Rocket Science

“No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” Deuteronomy 30: 14(NIV Bible)

Moses is speaking to the Israelites in this verse –reiterating a message he was commanded by God to deliver. In Deuteronomy 29 and the first part of 30 the terms of the covenant God made with the Israelites are laid out in the clearest language possible. Then, in order to emphasize that they are fully capable of understanding it, he adds this:

11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Deuteronomy 30: 11-14 (NIV Bible)

I love the imagery here of the lengths to which people might go to obtain something of great value. God is making the point that His priceless truth is easily accessible –easy for even the simple minded to grasp. A good paraphrase of this section of Moses’ speech might be, “It’s not rocket science, people!” God wanted to make it clear that there were no excuses when it came to recognizing and obeying Him, at least in a general sense, and with knowledge comes accountablility.

Of course this message was specifically for the Israelites, who were taught about God from childhood on, and who witnessed God’s intervention on their behalf on many occasions. But I am reminded of some similar verses in Romans that make me believe this principle can be more broadly applied:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20 (NIV Bible)

This time God is speaking to and about the general population, or at least that part of the general population that has rejected him. So it would seem that everyone is capable of grasping a basic understanding of who God is and what constitutes good and evil, regardless of whether they have heard or accepted the specifics of the Gospel.

Several years ago during a psychology class at a secular college, my professor (a self-proclaimed non-believer in Christ) began discussing abortion. “I support abortion as a necessary evil in our society,” he said. “If we are honest with ourselves, I think everyone knows that abortion is morally wrong. However, when it comes down to individual circumstances –if it is my sister who is raped, or my teenage daughter who becomes pregnant- I can’t say that I would choose for them what I know is the most moral choice.”

While the professor’s position is sad, I have to admire his honesty. His statement is also an apt illustration of God’s word being obvious and easy to grasp, even for non-believers.

But God’s truth is even more obvious to those of us who have become His sons and daughters through the grace of Jesus Christ. Aren’t I even more accountable before God, then, when it comes to obeying His commandments, just as the Israelites were in their time and culture?

It is my sinful nature that causes me to point out perceived discrepancies in Scripture, to seek out exceptions to the rules, to justify what I know in my heart is sin. In truth, if I am honest with myself, God’s word is simple. I read it often, it is written on my heart, I speak of it to others with my lips, and even now my fingertips proclaim it as I type. When it comes to obeying it, I am fully accountable –without excuse. It’s not Rocket Science!

Vonnie at My Back Door is hosting Monday Manna today.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just Ask

And he [Jesus] did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. Matthew 13:58

The story is told in the verses preceding this one that Jesus came to His hometown planning to minister to his neighbors and friends, just as He had to the multitudes in other cities. His teaching surprised and amazed them, alright. But the locals weren’t convinced. He was one of them. The women washed clothes at the river with His mother, Mary; Joseph, His father, constructed their cabinets; and each of his brothers and sisters were literally “the guy or girl next door.” Nothing Jesus could say or do convinced them that He had any more power or authority than anyone else in town.

Jesus sensed their disbelief. He tried, but failed to gain their trust. Daily in other locations He was approached by those with needs or sicknesses, and He performed miracle after miracle. The simple act of requesting aid, of bringing the sick and the lame to Jesus, you see, demonstrated faith in Him. Evidently, Jesus’ hometown friends and neighbors didn’t line up, expecting the miraculous. Despite Jesus’ reputation and obvious words of wisdom, their hearts were clouded by disbelief and cynicism.

I think I experienced a tiny glimpse of what Jesus must have felt at the end of my Preschool class today. While several children finished up their snacks, I let the remaining children do somersaults on gym mats. “It’s time to line up. Your parents are here,” I announced after several rounds of somersaulting.

Immediately, a child just finishing his snack at the table burst into tears. “You didn’t let me have a turn!” he wailed.

I didn’t immediately go to him. First, I lined up the children who immediately followed directions. When I did approach him I said, “You know, if you had just asked me, I would have made sure you had a turn on the mat before you had to go. Next time, don’t cry. Just ask.”

This illustration may be a stretch -I certainly can't perform miracles like Jesus did- but I was disappointed that my student didn’t trust me enough to ask a simple favor, or to expect that I might grant him one. Jesus must have felt that way, too, when the people who watched him grow up, who worked with him, worshipped with him, and knew his entire family heard his message, but didn’t trust his heart enough to ask for favors. Since few were asked for, few were granted.

How often have I been guilty of the same thing? Do I always see God as a loving Father who wants the very best for me? Do I trust His heart enough to go to Him with each and every concern and request, fully expecting Him to do the miraculous, or do I try to fix things on my own, assuming that God won’t give me the results I want, anyway?

Father God, help me always to remember who You are; to come to You often, trusting in Your goodness, believing in Your power, expecting the miraculous.

If you would like to participate in this meme or read more thoughts on this verse, you will find the links at An Open Book. I am so excited that Joanne decided to start Monday Manna up once again!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


By Sharlyn Guthrie

From the sea fate called to me,
harmless ‘round my ankles danced.
Brimming with frivolity
my heart leaped in, taking the chance.

Like my mood the waves were grand,
spurting high above the swells,
blithely scooping up the sand,
rearranging all the shells.

Eagerly I caught the next,
rode its fluid, forceful back,
felt the muscle that it flexed-
surging strength my spirit lacked.

Repeatedly I safely lit
with abandon, bliss and pride.
I rode each crest with half a wit,
trusting fluctuating tide.

Heedless, forging deeper still,
I left the safety of the shore,
seeking yet a greater thrill
above the ocean’s mighty roar.

At last I rode so deep, so far
my feeble arms could never swim
to yonder shore or distant bar.
I journeyed there upon a whim.

Until then, fate was my friend.
Suddenly he turned about-
turned deserter in the end,
mimicking my panicked shout.

Breakers crashed above my head,
felled me with tremendous force.
I sank down with fear and dread,
gulped salt water and remorse.

Flailing arms grasped liquid air.
Vain, I’d failed to leash my board.
Absorbed with merriment, I’d dared
to take my eyes off of the shore.

Hopeless, helpless I was tossed.
Billows whirled and whipped about.
I knew then that all was lost,
perceived it well, without a doubt.

As the ocean roiled and seethed
sturdy arms lifted my head,
bidding me to simply breathe…
“Breathe!” is all the Lifeguard said.

One breath, I think of it, amazed!
Strength restored, spirit renewed.
Refocusing my fickle gaze,
I saw that I had been pursued.

Foolishly I’d rushed to play.
Wiser eyes followed me there.
Though I drifted far away,
He marked my every move with care.

I soon inhaled with greater ease.
Deft, He steered me to the shore.
With gratitude my heart was seized.
The Lifeguard gave me life once more.

This poem is fictional, in that I have never even tried surfing. I hope the analogy and application are clear, though. I wrote this several years ago for the topic, "Breathe". Visit Vonnie at My Back Door to find links to more great Friday Fiction.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Color in Black and White

The world outside my window is grayscale today. Snow covers the lawn and shrubs. Trees splay their branches like black, wispy webs against colorless sky, light snow filling the spaces between them. Another winter day begins. The new fallen snow is dull, lacking the glistening of sunshine upon it. I long for sunshine and the warmth that sunshine allows me to imagine, even when the temperature hovers well below freezing.

Don’t misunderstand. I love snow, but in mid-winter I long for the colors of the other seasons: spring green foliage dotted with pink, yellow, and white blossoms; vibrant roses, gerbera daisies, and zinnias of summer; autumn’s leaves in hues of gold, brown, and red. Comparatively, winter is drab, color seemingly suspended, along with hibernating reptiles and dormant tulip bulbs.

I am as drawn to color as a hummingbird that on summer days is attracted to the boldest of blooms. My wardrobe has always been vibrant, much to the chagrin of my fashion expert friends. Classic whites, beiges, and blacks are rare finds in my closet. When I first happened upon a “Dressing Gaudy” store, I flitted furiously from rack to rack in great excitement, resembling said hummingbird. I rejoiced, knowing that others of my kind existed in numbers at least great enough to justify our own store.

Upon traveling to Africa, I was delighted to discover many more of my kind while attending an event of high intensity, both in color and energy. African women came swathed in bold batik and kente fabrics, boasting every polychromatic tint and hue. In a culture of almost exclusively earthen toned backdrops, colorful adornments ignite both the landscape and the spirit.

In expressing my delight over this visual feast I remarked to my African hostess on the contrast between colorful African attire versus Americans’ more casual, reserved color and style preferences. “Americans take so much for granted,” she stated simply. I knew she was right, and I also knew that her comment encompassed more than color choices. I felt rich in the midst of Africa’s extreme poverty, and conspicuously healthy as I witnessed firsthand the effects of AIDS and other serious illnesses.

I smile on this dreary day, envisioning ebony women in bright raiment dancing in settings of sepia. The memory sends me twirling in my plaid housecoat, pirouetting in pink fluffy slippers. A flash of red in a setting of gray stops me mid-turn, causing me to pause and peer out my kitchen window.

I lean against the counter, taking in the vision. A red-headed woodpecker with black and white flecked belly hangs upside down on the birdfeeder. Slightly faded gold finches select their favorite offerings from above, dropping several tidbits to the ground below, where a cardinal cheerfully retrieves them.

Two brilliant blue jays flapping azure wings arrive, sending the finches skyward and the cardinal to nearby branch where it preens its scarlet plumage. The picture perfect scene is stunning.

Color, it occurs to me, is greatly enhanced by lackluster surroundings. In the same way that good health is more valued in the context of AIDS, and wealth against a backdrop of poverty, color is more beautiful in grayscale.

Do you suppose that, knowing this, the world’s Master Architect and Builder wisely planned for vibrant birds to spice up winter landscapes? Today, as I survey the scene in my own backyard, I am more convinced than ever that He did. Today I realize anew that I have taken much for granted.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

All That Bristles is not a Broom

Continuing on the subject of wise sayings, I thought I would share this story I wrote for the Faithwriters challenge topic "Illustrate the saying, 'Don't cut off your nose to spite your face'." You can probably tell that I had a lot of fun writing it!

All That Bristles Is Not a Broom
by Sharlyn Guthrie

Tall, lean Bromley Bristlemore is a broom maker. His wiry blonde hair fans out evenly in every direction, meeting his bushy beard on both sides of his face. Bromley himself could easily be imagined as a broom standing up on its stick. His grandfather founded Bristlemore Brooms, claiming the motto, “the best broom money can buy.” Three generations later Bromley was swept into the business with the untimely passing of his father.

Unfortunately, by the time Bromley and his new bride, Bea, came on the scene nobody was buying brooms. Once a stiff competitor, Bristlemore Brooms had lost its edge. “Broom making is all I know,” Bromley stated with a tone of finality as Bea pressed him to discuss their options. And so a disenchanted, discouraged Bromley continued his daily habit of binding broom corn to expertly turned birch handles. Then he stacked each finely crafted specimen in an ever-growing pile –simply because he couldn’t think of anything else to do.

Bea sat helplessly by until she could take it no longer. The couple needed an income, and Bromley’s brooms were not selling. Not one to despair, Bea got busy instead. First, she swept the cobwebs from the showroom window, cleaning it until it sparkled. Next, she fashioned a viewing counter near enough to the window to be seen by passersby. Finally, she added two words to the sign that hung in the window: Bristlemore Brooms and Bakery.

Bromley mumbled and grumbled, predicting further doom, as his wife buzzed around him, but Bea could not be dissuaded. She baked five loaves of bread and four dozen cookies for the first day of bakery business, all of which Bromley sold by noon. Cautiously optimistic, she doubled her efforts the following day.

The trend continued. Bromley’s deserted Broom shop bustled with activity once again. Occasionally a bakery customer even purchased a broom along with their bag of bagels. In fact, Bromley was so busy waiting on customers that his broom making efforts were all but abandoned.

Bea spent her nighttime hours baking. She whipped up rich red raspberry tarts, light-as-chiffon croissants, angel food cakes as tall as oatmeal boxes, and popovers oozing silky sweetness. Each morning she restocked the counter, and then spent the remaining part of the day sleeping.

News of the fabulous baked goods scattered like dust bunnies throughout the town. Bromley should have been pleased, but instead he despised his wife for her tireless determination, and even more so for her success.

“My compliments to the baker of these fine delicacies,” exclaimed the mayor one morning, swiping cinnamon from the corners of his mouth as he handed Bromley a dollar bill.

“Why, thank you.”

“You mean to say that you, the broom maker, are also the baker? I would have thought the baker might be your wife.”

“You obviously don’t know my wife, sir.” Sarcasm dripped unchecked from Bromley’s lips. “She’s as lazy as a cat in a castle, and just as fat, too. Why, she very nearly eats what I make in profits.”

“You don’t say! Then she must not be the one who stands behind you with that tray full of doughnuts.”

Bromley spun around just in time to glimpse eight dozen hot, sticky doughnuts raining down upon him. One very stunned Bea broke into sobs. Despite being caught in such an atrocity however, Bromley brushed off Bea’s sorrow and her offer of forgiveness as easily as he did the bits of doughnuts clinging to his beard.

Bea accepted the mayor’s offer of a newly remodeled store front for her bakery as part of a downtown improvement project. She hired assistants and moved into the apartment directly above her bakery. Her efforts were rewarded, and her cheerful disposition continues to win and charm customers to this day.

The sign in Bromley’s window now reads “Bristlemore Brooms” once more. The once-sparkling window has grown as clouded and dark as Bromley’s mood and demeanor. His stack of brooms, however, continues to mount even as his back and shoulders bow.

At six-thirty each evening, Bromley glumly wheels his broom cart along the sidewalk toward Bea’s Bakery. He stops at the door, turns the key in the lock, and sweeps up flour and pastry crumbs with the finest broom money can buy. Later he dines alone, munching on day-old bread spread thick with resentment –a table knife clutched in one hand; a grudge in the other.

Because of our innate selfishness, it is often difficult for us to view marriage as the one-flesh relationship God created it to be, but whenever we set out to defeat our spouse both individuals lose. Therefore, it is easy to "cut off my nose to spite my face" in marriage. Have you seen or experienced other situations in which this saying is true? Tell me about them!

Karlene is hosting Fiction Friday this week at Homespun Expressions. I hope you will take time to visit her blog and follow the links to more Friday fiction.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New "Wisdom" for a New Year

1-1-11 marks the second anniversary of my blog! Since Noah helped to name my blog two years ago (he was three at the time), I thought it fitting to let him help me write this blog post for the New Year. This worked out perfectly, as he and Claire spent the night and all day Thursday with Grandma and Papa. Claire and I dressed dollies and polished our nails while Noah played piano, then Noah and I read “SkippyJon Jones” books and worked on the blog post while Claire napped.

On last year’s anniversary, I wrote about my Grandma’s leftover soup. Grandma was better known for her little adages or bits of wisdom; if she were still alive today, she would be 108! I thought it would be fun to tell Noah some of Grandma’s sayings, but let him provide his own endings. It proved to be a lot of fun for both of us. Are you ready? Here they are:

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man ………tired.

Haste makes ………you fall down.

If a thing is worth doing it’s ………making a funny face.

If you can’t stand the heat ……….get some new batteries.

Never underestimate the power of ......a car. (I hope he remembers that when he’s 16!)

You can lead a horse to water, but ......the horse can drink it. (Is that really fair?)

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you; cry, and ......your dad will make you laugh.

Don’t put all your eggs in ......your backpack.

A bird in the hand is ......light.

Better to be safe than ......slow.

A penny saved is cent –that’s easy!

All work and no play makes fun.

Don’t bite the hand that ......scratches you.

It’s always darkest before ......bedtime.

Two is company, three is ......better.

You can’t teach an old dog dance.
(Papa thinks this excuses him from ballroom dance lessons this year!)

Every dog has its ......bone.

Wasn’t that fun? But we aren’t finished yet. Noah’s final saying is the one I want you to remember this year:

The best things in life are ......sharing and hugging.

What a great thing to remember, whether you’re 5 or 108! Both sharing and hugging are free, by the way. Neither of these can be accomplished alone, however, so spend every day sharing what you have with others, and don’t be stingy with your hugs. It will make 2011 much, much better –Noah and I promise! Happy New Year, my friends! May God, who shared his best gift with us, be your source of blessings and courage throughout all the days of the coming year.