What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Surveying the Damage: Surviving the journey

On this day, still running and walking as fast as we can, we caught up to Nee’s convoy, just as they were preparing and serving the evening meal. The tents were up and the smell of burning coals lingered in the air. We were not invited to the same circle as Nee to eat the prepared meal. There would be no warm food or tea for us. We took what we could scrounge up. But, we sat as close to the inner circle as possible.

Nee was discussing with his advisors their progress so far. They had some delays making the estimated two-week trip a little longer than expected. The letters the king gave to Nee were helpful, but only to a point. The convoy was stopped several times by soldiers of the other kings, Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. They made the convoy wait while messengers were sent to the kings with the letters. The messengers came back quickly. Sanballat and Tobiah wanted Nee’s convoy out of their lands as soon as possible.

We had been grateful for the delays. They had given us chances to catch up. We mixed in with the messengers upon their returns. We were hoping we would be fed. We heard the messengers talking among themselves about the responses they received from Sanballat and Tobiah. Both rulers were angry, and a little afraid. They could not understand why anyone would do something to help those upstart Israelites; the same Israelites that had for years fought with them, killing their men and plundering their wealth. They couldn’t do anything rash with the Israelite convoy under guard by the soldiers, but they could get them out of their lands as soon as possible.

Listening to Nee and his advisors talk, we couldn’t tell if Nee knew about the animosity Sanballat and Tobiah felt toward the Israelites. As the light of the cooking fire danced over us, we sat in the shadows listening and wondering. Nee had been sad in the king’s presence, he had asked for permission to go to Jerusalem, and he had asked for help. All that took some kind of extraordinary courage. Yet, now, Nee was worried. He kept asking the leaders of the armed escort if they were there yet. He was afraid he would not be back at the time he promised his king. He didn’t know how long the job would take and he did not want to presume that the king would understand.

The advisors and soldiers compared notes and told Nee that the journey was almost over, maybe only a day’s journey left. It couldn’t come soon enough for us. We were tired of running. And when we got to Jerusalem, we would be in our own familiar town, and could eat and sleep in our own houses. We did not want to be too far away from Nee while in Jerusalem, but we could really use a good night sleep . . .

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Surveying the Damage: Getting prepared

Careful. Watch out for that . . . “OUCH” . . . that prickly bush. Sneaking into the palace is not as easy as we thought it would be. We came to report the situation to Nee and the other exiles. We thought he would moan and complain with us about being deserted by God and about God not protecting us. He took the higher road; he outclassed us; he schooled us.

Nee drop to his knees, and lay with his face in the dirt, to praise God, to plea for forgiveness for himself and for all of us, and to prepare us to do God’s work according to His desires. Nee asked for God to show what He wanted the exiled people of Jerusalem to do, and he asked to be shown what he was supposed to do as God’s faithful servant. Still on our knees in Nee’s room, we heard bells ring. Nee jumped up and grabbed the King’s wine cup, and ran off. We followed him as far as we could. We inched our way behind the curtains and tapestries until we were close enough to hear.

The King noticed that Nee was troubled as Nee, his favorite cupbearer, poured his wine. He asked Nee what had him so down, so miserable, that he was unable to be happy in the presence of the King. That behavior could get a cupbearer executed, but the King was moved by Nee’s account of the state of things in his homeland. The King did not call for his execution, which he knew he deserved; instead the King asked Nee what he needed to make the journey to Jerusalem, and what he needed to make things right.

We watched all this in awe. Not of the King whose fame and might are legendary, but of God’s power and provision through a faithful servant. Faithful to the God of Heaven. Faithful to his captor King. So the King trusted him with great wealth of materials, tools, and workers; and he wrote letters to the surrounding governments asking them to give Nee’s convoy safe passage. As a final “blessing” for Nee’s mission, the King gave orders for an armed escort to go with Nee all the way to Jerusalem.

Watching, unbelieving but seeing it all unfold, we were amazed (and not a little ashamed that our faith was so very tiny compared to Nee’s). We argued among ourselves about who could’ve done it better, or who could have been a better, more competent, leader than Nee. Focused on ourselves with our idle arguing we almost missed it. Nee’s rapidly assembled convoy was ready and left on the appointed day. We had to run to catch up having no animals given to us by the King. Nee was such a big shot having won over the enemy king. We wanted to be there to see Nee’s plans fail. We will continue running and hopefully not miss anything . . .

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Definition: 1. settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up: this can develop into a bad habit or we stayed together out of habit. Psychology: anautomatic reaction to a specific situation.

We are aware of our bad habits, often while doing them.



Picking your nose

Biting your fingernails


Using sarcasm

Interrupting others

Picking sores or scabs

Biting lips

Eating (too much or not enough)

Ignoring the alarm clock


Watching too much television

We are often unaware of our good habits because we do them automatically.

Walking daily

Running (or other aerobic exercise)

Eating (properly)

Eating as a family

Showering/washing daily

Brushing your teeth

Brushing/combing your hair

Using deodorant

Making your bed

Putting the toilet seat down

Flushing the toilet

Locking the car door (when you are holding the keys in your hand)

Praying daily

Hugging someone

Encouraging someone

Reading spiritual/devotional materials

Putting the dirty laundry in the basket (not on the floor)

By the definition above, habits get acted upon without an intentional, conscious effort much of the time. We just do it. Based on the situation. Specific situations evoke the use of a corresponding habit.

God is like that. In Psalm 130, the writer describes it: “If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit . . .” (verses 3 – 4, The Message; emphasis added)

I got to thinking about situations that spark God’s habit of forgiving. The situations? Just one.

We sin, God automatically forgives. That’s it. We sin, we recognize our sin, and God forgives. It is His habit, His regular tendency or practice. One last time, the situation is we sin. God’s reaction to that situation is automatic forgiveness.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Beam of Light

We were up on the top of a peak after a hot, long day of climbing up to this campsite to stay for the night. Tents were up, fire made, and the leaders (professional guides) were about to start making dinner. I was feeling a need to be “alone” after a long day with the group of twenty women. I went to an outcropping a few yards from the main campsite. There were other people there for a while, but eventually they left to set out sleeping bags, get blisters treated, or help with dinner. As I sat there looking out toward the west, I watched the sky, way out in the distance, grow dark starting with some high cumulus clouds. Those clouds began to drop and they were turning gray and then black. I thought, “We’re going to get wet” as the rain, still out in the distance, began to fall. I could see the gray streaks stretching from the clouds to the ground. Then I saw a lightening flash and another. This, even from my limited knowledge of weather, was not good.

I went back to camp and quietly asked one of the guides if I could talk to her alone. I told her what I’d been watching and she hurried over to my little outcropping to take a look. It only took a few seconds before she was calling everyone together around the fire. She explained that we had to get off this peak as soon as possible or someone was likely to get struck by lightening. We were the highest points on that rocky peak. The nighttime dark was already beginning but everyone had to pack up tents, sleeping bags, the cooking stuff, and several worked at putting out the fire. After about fifteen to twenty minutes we were lined up with a guide in front and a guide in back ready to descend the peak. It had been hard enough climbing the peak during the late afternoon and the “trail” was often hard for the guides to find in this rarely used section of the park. We were now tired, in the dark, and many of the women were almost paralyzed by their fear. Things only got worse when the guides stopped us, huddled off to the side, then told us they were lost.

The guides got us together in a group to pray for the wisdom they needed to get us to a place where we could safely rest. They had a plan, of course, being the professionals that they were. The plan was to use flashlights as a “chain” where a person stood in the spot we were at with the brightest flashlight. Then a small group of volunteers would start to walk out away from the center holding several flashlights. When the group had moved to a point away from the center but could still see the center flashlight, they stopped. One person stayed there holding a second flashlight and the rest of the group continued to move out into the darkness repeating the process. There were two such chains, each with a guide out front. They knew what they were looking for and after twenty minutes or so, the flashlights on “my” chain starting blinking on and off – the signal to return to the center. The other chain had found the path the guides were looking for.

So, those flashlights were, literally, throwing beams of light on our dark path. This event really happened, but I have not thought about it for a long time. But, I recently read Psalm 119:105: “By Your Words I can see where I’m going; They throw a beam of light on my dark path.” (from the Message) God provides what we need to move, to be safe in the midst of this dark, scary, and upsetting world. If we stray away, off the path we can look for the beams of light and follow them back to God.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It’s About God’s Grace; Forgiveness Part 3

Forgiveness only exists because God with His mercy, in His grace, has forgiven those who acknowledge Him. He has forgiven me.

I still don’t understand why God, through the apostles Matthew and Mark, chose to link our forgiving others with His forgiving us. I guess there are some things – as much as I hate to admit it – that we will not understand until we are in the presence of the Teacher.

The questions I ask myself are, “Do I have to understand what God is doing?” Simply, no. Followed by, “Do I have to understand what God is calling me to do?” Simply, yes. And what He is asking me to do is forgive others, unconditionally, because I know what it’s like to be unconditionally forgiven. When I forget how much dirt God has cleaned off my slate, I forget to forgive others and wipe their slates clean. There is a parable Jesus told His disciples that explains His position much better than I can [Matthew 18:25 – 35 (MESSAGE)]:

The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his pleas the king let him off, erasing the debt.

The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’

The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.

Forgiveness. It is hard to do, especially if we try to do it by our own strength. However, we don’t need to do it on our own. We can draw strength from the mercy God has shown toward us. We can forgive others, by the power of the Holy Spirit, because God forgives us.

Our Pastor on Sunday talked about “The Biblical Process for Forgiving Others.” I’m still working on applying those steps into my life. Maybe I will revisit forgiveness at some time in the future, when I have it all figured out! Visit fowlervilleub.org to listen to Pastor Mark’s series on Forgiveness. It will be worth the time. (You can also download the notes and follow along with the message.)