Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vanity Plates by Carolyn

"Who am I? Why am I here?" Penetrating questions, especially when asked in an appropriate setting. James Stockdale, a test pilot, a highly decorated war hero, and prisoner of war for two years, began his 1992 debate for Vice President against Al Gore and Dan Quayle with these questions. Later, writing about his comments, he said he asked those questions to show that he was a philosopher. It did not come off that way. He was ridiculed and immediately became fodder for late night t.v.

Eventually most of us will ponder these questions. What amazes me is how many people answer them on a license plate. RU12XL? Or how about IRIGHTI? These are expressions of individual personalities.

Last Sunday we heard a message from 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong." Romans 8:26 says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." We are weak but He is strong, and when we depend on God and trust Him, His strength is manifested in our weakness.

Our culture tells us the opposite. We should be strong. We should learn how to "get over it." We should not fail, but go from success to success and teach our children the same.

When my children were small there was an all out effort to boost childhood self esteem. A popular song began this way, "The most important person in the whole wide world is YOU and you really ought to know it. The most important person in the whole wide world is YOU and you really ought to show it." In Isaiah 9:10 out of their arrogance and pride God's people say, "We will rebuild." "We will replace." But God says, "What will you do on the day of reckoning?"

Exiting church, talking about these things, we saw a license plate that said "Numbr 1 Mom." "Probably," we said, laughing lightly, "the children insisted on that as a Mother's Day gift!" But it was an apt summary of all we'd just heard. Yet, God wasn't done putting a ribbon on that sermon. Minutes later we saw another, "Glorify God."

How about you? What would your license plate say? I'm guessing it would not say, IRIGHTI "Right between the eyes."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Salsa for the Soul (by Judy)

When you think of salsa, what adjectives come to mind? Hot, spicy, fiery, zesty, piquant (from the Spanish “picar” meaning “to sting”). Salsa is currently the condiment of choice for a majority of Americans. It has a tomato or tomatillo base, with onions, garlic, lime juice and peppers to fill in the spaces. Then a creative cook can add whatever ingredients are handy – black beans, corn, avocado, cilantro, cumin. Yum!

However, there are variations on the basic ingredients, which cause a completely different dish to emerge. Heretics have been known to chop up mango, pineapple, papaya, melon, strawberries ginger, mint and other options, creating a delicious mixture, which simply can’t be called salsa.

You may be wondering where this ode to legitimate salsa is going, and what it has to do with two mid-sixties friends who delight in sharing the gospel. It has to do with a class that I am teaching at my school called Farmhands. As well as caring for lambs, bees, herbs and veggies, our students occasionally prepare fresh foods for students to enjoy – most recently, salsa. Against my better judgment, I bought the standard ingredients, and also the deviant ones. As they chopped and tossed, weeping openly over the onions, they filled two bowls to the brim.

As one student passed by, she commented, “Oh look – one bowl is so vibrant; and the other is so muted.” My first response was pleasure that a 7th grader would use such adjectives; my second to unravel the applications for a Christian. What do our congregations, prayer groups and Bible studies look like? Vibrant, or muted? Are we fiery and zesty as we make much of Jesus, or sweet, flowery and delicate? Though I recognize that there is a place for both, at the table and in the pew, it is the sharp pungency that most often encourages our spirits, catches the attention of others, and strengthens our bodies, minds and souls!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

She Hath Done What She Could by Carolyn

My neighbor has four beautiful daughters. Over the years, as the family grew, one by one each joined her older sisters for our Friday afternoon Bible study. We established a routine. The first thing we do is eat! Children are pretty hungry when they get home from school and the girls love to eat and talk about what happened during the day. There is nothing like the chatter of four girls just arrived home from school!

After a while, we head for the living room where we sit on the floor, get quiet, say a prayer and listen to a story from the Bible. Quickly, they are captivated for the Bible is full of exciting, memorable, odd and unusual stories that can apply to any life; even the lives of children ages 4-12! When they hear about Noah, or Daniel in the lion's den, or Mary, as the angel tells her she will give birth to the Son of God, they are fascinated. Adam and Eve in the garden trying to defend themselves before a Holy God, grip their minds as they picture the details of snake luring Eve into eating the apple, and Eve tempting Adam into eating the apple too.

Satan is not happy with this arrangement. Lately, he's been up to some dirty tricks.

My neighbor and I find ourselves on opposing sides of political issue. We do not see eye to eye and we are both passionate about our beliefs. It has led to some very challenging and heartfelt discussions between the two of us and has put a little barrier between us for now. It is perplexing and disconserting. We both know that Jesus would have us put aside our differences and come together in Him.

What do we do about this? Agree to disagree? We do, but neither of us is satisfied with the result and I wonder where this will lead.

Knowing how hard and passionately my friend has tried to persuade others to her point of view, a story comes to mind. She reminds me of Mary, Matha's sister, who risked it all when she took her alabaster bottle of perfume to anoint Jesus before His crucifixion. Judas was fit to be tied. He said she wasted that bottle of perfume. It could have been sold and the money used to help the poor. "Leave her alone," Jesus said. "She hath done what she could."

My friend "hath done what she could" and I tell her that. No matter what the outcome, we can give thanks that our Lord has provided each of us a heart that cares for our community, for our children, and for our faith. We pick our battles, but we rest in the knowledge of Romans 8:28, that whatever happens, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." We can rest in peace!