Wednesday, October 27, 2010

If You Can't Fix it, Decorate it!

I didn't know the neighbor at the far end of my walking route, but I felt badly for them. One night during the sweltering summer months, someone had backed into their brick mailbox stand, toppling the top half of the four-foot-high monument adorning their front yard.

Apparently too heavy to remount, the beheaded portion stood akilter alongside its base, jagged edges exposed in a pathetic silent plea: Fix me! 

I could just picture Mrs. Homeowner helpfully reminding (some call it nagging) the little mister every day to "Do something with that mailbox, dear," and him replying, "Just what do you suggest I do with 300-lbs of broken mortor and brick, dearest?" 

So there sat the unsightly mound of brokenness, day after day, month after month. Finally, October rolled around and I couldn't help but smile as I rounded the corner on my morning walk to find their marvelous solution. Someone (I assume the creative missus) had strung fake Halloween spiderwebs all over both halves and decorated it in classic Adams Family motiff.

It actually looked terrific! Like a larger version of the vase of rose stems Morticia had carefully de-budded.

I couldn't help but be reminded of all the broken, bulky, unfixable things in our lives. They sit there day after day, year after year, hulking reminders of our inadequacy as we glare at them, grouse about them, but don't actually do anything to fix them. Maybe we can't. Maybe we just plain won't. But whatever the reason, they remain a constant source of irritation and embarrassment.

Yet here was a delightful effort to make the best of the worst, to salvage a little dignity and humor from among the ruins. An object lesson from which we could all benefit.

If you can't fix it, decorate it! 

Monday, October 18, 2010

His Voice

This is the second of a series on my meditations of scripture during a recent personal retreat.

Today's passage: 1 Kings 19:11-12: The still, small voice of God.

1. "Go stand on the mountain" was a command to take action; GO! Stand alone, exposed and vulnerable; wait on the Lord to come to you. You're in His presence on the mountain. Likewise, I'm in God's presence when I climb the mountain he sets before me.

2. The great and powerful wind came before the Lord came. It seemed to shatter Elijah's whole world but he stood firm and waited. He didn't run from the wind, earthquake, or fire, but stayed right there on that mountain ledge, exposed. Do I have the courage to wait through the turmoil?

3. Elijah recognized God's genetle whisper immediately. He knew it wasn't the same as the hubbub that came before. Do I hear God's voice enough to recognize it? Even through the noise of everyday?

4. God told Elijah to go to the mountain in the third person - why? If He was giving Elijah instructions, he must have already been there. So was this His physical presence? No - it was his spiritual presence. God is always here; He sometimes takes his presence to another level. A deeper, more personal level.

5. The huge display of elements was to show Elijah God's power - then He brought it home with the whisper: "Elijah, I am here." (my interpretation). Elijah, who was unmoved by the big show, crumbled and covered his head at God's voice. He ran back to his cave. I, too, often run back to my cave.

6. Elijah was told to go out and leave the cave in which he was hiding. Papa God tells me that, too. But I like my cave. It feels safe. If I go stand out on the mountain, exposed, I can be shot down. But I must leave my cave if I want to experience God's presence in a deeper way.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Best Gift is a Sacrifice

This post is the first of a series sharing insights that I encountered about various scriptures on a personal spiritual retreat I enjoyed this summer while all alone for a week in our remote Smoky Mt. cabin. (If you've never invested yourself in a spiritual retreat, I HIGHLY recommend it!)

My technique was to take one passage per day, study it in numerous translations and Bible commentaries, learn the passage's background, read surrounding chapters, read the verses aloud frequently during the day, and meditate on that portion of God's Word during long prayer walks along winding mountain trails, opening my heart and mind to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

First passage: Exodus 35: 20-22 - Moses leads the displaced Israelites in building a place of worship in the desert

1. Background verse 5: Everyone is invited (not commanded) to give what they have to the Lord as an offering (for the tabernacle). An offering is a voluntary gift, not expected or demanded. The most appreciated gift is sacrificial, something that costs the giver.

2. Their very best was desired (v. 5-9) but not required. They could get by (without penalty) with giving little or even nothing. So can I.

3. Is my heart stirred (v. 20)? Do I desire to give my best as an offering to my Papa God? Am I truly willing to give my time, gifts and abilities with no expectations or strings attached (v. 22)?

4. Gifts must be prepared in private (at home) to get the final offering perfect and ready to present to Him on the altar of my life - like practicing my speeches, agonizing over words in books, responding to readers as they share heartfelt needs with me. Effort is required to prepare and (v. 21) bring/carry/pursue publication in His name.

5. "The Message" translation: everyone "whose spirit was freely responsive" was desired by God to participate.

6. Their gifts/offerings cost them something dear. They didn't have much; they had been slaves in Egypt and left with only what they could carry. The broaches, jewelry and linens they gave were precious to them (v. 22-23).

Are the gifts I'm willing to give to the Lord's work precious to me? Are they a sacrificial offering or merely the leftovers of my best efforts directed elsewhere?