29 June 2014

Laughter, Happiness, and a Long Life

Sunflowers are rightly named, don't you think?

Today I'm thinking of a woman I know who, if I remember it right, is turning 101, and every time I've been around her, she has been sunshine personified.  

I've thought of her more often lately than she may imagine.  I think of her when I'm feeling discouraged sometimes, and I try to do what I think she might do to become undiscouraged, which usually leads me to take myself a bit less seriously and move on with life looking at things from a larger perspective.

I'm told she'll often wake herself up in the middle of the night, because she's laughing out loud in her sleep without realizing it.  She laughs quite a lot during the day, too.

She makes me think there must be something more to a happy life than circumstances, more to greeting the day with a smile than whether or not everything is just how you'd like it to be.

Because you simply can't live 101 years without facing griefs, trials, worries, and cares.

Yet she's happy anyway, and every time I think of her, I get a little happier too.

26 June 2014

Heart and Home: Preparing for Sabbath

For part of my evening worships, I've been reading on a collection of topics from medical missionary work to Christian education to hospitality to the importance of daily Bible study.  The latest topic, 'The Observance of Sabbath", has my mind whirring with the ways Sabbath can be a much deeper experience for me.

I tend to work from to-do lists, it's easy for me to skip over things that don't lend themselves to getting checked off.  

For example, how does one really know when the heart is at peace, ready to rest in Jesus on the Sabbath?  Well, it's probably not when I'm frantically glancing back and forth from the clock to my list.  Yet at the same time, it's hard for me to take a deep breath if I'm still surrounded by all the visual evidences of things I didn't get done.

Thus I was especially encouraged to find in my recent reading a focus on both sides of the coin:  knowing what physical things really need to be done to create an atmosphere of peace (a list! yay!), as well as deeper heart things that can't always be quantified on a sheet of scratch paper to be crossed off after a quick sweep of a broom.

And the best part?  What I read felt doable.  Not overwhelming.  Not sloppy.  But practical, smooth, balanced, in my reach.

Which was all good news, because I found I really have some reorienting to do as I get ready for Sabbath this week.

Look Toward Sabbath all Week

It's hard to keep Sabbath free of the stress and craziness of the week if we aren't walking with God each day.  Yet more than that, we can take the opportunity each day to ask God to help us be ready for the Sabbath blessings He has to bestow.  

In particular, talking with our families about spiritual things during the week, singing together, and keeping a cheerful outlook throughout the week will set a sweet tone not only for the weekday grind, but also for the Sabbath. 

On a practical, list-making note, looking ahead to Sabbath during the week might mean we take a realistic look at how and when we do laundry, buy groceries, clean the house, and cook meals, so that none of these things will overwhelm a single day and so that there won't be last-minute pressure to rush through these things right before Sabbath.

Preparation Day for the Home

These goals feel easier to set for me, even though life often catches up with me, and I feel in a mad rush by the last hour before sunset on Fridays.  {Is that because I try to do too much, or just that I try to do too much of it in that last hour?  hmm...}
  • Clothes:  Church definitely doesn't need to be a fashion show, but have nice clothes ready for wearing to church the day before (or sooner, really).  That way, there's no fuss, no last-minute ironing, no digging through the laundry pile.  
  • Food:  We don't have to kill ourselves off to make a huge feast for Sabbath, but it is nice to have most of the prep work done ahead.  I'm learning more and more to just throw something simple in the crock pot, and I love having lunch essentially ready  to dish onto my plate when I walk in the door from church.  That does two things:  first, it feeds us at a reasonable lunch time, and second, it gets us out the door into nature sooner.
  • De-clutter:  Get all the school and work and secular stuff out of the way for Sabbath.  Organize the spaces.  If those distractions are out of sight, it's harder to spend the Sabbath thinking about them.

Preparation Day for the Heart

Ah, the heart.  Less quantifiable, less list-able.  And that equals less attention from someone like me.  Yet I deeply need my heart to be prepared for each Sabbath, unless I want to keep rushing into the day of God's delight in a frenzy without a full peace in my heart.
  • Do I have any unresolved conflicts?  What can I do to resolve them?
  • Am I keeping bitterness in a dark corner of my heart?
  • Have I humbly confessed my faults and asked forgiveness for them?  Have I prayed with someone I wronged, asking God to bless them?
  • Have I taken an inventory of my week, and honestly taken stock of whether I'm closer to Jesus by the end of the week, or further away from Him?
Just reviewing my highlighted book and typing out these words gives me pause.  I so much need this kind of heart work on a regular basis, and while it feels daunting, I greatly desire it.

{While I shared all these thoughts in my own words, because I need the reminders for my own heart, I'd be remiss not to direct you to my source, where you can find far more profound expression of all these thoughts and more:  White, Ellen G.  "The Observance of the Sabbath" in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, pages 349-368.  For this post, I focused on the section of this chapter titled "Preparation for the Sabbath".}

24 June 2014

Favorite Eggplant Recipes

In honor of the new eggplant blossoms coming out in the garden, I thought it would be fun to anticipate the harvest by sharing some of our favorite eggplant recipes from around the web.  I really didn't grow up eating much eggplant, and about the only thing I knew you could make with eggplant was Eggplant Parmesan.  

Well, not particularly favoring that dish, I didn't become friends with eggplants until a few years ago in a delightful restaurant where they made Middle Eastern food.  More on that in a minute, except to say that we did what we always do:  we went home and tried to figure out how to make that amazing food ourselves.

Once we learned that one dish, we decided growing eggplants would be the best way to keep ourselves in a healthy supply.  Then we realized we might need to learn more ways to cook eggplant, since we learned upon our arrival in South Texas that eggplant bushes live for at least a couple of years in this climate, and produce profusely.

Time to experiment again!  Here are a few of our new favorites.  Click each heading to go directly to the recipes.  I hope you enjoy them!

Eggplant Dip (Baba Ghanouj)

Baba Ghanouj is similar to hummus, except made with roasted eggplant instead of garbanzo beans (or another kind of bean).  This is our first-love eggplant recipe, the one we learned to make after eating it in a restaurant.  It sure was convenient for Simply Recipes to post a recipe for it right about that time!  Serve it with things like pita bread, hummus, sliced veges, and a tabouli salad, and you'll have a feast right before your eyes.

Marrakesh Vegetable Curry

I have my amazing husband to thank for finding and making this recipe the other day, when our original eggplant plan wasn't available due to the lack of home-made pita bread in the house (my fault).  He wasn't sure we'd ever had this blend of flavors before, and I think he was right, but oh, how delicious it was!

I love this one all the more because it combines so many rich colors of vegetables--you even get the orange of a sweet potato with the dark leafy greens.  So when there's something delicious AND healthy, I'm pretty excited about it.

Exotic Brinjal (Spicy Eggplant)

Another found-by-husband special, I was taken right from the start with the creamy coconut milk base.  He's gracious enough to scale down the hot peppers for my sake, keeping a good supply of chopped garden peppers beside his plate for good measure.  I wouldn't dare tell you I've heard of every seasoning in this recipe, but it turned out great with the ones we used.

Lentil Eggplant Stew (Vegan, Gluten Free)

And last but not least, a recipe I found in my grandmother's recipe box last summer and made on a drizzly Portland summer afternoon when stew just seemed like the right idea.  Delicious, and comfort food at its best.  We don't have drizzly afternoons in South Texas, but I think it won't be long before I need to imagine one, and make this stew whether the climate cooperates or not!

22 June 2014

Why I Love Exercising in the Morning

I've always been a morning person.  I love to go to bed early (even though I struggle to achieve it now more than ever!), and I love waking up to hear the birds singing their morning songs.  

I love getting out in the early light, and I love the way the air smells in the first part of the day.  I love the way early morning exercise pumps energy and life into my whole day, and I love the way the time in the open air gives me time to think and pray.

The thing about living in south Texas in the summer is that even if I didn't love all those things, I would need to exercise as early in the morning as possible because it's the coolest time of day...which is about 80 degrees, of course.

And so I see all the regulars out on the path in the mornings, they too avoiding the hot part of the day--the lady walking with weights, the man on his bike who stops to do stretches and exercises at different intervals, the two women walking and talking together shading themselves with flattened cardboard boxes, the gentleman wearing the fire department t-shirt who told me all about the community garden next to the fire station when I stopped my run to find out about the hedge of grapes growing there.

Mr. Turtle on the path was a surprise, though.  His kind usually dwell down in the canal, and scamper into the water as soon as so much as a shadow crosses over their sun-drenched shells.  

I came upon him when I was feeling discouraged one morning, praying for God to help me overcome it, and you know what?  Mr. Turtle was a great distraction from my dark thoughts.

While he tucked his head under his shell, I stopped to look at him more closely.  His shell had a dent from an injury, but he was otherwise in tact.  What he was doing so far from the water's edge I couldn't tell, but I waited breathlessly until he peeked out to see where I was. 

Too close.  That's where I was.  The head disappeared again. 

I stepped away a space, and watched again.  I wanted to be sure he could find his way home.  While I didn't want to pick him up myself, I didn't want him to spend the rest of his life wandering the dusty path, either.

Sure enough, next time he poked his head out, he decided I was a safe distance away and turned toward the bank and started down it.  I watched him until he made it home, and then headed home myself, more ready for the day after a cheerful distraction, convinced afresh that exercise and time with my Lord in the morning is the best way to start the day.

19 June 2014

Biblical Self Sacrifice

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."  Romans 12:1

Paul entreats me today, not because he's Paul and he knows what he's talking about.  No, he's much too humble for that, though indeed if anyone had anything to brag about in the Christian life, it would be him.

Rather, he wants me to pay close attention to his next words because of God's own deep mercy.

The same mercy that provided clothes for Adam and Eve, the same mercy that rescued David from his darkest sins, the same mercy that heard Daniel's prayer and returned the Israelites to their homeland, the same mercy that carried a cruel cross up a hill only to be killed upon it.

The thought of this mercy is what Paul says should make me want to live my life in sacrifice for God's cause--not sacrifice for the sake of it, or the kind of life poured out empty of all joy and meaning, but a life of holy service that puts God's interests above mine.

Every moment, every day.

It's a short verse, this introduction to Romans 12, but it gives me cause to stop long, and linger over words bringing conviction to my heart.

For what would it look like, my life all changed over so much that every goal large or small had its root in doing something to honor my Lord who had such mercy on me?

17 June 2014

There's Always Time for Praising God

I did a little math today.  You know how people say you'll never use math again once you're out of school?  They're wrong.  I use it all the time, in lots of different ways.

The kind of problem I did today was a simple percentage calculation.

I wanted to know, out of the 49 verses in Daniel chapter 2, how many were dedicated to Daniel's prayer of thanksgiving once he had the same vision Nebuchadnezzar had seen, and on top of that the interpretation of it.

The prayer begins in verse 19 through verse 23, which makes five verses.  Therefore, out of the chapter's 49 verses, this prayer takes up slightly more than ten percent (a tithe, if you will) of the chapter.

While I'm certainly not here to offer a formula for how often and how much of our time we ought to budget for praising God, I do find it interesting that such a significant portion of an already lengthy chapter would be dedicated to heart-felt thanks.


Because if it were me, knowing that my ability to tell the king his dream and its interpretation directly influenced my immediate longevity and that of my colleagues, I would be tempted to say thank you later.  You know, after I had gone to the king to save my life.

But Daniel doesn't.  Death has already knocked at his door, but he's in no hurry.  He gives thorough praise to the God who reveals secrets before he goes out the door to accomplish his mission.

In my own tendency to rush to and through the to-do list without stopping for breath let alone thanks, I could take yet another lesson from Daniel, don't you think?

15 June 2014

Isaiah 41: A Promise for the Hard Road Ahead

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I were privileged to spend a few short hours in our local children's hospital's PICU unit, where a friend of ours awaited his back-to-round-one chemo treatment.  In a few short days, he had transitioned from the amazingly awesome R word (Remission) to the ugly R word anyone with a life-threatening illness dreads to hear:  Relapse.

I felt blessed to be there, partly because this family opened up to us and became fast friends right away when we arrived in South Texas knowing no one.  I wanted in some small way to return the priceless support they gave us in our own transition.  

And partly because I was amazed at the resilience of a hurting family whose daughters dropped everything to come spend a few days with their brother, whose voices could be heard in laughter as well as in pain while we all spent an afternoon together like usual, except for the venue and the new R word.

They inspire me.

And my heart breaks for the difficult road ahead of them.  I don't have words.

Yet even now, God has words.  They come to my mind with a fresh hope, a fresh invitation to cling to those things that sustain better than physical nourishment, the promises of our God who never changes and never leaves us to face these valleys alone.

Will you join me in praying for this family whose son faces the dark days of his leukemia battle all over again?

12 June 2014

What it Really Takes to Set Up a Shed


Oh, how I've been longing for a neat  little space with hooks and nooks and a door to shut.

We step into the garden center, resolved.  We've been eying the object of our desire for several weeks, and we're ready to commit, ready to put up its sides and hide our garden tools and a few snow tires (yes, even in South Texas) inside it.  

We've looked at other ideas, we've done a bit of pricing (in dollars, hours, and skill level), and we're ready.

The sales rep, however, wants to warn us.

"Most people return these," he says.  "They have a lot of pieces, and..." {he takes a wary look in my direction} "...if you only have two people it can take eight to ten hours to get it set up.  It would be better if you had more people to help."

Still, we decide it's our best option, we pay, they help us load it up, and we drive home.  I wonder if the eight-to-ten-hours estimate included the time it took to get the box from the car to its temporary home in the shade.


Mine is undaunted, but I'm the one who got a massage during the let's-organize-these-pieces section of yesterday afternoon, and therefore came home to the sorting already finished.  My husband might be more committed to doing something to make me happy than he is to that heart longing for a few walls and nooks and hooks and a door to shut.  #amazinghusband

I'm ready to go out and put something together, but perhaps today we'll wait until it's a few degrees cooler.  You know.  Like maybe down to 94 would be nice.

But we won't wait too long, because I'm picturing that de-cluttered patio space, and I get unashamedly excited about it.  Set me to work on that thing, and I'll do and learn to do whatever it takes to reach that goal.


As ready and willing as I am to help, I would never have gotten that box out of the car on my own.  There are pieces big enough that they would be incredibly unwieldy if either of us tried to handle them alone.  

Together, though?

We'll get this thing done in no time.

10 June 2014

Friends of All Ages

When I first got to college, I grudgingly wandered over to the welcome back bash.  Introverted, but forcing myself into the circle of booths and cacophony of ridiculously loud music, I passed by all the clubs and stopped at only one booth:  Adopt a Grandparent.

I put my name down, perhaps because I knew the girl behind the booth in academy and didn't know how to say no, and perhaps because I've always liked grandparents, whether they're mine or not.

The following weekend, when the time came for the Adopt a Grandparent club's organizational meeting (the one where I would be dropped off at a grandparent's house and left there for an hour or so, never having met them before), I had decided not to go.  But that list?  Where I had written my name?

I had also written my dorm room phone number.  {We didn't have cell phones in college in those days, you know.}

She called.  And so it seemed I couldn't get out of it.  Of course, once I was in their living room, the one with all the books and paintings and rocks and minerals and people who loved me right away, eating home-made cookies and listening to stories of their lives, I was right at home.

I visited them several times a month for the next nine years.

I suppose I was there to bless them, and maybe I did, but I can't begin to put words to the ways THEY blessed my life.  There's just something about people who have lived well for a long time that tethers me, reminds me what's important.

During the last year and a half of college, I wound up in a little country church on a whim one Sabbath and found myself there almost every weekend for the next five years.  

Of all the things that delighted me there, the wide age range of my church family was near the top of my list.  I loved being able to tell people that I had friends all the way from three years old (the youngest ones in the Sabbath school class where I played the piano) to above 90.

That one older than 90, she's still such a special lady (99 now, I think).  This teapot used to be hers, and I think of her often, the newlywed for the first time at 90, who loved to sing hymns and laugh and make sure our church facility stayed coordinated and classy and well-maintained. 

She's well educated, from an era where many women were not.  She held herself and those around her to a high standard of values.  In her, I found someone who could resonate with my own desire for excellence of character in all things.

I joked sometimes that I was born old, but if that meant being like these friends of mine who were still learning all the time and who had vibrant lives in every way imaginable, I was glad enough to be "old".  

Or was it that they were still young?

A few years and a few states have gone by since my life and friendships were so richly infused with the span of ages, but here in our new location the span is beginning to widen again.

Yesterday, I sat on the couch reading a good book.  Something inside it made me think of my new sweet friend across the street, who is several decades my senior.  She and her daughter are just the kind of people who can sit down in the living room and really get to know a person, and the thought of them made me get up from the couch and walk across the street.  We visited pleasantly for too short a time.

My eyes widen and my ears perk up when I hear her say how long she has lived in this valley we now call home.  I know she will have a lot to tell me about this new climate of mine, the local history, what kind of bugs come out when, and how to grow those purple-leaved flowers I've seen in her yard.

She insists I pick lemons from her tree whenever I want, and I timidly take her up on the offer before I walk home again, heart happy for the new friendships and one huge lemon more than filling each hand.

08 June 2014

Freezing Mangoes

I grew up helping my parents can peaches, pairs, apricots, applesauce, and sometimes plums.  We froze strawberries and peaches and any other berries we could get our hands on in huge quantities, as well.  

Thus when I was in college I asked my mom to pass on to me something her dad had done for her:  canned fruit in pint jars to stock the dorm room with something awesomely delicious and homemade.  She was quick to oblige, and supplied not only me, but also a good friend and roommate with a goodly supply of peaches in pint jars.

My husband grew up freezing fruits and berries, too, but he had the bonus experience of helping his mom make all kinds of berry jams.

These are traditions we've continued into our adult lives, even staying up late into the night in graduate school to make sure we got all our grape juice canned before the grapes we picked would go to waste.

Food preservation looks a bit different in South Texas, though.  Because there's no winter to speak of, there's almost always something wonderful in season, and the idea of putting things away for the colder months just doesn't have the same urgency.

Nevertheless, try as you might, you just can't root out the food preservation habit once it's established.  Your brain replays these messages over and over.

Home-made is cheaper.
Home-made tastes better.
Home-made in the cupboard is faster than a last-minute trip to the store.

Last week, my husband found some for $2.50 a box, which we thought was a great deal.  We're hoping to get more this week.  Our latest project, therefore, is to find as many ways to preserve mangoes as possible.  Our ideas so far?

We'll freeze them--a couple of quarts are already in the freezer, just waiting to be made into smoothies and sorbets!
We'll dry them.
We'll make jam out of them.
We'll juice them, and research whether it's best to freeze or can the juice.
We might even make sauce out of them.  Mango sauce on pancakes, anyone?

How I Freeze Mangoes

While I would hesitate to say there's one correct way to freeze mangoes, this is the way I'm doing it.  At least this summer.
  1. Cut up the mangoes.  I do this by making two slices, one on either side of the seed.  Then I do the messy job of getting as much fruit off the seed as possible, after which I move on to the easy part of slicing each mango "half" while it's still in the peel, and then scooping the slices out of the peel with a spoon.
  2. Add a preserver.  Depending on how long you expect your mangoes to last in the freezer, it can be nice to add something to keep them fresh.  I add a little sugar (a Tablespoon or so for every two or three quarts) or Fruit Fresh (according to package instructions).  Lemon juice might also work, if you don't mind the tart flavor with the sweet of the mango.
  3. Scoop into quart Ziploc bags or other container of choice, and put in the freezer.  These will of course freeze in the shape they're in when they first go into the freezer, so it's good to find a flat space for them until they're frozen solid.

06 June 2014

When You're Worn

My husband and I have a little jar full of little craft sticks.  When it's date night, and we haven't thought of something extra creative to do, we pull out a stick, and follow the instructions.  All the dates in the jar are free, and the ideas range from the silly to the profound.

This week, when we looked at each other over supper and realized we had both forgotten it was date night (ah, summer, you make us forget which day it is!), we pulled out a stick that said, "make a prayer list and pray together".

We pray together every day, for our morning and evening worship, but we really enjoyed the chance to take time for more serious, in-depth prayer together.  When we made our list, we claimed Bible promises for each issue or person on our list.  Here are a few of the promises we claimed, and a few extras just for fun.

When you're tired and worn...

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  (Matthew 11:28)

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.  He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:  But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:28-31)

When you don't know which way to turn...

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.  (Psalm 32:8)

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  (James 1:5)  

When you feel like you can't do anything right...

For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.  (1 John 3:20)

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

When you carry too many burdens...

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.  (1 Peter 5:7)

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6, 7)

When you just want to be more like Jesus...

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:  (Hebrews 8:10)

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.  (Matthew 5:6)

04 June 2014

When Jesus Turns Away

Today in the garden the parsley blooms, ready to make new seeds for a new generation.  Yes, they're heirlooms, so I plan to harvest the seeds right from the plant when they're dry.

The okras and watermelons bloom again, too, on the verge of abundant fruits.  The traumatized tomato plants continue their rejuvenation, putting out a new fruit here, a pretty green leaf there, constantly amazing me with their resilience.  

Those rosemary plants, of which I planted far too many because I was afraid they wouldn't sprout and then they all did, look more like their name every day.  The watermelons keep adding pounds to the fruits we've been dreaming about, and a few more Cayennes and Serranos blush ripe red. 

Energy builds as each plant grows, closer to fruiting today than yesterday, bigger every moment.  No water droplet gets wasted.  Even the fig tree next door knows the season, and puts out fresh green fruits.

It's not even my tree, yet I can all too easily imagine how utterly disappointed I would be if, by the end of the season, I had tended and cared for it, and the fig tree hadn't done its job.  But if I had created the tree to make figs, and then it didn't?  That would be a let down I can't even fathom.  (see Matthew 21:19)

The thought gives me pause to think about how often Jesus must have been disappointed, heartbroken, while He walked the earth, knowing how beautifully He made it in the beginning but seeing myriads of ways things just aren't as glorious as He wanted them to be now that sin's curse of thorns mars the planet.

When He should have been walking through His earth-garden seeing the plants and people just about to bear fruits, He met instead stunted plants and trees and people destitute of fruit and glorious purpose.

There's a little four-verse story in Mark that I've never paid much attention to.  Right after feeding the four thousand, Jesus and His disciples get in a boat and land on the other side of the lake.  He's immediately accosted by the Pharisees asking for a sign, trying to trap Him in His words.

If you ever feel like you just can't get away from people attacking you, well, you're not the first one.

Anyway, they ask Jesus for a sign to prove who He really is, and He doesn't comply.  As if all the miracles weren't enough, or the way He teaches with an inherent heavenly authority.  It's here that I generally skip on to the next story thinking how much better I am than the Pharisees because I call Jesus my Messiah.

You know what captured my attention this time?

At the end of this conversation, which in Mark chapter 8 seems to be the only thing that happens when He lands on that part of the shore, He turns around, gets back in the boat, and leaves.

I want to shout, WAIT!  Stop!  Come back!

Jesus didn't waste time and boat trips.  What did He go there to do?  What energy was building up in Him to bless the people of the shore town?  

Certainly He didn't go all that way just to breathe a deep sigh in exasperation and sadness at their unbelief, and leave again, yet something kept Him from staying.

Was that moment a thousand times more grievous to Him than finding a fig tree that wouldn't make figs?  Are there times when I too make Jesus sigh a deep sigh in grief, and then leave, because I'm so focused earth-ward that He can't transform my life the way He's like to?

It's a sobering thought, yet it's a thought I need to think and pray about seriously, because I want the energy in my life to build and build and build until I'm bearing fruits for Jesus and playing the part He has for me in this great war against evil.

02 June 2014

The Only Remedy for Pride's Curse

There's a reason the word humbled sounds so similar to the word humiliated.  

He wakes with a start, confused.  There doesn't seem to be anyone in Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom who can help him straighten out his thoughts, or even remember what they were, until a brash young captive offers to take the case before the God of his fathers.

Put yourself in his place.

You agree to wait just one more night, because somewhere deep down you know if you can get to the bottom of this nagging dream, you'll have a piece of knowledge and wisdom worth more than anything else on earth.

Yes, you wait.  Perhaps you pass another sleepless night in your wondering.  You wait until daylight.  You wait while Daniel takes time to offer praise to the God of heaven who revealed the secret.  You wait while the young man hurries off to find your captain of the guard.  You wait while Arioch in turn brings Daniel into your throne room, surpassed in earthly splendor by only Solomon's court itself.

You catch your breath as the Hebrew captive starts from the beginning of the dream, from this very moment in history, tracing the world's kingdoms and countries to the end of time.

Thou art this head of gold.

You're humbled by God's penetrating wisdom, given to a simple captive student on your behalf.  Yet it would be hard not to let that go to your head.  No one in the future of the world from you onward, except the King of the universe Himself, will surpass you in riches and glory.

You therefore begin to wonder how in the world they will overtake you, these lesser kings of silver, brass, iron, even clay.  Certainly you will never be so  weak as to be thrown down!  No, it can't happen.  

The more you think about it, the more convinced you become, until the miraculous circumstances surrounding the dream and the words of awe and praise that escaped your own lips slip into faded memories.

It's not a stretch at all now to make a giant image of gold as wide as Goliath was tall and point it up toward heaven as a symbol of your own enduring majesty, setting yourself directly in opposition to the only true King.

This time, you're humbled by a miracle.  

Hebrews again.  Captives again.  The same God who delivered a visual prophecy covering the rest of the world's history delivered his servants from death when they refused to worship the mock prophetic image on the plain of Dura.

You're humbled, but a root of that pride-weed is still strong in your heart, and you let it grow.

You even start to believe that the entire kingdom of Babylon in all its glory is a product of, well, nothing short of you.  It revolves around you, and you are the sole reason for not only its prosperity, but also its existence.

Hardly a memory remains of that God who could deliver a few Hebrew captives out of your hands, who was and is and shall be mightier than you throughout all the ages.  From the outside looking in, it might be easy for those same Hebrew captives to think you were a hopeless case.

Maybe, though, they kept praying for you, and that's how you find yourself troubled over another dream.  It's one more opportunity to break off your sins by righteousness, one more chance to show mercy to the poor instead of hoarding all the riches of the kingdom to yourself.

You, however, feel far too secure, and instead of taking a chance to change your ways, you settle back into your false security, letting that pride-weed grow a little bigger.

It takes more than a dream interpreted this time, more than a miraculous deliverance from a fiery furnace.  And so you spend seven years living the simple life of an animal, eating grass, waking and sleeping with the sun, moistened by the dew of heaven.

Amazingly, when you come to your right mind again after those seven long years of deepest humiliation, you're not angry at God for putting you through such a strange and stringent trial.  Instead, you bless Him.  You praise Him.  You thank Him.  You honor Him.

Somehow this time, you've realized that pride only brings a multitude of curses, and anything that can be done to get that awful root out of your heart is worth the price, and you're grateful for that new and beautiful humble-plant growing in its place.

And those last words of your letter to the world?

...and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.

They're no longer a threat, but a promise. 

Not just for you, the ancient king, but for anyone in the whole world, throughout history, down the ages of silver, brass, iron, and clay.  Because humility of heart before God is the real treasure after all.

Anyone whose heart is so hardened with pride in all its forms of fear, anxiety, and self exaltation--yes, all these and more--that there's not even so much as the hint of a desire for humility can be entrusted to the same God who lifted Nebuchadnezzar up from the grass of the earth and restored him to a glorious kingdom when he could finally be trusted to bear a faithful witness to the world.

The same God who saved Nebuchadnezzar from himself can still save you.  He can save those you love, too, and He is pride's only sure remedy.