Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" (by Judy)

One evening when we were finishing a lovely dinner with friends, we heard a wild scrabbling noise above the ceiling by our kitchen counter. Much as we willed it, it was not our imagination. Further investigation revealed a hole in the roof, wide enough for the fattest squirrel in our town to get through along with “his sisters and his cousins and his aunts.” Clearly something had to be done, for squirrels are not made to coexist in the same house with humans.

Fearless husband called the pest control man and then skipped town – a pattern that had already been established when mice were discovered in a drawer. The pest expert placed three cages on the roof with tempting globs of peanut butter. I took solace in the knowledge that the cages were simply to trap and then release a distance away. But I did not count on the pest control man’s policy to come by every 24 hours. When I called last night to report a large black squirrel in the trap, he blithely said he would be by in the morning.

My heart sank, for after weeks of benign weather, thunderstorms arrived. The rain pounded our house, the inaccessible roof, and the caged black squirrel who wanted nothing more than a warm, dry home and a peanut butter dinner. During a night of fitful sleep I vacillated between reminding myself that squirrels are used to the rain and shuddering with the sure knowledge that I was causing pain to a helpless animal. Above all, I prayed that God would release him from his agony. I remembered Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:29 – “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”

Sparrows have little worth to us, but not to God. Same with squirrels. God is active throughout their lives, from birth to death. He sustains them, and they are essential to His plans and purposes. He reigns high on His throne, but the least matter to Him. When I came downstairs this morning, the squirrel was motionless inside the cage. My heart broke. I cried and cried. But then I remembered the rest of the passage – “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” If the sparrow and the squirrel are in God’s hands, how much more the lives of His children. God will sustain us in our journey, He sent His Son to save us, and the Spirit to dwell in us. We can take comfort in that sure truth. But I still continued to cry.

(Let me recommend a wonderful book – “The Birds, Our Teachers” by John Stott. You will love the timeless lessons and the photographs!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's All About Jesus (by Carolyn)

I saw a cute Easter card. It's a cartoon picture of the Easter bunny sitting in a pew at church surrounded by other people. His basket is close beside him. He looks sad. His brows are knit together and his eyes are somewhat crestfallen, yet surprised. The caption says, "The moment was bittersweet when the bunny realized it was not about him."

My husband saw a bumper sticker that said, "What if it really IS all about the hootchy kootchy?" We laugh, a little uncomfortably. 'Who is it all about? What is it all about?' It's all about Jesus and Life! At Easter, Jesus burst forth from the tomb to conquer death forever. He rose to life again. He triumphed over sin, over the grave, over Satan himself and through Him we do too!

Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life." The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus too, may be sad when they realize it's not all about them, but my guess is when most people realize it's all about Jesus they are surprised, relieved, mystified, amazed and overjoyed in ascending order. There is so much freedom when you discover you really don't have the whole world in your hands! There is a God who created us, who loves us, who guides and protects us, who wants us to spend eternity with Him, who is in control of it all for our good and His glory! He is the Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient God. He is Jesus Christ, our Lord.

When I was a child we sang three hymns in church at Easter: "This Is My Father's World", For the Beauty of the Earth", and Fairest Lord Jesus." How I enjoyed imagining the "rustling grass" as He passed by me in a field filled with violets in springtime! I listened as "all nature" sang God's song doing what it was made to do, glorify its Creator! Cannon Beach, Oregon cannot contain the splendor of sunset at Haystack Rock as He literally shouts "Here I am! Look at Me! I did this for your pleasure and My pleasure at seeing you pleased!"

Who can understand the mystery of the eye and the ear that link sense to sound and sight? Or the day, the night, the hills, and dales, the trees and flowers, birds and beasts, the sun and moon and stars at night? What about human love; brother, sister, parent, child and friend above? Or the mystic harmony that links them altogether?

Who is that Mystic Harmony that links them altogether? Jesus! "For by Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or powers or rulers, or authorites, all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together." Colossians 1 16-17. Sing that final Easter song with me, won't you?

"Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
O Thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul's glory, joy and crown.

Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine,
Fairer still the moonlight,
And all the twinkling, starry host;
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels heav'n can boast.

All fairest beauty, heavenly and earthly,
Wondrously, Jesus is found in Thee;
None can be nearer, fairer or dearer,
Than Thou, my Savior, art to me.

Beautiful Savior! Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and forever more be Thine.

Happy Easter Everyone!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Amazon, Oughtness and Grace (by Judy)

Our blog is called the Coffee Pot Gospel for good reason. We love drinking coffee, and we love the lingering God-centered conversations that take place over thick steaming mugs on tables surrounded by books and papers. Though Starbucks and local independently owned equivalents are wonderful, my favorite place is right in my own kitchen, where I can relax and enjoy the light pouring through the east and south-facing windows.

That is why a weeklong melodrama played out with emotion and a satisfying conclusion. The bare facts – after years of thermos style coffee pots, we bought a beautifully designed Krups percolator. We loved the coffee it produced each morning; until the day that I banged the glass pot against the granite counter, cracking the base, and rendering it useless. I went to Amazon, where I had bought the original pot, to order a new carafe, only to discover the model has been discontinued. In rapid succession I called the Krups headquarters, searched every Krups service center, stormed the internet, and finally turned to Amazon in defeat. I could not replace the carafe, the new coffee pot was useless, and I felt Amazon had a joint responsibility with me, for I broke the carafe, but they sold me a discontinued model.

Well meaning friends and family counseled a forceful approach and stern threats. I decided to show a different face, hoping that someone might see a connection between my methodology and my Christian faith. I told Amazon that they had no legal responsibility. After all, I broke the carafe. But I said they had a moral responsibility. I told them that in the end, I would remain a customer. Just a disappointed one, if they didn’t do what they ought.

Within hours I received the “oughtness” reply – Amazon said they would replace the entire coffee pot. Forty eight hours later, it was on our counter, and our kitchen was filled with the fragrance of perfectly brewed coffee, and perhaps the fragrance that the Bible speaks about – the fragrance of the gospel of grace. In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, we are reminded that when we fully surrender ourselves to Jesus, then we will be a sweet fragrance to those around us and to God! Martin Luther King, when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, said, “I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘is-ness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘ought-ness’ that forever confronts him." I wonder if Dr. King enjoyed a good cup of coffee?!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A God I Know vs. A God I Don't Know by Carolyn

My dear husband bought me a laptop for Christmas. Our old computer broke and it was going to take a long time to fix it. I was thrilled with a laptop! I gave it a name. I carried Potpal everywhere delighted with the freedom it provided me and excited that I finally had a fast computer. It was so fast, it was faster than I. I expected it to wait for me to decide what we would do and when, but it made its own decisions. It sent unfinished email, or hid it completely. It saved nothing unless it decided it was worth saving. I hit save, it deleted. I deleted, it saved.

I noticed a change in myself. I was jumpy. Nervous. Testy. One day I lost it all, my work and my self-control. I jumped out of my chair in a fury. It was the last straw. My husband said, "Give me your hand." "Why?" I asked. "Just give me your hand." When I did, he touched a lamp and said, "There. Now you're grounded." "What? You mean I can't go out?" No. Could it have been static electricity making Potpal frantic? I don't know, but it worked fine for a day or two, lulling me into trusting it, so it could stab me in the back again.

I complained to friends who kindly offered suggestions. I called a computer expert to come over and help me figure out what was happening. For awhile, things would improve and then something else would go wrong. The mouse jumped around, not giving a fig where it was supposed to be. If I dared look at the keyboard, the mouse took offense and flew off to a previous paragraph inserting a new line of type. Lines of type disappeared. Whole paragraphs went missing.

I wasn't myself anymore. I asked the Lord repeatedly for patience. Then Potpal made a fatal mistake. It messed with my husband. Bad idea. That was it! Out with the old, in with the new! He replaced it. I have a new laptop! I tell it what to do and it responds! It is the most amazing thing. Why Potpal was so sensitive and insenstive, I do not know. Perhaps there is a setting somewhere that would correct the problem.

All this got me thinking about the God I know. Not the God I know of, the God I know. My God is the Maker of heaven and earth. He is the Eternal Father strong to save. He reveals to me through the Bible what pleases Him and what does not. He promises me He will never leave me or forsake me. I am His and He is mine! I know what He expects from me and I can trust Him with my life. He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He's a prayer away, sometimes closer than that. He won't delete me no matter how many mistakes I make, nor how bad they are. He has saved me. He is worthy of my worship, adoration, praise and thanksgiving. I put my faith in Him and He is faithful. He does not disappoint! Ever. At the end of the day He is still who He says He is!

What about the god I don't know? What kind of a God don't I believe in ? I don't believe in god with a little "g." I don't believe in a god who won't tell me who he is or how to please him. I don't believe in a god who never sent his son to show me who he is. I don't believe in a merciless, capricious, bitter little god who is impossible to please. I don't believe in a god I can not know.

According to Acts 17:23, Paul saw an altar in Athens with the inscription "To an Unknown God." Many people today believe in an unknown God. Jesus says in Mark 1:14, "The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe in the Good News!" God IS revealed through His Son, Jesus.

Stuart Townend, who writes Christian music and songs, puts it this way in his song, "There is Hope." "There is a hope that stands the test of time, That lifts my eyes beyond the beckoning grave, To see the matchless beauty of a day divine, when I behold His face, When sufferings cease and sorrows die, And every longing satisfied, Then joy unspeakable will fill my soul, For I am truly home." No more Potpals for me!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees (by Judy)

At the school where I work, a farm adjoining our property was purchased a couple of years ago. Since then, there has been much debate about what should take place there. Little by little, I have become more involved in these decisions. I feel the joy of being one with this little parcel of land as I look across our lovely fields to a local cemetery and animals grazing on a neighboring farm. Invariably a hymn from childhood distracts me: “This is my father’s world, and to my listening ears, all nature sings as round me rings the wonders of his spheres.” And one of my favorite lines, ever: “This is my father’s world. He shines in all that’s fair. In the rustling grass, I can hear him pass. He speaks to me everywhere.”

We recently received a grant from a small foundation that took us by surprise. It is for $2000, to be applied to the purchase and raising of animals. Animals! We have just put in our first herb beds. We have no animal husbandry plan, no barn, and no farmer. But never one to turn away funding offered in good faith, we have begun to think. There is an animal which is essential to the proper functioning of God’s world, and that animal is in grave danger. Doomsayers claim that the animal is disappearing because of cell phone use. The saying, “If they disappeared, man would have only four years of life left” is attributed to Albert Einstein. The Bible mentions their singularly sweet product over and over. Did you guess BEES?

I don’t know whether our small piece of God’s world will become a land of milk and honey. I do know that God’s laws, precepts and ordinances are sweeter than honey, honey from the comb. He promises that with honey from the rock He will satisfy us. I believe like Margaret Feinberg in “Scouting the Divine,” that “Inside the hive I catch a glimmer of how everything comes together for good. God is able to orchestrate what seems like nothing more than a swarm of buzz into a healthy, productive source of nutrition and sustainability.” Oh bees of ours, we have lessons to learn from you, both about our Creator and about each other. We begin this journey tomorrow when I meet with a local beekeeper! More later...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sing, Sing a Song... (by Carolyn)

This week I visited a friend who is in the hospital with a very serious, life threatening condition. She is terribly weak and weary, but is still able to enjoy a quiet visit and seems to appreciate them very much.

When I arrived she was asleep. I pulled up a chair alongside of her and listened as she slept. I read my Bible, preparing a story, or a Psalm she might like to hear when she woke up. As she slept, she whispered, "Missy, help me. " Silence. Sleep. "Dr. Rubin, help me." Silence. Sleep. These were not panicky cries. They were soft, quiet, intoning sighs.

As I watched, her eyes fluttered open and focused on me. When she recognized me, she said, "Oh, Carolyn, thank you for coming. Please help me." I leaned close to her ear and asked how I might help. Did she need water? A nurse? Could I hold her hand? "Oh, dear one, how can I help you?" When she didn't respond, I said, "A friend gave me a song to sing to you. I'm going to sing!" I began singing as softly as I could directly into her ear. I sang again and again, "Father, we are here. We feel Your presence drawing us nearer. Your face is suddenly clearer than all the world surrounding." I silently thanked my friend for giving it to me. When I finished that one, I sang another and another and another. Hospital aides, nurses, even a doctor came and went, and still I sang. After each song she said, "Oh, that was so beautiful. Sing another."

As her nurse was tending to her, the phone rang. When she heard it was her roommate, Tara, from the nursing home, she took a deep breath, looked skyward for a minute and summoned up the strength to take the call. Her roommate needed help. Over and over again she said, "It's going to be alright. The Lord will straighten all these things out for you eventually. It doesn't matter how difficult the circumstances, you must trust Him, for there's nothing you can do. Trust Him. It will be alright. I love you." Exhausted, she let the phone slip out of her hand as she fell back on the pillow.

Taking her hand in mine, I told her what an amazing witness she was to me, to the nurse, to her friend. In the mids't of her own debilitating weakness God had made her strong enough to help another, glorifying Him to others. We prayed and worshiped God for Who He is. We gave thanks, confessed our sin and begged for His help and protection.

"Let the Lord read His word to us." she said. "Let Him choose whatever He would like us to hear." That meant I was to open my Bible randomly. We opened to 2 Corinthians 5. "Now, we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling..." "Tell Tara," she said. "Tell Tara."

The time was coming for me to leave her. We sang "Amazing Grace" together. On my way then, to "tell Tara" I thought of another song. It was written in 1971 for Sesame Street. I pray many people will overcome silly shyness, or false pride when visiting a friend in need, take heed and sing! "Sing, sing a song. Sing out loud. Sing out strong. Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing, sing a song! Just sing...sing a song!" AMEN!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Big Bang (by Judy)

We use the phrase "a childlike wonder," meaning looking upon something with amazement as a child does, and seeing a magic that defies rational explanation. Children often have an appreciation that some things are a mystery, a puzzle, and they do not have the picture on the lid of the box to help put the pieces together. Implicit in this sense of wonder is the recognition of something or someone greater, an ineffable one.

But what about the child who loves rational thinking and logical explanations; who loves a grand plan with a clear beginning? I have such a grandson. He is five years old, and his favorite scientist, though he may not know him by name, is Georges Lemaitre. That is because, according to Wikipedia, Curious Georges proposed the Big Bang Theory to explain the origin of everything. This theory says that in the beginning there was an intensely hot mass which birthed the universe, and that it is still expanding today.

This theory satisfies most questions in the fertile brain of my favorite five year old boy. It offers him a sense of order which leaves no room for the inscrutability associated with God. In fact, when I tried to broach the question of who created that hot mass, he plugged his ears and called "911, 911" from the safety of his inner tube in the swimming pool where we were floating.

Fortunately this boy has a wonderful teacher who can go where Grammie can't. She knows this young trickster who adores humor in all forms, and especially the surprise ending in jokes. She asked him -

Question: What did one god say to another god?

Answer: Do you believe in people?

I see many beautiful things in this story. A wildly bright, inquisitive, thoughtful grandson. An amazing teacher who encourages him to allow room in his mind for things he doesn't understand. And a line from Wikipedia: "Without any evidence associated with the earliest instant of the expansion, the Big Bang theory cannot and does not provide any explanation for such an initial condition; rather, it describes and explains the general evolution of the Universe since that instant." (italics Wikipedia) Grammie's logical answer to that conundrum may still eventually win the day!