Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for April, 2012

To market, to market…

I had to pry myself out of the motorela, a vehicle built around a small motorcycle.  Two passengers sit beside the driver, and four are jammed into two tiny seats facing each other behind him.

We were coming home from the market.  Our main errand had been to get some peanuts ground, but on the way I couldn’t resist buying flowers:  Orchids at less than 50 cents for a stem of half a dozen blossoms.  And a mini-bouquet of roses for less than a quarter! 

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The colors and sights in the market are fantastic—fruits, vegetables, flowers, all kinds of housewares….and then you get to the meat section which is also fantastic but a bit more of a challenge for the nose!

On to the peanut stand.  We’d brought our store-bought dry-roasted peanuts to be ground into peanut butter, but the store sells several varieties of raw peanuts as well as unshelled peanuts, and their own peanut butter (which has sugar and other added ingredients).  The man poured our peanuts into the first electric grinder and put them through at least twice.  Then he transferred it to a finer grinder, oozing pure peanut butter into our Tupperware bowl.  It made a great snack when we got home.

So is there a spiritual lesson in all this?  I think it’s joy and appreciation in the wonderful variety of God’s creation and His grace that allows us to enjoy it.  Smile

Little Things

As I walked in the door this morning, two national colleagues have greeted me with big smiles and friendly greetings.  I know they must have problems, too, but …

And then coming upstairs, two other colleagues have have asked how I’m doing this morning.  I had to say, “Don’t ask.”

Little things.  Finding a dark ink spot on my white pants as I took them out of the washer, remembering too late that I’d left a pen in my pocket yesterday.  No more laundry detergent (too late for yesterday’s shopping trip).  Making lunch for work with cold, hard, leftover burnt rice–ugh! Sad smile   Hearing of the failure of another Christian leader…

Tears come over small and big things.  But in each of these, there is something to be thankful for, and that’s what I want to do right now:

Thank you, Lord, that the ink didn’t get on other clothes in that load!

Thank you for food to eat every day.

Thank you for your many people who stay faithful to you—and please keep us all (especially leaders) from the power of the Evil One.

And help me to live this day joyfully, prayerfully, and thankfully (1 Thess. 5:16-17).

The Good Life

I pulled a book off the shelf yesterday—The Good Life, by Chuck Colson who is now just beginning to enjoy the pleasures of life in heaven.  On that same day, our friend Dick Elkins entered the Lord’s presence.  Both of these men are heroes—one very much in the public eye, initially infamous but transformed into a servant of God and of lowly prisoners.  The other served God and lowly tribal people in an obscure corner of the world, translating the Bible into their language and encouraging many (including us) with his joy and pursuit of excellence.

The other day I read 1 Samuel chapter 25 in which two men died:  Samuel was well loved and deeply mourned.  He had served God his whole life.  On the other hand, Nabal’s demise was “good riddance!”  A fool whose life served his selfish interests. 

And I must mention the keen disappointment I experienced recently upon learning the truth about Thomas Kinkade, who apparently veered off the path somewhere along the way.

So who among all these enjoyed “the good life”—life worth living?

And what about me?
 Is my life a wise investment? 
When I’m gone, will people mourn or rejoice, be relieved or disappointed in me?       What part of God’s kingdom am I helping to build?

Growing Tall

Our eldest granddaughter, Emmeline, depends on a daily injection of growth hormone to help her grow.  With the family’s genes, she probably will never be very tall, but we all want her to reach her full potential.  And she is getting there!  A lovely girl whose very life is a miracle.  This photo was taken several years ago as she was just beginning hormone therapy—Daddy marking the growth chart.

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I want to reach my potential, too.  To be all that God plans for me to be.  (That’s what “perfection” means in the Bible.)  But I don’t have a spiritual growth chart. How much have I grown since college days when I passionately claimed Paul’s words below as my goal?  God keeps the chart and knows my heart.   One day in heaven I will turn around and see all those marks and hear all the stories about when and how I grew to become what I will be by that time.

I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. …I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  (Philippians 3:12b-14)

Audacious Faith

Israel was in big trouble. That big Philistine had kept them quaking in their boots for over a month already.  It seemed hopeless.  Stalemate. 

Then comes Little Brother with food and lots of questions.  But wait–this “little brother” was the one who had been anointed as the next king right in front of his older brothers!  And he’s the one who had killed a lion and a bear bare-handed.  And now with God’s power, Goliath was no match for him!  “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?…The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”  And He did.  (1 Samuel 17, NLT) 

Now back up.  His soon-to-be best friend Jonathan had done a very similar thing just three chapters before.  With only his armor-bearer, he successfully attacked a Philistine outpost saying, “Perhaps the LORD will help us, for nothing can hinder the LORD. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” And He did.

Don’t you love it?  These guys are my heroes.  God still does miracles, and He still uses people who step out boldly for His cause, depending on Him.  I want to be one of them!

Fading Flowers

On our way to work we pass a wall covered with magnificent morning glories and creamy white flowers.  In the morning, they bloom brilliantly.  But on our way home in the afternoon, we see that they are shriveled and about to fall…and make way for a whole new batch coming the next morning!  This reminds me of several Scriptures:

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Exodus 16:17-18—Each family gathered manna and had “just enough” for a day. 

Lamentations 3:23—”Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

2 Corinthians 12:9—“My grace is enough for you”—one day at a time.

1 Peter 1:24-25—”The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.”

2 Corinthians 4:18—”So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

Are We There Yet?

From the back seat comes the plaintive cry:  “Are we there yet?”  No, not yet.  Just be patient, settle down and wait. 

Or did you ever make a paper chain to count the days until a special event?  We knew the time was getting shorter each day both because we removed one link and because we could see the whole chain getting shorter.

When I look at the world around, it seems like Christ’s return MUST be getting close.  We tear off a link every night when we turn out the lights, but the trouble is, we can’t see the end of the chain!  We don’t know how long it is.

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My heart often echoes that cry.  I long for everything to be made right—Eden restored—no, even better!  Heaven come to earth, and God’s will being done on earth as in heaven.

“He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!  (Rev 22:20)

Holy Totalitarianism

Checks and balances—we fallible humans need three branches of government to hold each other accountable in order to avoid totalitarianism:  legislative, executive and judicial.  But in God’s kingdom, He does it all:

For the LORD is our judge,
the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king;
it is he who will save us.  (Isaiah 33:22)

Why is that?  Because…

As king, He is all powerful.
As lawgiver, He is all good.
As judge, He is all wise.

I can trust a God like this!  No matter what.

The Stage is Set

As the most earth-shaking event of human history this side of the Apocalypse  approached, God was preparing the stage, moving everything into place for this divine culmination. 

The setting:  Jesus Himself said that Jerusalem was the only appropriate place for him to die (Luke 13:33).  This is the focal point to which all the players converge.

The time:  Passover, the celebration of God’s deliverance of the Israelites by means of the blood of a lamb.  Now the true Lamb would provide deliverance for ALL people through His blood.  (Interestingly, the Jewish leaders who were plotting Jesus’ death decided that it should NOT be during the Passover! Mark 14:2)

The players:

Jesus:  “As the time drew near for his return to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) (This was foretold in Isaiah 50:6-7.)

Jesus’ followers:  En route to Jerusalem, Jesus was followed by his disciples who were “astonished.”  And the people walking behind them were “overwhelmed with fear.” (Mark 10:32)  Did they have a premonition of what was about to happen? 

The Jewish crowds:  An estimated 200,000 Jews may have been in Jerusalem for the Passover, including pilgrims from far and wide.  Many arrived along with Jesus on the Sunday before, waving palm branches and hailing Him as “the King of Israel!” (John 12:12-13)  Another crowd who assembled before Pilate a few days later yielded to pressure to shout “Crucify Him!”

The Jewish religious leaders:  Jealous of their power, they had already decided that Jesus had to be eliminated.  Just how and when was uncertain until Judas showed up at their door.

Judas:  Though still in Jesus’ entourage, he was entertaining mutinous thoughts.  His already mercenary heart was outraged by the “waste” of Mary’s extravagant gift to Jesus. (John 12:4-6) It was only a small step further to “sell” Jesus for whatever he could get out of it.

Satan:  He “entered into” Judas and prompted him to betray him to the religious leaders—for 30 pieces of silver. (Luke 22:3)

Pilate:  He had made the journey from his home in Caesarea to be on hand for whatever contingencies might require his presence in Jerusalem during the festival.

Mary:  Residing in Galilee and no longer a young woman by that day’s standards, she must have made the arduous trip to Jerusalem for this event.  Little did she know how it would really turn out, till she found herself at the foot of the cross, watching her son suffer and die.

Barabbas:  On death row for his own crimes, he had no idea that soon he would be set free in exchange for the One who came to ransom all who are under the eternal death sentence.

In which of these characters do we see ourselves?

Marked-up Books

Two small devotional books have special significance because they came from my parents.  “Joy for the Journey,” by several women authors, was a gift from my mother.  I love it both because of where it came from and because each short page has an insightful article that draws me closer to where God wants me to be.  I scan through this book to review passages that I have marked, such as this by Laura Lewis Lanier:

Do not be afraid to suffer….It is from being shaken apart and not being destroyed that one becomes strong and courageous.

Photo of devotional books

The other is an old,worn book, cover falling off, that I “claimed” from my dad’s collection after he passed away.  It is “Consider Him,” by Vance Havner—a classic.  Dad’s name is written in the front of the book, and many pages are marked with his pencil underlining.  I search through those marked places in a search to know Dad better—what was really in his heart.  Like this, for example:

Some believers live…so afraid of not doing God’s will that they fail to do His will, after all.

I wonder—when I am gone and others look through my books, will they find clues to my heart?  To a heart that seeks the Lord passionately?

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