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July 25, 2007

Divine Appointment on a Park Bench

Park_bench Wendy's four-month-old laptop crashed last Friday. The past ten days have been some of the busiest for Wendy's job and the loss of the computer was agonizing. We took the laptop back to the Greek Squad on Friday and they immediately started the process of trying to recover the data off the hard drives. It would be a process of days to get the lap top back and even then Wendy would have to restore all of her software, all of her settings and rebuild her on-line life from scratch. Needless to say, she was angry, frustrated and depressed all weekend.

The situation only got worse on Monday when the Geek Squad called to inform her that they needed her "restoration disks". Just an hour earlier I had left for meetings in Des Moines. Bad timing. This meant that she would have to drive to Des Moines and personally wait for up to five hours for the computer's system to be restored so she could take it home. Wendy reluctantly took her book and found herself sitting on a bench outside of the Jordan Creek Mall reading as she waited.

A girl approached Wendy and asked to use her phone. Wendy obliged. Upon completion of the call the girl commented on Wendy's tattoos. A conversation started. Wendy felt that still, small voice in her heart telling her this was not an ordinary conversation. This was a divine appointment. Seemingly, for no reason, the girl started to share the intimate details of her life to Wendy.

The girl had been abandoned by her parents and lived in a series of foster homes and orphanages. Wendy knows abandonment. She could relate. The girl had been adopted. Wendy knows what it's like to be adopted and to live in a family with adopted children. The girls adopted parents raised her in the Open Bible Church. Wendy was raised in the Open Bible Church. The girl had run from her family. She ran from God. Her life was a mess. Wendy knows about running from God. She knows mess. She also knows God's presence in mess.

Wendy didn't need to mention God. The girl raised the subject. Seeing "Rev. 21:5" tattooed on Wendy's shoulder, the girl asked about the verse and then asked "Are you a Christian?"

The discussion continued. Wendy silently prayed that the computer guys wouldn't call her to pick up her computer until after this conversation was over. The two sat on that bench for a long time. The girl  inexplicably poured out her heart to a stranger whom she met on a park bench outside of a mall. Wendy listened, related, and loved, reminding her that no matter where she runs in life - God does not let go. God has a plan for her life, and He won't let go of her - even as she tries to let go of Him. The divine appointment ended with a hug, and with Wendy's promise to pray for her. The girl walked away.

Within ten minutes her phone rang. The computer was ready.

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 43

Tomtheeasterngate_jerusalemThe bright Glory of God poured into the Temple through the east gate. The Spirit put me on my feet and led me to the inside courtyard and—oh! the bright Glory of God filled the Temple! Ezekiel 43:4-5 (TM)

Today's chapter highlights the ancient conflict that still reverberates through Jerusalem and Israel. It's clear in verses 4-5 that the east gate of Jerusalem that leads into the temple is an important place where God's glory will appear. Jewish scholars believe that when their messiah comes, he will come into the temple through the east gate. The problem is that the temple was destroyed, and for centuries a mosque has sat in it's place in Jerusalem. Knowing Ezekiel's prophecy, the Muslims bricked up the east gate (You can see it just to the left of my head in the picture. This picture was taken from the Garden of Gethsemene). This is one of the myriad of reasons that the "temple mount" in Jerusalem, to this day, is one of the hottest political hot-spots - some say the hottest - in the world.

The Old Testament isn't irrelevant. It's very, very relevant today.

July 24, 2007

Something About Wendy....

Wendydirect1 Wendy's computer crashed late last week. She was left with a big void, not having the computer or the files necessary to do much that is on her plate for work. So, she read. Her nose was in a book all weekend.

One of the things that I've come to love and appreciate about my wife is that she doesn't hold in her emotions. Personally, I think it's great. I never have to guess what she's feeling. She makes it perfectly clear. It also makes watching movies and television more interesting. Wendy jumps, guffaws, screams, talks to the characters on screen, writhes, buries her head in my shoulder, and sometimes squeezes my hand until the blood drains from it. Watching a movie is a fuller experience as you experience it through Wendy's reactions.

Reading is the same for Wendy. She talks to the book, laughs out loud, utters exclamations and cries. As she ended the book Jimmy by Robert Whitlow this weekend - the tears began to streak down her face and sobs followed. I didn't mind. I got to hold her as she gathered herself and we enjoyed a wonderful laugh together at the moment.

I'll be the first to admit that I haven't always been very good with my emotions. I've stuffed my anger until it oozes out in all sorts of unhealthy ways. I run from "bad" feelings and find myself in places I don't want to  be. I hold my praise in check when I get the feeling God would rather have me dancing in my underwear like King David.

But I'm learning from my wife how to let go. And that's a very good thing.

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 42

Temple2lowres He measured the wall on all four sides. Each wall was eight hundred seventy-five feet. The walls separated the holy from the ordinary. Ezekiel 42:20 (TM)

The interesting thing about walls is that they separate, and man has proven to be an imperfect judge of what is holy and what is ordinary. We want to judge by appearances, but God tells us that appearances aren't what matters - it's the heart that matters. And yet, we can't see and know a persons heart - not fully. We may see the fruit of a persons life and guess rightly the condition of the heart, but you still don't know that heart - not fully.

The judgment seat is one big honkin' lazy-boy, and there isn't one human butt big enough to occupy it.

Jesus was very clear:
Don't judge.

July 23, 2007

Refreshing Sunday Fun

Spamalot Wendy and I took our friends Ann and Mary Jo to see Monty Python's Spamalot at the Des Moines Civic Center. What a riot. Not only was it a retelling of the comedy classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but they added several new twists and turns that kept us all in stitches. If the phrase, "I'm not dead yet" immediately illicits a chuckle from you - you should see this show.

Taylor returned home last night from Colorado. She attended the Desperation conference at New Life Church in Colorado Springs with the church youth group this past week. She sat down with Wendy and me late last night and went through all the cool things she learned and what God had taught her through the conference. Really cool stuff. She bought a book on Praise by David Crowder and read most of it on the way home. She read several passages to Wendy and me that had us laughing.

Our youth pastor also asked Taylor to be an official photographer for the youth group. She's going to be taking/posting pics onto the youth group website. Taylor has always had a great photographers eye - it's awesome for others to notice her gift in this area. Good for you, Taylor!

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 41

He went further in and measured the doorposts at the entrance: Each was three and a half feet thick. The entrance itself was ten and a half feet wide, and the entrance walls were twelve and a quarter feet thick. He measured the inside Sanctuary, thirty-five feet square, set at the end of the main Sanctuary. He told me, "This is The Holy of Holies." Ezekiel 41:3-4 (TM)

When I was a little kid, there was a piece of masking tape across the doorway to my big brothers' bedroom. I wasn't allowed in. When I received special dispensation from them to enter their room, it was a huge deal. In chapters 40-41, God allows Ezekiel access to every area of the temple, including the Holy of Holies where only the high priest was allowed to enter once a year.

The angel with the measuring stick is "measuring it up" the entire temple and religious system for judgment. The measuring stick in scripture is God's metaphor. It's God's way of saying, "I got out my FatMax measuring tape to see if you measured up to my standard. You don't measure up."

None of us measure up. The law with all it's rules of "do this" and "don't do that" and the sacrificial system could not take care of the core problem: we do the things we know we're not supposed to do - and the things we are supposed to do we choose not to do.

The great thing about God is that He's a master carpenter. He made major renovations, doing away with the old and building a new system. Through Jesus, we are given grace and forgiveness - not based on what we've done/not done but based on what Jesus did on the cross. It's no longer about being good enough. It's about being humble enough to accept what God did for us.

July 21, 2007

Madison Update 7-21-07

Mk_costarica I received another phone call from Madison today. She must have been calling from a satellite phone because she was only given a minute or two to talk. She said that she was "in the middle of the rain forest". The village they are working in is very primitive. She reported that their team was overjoyed to find that they actually had a toilet where they were staying. "It's not a good toilet - you have to pour a lot of water in it to get it to flush - but it's a toilet". The team has been leading VBS classes for the children in the village during the day and going from hut to hut providing what assistance they can to people.

Madison seemed to be in better spirits today. There was a lot of joy in her voice. The picture is from the Global Expeditions website. I believe this was taken of Madison's team doing team-building exercises before they left for Costa Rica.

Thanks for your prayers. Please continue to pray for Madison's safety and that God will do great things in her and through her!

July 18, 2007

Weekend at the Lake

After a long week on the road, I was looking forward to heading to Lake of the Ozarks with Wendy, Taylor and her boyfriend, Clayton. The weather was beautiful, the lake was awesome and we had a fantastic time.

This past Spring my parents' neighbors sold their house across the cove and were getting rid of their waverunner, so Wendy and I snatched it up. While this was our third trip to the lake this year, it was the first chance Wendy and I had to really get out and enjoy it - so we spent part of each day touring the lake on the wave runner.

We also took the boat to Ha Ha Tonka State Park and hiked the tortuous trail up the bluff to the castle ruins :) It was a hot, sweaty hike - but after all of the food we'd been eating we needed the exercise. The rest of the weekend was spent eating, playing Trivial Pursuit (Clayton & Tom won), nightly games of Catch Phrase (Taylor & Clayton won) and a mini-golf championship (Tom won).

Tay_wendy_jul07_lr Wendy_jul07_lr Tay_clay_jul07_lr

Madison Update

Madison_july07_lr I had a voice mail from Madison yesterday afternoon. She had arrived safely in the village where she and her team will be ministering in Costa Rica. She was emotional on the phone, but assured me that she was doing well and that God was doing amazing things in her and her team. She asked for continued prayer that she not be too homesick and that she can continue to focus on the work there. I sense that this trip is much more of a challenge for Madison, and that God is shaping her through this experience. Please pray for Madison that she becomes "mature and well-developed" and that her faith shows its true colors!

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2-4 (TM)

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 37

God, the Master, told the dry bones, "Watch this: I'm bringing the breath of life to you and you'll come to life. I'll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You'll come alive and you'll realize that I am God!" Ezekiel 37:5-6 (TM)

Death to life. Dry bones to living flesh. The theme of resurrection flows throughout the pages of the Bible. We see it in Ezekiel's vision of the valley of "dry bones", and I see it again and again in my own life. God takes that which was dead and makes it new. "What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we've been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you'll have it all—life healed and whole." I Peter 1:3 (TM)