Friday, October 31, 2014

Timing...

A few minutes ago, I stepped outside and started toward one of our outbuildings. It is there that I keep bags of corn to feed the deer. It was time to set a spread for them. Most mornings and evenings a couple of does, along with their young fawns, show up to get a healthy, and to them, tasty meal. As I started across the yard, I stopped to look at the setting sun; we have just enough cloud cover to hold out the hope of a colorful western horizon. Only the tip-tops of the trees were crowned with the final glowing rays of the sun. As I took it all in, a bright red cardinal flew from north to south. It was high enough for the waning beams of the day to light up its brilliant red feathers. Beautiful.

Perfect timing, of a perfect God, with perfect love for me, his imperfect creation.

P.S. Just checked on the feeding spot: Mama doe and her baby are eating un-cobbed corn. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Equipped (pt. 2)

The amigos are Rick and Royce inside a simply constructed church on the Amazon. They have led medical, construction, and evangelism teams down there for nearly a decade. 

"Simple Church"

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship… Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires… rather offer yourselves [your bodies] to God… and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness…  ~ Romans 12:1; 6:12-13

Every personnel on an aircraft carrier is specifically trained to carry out an important mission (See: Equipped: part 1). Not all of them will climb into a supersonic jet and be catapulted off the deck. But the jets and pilots are absolutely dependent upon those who maintain, re-arm, refuel, and receive them after they hit a short, floating runway at two hundred plus miles per hour that may be pitching and bucking like a wild bronco. Imagine the results, if in the midst of the dangerous drama everyone stood around comparing their credentials, validating that they belonged on the ship, checking out other shipmates colors, and discussing whose job was more important, rather than springing into action working like a cohesive unit ensuring that each of them carried out their mission in the successful operation of an aircraft carrier.

Our spiritual gifting is similar. By God's mercy we are placed in the body of Christ for the purpose of: serving God, serving one another, and for the overall good of a mission much larger than we can fully comprehend (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4). But Paul makes it crystal clear that Spiritual gifts cannot operate unless our physical bodies are given over to their Giver's purposes. Not one Spiritual gift is functional apart from our bodies being set apart as a holy and a living sacrifice. Credentials, validating who's on board, and comparing our importance does nothing to please our Holy God. Faith can never be separated from our physical bodies being offered for spiritual acts of worship.

The Apostle Paul was laying that foundation as he proceeded toward describing spiritual gifts later on in this letter to the Romans...



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Buck Stops Here

There is a fence line off to the northwest that had a lot of small hardwood trees twisting themselves among the barbed wire fence that used to keep a small herd of cows at home. Last spring I cut down the sweet gum and oaks, stacked them tree-length, and left them to wilt and dry. This morning I began sawing them up with my chainsaw. Tonight, a couple of friends are coming over for dinner. After we eat, a circle of fire will be at our feet, and a million stars above our heads. That wood will be put to good use.

As the saw whined, a nice buck came loping across the field from the east. The rut is on, and no doubt,  he was on the trail of a doe. Our field is a good two-hundred yards from edge to edge, so I got a good look at him. I shut down the saw and bleated at the buck; he stopped. His rack spread outside his ears, curved toward the tip of his nose, and the main beams and eight tall points glistened white in the bright morning sun. I bleated, and he stopped; twice. And then sprung off into the shadows of the woods. About three minutes later a second four-pointer, and much smaller, came loping across the field in the same fashion and from the same general direction. Once again, I bleated and he stopped. As he started moving, I bleated again, and he stopped again. Like the big guy, he then bounded off and out of sight.

After stacking the wood next to the fire pit, I got my rifle and crept down into the hardwood bottom that separates The Shire from our neighbor. Sitting down against the base of a pine tree I watched the rising sun form dappled shapes that moved across the forest floor. Leaves slowly sifted down from above. There were woodsy sounds.

No deer -- no problem. The bucks stopped here, but not for long... 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Equipped (Pt 1)

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts… A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other… It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have. 1 Corinthians 12

Nimitz Class aircraft carriers are the largest in the world. They can carry up to one hundred thirty aircraft capable of supersonic flight. Six-thousand personnel are needed when it is fully operational. Ultimately, their cooperating function is the responsibility of its Commanding Officer. Imagine harmonizing such a multitude of different skill sets.

Yet, when the CO stands on the bridge he can immediately see if all personnel are carrying out their mission. How? Each crew member on deck wears a specific color that identifies his or her responsibility: as jets hit the deck at two hundred-plus miles per hour, he knows who should be there to get them stopped on an extremely short runway; he knows who is to stow away each aircraft in a particular place by particularly trained personnel; he knows munitions experts are to be loading and unloading ordinance; he knows refueling is complicated and dangerous, and not a job for everyone, and  he know there are those trained to respond in the event of an accident. There is more, but you get the picture. The point is, every person on deck has a specific job to do, and jobs they don't do. For instance: the Commanding Officer does not want purple suited personnel -- whose job is to refuel -- rushing to a flaming aircraft with aviation fuel. No, he wants those trained to do so -- emergency responders clad in red uniforms -- responding to such calamities.

It may be helpful for us to think of the Church in such a manner. First of all we are not on a cruise ship, but more like an aircraft carrier. Our gifts and abilities vary. God has a specific function within His purposes for each of us, and we depend on each other. We are not on the Good Ship Lolli-Pop where:

It's a sweet trip to a candy shop 
Where bon-bons play
On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay.

Lemonade stands everywhere.
Crackerjack bands fill the air.
And there you are

Happy landing on a chocolate bar.

No, by all Scriptural accounts we are in a spiritual war. Christ's Church functions counter-culturally and redemptively. On top of that, each of us constantly battles with our own fallen-ness. But, in this war every believer has been equipped with a particular spiritual gifting and calling by The Captain of our Salvation. With that gift we can support our fellow comrades and keep the Churches mission moving forward.    

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Addictions...

It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows through the cultivation of an insignificant life. Indeed, if a man's ambition is to avoid the troubles of life, the recipe is simple: shed your ambitions in every direction, cut the wings of every soaring purpose, and seek a life with the fewest contacts and relations. If you want to get through the world with the smallest trouble, you must reduce yourself to the smallest compass. Tiny souls can dodge through life; bigger souls are blocked on every side. As soon as a man begins to enlarge his life, his resistances are multiplied. Let a man remove his petty selfish purposes and enthrone Christ, and his sufferings will be increased on every side. ~ J. Henry Jowett

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the Saints,) 1 Corinthians 16:15 KJV

This morning I spoke about taking risks (blogged a little about it yesterday). It seems that faith at work in God's people characterized them with such a disposition. They took chances. 

I realize there is a danger in becoming addicted to risk/excitement -- the need to create circumstances that release a surge of adrenalin. Believers throughout the ages have misinterpreted such moments and tendencies as spiritual highs and spiritual warfare. They were neither. They have even discovered that following such spiritually manic times the pendulum swings back and something else occurs: we can feel insignificant -- if we are not embroiled in some kind of turmoil, commotion, or off-the-chain activity. Spiritual or otherwise. 

Jowett talks of an equally addictive habit. It is every bit as destructive and not uncommon among Christ-followers. One in which we either consciously or sub-consciously commit to: the cultivation of an insignificant life. The driving ambition becomes avoiding risky ambitions. Cultivating a world where we stay clear of challenges that would require us to enter into the messy-ness of others lives or chart a course into the unknown, we prioritize comfort, smallness, and detachment. In short, we reduce our landscape to one so tiny there is no need for a growing and courageous faith. Would it be fair to call this spiritual immaturity?

It's probably a good thing to prayerfully take stock of our lives and ask ourselves, "Has the pendulum swung in either direction too far? Is there a place where my soul is engaged and expanded simply because Christ is enthroned? Am I venturing out where the risk is worthy and the reward eternal?" 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Synonyms And Antonyms

Synonyms for Risk: danger, hazard, threat, peril, jeopardy, uncertainty, exposure, and gamble

Antonyms for Risk: safety, assurance, and security

God-followers in the Scriptures seemed to be in constant danger and peril. Jeopardizing their safety--brought on by their counter-cultural message--was commonplace. Getting the Good News to another person or people group was worth a roll of the dice. A profound sense of eternal security bound them to God and freed them from the pursuit of temporal security. Christ-following was synonymous with Risk.

What does Christ-following look like today?   

Friday, October 3, 2014

Love It...

Watching a classic--Princess Bride. Cordelia is here, born and raised in China. She is our good friend. A few years back I led her to Christ and baptized her. About every other weekend she comes to the quiet land  of The Shire and stays with us.  Cordelia is a delightful young woman and fully engaged in an MBA at Columbus State University. We are sooooo proud of her.

Cordelia is one of five Students from China that we met with every Monday night for a year. To this point, it was one of the most engaging periods in our life. Cordelia also taught at SIAS University in Henan Province, China. Priceless.

Tomorrow, we will take a ride on the RZR. Miles of trails criss-cross the 1200 acres that surround us. Deer will take flight and ground dwelling creatures will scurry. Forecast for tomorrow is a sunny high of 65 degrees! As I write, her attention is divided between the movie and her iPhone.

Princess Buttercup and the brave Wesley are about to elope. She is giggling. Princess Bride is finished.

"Can we watch, Under The Dome?" She asks. Love it...



Thursday, October 2, 2014

1/2 of a 1/2

Here in Georgia it's that time of the year--mornings and evening are Edenic. Humidity's assault is weakening, and the oppressive heat of July and August is losing its power to wilt all things living. Lawns, once needing to be mowed twice a week, are slowing down in their production of chlorophyll, and no longer grow so fast you can nearly hear it stretching for the sky.

I just returned from from outside. Each morning and evening I put out corn for the deer. Perfect temperatures surrounded me and The Shire. Earlier today I mowed and piled dead limbs that gusty breezes frequently shake from the trees, scattering them at their will. They will be delightfully re-purposed in a ring of stones. For now, however, not a leaf of the willow trembles or flutters, and only the faintest of rings curve out upon the pond spoiling its perfect complexion. Birds are singing.

Halfway up the horizon, one-half of one-half of a waxing moon hangs suspended in the dim stars of the heavens. A few days from now it will be full-orbed. Beyond description is the beauty of this place in the midst of the brokenness of this world. I try not to let this truth become dull to my physical or spiritual senses. It could all be gone tomorrow, but today, I revel in its gift.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Viewfinder

It was about sixty-three degrees this morning at five a.m. Stepping through the front door I swept the yards toward the west and south with a flashlight. Its beam flooded over a doe and its young fawn bedded down under the oak trees about twenty yards from the apple-scented corn I have been spreading out for them. From where I stood they were about the same distance away. Two sets of eyes glowed and two sets of ears twitched. Mother and child seemed oblivious to my presence and the wash of white light that featured them. After a few minutes they stood up and meandered off into the darkness. Momma was limping, probably hit by an automobile.

This afternoon, the mercury red-lined at eighty-three degrees, so with a pistol strapped to my hip I cruised The Shire giving particular attention to the patches of sunshine around the pond. Snakes love to curl up and incubate in such places. Mornings are becoming cooler, and free heat is getting in shorter supply for cold blooded creatures. No sign of them. Turtles, about the size of a Frisbee, were suspended on the surface of the small lake exposing as much of their armored home as possible. They, too, were soaking up the late afternoon sun; head and neck protruded above the waterline like a periscope.

Toward the west, scattered cloud-cover might provide the palette for a beautiful sunset. Believe me, very often the sinking sun makes an epic statement to the glory of its Creator. If so, I will grab my camera, get on the four wheeler, thread through the shadowed and winding and canopied woods trail that opens to hundreds of acres of pastureland, to see if I can capture some of the magnificence of this fading day framed in my viewfinder.