Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Of reptiles and men

What happens when you cross a hungry python with a hungry alligator? This is what happens:


Apparently the snake swallowed the gator whole, but the gator wasn't going to take it lying down. He put up such a fight inside the snake that the snake exploded. Read all about it here. Two predators, each trying to eat the other, ended up destroying each other.

Nature gives us a very graphic picture of what the apostle Paul was talking about in Galatians 5:14-15:

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another (emphasis mine).
It's very easy to get into squabbles, especially with the ones closest to us. Sometimes in our anger we want to get the upper hand and really give it to other person: a cutting glare, a sharp word, a harsh comment, in the extreme, a physical blow. We believe that if we are on the offensive we won't get hurt—that if we strike hard first, we'll be safe. Such is not the case. Paul warns us that there is the real danger of both parties getting seriously hurt in the process. There are no winners when we attack our neighbor. A part of our own soul is wounded when we wound another person's soul. Like the snake and the gator, we get swallowed or we explode!

But what if by some freak of nature the snake said to the alligator, "Hey, Al. Why don't you and I work together to get us some prey?" They'd most likely never miss a meal!

Hmmm....So if I'm the snake, who are the alligators in my life?




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Stay awake

There have been a number of thefts on my street and neighborhood in the past month or so. Sometime in the night, a person or group steals tires off of cars left in driveways. The only evidence left behind is the car sitting with its rotors on bricks ("borrowed" from another unsuspecting neighbor.)

Although this has never happened to me, it makes me absolutely sick. I feel violated and angry for my neighbors. What kind of lowlifes would do such a thing! I have often thought that I'd love to catch them in the act. But who knows where they'll strike or when? I'd have to stay up all night every night to even have a chance.

Having been pondering all that, I read this passage of Scripture this morning:

But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. —Luke 12:39-40
More important than being alert for thieves, is to be alert for the return of Jesus. More important that being prepared for a thief is being prepared for the second coming of Christ. My desire to be in a right frame of mind in the Lord should far outweigh my desire to catch a bad guy.

No one knows when Christ will return. It could be next week, next year or next century. But we need to be ready. We must stay awake. We have to "stay dressed for action and keep (our) lamps burning" (Luke 12:35). We don't want to be caught off guard or found sleeping when Christ returns. We must watch our lives and be diligent doing the Father's work. What a joy to know that He is coming back for us, and what a privilege and responsibility to let the world how they can be ready to meet Him.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

All Things?

The second half of this week has been rather difficult. I can see how the Lord has been testing me. I think it started with a short conversation I had with a fellow teacher. In the midst of our conversation, he said, "And you know my pastor says that God can make something good out of almost anything." I responded that God can make something good out of anything, not almost anything." I had in mind Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (emphasis mine). That was on Tuesday afternoon.

That night, I went with my three oldest kids to get our Christmas tree. I had my cell phone in my sweatshirt pocket. When we got the tree set up in our house, I looked for my phone but couldn't find it. I called my phone from Amy's phone thinking that I would hear it ring somewhere around the house. Nothing. I tried calling again. This time a man answered the phone! "Hello," the voice said, "I don't know if you own this phone, but I'm going to turn it into Home Depot customer service."

I went back to the store to pick up the phone, and discovered that it was bent and the antenna had been broken off. It must have been run over in the parking lot. Well, at least I found it and it still worked, I thought. The next day, it didn't work. Not a big deal, I could get another phone.

Later that day, Wednesday, I picked up a slight cough. By Thursday morning, I had a full cold and called in sick to work. Again, not a big deal. I went to my school briefly to prepare something for the substitute teacher, and came home to rest. Usually, it's hard for me to rest, but I took great pains to really rest so that I would be ready to go back to school on Friday.

Thursday evening, I was feeling much better and was confident I would be back the next day. But there was an interruption to my plans. After dinner, I was helping to clear the table. I picked up a pot of soup and must have lifted it incorrectly. As I carried it to the counter, I could feel my lower back begin to tighten. Immediately a sharp pain shot through my back. I was able to get the pot safely to the counter, but I quickly doubled over and fell to the floor in severe pain. I had injured my back in the past, so I knew that it had to be a sciatic nerve problem.

If you've never injured your lower back, be grateful. When it hits you, it's very difficult to find a position that does not hurt. I tried to pick myself up, but everything I tried caused immense pain. I didn't ask for help right away; all the while, I was telling myself that I could get up on my own. I tried different maneuvers to get up, but excruciating pain hit me and I would cry out. Eventually, I crawled over to a desk and pulled myself up. Amy helped me to our room, and I lay down on the bed.

Laying in bed, I could not get comfortable. I would have tossed and turned in bed, but moving was too painful. On top of that, Amy and I had an argument adding to the emotional and physical pain I was experiencing. I just need to call a friend to pray for me, I thought. But then I remembered that my phone was broken, and I couldn't retrieve anyone's contact information! Dark thoughts plagued me: Would I walk again? Would I be able to pick up my children? Would I be able to play with them like I used to? Was this a long-term injury such that I couldn't go back to work? How would I support my family? Nagging questions and fears consumed me. Then came the accusing thoughts: You should be stronger than that! Where's your faith? Other people have it worse than you. If you're this emotionally weak, how could you handle a real crisis? It all seemed like spiritual attack. (The enemy loves to kick us when we're down.) I felt very alone. "God, where are You? Why aren't You rescuing me? Jesus, You have to help me. I can't take this!"

In the midst of my crying out, I remembered Romans 8:28. All things? Do I really believe that now? Or is that simply a nice platitude that works well when life is rosy? Nothing physically or emotionally changed that night. The circumstances were the same; but I chose to believe Romans 8:28. I chose to trust God. Thursday night I had to apply what I (perhaps carelessly?) proclaimed to be true Tuesday afternoon.

I stayed home Friday, but I felt a little better. Today, I felt better still and was able to attend a teacher training in the morning. I don't know how I would do in a more difficult situation. I just thank God for His grace on this occasion, and pray for the grace to endure whatever else comes.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bible thumper

If you've known me for a while, you probably have noticed the bump on my wrist. It's called a ganglion cyst. It's not painful, but it looks kinda creepy—sort of like your wrist is pregnant. It's a tiny sac filled with fluid that comes from your wrist joints.

I was at a teacher training yesterday, and a fellow teacher told me that she used to have a ganglion cyst. "I just stuck it with a needle," she told me. "Didn't hurt a bit."

So I decided I would try it....

Alas, I didn't have a needle. But I had read online that in the olden days, some people would whack their ganglion cysts with a hard cover book. The cyst would burst like a water balloon and all would be fine. In fact, a slang term for the cysts was "Bible bumps" because apparently people would use the Bible since it was the most common book people owned. No, I'm not kidding. Google it if you don't believe me.

So I made up my mind to hit this thing with the Word of God. But which version should I choose? I don't know about you, but when I think about whacking a ganglion cyst, I think 1601 King James Version (KJV). I mean, if you're going to perform minor surgery, you don't want to mess around with some loose paraphrase like The Living Bible. You want something that carries some authority—and weight.

Unfortunately, I don't own a KJV Bible. I can't understand the Old English, so I always bought more modern translations. If I had known my health would depend on it, I would certainly have bought a KJV for just such a purpose. (Let me encourage you if you don't have a KJV to go out and get one and put it in your first aid kit.)

Well, I didn't have time to go out and get a KJV, and I just wanted to be rid of the cyst, so I looked at my Bible selection and chose the next best thing:


It was perfect: decent size, hard cover, large print.

So I grasped The Message Bible, took careful aim at the cyst, and swung with all my might.....

A very interesting feeling followed. You know that sensation you get when you bite down on a whole cherry tomato and it bursts in your mouth? It's just like that. Except add to that the sensation of simultaneously being punched in the face.

Actually, it hurt a little, but not as much as I thought. And here is the after photo:


With the exception of some fluid remaining in the area and a slight, dull ache, all evidence of the cyst is gone. If this cyst somehow comes back, however, I'm definitely going to buy a KJV Bible.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

After Thanksgiving

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We went to Amy's parents' house. There were about 15 of us with Amy's brother, her brother's friends, and a friend's family. Aim made her cheesy potatoes, and I made sweet potato pie.

Speaking of which, we interrupt this blog post to bring you a special news bulletin. Is nothing sacred?

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