Monthly Archives: April 2014
I began my part of the necessary clean-up before mowing the grass around the old chicken house by tossing scrap metal into the “recycle” pile. Then I placed long, glass shards into a five gallon bucket–gingerly, even though I wore leather gloves. Window panes, leaning against a rusty, fifty-five gallon drum, had been knocked over. The glass had shattered and was now half hidden in last year’s brown grass.
I could imagine the possibility of my grandchildren someday running barefoot through a sprinkler in the grass or lying on their backs watching the cumulus clouds bloom and sail away, and I would want the lawn to be safe for them. It hadn’t been for me.
“No bare feet!” my parents cautioned me fifty-some years ago, soon after we had moved to this acreage. The summer-lush grass hid dangerous bits of metal and broken glass because cars had been junked behind the many sheds, and no one had picked up the debris. Pieces continued to work out of the dirt years later.
I futilely wished I could have gone back all those decades ago and prevented the previous owners from leaving the vehicles to rot and rust. I also wished I could have gone back a few months and moved the glass to a better location, but I don’t have a time machine. I can’t change the past or its consequences. It is what it is, and it was what it was.
* * * * *
The following story is an edited version of a true tale of a trip to Cambodia told by Walt (a retired farmer and nurse) one Sunday morning in church.
. . . and I promise to connect junked cars and Cambodia.
Against the advice in the guide book, I decided to travel to an area in northern Cambodia for a couple of days to visit a small mission medical station and orphanage that I had been told about by a medical social worker in Poipet. Normally I would not choose to travel to this area because northern Cambodia is the second most heavily land-mined area in the world.
Because of my nursing background, I worked side by side with the missionary nurse and a doctor from Korea to help a mother in labor, who was a victim of a land mine. In spite of all we did, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. It was obvious that we would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, since we had no incubator (or electricity to run one). Although we were near the equator, nights were often chilly. The nurse used cotton wool to carefully wrap the baby. My driver, who had been stoking up the fire, was asked to fill a hot water bottle to provide gentle heat for the baby. He soon came back, distressed that it had burst. (Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). It was the last hot water bottle.
“All right,” the nurse said, “I will keep the baby close to me. We will sleep as close to the fire as we safely can. I will keep the baby free from drafts. ”
The following day I joined the doctor and my translator for a time of prayer with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with us. We gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained the problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.
During prayer time, a ten-year-old girl, Ruthy, prayed with blunt conciseness. “Please, God, send us a hot water bottle today. It will be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead. So, please, send it this afternoon.” While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, “And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl, so she will know You really love her.”
As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say “Amen?” I just did not believe that God would do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from America. If anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle for a mission station near the equator?
That afternoon, while I was working with the nurse, removing metal fragments from the leg of a six-year-old that had been too close to an exploding land-mine, we received a message that there was a delivery motorcycle at the front gate. By the time we reached the compound gate, the delivery cycle had gone, but there on the porch was a large twenty-eight pound parcel. I am kind of an emotional guy, and I felt tears pricking my eyes. We decided not to open the parcel alone, so we sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it. Some thirty or forty pairs of little eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.
From the top of the box, I lifted out brightly-colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as we gave them out. Then there were the folded bandages for the patients. The children looked a little bored. Next came a box of mixed raisins and nuts. Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the . . . could it really be? I grasped and pulled out a brand new, rubber, hot water bottle. I cried.
A little girl had asked God to send it, but I had not truly believed that He would.
Ruthy was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!”
Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully-dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up, she shouted, “Let us go over to give this dolly to that little girl, so she will know that Jesus really loves her!”
That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by the nurse’s former Sunday school class in the state of Colorado, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle to a mission station near the equator. And one of the girls in the Sunday school class had put in a dolly, for an Asian child–five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “that afternoon.”
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 NIV
* * * * *
Before Ruthy prayed, God had answered her prayer–in the past. He used a Sunday School class in the United States to answer a prayer not thought of until five months later by a child in Cambodia. God is not limited by space or time when answering prayers.
Jesus . . . said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26 NIV
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the BBC TV show, “Dr. Who,” it is a tale of the the Doctor’s (and companions’) heroic adventures in a space ship capable of time travel. The Doctor is one of a human-looking race called the Time Lords, who are not bound by space or time.
Although we might wish we had a time machine like the Doctor’s TARDIS to right past wrongs, even those as small as the rubble of abandoned cars, we don’t have that kind of power.
But God does. The great “I AM” is not bound by space or time. He is the Creator of both, the original Time Lord.
Having trouble grasping how time works, how God can put in motion the answer to a prayer before the need and the prayer have happened? Even Time Lords have a little trouble making it clear. Here the Doctor tries to explain time: it’s “wibbly wobbly, timey wimey . . . stuff.”
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photos by Barb Briggs
linking with Michelle DeRusha
linking with Laura Boggess
I have seen many crosses this week–on church lawns, in sanctuaries, inside display cases, even on the corner of a car dealer’s lot. I join other Christians in commemorating Good Friday and remembering Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion, but I don’t want to get stuck there.
I don’t want to become near-sighted, focusing only on the pain of the cross and forgetting the joy and glory of the Resurrection. This story has a glory-filled conclusion.
I have been challenged by a recent Christianity Today article.
Don’t focus on the suffering of Jesus to the extent that you neglect the glory of the Cross in and through the Resurrection.
The authors (Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor) remind us of Jesus’ journey from God and His return to the heavenly Abba.
Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
John 13:1,3 NIV
Jesus’ return to the heavenly Father was a return to glory!
And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. John 17:5 NIV
I can’t comprehend that. The closest parallel I can imagine is leaving my home and family on a trip and coming back years later, but that’s a dim candle compared to the bright splendor of heaven.
This familiar verse in Hebrews
For the joy set before him he endured the cross Hebrews 12:2 NIV
reminds me of something I can understand: the process of giving birth.
“Remember to breathe.”
“Congratulations! It’s a boy–9 pounds and 13 ounces!”
Why do we endure the pain of childbirth? For the delight we feel cradling our newborn,
for the joy set before us.
My prayer for us all this Easter season:
may we remember Jesus death and suffering for our sins
AND the glory and joy of Jesus’ resurrection.
I’m ready to celebrate!
He is risen.
He is risen indeed.
* * * * *
Thanks to Barb Briggs and Rachel Joy Nieuwsma for allowing me to use their photos.
linking with Jennifer Lee Dukes
linking with Emily Wierenga
linking with Laura Boggess
I should have transplanted the cactus to a larger pot a long time ago. The plant was top heavy, and it tipped over as I scooted it to one side in order to water a small succulent. Without thinking, I grabbed the cactus before it toppled off the edge of the shelf. I screeched in pain and surprise.
Now I wear heavy leather gloves to work with cactus. After having to use a magnifying glass and tweezers to get all the fine spines out of my hand, you would think I’d remember to wear the leather gloves when I pruned the rose bush. But I didn’t.
I foolishly thought the long-handled lopper would keep my hands a safe distance away. But it didn’t.
A thorn pierced my thumb and drew blood. You can’t handle spines and thorns unprotected and come away unscathed. Blood will be shed.
As I cleaned the small wound, I remembered the crown of thorns that the Roman soldiers had made in the hours right before Jesus’ crucifixion.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.
John 19:1-3 NIV
The soldiers mocked him with their parody of royal raiment and royal greeting.
The robe, thrown across Jesus’ raw shoulders, was the color of nobility.
The staff in Jesus’ hand was a parody of a king’s scepter.
They spit in his face–perhaps a mockery of the kiss of homage customarily given to royalty.
Their “Hail, King of the Jews” was a salutation of ridicule, not the honorific greeting “Hail, Caesar!”
They knelt in front of Jesus and then rose from their knees to crack the staff over his head.
[The soldiers] twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.
Matthew 27:29-30 NIV
I thought about the Roman soldiers who made the crown of thorns. Why go to so much trouble to ridicule someone? It’s not easy to make a crown of thorns.
I tried to weave together pruned raspberry canes (too brittle) and cut-off rose bush branches (too inflexible). Working with heavy gloves was too clumsy, but working without them resulted in more scratches on my hands. I gave up.
How did the Roman soldier make the crown for Jesus, and what was he thinking as he wove it?
How much of the blood from his pierced hands mingled with Jesus’ when the thorny circlet was placed on Jesus’ head? You can’t handle spines and thorns unprotected and come away unscathed. Blood will be shed.
Maybe the soldier meant the crown as a mockery of the Romans’ “civic crown,” which was made of oak leaves and worn by the emperor. Roman soldiers would present the award to someone who had saved the lives of citizens.
Or perhaps the soldier thought of the “grass crown” (a Roman military decoration higher than all others) given to a commander who saved an entire legion or army. The “grass crown” was made of grasses, flowers, or grains found of the battlefield.
What happened to these battle-hardened soldiers when they watched Jesus die? They knew something was different about this man that they had just crucified.
Perhaps they realized that every cynical mockery they had inflicted on Jesus–the staff, the robe, the crown–might have the echo of truth.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!
Matthew 27:54 NIV
Their hearts were pierced by the thorns they had forced onto Jesus’ head and by the nails they had driven into his hands,
because you can’t handle spines and thorns unprotected and come away unscathed.
* * * *
My prayer for us all:
that we have a tender and changed heart (like the centurion!) when we remember how Jesus suffered and died for us.
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crown of thorns photos by Barb Briggs
linking with Jennifer Lee Dukes
linking with Laura Boggess
I was nine or ten years old, and I was lying on my back in the grass in the yard, gazing up at the stars in the velvet blackness on a summer’s night. Even then, as a child, I was in awe of creation and believed there must be a Creator.
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
Psalm 8:1,3-4 NIV
I didn’t find it hard to believe in an all-powerful God, who made the beauty around me–
dark, starry nights,
sweet, apple blossoms in spring,
wind sighing in the top of the elm tree,
soft down of newly-hatched chicks.
But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. Romans 1:19,20
I didn’t understand at the time that other parts of God’s divine nature–His love and kindness–could be seen by looking at the sky, too.
This week I watched the clouds pile up, as a cold front tumbled in from the west.
Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.Acts 14:17 NIV
The blue overhead was quickly overtaken by steel gray cumulus, extinguishing the glorious sun’s rays.
Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime;
it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms.
He gives showers of rain to all people,
and plants of the field to everyone.Zechariah 10:1 NIV
The first heavy drops of much-needed rain chased me inside, as thunder echoed in the distance.
This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
Matthew 5:45 MSG
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:45 NIV
The downpour was brief, the line of storm clouds narrow, and soon a gusty wind swept the showers eastward. Through the rain-splashed window, I spotted the second gift of the thunderstorm–a rainbow, the ephemeral sign of God’s eternal promise.
“He pulls water up out of the sea,
distills it, and fills up his rain-cloud cisterns.
Then the skies open up
and pour out soaking showers on everyone.
Does anyone have the slightest idea how this happens?
How he arranges the clouds, how he speaks in thunder?
Just look at that lightning, his sky-filling light show
illumining the dark depths of the sea!
These are the symbols of his sovereignty,
his generosity, his loving care.
Job 36:27-31 MSG
I hurried into chore boots and ran outside to capture the rainbow before the brilliant arc faded.
Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.
Genesis 9: 14,15 NIV
Sing to the Lord with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp.
Psalm 147:7 NIV
As the sun began to sink behind me, the last rays illumined the upper parts of the cumulonimbus.
“Sing to the Lord with grateful praise.”
He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
Psalm 147:8 NIV
linking with Laura Boggess
linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee