Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Guilt Trip Trick and Ice Cream

Several months ago, my daughter received a coupon for free ice cream because she had read enough books at school. I think she got the coupon last fall, but we didn't use it for a long time. All winter long, she'd ask me when we were ever going to use her coupon. (It's freezing outside, Sweetie! Not now.)

One warm, sunny day last week, I figured it was a good time to use the coupon. I left work and picked Rachel up at my parents' house. I whispered my plan to Mom and then told Rachel to get in the car. I decided to have a little fun with her and keep the plan a secret until we got there. Our conversation went something like this.
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"Rachel," I said in a stern voice. "I need you to come with me."

     "Why, Mom? Where are we going?"

"You'll find out. Just get in the car, young lady."

     "What's wrong? What is this about?"

"I don't want to talk about it right now. Just get in the car." It was hard to keep a straight face, but somehow I managed. All the way to the ice cream place, Rachel tried to figure out what she had done wrong.

     "Is it because I made Grandma fall down?" she asked, grasping at straws.

"Well, did you make Grandma fall down?" I questioned in return.

     "No," she answered.

"Then it's not about that."

     I could almost see the wheels turning in her brain. "Is it because of what I said to Ellie today?" Ellie is Rachel's best friend, and Ellie's mom works at the same school I work at. I guess Rachel thought the news of their spat at school had already made it to me.

"Well," I asked with a straight face, "What did you say to Ellie?"

     Rachel proceeded to tell me all about the quarrel and how it worked out in the end. We talked about that and what she should have done instead. "So is that what this is about?"

I was still trying ...successfully...to keep a straight face. But I was very glad when we finally arrived at the ice cream place. 

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As we pulled into the parking lot, Rachel's worries disappeared and she brightened right up. "We're going here!" she exclaimed. "Than you, Mom! You were just tricking me, weren't you?" We shared a hearty laugh and went inside to enjoy the ice cream.

I found it very interesting how eager Rachel was to confess her transgressions (real or imagined) when she felt I was angry with her. I want to make something clear. I don't believe in using guilt trips to manipulate my daughter into doing what I want her to do. But this wasn't a real guilt trip. I don't believe any damage was done by this little charade, especially  since in the end, Rachel knew clearly that it was done to make way for a surprise.

Some of us live with the ever-present image of a stern, disapproving authority figure looking at us with a grim face. Guilt just oozes out of our heart and soul.

Sometimes, the guilt is over genuine sin that needs to be repented of and confessed. Rachel's spat with her friend needed to be confessed and resolved. That kind of guilt isn't so bad.

But sometimes, the Accuser glares at us and we grasp at straws to figure out what is wrong. We might come up with all kinds of reasons that God might be rejecting us. We think God is angry with us. 

In reality, God is saying, "Stop listening to the Accuser. I've forgiven you. I love you. If you've genuinely done something wrong, bring it to Me and we'll deal with it together. Come to me, my child. Let's spend some time together." 

God probably doesn't take us out for ice cream, but spending time with Him is still very sweet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Building Walls and Breaking Ground

Progress is being made on our house. I thought I'd make this a photo post so you can see a bit of what is happening.

We won't see these messages once the house is built, but we'll know they are there.
A couple weeks ago, University of Findlay students joined the U of F chapter of Habitat for Humanity for a special event where they painted messages on some of the boards that are going to be a part of our house. Here are a few pictures.

Some students got rather artistic.If you look closely, you will see some Japanese writing.
Do you see "Oiler Build" on one of the boards?
That's because it is being built by the University of Findlay Oilers.

A character named Derrick is their mascot.

Last week, University of Findlay students joined the U of F chapter of Habitat for Humanity to begin constructing the frames for the walls.

Rachel and I got to drive a few nails ourselves.
Someone got a picture of Rachel at work,
but I haven't gotten that one yet.

The house is as far as it can go until mid-August. For now, the frames for the walls are all stored in a semi-truck awaiting the raising of the walls which is scheduled for August 22nd.

This past Saturday, the ceremonial groundbreaking was held on the University of Findlay campus. It was held there because it was in conjunction with another University of Findlay activity. Students went out to our property and brought back buckets and buckets of dirt from the site to put in a big orange box. (Oiler colors are orange and black.) Here we are "breaking ground".

Many thanks to the U of F Habitat family. You are all so very special.

I just love how much fun Rachel seems to be having.
Such a special day.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Then Came Sunday Morning

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Sitting in silence.

Wrapped in grief.

Haunted by fear.

Hearts echoed with the emptiness left when Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb.

Hope had disappeared.

Then came Sunday morning.

The sun peeked over the hills. Women trudged with feet as heavy as their hearts to the tomb. In their hands were fragrant spices to properly prepare their Master and friend for burial. 

But who would roll away the stone? Who would let them in?

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Suddenly hope was rekindled! The stone was rolled away!

"He is not here!” the angel said. “He is risen!” 

The tomb was empty, but their hearts were full.
Fear gave way to courage!

Grief gave way to joy!

Silence was swallowed up in victory!

Sin, where are your shackles?
Death, where is your sting?
Hell has been defeated.
The grave could not hold the king.*

Then came Sunday morning—and absolutely nothing would ever be the same again.

*Lyrics from “Arise, My Love” by Newsong.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Dark Side of Sunday

It is Friday night. I just returned from attending an Easter cantata at a local church that begins in the fall each year preparing for a deeply impactful ministry to our community.

Through song and story, we walked through the life and ministry of Jesus’ here on earth. We remembered His birth, re-lived His miracles and life-changing teaching, reflected on His suffering, and rejoiced in His resurrection. Hope, amazement, anguish, sorrow, joy. All these emotions and more poured into a two-hour recounting of the greatest story ever told.

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As the story unfolded, several songs bridged the gap between the sorrow of the cross and the victory of the empty tomb. Here on the bright side of Sunday morning, we can see how the story of the cross turns out. We know that weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b) We know that their sorrow and loss did not last forever. We know that hope and joy was just around the corner.

Not so for Jesus’ disciples. That night over two thousand years ago, Jesus’ followers grieved on the dark side of Sunday.

Jesus had told them what was going to happen to Him. He had told them that he would suffer and die. He had explained to them that this was necessary. He had even let them know that He would come back. In spite of all this, His closest followers seemed to not really understand.

Perhaps they didn’t even begin to grasp the significance of Jesus’ mission. Perhaps they still thought that Jesus would one day fulfill the hope of Israel by becoming a king who would lead them to freedom from the tyranny of Rome. If that is what they were hoping for on that dark side of Sunday, they would not have realized that Jesus had taken onto Himself the brokenness and bondage of the world, so He could set His creation free from the tyranny of sin and death.

Maybe some understood that their Master and Friend had come purposefully to suffer and die so He could bring His people back to Himself. Perhaps they believed that He would rise again. Yet on the dark side of Sunday, they felt keenly a sense of deep grief and profound loss. We can understand that grief. It is the grief that mourns the passing of a loved one, even though we have hope that we will see them again someday in heaven. We know that death is not the end, yet we mourn the loved one’s loss in the here and now. Even those who have hope still mourn on the dark side of Sunday.

Then there were those, like Peter, who had denied that he even knew the One who was his dearest friend. He had left Jesus alone in His darkest hour. The fact that Jesus knew all along that he would do so was no comfort. On the dark side of Sunday, Peter carried the crushing weight of failure and regret.

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All those gathered together behind locked doors hid in fear of the Jews. Their Master and dearest Friend had just suffered the most brutal execution. For all they knew, they might be next. Numbed by the very thought of His suffering, perhaps they sat in silence. Terror lurked in the shadows on the dark side of Sunday. Fear stalked them in the night.

The dark side of Sunday is not a place anyone wants to stay. Thankfully, we don’t need to remain there. Yet on Good Friday, it might be beneficial to linger for a time in that place of sorrow. Perhaps we should allow ourselves to truly feel the weight of the sin and shame that Jesus took on Himself so we could be free of it. Give God time to impress upon us the extent of Jesus’ love—a love that led Him to lay down His life for you and me.

Jesus reaches out to each of us in the midst of grief and sorrow and loss. Let’s meet Him in a special way right here, right now—on the dark side of Sunday.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Lesson of the Solid-Colored Carpet

A couple weeks ago, I had the exciting privilege of choosing options for my new home. I sat down with the Habitat for Humanity Options Committee to look over options such as siding, shutters, cabinets, counter tops, door knobs, vinyl flooring, and carpet.
          So many choices...and so much fun.
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When we came to looking at carpet, I tried to keep in mind the color of the vinyl flooring I had chosen as well as the color I would eventually like to paint the walls. (Initially, they will all be white.. That comes standard.)
I knew to avoid very light colors as they will very quickly look soiled. I avoided blues, pinks and greens as those colors would too easily clash with some of the paint colors. I settled on what I thought was a very nice shade of gray. I could picture it working with all the other colors I had in mind.

However, my mother pointed out one drawback. The solid gray color would show dirt quickly whereas something rather "tweedy" would hide the dirt for longer. Well, something "tweedy" wasn't an option. I asked.

That got me to thinking. There is an upside to having carpet that shows the dirt more quickly. Since I tend to wait until it is noticeable that the carpet needs vacuumed (and I must confess, probably a couple days after that) before I pull out the Dyson, having the dirt show up more quickly will probably force me to vacuum more often, simply because I will become aware of the need sooner.

What about the "heart vacuuming" that we all need to do? I wonder if perhaps we fill our minds and our lives with so many conflicting messages about what is good, right, needed, wanted, expected, and "natural" (in the sense of "what comes naturally to me"), that everything we do and say is set against a rather "tweedy" background.

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Against such a background, we can go quite a while before realizing that an attitude we are harboring, or a grudge we are nursing, or an activity in which we are engaging is, in fact wrong - and needs to be "vacuumed" out of our lives. Might it be better to examine our hearts for the conflicting standards that the world wants to feed us and eliminate the ones that are contrary to God's standards?

When it comes to carpet on the floor of a house, a "tweedy" design can be very beneficial. "Tweedy" standards in our lives...not so much.
God's Word gives us a solid background for many of our decisions. When we spend time in His Word, and get to know His standards, we can more quickly see when we are going wrong. This does not mean that everyone is exactly alike. This does not mean being dogmatic and judgmental. It  does mean that God's Word can guide and shape our thoughts so they are clearly in line with His ... and to let us see when something is not.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
What do you think? Can you think of certain standards / attitudes / ideas that we as Christians may accept that sound good on the surface, but in fact lead us to live with a rather "tweedy" standard for ourselves where it is difficult to see that something is, in fact wrong. Anybody care to share?

Friday, January 23, 2015

When God "Sneaks Up" on You

The day began like any other. I got up and awakened my daughter to get ready for the day. She went to her school and I went to mine. After a long day working as secretary to one of the assistant principals at the local high school, I went home and did a little house cleaning.

At 7:00, Rachel and I were to meet with one of the family selection committee members for our local Habitat for Humanity. This woman had not been able to attend our earlier group interview back in September. She wanted to meet us and ask a few questions before she gave her input to the decision-making process.

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We arrived at the Habitat Re-Store right on time, and found the parking lot was full. I didn't think too much of it. My thought was that the Re-Store was really hopping on a Friday night. Little did I know that God was sneaking up on me with a wonderful surprise.

I was met at the office door and invited in. I was told that the lady we were to meet was shopping in the Re-Store, and we would go find her there. Rachel and I followed her into the Re-Store, where Habitat for Humanity sells good-condition used items.A lot of people were looking around the store, and my thought was that Friday night must be a good night for shopping. I still didn't realize God was sneaking up on me.

Then, I saw a gentleman who had been involved in our first interview. He was holding a camera. "That's John over there, isn't it?" I asked, wanting to confirm that I remembered his name. The fact that he was holding a camera didn't stir the slightest suspicion that God was sneaking up ever closer.

Someone came up to my escort and said something about making an announcement, I honestly thought she meant to get on the intercom system and call for the woman we were supposed to meet. But that wasn't what she meant.

Derrick the Oiler,
the University of Findlay mascot.
I heard something like this, "We are happy to welcome you as our newest Habitat for Humanity Homeowners". I looked around and realized everyone in the crowd of about 50 people, many of whom had fresh, young faces, were looking at us. Everyone...including Derrick, the tall and brawny mascot of the University of Findlay. It took a few seconds for the surprise to sink in. After well over a year and a half of not being certain where Rachel and I would live long term, God has finally given direction.

Of course, I obviously knew that they were considering us to become Habitat Homeowners, but I had been preparing myself for them to choose someone else. I had accepted the fact that whichever way the decision went, that was the way we were to go. I was certainly not at all expecting the answer to come tonight. God had snuck up on me so very quietly with this delightful surprise.

So, what comes next? I will have close contact and support from a committee that will walk us through the next several months. Construction of the walls will begin in the spring. The sections will then be stored over the summer. In September, after the students return to college, they will build the house. As I understand it, the basic framework goes up pretty much in one day - much like an Amish barn-raising. After that the whole process will be done in a couple of months. We should be in our new home by November.

I look forward to getting to know the students from the University of Findlay who will actually be building our house. These students are just a few years older than the teens I worked with in Indonesia. It will be good to spend time with them. I hope that in some way, I can touch their lives as much as they will certainly touch ours.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Million, Million Doors

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I enjoy listening to the music on the Christian radio station in my car. Once in a while, a particular song, or even a line in a song, speaks volumes to me.

One such song is entitled "With Every Act of Love" by Jason Gray. This is the part of the song that particularly resounded in my own heart.
"God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you."

The verses in the song describe two different scenarios where someone is hurting in some way, and someone else reaches out with God's love and brings hope..."as heaven touches earth".

As we move into the Advent season, we remember how God Himself walked into this world to bring His love to us. Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose again so we could know God's love. He has placed us, His children, in this world to extend the love we have received to others. 

Yes, it is true.
God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you.
The question is this. Is the door of my heart open?  Is yours?

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