Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dust to Glory by Jan Darnell

From dust, God created sons and daughters to bear His image. And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Gen. 1:27 Then God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden; a garden He planted specifically for Adam to oversee. Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. Gen. 2:15 cultivate (5647) abad – “work, serve, labor; to worship, minister, work in ministry, plow, cultivate

This magnificent paradise included rivers and rich soil embedded with stones such as gold, bdellium, and onyx stone. Gen. 2:9-14 It was a place of abundant, fruitful provision, designed for Adam to enjoy as well as cultivate and keep.
keep (8104) samar“watch, observe, guard, set aside, cling to”

Blessed by God for fruitfulness, Adam had been given the capacity to accomplish the tasks set before him. He was created with Godlike abilities for the glory of God. Everyone (male and female) called by My name, I have created for My glory. Is. 43:7

In Genesis 2, we read of Adam naming every animal as God named the stars. Gen. 2:19-20; Ps. 147:4; Is. 40:26 Adam was reflecting the glory of his Creator whose intelligence, authority and creativity were seen, for whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. Gen. 2:19 In any task assigned, Adam had the opportunity to explore his abilities in the fellowship of his Father, enjoying his position as the son of a magnificent God. Gen. 2:15; Lk. 3:38

Why would God put dusty Adam in a paradise like the Garden of Eden rather than a desert or wilderness? Why? Because our Creator designed us to know His goodness and His glory. Consider this: when Moses asked to see God’s glory, God answered, I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you… Ex. 33:18-22 God defines His glory to be His immeasurable goodness.

Let’s be clear on this point: Gods’ position and honor as Creator belongs only to Him and none other. I am the LORD, that is My name, I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images. Is. 42:8 All praise and honor belong to God as our Creator. There are no other gods but One. Let us be thankful that this God rules the universe by the glory of His goodness! Beyond our control, He could have also been the opposite of good. What if He were one of terror and madness! But He isn’t. God is good! Glorify Him and revel in the goodness of our Creator!

The heart of our glorious God wants to share His satisfying goodness with us. His glory was shared with the first man and woman in the Garden, even with the Hebrews in their exodus and wilderness wandering consequential to their disobedience. Ex. 16:7 Most importantly the glory of God was declared and shared with us through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jn. 1:14

The Garden was full of the goodness of God, which Adam was told to freely partake of. Gen. 2:16 In this sense, God does share His glory. When the sun rises, God is sharing His glory. When the sun sets and the moon takes its’ place, God is sharing His glory. His goodness was the reason for creation, for the Garden, for you and for His salvation. Trust His heart to be good towards you. It is.

O taste and see that the LORD is good! Ps. 34:8

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Did You Bring Your Gloves? by Gail Purath

The army has changed a lot in the last 35 years, but in 1973 when my husband went to Officer Candidate School (OCS) it was “old army” all the way.

OCS candidates were asked to do the impossible. For example, they had to maintain a perfect living area in the barracks, and there was a rule for absolutely everything. A man could actually be punished if one of the pencils in his desk was too short or if a button wasn’t buttoned on a uniform hanging in the closet! Because inspections came without warning (often in the middle of the night), candidates learned to maintain one set of personal items for “display” and another for use.

Believing that large doses of stress revealed a man’s emotional stamina, the instructors diligently harassed the candidates. Constant mealtime interruptions prevented the men from finishing their meals so they lived in a perpetual state of hunger. (It wasn’t unusual for one of us wives to get a late night “secret” order for 80 Big Macs to be left in a specified trash can outside the barracks!)

The physical training (often consisting of long runs in Army boots) forced a percentage of the class to retake the course due to injuries. Michael (23 years old at the time) persevered despite painful shin splints.

Because it was impossible to complete assignments in the time allowed, the men secretly studied and did chores after the official lights-out. They rarely got more than three or four hours of sleep, and sometimes slept fully dressed on top of their beds in order to be ready for reveille.*

While our husbands were going through this training, we wives were also learning how to become “good officers’ wives.” We had to learn about military protocol and social life: the rank system, the names and meanings of military functions, the difference between a tea and a coffee, when to wear gloves and a hat, what not to wear when we went grocery shopping, how to plan and give specific unit events, and how to treat our “superiors.”

The Colonel’s wife who led our group taught us a number of rules, one of which I will never forget. She emphasized that at any formal event, we must wear gloves in case the commanding officer’s wife wore gloves. To shake her gloved hand with an ungloved hand would be extremely rude, and any good officer’s wife would have a pair of gloves in her evening bag to be prepared. But she assured us that for the upcoming formal event she would not be wearing gloves.

When we showed up for that formal dinner and dance a few weeks later, all of us who had put a pair of gloves in our purse breathed a sigh of relief. There stood the Colonel’s wife at the head of the receiving line extending her gloved hand. I believe she took great delight in her little trick.

Although OCS accomplished some of what it set out to do—weed out men who were unable to meet the stresses and demands of combat leadership (more than half of the class dropped out before completion), it did it with arbitrary and meaningless rules, rules that focused on outward display and required dishonesty.

When I became a Christian a couple of years later, I couldn’t help but compare the OCS method of training to God’s methods. God’s rules are never arbitrary and meaningless. Instead, His commands reflect His character and prevent us from harm. Never is God interested in our outward “displays”—He is interested in our hearts.

Unlike the Colonel's wife, God never says one thing but does another. He never tricks us nor does He delight in our failures. From the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, God has been open and honest with mankind. He gave Adam and Eve only one rule and He clearly explained the consequences of breaking it. And He took no delight in their defeat. In fact, He picked them up on the field of that defeat and offered them the hope of redemption—a redemption that cost Him His Son.

Whatever God asks of us is not only possible, but He gives us the Holy Spirit to help us accomplish it. His training leads us into deepening honesty, never into deception. And the most amazing thing about God’s training is that His purpose is not to weed out the weak—His purpose is to strengthen them!

*reveille is a sunrise wake-up bugle call

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What God Taught Me Between 8:30 and 5:00 by Kim Jackson

My workplace is quite a classroom. I’m constantly learning. I’m not talking about job skills, although certainly I’ve picked a few of those up along the way.

It seems, although I don’t recall signing up for it, that I am currently enrolled in some sort of “Life Lessons” class.

I’ve yet to see a syllabus, but I can tell you some of the topics we’ve covered so far.

The first I’ll call “The Meaning of Mail.” One of my duties is to distribute mail at the Assisted Living community where I work. This task makes me very familiar with the residents who monitor their mailboxes on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. Every day I watch Dorothy nearly stand on her head to see if there is anything in her mailbox. When she is finished looking all the way to the back of the box, and seeing nothing there, she declares, “Not even a bill! If I got a bill at least someone would know I’m alive.”

I watch as residents walk by the mailboxes, trying not to be overly eager to see if there is any reason to stop. One resident doesn’t even wait for the mail to get in the building. He sits on the porch watching for the mail lady to pull up in her Jeep.

I’m always delighted when I get to put an envelope with handwriting on it in to a mailbox. It means that another human being cared enough to take time to write a personal note to someone who no longer lives in the outside world. I love seeing a face “light up” at the discovery of a missive in her mailbox.

“The Meaning of Mail” causes me to ask a simple question: “Who have I encouraged today?”

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

My 8:30 to 5:00 Classroom also offers “The Meaning of Music.”

Since I serve as the unofficial DJ of the lobby area where residents gather throughout the day, it didn’t take long for me to discover that Howard loves anything by Montovani (“Autumn Leaves” is a favorite) and that Joann Castle’s honky-tonk piano playing always brings a smile. When Angela takes a seat in the lobby I put on old Broadway show tunes and I can guarantee you she’ll sing along with every one. Doris becomes an armchair conductor when I cue up the “Blue Danube”. I can hear Ellen singing her way down the hall before I see her: “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus” precedes her appearance. So it’s hymns for her.

As I am changing the CDs in the lobby stereo, it occurs to me that music is a language that lasts. So I ask myself what song is presently playing in my heart. And I wonder what song will be playing on the stereo of my soul in 30 years.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me . . . Psalm 42:8

When you work at an Assisted Living, one of your workplace classes is not negotiable. You will automatically be enrolled in “The Meaning of Mortality.”

Every morning when I get to work I read the 24-hour report to find out what transpired over night. Who fell? Who went to the hospital? Who has a doctor’s appointment, whose meds should be ordered, whose diet has changed, and who needs to be more closely monitored.

And sometimes, who died.

Death is a sure part of life, but the timing often throws me off.

I’ve said goodbye to quite a few special folks in the past year. It’s never easy. Sometimes it’s incredibly hard.

I’ve caught myself looking out on the faces in the lobby and thinking, “Who’s next?”

Evidently, God wanted to underscore that last sentence. Even as I was typing it I heard a text message come in on my cell phone. Another friend has passed from this life.

But then that’s the meaning of mortality. Our lives here are transitory. It’s true for us all, no matter our age, no matter our physical health or lack thereof.

Will I be walking this planet in 30 years, 30 months, or 30 minutes? Will you?

Tomorrow is Monday. I’ll be back at work at 8:30. What will my first class be, God?

So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Monday, August 3, 2009

Homeward Bound by Tami Gilman

On our way home from our mission trip to Senegal last year we got to Atlanta and the line for customs was long but moved pretty steady. The line for security, however, did not. I still haven't figured out how people can manage traveling to another country, but can't seem to understand how to take the change out of your pocket BEFORE you go through the metal detector. That's what I get for judging.

By the time the first half of our group got through security we had maybe 10 minutes to get from E concourse to A concourse. The team leader had enough confidence in me for some reason to send me ahead of the group to let the gate agents know we had 6 more people coming. No problem. I am a fully functioning and capable adult. I will handle it. I might be wearing flip flops and have no sense of direction, but I can do this.

I hurried over to the departure screens and found the flight to Charlotte on Delta at gate B9 and off I went. I got on the tram and managed to get off at B, but for some reason even unknown to me, I started down the corridor and not up the escalator. For this I now feel really stupid. At the time it seemed like it made sense. I even ran only to find that I had run all the way to A concourse. I even considered looking at the board to double check the gate, but talked myself out of it. I always second guess myself and even said, "It's B9, that's what the board said. Be confident for once." So I turned around and ran back to and all the way up the escalator to the B concourse. I proceeded to run all the way to the gate which was unoccupied because yes, it was for the 12:45 flight to Charlotte, not the 10:15. I considered laying in the floor in the fetal position. I was so exhausted and just knew that if we missed our flight it would be my fault.

I looked at the board and discovered that our flight was at gate A20 which is where I was accidentally headed in the first place, but for once didn't double check my information. Back I went, running loudly in my flops past the same people I just ran by to get to where I shouldn't have been. Down I go and over to the A concourse, still running, still out of shape, sweating like a boy and in the back of my mind wanting to get there before the rest of the team so they wouldn't know what I had done. Not possible. They had actually seen me running by the wrong way while they were on the tram headed to the right gate. When I finally got there and saw them at the gate where I broke down and started bawling like any rational adult would do. I was inconsolable and at the time this was devastating. Funny now, not then. I think all the passengers were a little afraid of what might happen next. They were probably all hoping I had some sort of tranquilizer for the flight, box of Kleenex and a barf bag just in case.

We made it home safely and I came up with a few good applications, so it wasn't a total waste of effort.

- A sincere belief in something doesn't make it truth. I ran with all my heart in one direction, but it wasn't going to get me home.

- It wouldn't hurt to stop and verify your destination.

- Before you think everyone else is foolish, stop and look at yourself.