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October 22, 2008

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 63

Mmmmmmmm_cinnamon_rollsGod—you're my God! I can't get enough of you! Psalm 63:1a (MSG)

I crave my mother's home made cinnamon rolls. The very thought of them makes my mouth water and stimulates my physical desires. I can almost taste the soft, warm dough rolled with cinnamon and sugar topped with that rich, gooey brown sugar frosting. Add a big slab of rich, creamy butter that melts across the top and drips down into the sweet, dark crevices and I can't help myself. I look forward to the holidays each year when my mother cooks a giant batch of them for the family. I enter into my parent's home and immediately start looking for the cinnamon rolls. It's become a bit of a family joke, really. I can't get enough.

I hear craving in David's song today. He has more than just a passing appetite for God's presence, he craves God's presence like I crave my mom's cinnamon rolls. He can't get enough. I have to ask myself if I have that kind of appetite for God. Do I hunger after God with the same intensity of desire?

The object(s) of my appetite(s) says a lot about the condition of my heart.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and rofi.

October 21, 2008

Angelic Voices

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Chapter-a-Day Psalm 62

Waiting_waitingGod, the one and only— I'll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not? He's solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, An impregnable castle: I'm set for life. Psalm 62:1--2 (MSG)

I've often heard it said that God has three answers to prayer: "yes," "no," and "wait."

The worst of the three is "wait."

As a boy, I loved it when my parents surprised me with an unexpected "yes" to my childish desire.  I remember sauntering up to my folks, giving them the puppy dog eyes and my sweetest child-like voice as I would make my request. Their smile and "yes" was cause for immediate celebration and gratitude.

"No" was never fun, and was usually the impetus for an outburst of my callow anger, a lot of whining and a tantrum or two. The thing about a final "no" from the parents, however, was that you could quickly get through the emotions and move on. "No means 'no,'" my dad would say, and his track record proved that he meant it. It wasn't going to happen. Deal with it. Let it go.

"Wait" is the most excruciating answer. You have all the disappointment, frustration and anger of hearing the answer "no." At the same time, you know that the answer will change. Hope remains, and with it the underlying desire which prompted your request. Now you must juggle the disappointment of unfulfilled desire while holding hope at bay. All of this combines with the introduction of nagging doubt into the emotional mix, doubt that the answer will ever change to "yes." Perhaps the answer will change from wait to "no."

Looking back, I can see that the answer "wait" was always for my own benefit. My parents had a larger view of things than I did. Their perspective of what I wanted and what I needed was broader and more acute. I hear that same realization in David's lyrics in Psalm 62. His "wait" is balanced with the knowledge that God knows all that he needs and can be trusted to provide what he needs if, and when, the time is right.

Creatve Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Meredith Farmer.

October 20, 2008

Like the Tony Awards...not

Usp_2008_awards_night_03_lr  This weekend was the first annual "Awards Night" for our local community theatre, Union Street Players. As the current President, I got to play Master of Ceremonies for the evening. We inducted three of our long time members into our new "Walk of Fame". It was a great evening. We had about 40 people who got dressed to the nines, enjoyed dinner together and celebrated the hard work of a few of our fellow members. Wendy is pictured here after the event with our friends Pat Moriarity (one of our Award recipients), his wife Peg (far left), and Ann Wilkinson (to the right of Wendy) who presented Pat's award.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 61

SanctuaryYou've always given me breathing room, a place to get away from it all, A lifetime pass to your safe-house, an open invitation as your guest. Psalm 61:3--4 (MSG)

I love spy novels. One of my favorite authors is David Morrell, who is a master of the genre. When you read his novels, you learn all sorts of things about the espionage business. One of the aspects of the spy business that you discover is the concept of a "safe-house." A safe-house is a dedicated place where agents, who have been out on assignment in brutally stressful situations, can find safety, rest, healing, and replenishment.

That's why verse four of Psalm 61 jumped off the page at me today. I believe that we all need a safe-house. God tells us that this world is not our home. We are citizens of the Kingdom. We are here, therefore, on assignment. As ambassadors, (agents, if you will) of God's Kingdom, we sometimes find ourselves in brutally difficult circumstances. We get beat down. We make mistakes that open us up to all sorts of negative consequences. We are compromised. We all need a period of rest, healing and replenishment on occasion. We need sanctuary.

How good to know we have a lifetime pass to God's safe-house.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and midnight-digital.

October 17, 2008

Chapter-a-Day Luke 22

Before_the_cock_crowsPeter said, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about." At that very moment, the last word hardly off his lips, a rooster crowed. Just then, the Master turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered what the Master had said to him: "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." He went out and cried and cried and cried. Luke 22:60-62 (TM)

I was only about ten years old. It was a Sunday morning and I was at church with my family. As usual, Reverend Washington was preaching. This was the part of the church service, as a child, that you completely zoned out. Doodle on the bulletin. Play with your Wrigley's Doublemint gum wrapper and see if you can safely peel the white paper on the inner wrapper away from the silver backing. Daydream. Do anything you have to in order to get through the next 20 to 25 minutes.

On this particular Sunday morning, Reverend Washington was preaching about this passage in Luke. Instead of zoning out, I found myself strangely tuned in. I remember his retelling of the story of Peter making his third denial, then Jesus turning at that dramatic moment to look at Peter, and Peter immediately remembering the Master's ominous words from earlier in the evening. I was riveted. My little ten year old heart was moved. It was the first time I remember actually listening to a sermon. It was the first time that I realized that I had a choice to make, as well. I must make Peter's choice. Would I deny Jesus, too? Will I see that look of disappointment in Jesus eyes?

Yes, I would. Yes, I have. As an adult, and as a believer, I've denied Jesus countless times and in different ways through my apathy and my willful disobedience. I have felt Jesus' eyes piercing my heart and have experienced that painful moment of realization and conviction...again, and again, and again.

When you are a follower of Jesus, conviction leads to confession. Confession leads to repentance. Repentance leads to redemption. Redemption leads to restoration. Peter would not be left broken and abandoned in the Chief Priest's courtyard. His denial would begin a journey of restoration through which Peter would mature into the undisputed shepherd of the early church.

I'm on the same journey, in my own small way. It began on a Sunday morning when I was ten years old. That was the morning I realized that I had a choice to make, too.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and konnofromtokyo.

October 16, 2008

Chapter-a-Day Luke 18

Ready_for_prayer_againSo what makes you think God won't step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won't he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. Luke 18:7 (TM)

There is a woman who sells advertising for a regional newspaper in our area. As President of my local community theatre, she calls every few months to ask if our theatre wants to advertise an upcoming show in her paper. I never have. Not once. I'm not sure that it's the right advertising space for our organization, and we have an extremely limited budget. I have told her this.

Yesterday, she called yet again. Her voice was as cheerful as always. It didn't bother her that I'd turned her down countless times before. She seemed not to care that I'd given her every excuse why we probably wouldn't advertise in her paper. There she was with a smile in her voice asking me if we wanted an ad in her next issue. Part of me wants to place an ad just to reward her tenacity, her persistence, and that unquenchable enthusiasm in her voice.

I immediately thought of her when I read the parable in today's chapter. Jesus makes it clear that we are to persist in our prayers with fierce tenacity and persistence. Even when God seems to turn us down or put us off again and again and again, He encourages us to keep coming back to Him in prayer.

Too often, I slink away in discouragement after I don't get an immediate, positive response to my prayers.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and bgivens.

October 15, 2008

Madison Gets "Picture of the Week" Honors

Picture_of_the_week_2 Madison is a photographer for the high school yearbook and newspaper this year. She's been busy running from one event to another taking pictures. This week, she received "Picture of the Week" honors from her classmates for this photo from the Sophomore football game. Way to go, Maddy Kate!

Chapter-a-Day Luke 16

Expense_reportlrJesus went on to make these comments: If you're honest in small things, you'll be honest in big things; If you're a crook in small things, you'll be a crook in big things. If you're not honest in small jobs, who will put you in charge of the store? Luke 16:11-12 (TM)

My colleagues and I went to lunch with the executive Vice-President of a large, nationally known corporation. He also happened to be a client. We had travelled to his company headquarters many times to provide customer satisfaction research, quality assessment reports and front-line training.

"Do you know why I love you guys? Do you know why I keep you around?" he asked rhetorically in his usual boisterous manner. "It's because you're honest with your travel expenses! When I get your expense reports, it's obvious that you aren't taking advantage of me. I have consultants who try to charge me for the magazines they read in the airport, for $200 bottles of wine or for some luxury suite at an expensive hotel. You guys keep your expenses down and only charge me for the basic necessities. If you're honest with me in your expense report, I know you're honest with me in your projects!"

As a business owner and management consultant, young people sometimes ask me what they need to do to "get ahead." The answer is quite simple. Work hard. Be honest and faithful in the little things, and you will find yourself put charge of larger things.

October 14, 2008

Taylor Update

Taylor_madeFor those of you who have not been following Taylor's blog, let me update you on the latest from our adventurous daughter.

Taylor has been at the Youth With A Mission (Y.W.A.M.) base in Colorado Springs, Colorado for a month. She has been studying social justice issues as well as doing community service projects in that area. Last week she found out that she will be travelling to Morocco in mid-December. What's really amazing is that, for the past couple of years, God has put the nation of Morocco on Taylor's heart. She walked into my office one morning a few years ago and announced that she thought God wanted her to go to Morocco someday. Since that time she has been quietly studying the country, praying for its people and seeking God's curious calling.

When it was announced that Morocco was one of four countries where Taylor might end up, there was no doubt where she was going. She is fulfilling a purpose God has had for her from the beginning. It's pretty cool.

She will spend three months in country. The culture there treats people with special needs as outcasts. There is a tremendous opportunity to minister to their needs. Taylor believes that this is the plan. By showing Jesus' love to the outcasts of that society, they hope to open the door to share His love with many.

A special "thank you" to those who have contributed to Taylor's mission. She is still in need of about $1300 to fulfill her obligation for the mission in Morocco. If you feel led to help, you may send a check (You can make it out to YWAM or to Taylor, either way) to:

Taylor Vander Well, DTS
YWAM Strategic Frontiers
P.O. Box 60579
Colorado Springs, CO 80960

or you can contribute on-line here.