Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for August, 2012

The Ideal Place to Live

Occasionally my husband and I walk in a gated community where we gawk at incredible mansions.  While I’m glad I don’t have to pay the taxes and upkeep on such things, there’s no denying that it would be fun to see inside and to stay for a few nights. 

Then I muse on what kind of a “mansion” my Father is preparing for me in heaven.  Abraham shares my thoughts. He lived in tents like a stranger in a foreign country because “he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).  And now I follow suit.  “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (13:14).

When I feel out of place here on earth, it’s because I’m a foreigner whose real address is in heaven.  I am here on business for my King, and when that is finished, I’ll be welcomed home to the incredible place He is preparing for me.

I’m satisfied with just a cottage below,
A little silver and a little gold;
But in that city where the ransomed will shine,
I want a gold one that’s silver-lined.

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop,
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old;
And someday yonder we will never more wander,
But walk the streets that are purest gold.

Tho’ often tempted, tormented and tested
And, like the prophet, my pillow a stone,
And tho’ I find here no permanent dwelling,
I know He’ll give me a mansion my own.

Don’t think me poor or deserted or lonely,
I’m not discouraged, I’m heaven bound;
I’m just a pilgrim in search of a city,
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown.

Lyrics and Composer: Ira F. Stanphill, 1914.

Why Do Rocks Cry Out?

What sense of justice did God weave into the earth itself when He made it?  I find four times in the Bible when an inanimate thing “cries out” in protest:

In Genesis 4:10, Abel’s blood cries out to God from the ground where Cain has spilled it.

In Genesis 18:20, God had heard an outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah about their grievous sin.

In Habakkuk 2:11, the stones and rafters of the Babylonians’ homes would cry out because of their excessive cruelty against the nations that they destroyed. 

In all of these, there is a moral outrage that demands—and receives—divine retribution on oppressors.   

Luke 19:40 is different.  If the cheering children are prohibited from praising Jesus, the stones would have to cry out and do it. 

The expression of God’s glory is as much of a moral mandate as is the justice due to oppressed people.  Elsewhere we read of the heavens declaring God’s glory and the trees of the field applauding.  But His ultimate praise is from the mouths of humans He’s created.  Is that why at times I just have to burst out in song?  Smile

Banana Smiley

This morning at breakfast we were discussing about how one should live when darkness is all around—when I looked down into my bowl and found a banana smiling at me!  Yes, and here it is.  Was it God’s reminder to be joyful in hope?  I think so.

Banana smiley face

A Picture of Grace

“Babette’s Feast” is a movie I have recently enjoyed immensely.  It’s a parable of grace.  In fact, it’s featured in Philip Yancey’s book, “What’s So Amazing about Grace?”

Babette, a French refugee, lands on the doorstep of a pair of elderly spinster sisters, looking for a job as a maid.  Though they cannot pay her, she insists on serving them humbly and faithfully, gradually and quietly transforming their ho-hum diet and freeing up the sisters to carry on their works of charity in the community.

After many years, when at last Babette acquires a sum of money, she spends it all on a delightful and lavish French dinner for the sisters and their friends, a product of her culinary art and of love.  And only then do we learn that she had been a famous chef back in France—living incognito in Denmark for many long years!

Only one of the dinner guests truly appreciates the exquisite meal—a military general who had traveled widely.  The others were determined to partake politely, only realizing toward the end that they were actually enjoying it. 

The “lessons” of this story are too many to mention in this entry.  Is it a parable?  Who is Babette meant to be a picture of?  Do I appear in this story?  If so, where?

Joseph on a roller-coaster

From favorite-son status

     to a pit, victim of treachery

          to slavery

to a top managerial position

                    to a dungeon on a trumped-up charge

to the position of Prime Minister!

Joseph’s life was a roller-coaster.  While others might emerge from these experiences bitter and angry, the effect on Joseph’s character was quite different.  He went from being a cocky younger brother to being a man of integrity, wisdom, and a tender heart that could truly forgive and love those who had hurt him so badly.

Why?  The Lord was with Joseph in his slavery (Gen. 39:2-6),

                                                       in the dungeon (39:21-23),

                                                       and then before the king who promoted this prisoner to prime minister in one fell swoop! (41:38-40)  And Joseph acknowledged that his hardships were part of God’s bigger plan to do greater things.  (45:5 & 50:20)

So why do I complain?  Joseph’s God is my God too.

On the Winning Team

Being totally non-athletic, I have painful memories of being the last chosen whenever teams were picked for recess softball games.  But one ironic incident stands out in my mind.  On this day, the teacher of my one-room rural Nebraska elementary school (yes, grades K-8 taught by one teacher) asked me and another student to choose up sides.  Wow, this was my big chance to be on the winning side!  I did my best to choose the bigger kids who did well in sports.  But to my chagrin I found out, after the teams were chosen, that this was not for an athletic competition.  It was a contest to see who could eat the healthiest breakfasts for the next week! 

The book of Daniel is still on my mind.  God humiliated and defeated proud kings, and they had to admit that God’s kingdom is the only one that will never be destroyed; His rule will never end (see 4:34-37 & 6:26-27). Though it may look like evil is surely winning, we know the end of the story.  And I’m happy to know that I’m on the winning team.  My Champion is in the wings, coaching us players through long, wearying plays.  But I can hardly wait until he finally bursts out onto the playing field, single-handedly blows away his enemies and wins the ultimate victory!  Won’t that be the day!  So let’s hang in there.  It will be worth it.  And what a victory celebration is being prepared for us—out of this world!

Daniel for Our Day

Reading a book of the Bible in one sitting gives amazing perspective.  A view of the forest which we miss out on if we dive in prematurely. (Pardon the mixed metaphor.) The book of Daniel has amazing messages for today.  No, I’m not thinking primarily of all the prophesies with their strange creatures and the endless back-and-forth battles of the kings of the North and the South. 

Daniel is well-known in Sunday School stories, especially for his escape from the lion’s den and his friends’ from the fiery furnace.  But what is the significance of these stories and how do they fit together with each other and the other chapters of this book?  Too often “Bible stories” are told without showing how they fit into God’s one great story.

So what is Daniel all about?  Think of the three tests of faithfulness—refusing to eat the king’s food, worship the king’s image, or pray to the king instead of to God. 

Think of the three kings of this book who were forced to acknowledge that their power was nothing compared to God’s.  That their kingdoms could be removed like a puff of dust in the face of God’s eternal kingdom and almighty sovereignty which will demolish and outlast them all. 

This encourages me today when faced with arrogant rulers or powerful pressures to conform.  Like Daniel, I am a citizen of that Eternal Kingdom that will outlast them all.  I determine to be courageous and faithful like he was. 

Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God’s command,
Honor them, the faithful few!
All hail to Daniel’s band!

Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.

Shoot the messenger?

How do people respond to a prophet’s message?  In quick succession I see widely varying responses to Jeremiah’s warnings:

Fear.  People who heard the warnings realized this was serious and needed to be heard by the king.  (36:16)

Deny.  After King Jehoiakim heard each section read to him, he cut it off and burned it, showing no sign of repentance (nor his officials).  (36:23-25)

Ignore.  King Zedekiah would not listen to Jeremiah.  (37:2)

Shoot the messenger.  Jeremiah was flogged and imprisoned in a dungeon (37:15) and later thrown into a muddy cistern to die. (38:4-5)

Repent and obey.  Sadly, I don’t see an example of this one in the book of Jeremiah.  But how about the Ninevites to whom Jonah preached?  Do the pagans put “God’s people” to shame?

When God’s word doesn’t agree with my plans or priorities, what do I do?  Bend the rules?  Make excuses?  Ignore it?  God, help us to humbly accept Your rebuke, repent, and experience the joy of seeing You work in our world!

Up the Laundry Wall

What do you do with a dead cockroach?  I mean these biggies that are 1 1/2 inches long.  Well, it’s not a problem if our ant clean-up crew gets to them first.  Yesterday when I went to hang the laundry, I was captivated by the team efforts of small ants who had already hauled a cockroach carcass several inches up the 6-foot-plus wall.  Some were holding onto the legs, pulling.  Others were holding onto their companions, forming chains.  Others were running around, either “cheerleading” or not knowing what to do!  (Here’s a photo I took on a similar occasion.)

Ants carrying cockroach, cropped

During the few minutes that I hung that load of clothes out, the efforts apparently failed, and the whole shebang ended up back down at the bottom of the wall.  But as I looked again, they had made several inches of progress.  By the time we left for work an hour later, I went back to see what was happening.  Nothing!  All gone!  Apparently their persistence had paid off.  I would have loved to see that great heave-ho as they made it over the top.

How many tries did it take?  Did they ever think of giving up? 

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
Learn from their ways and become wise!   Proverbs 6:6 (NLT)

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