Friday, July 31, 2009
“I’d really like a dishwasher.”
We were discussing the move into our new apartment. When we’d done the walk through with the real estate agent I noticed that there was a space under one of the kitchen counters that seemed like it was just made for a dishwasher.
I planted the idea with my husband, though I should have known better. His response was predictable.
“No, no. We don’t need a dishwasher. I always thought it was foolish to have a dishwasher. Every person I know who has one ends up washing their dishes before they put them in the thing. Seems silly to me to wash them twice. All you have to do is take a little extra care to make sure that you clean them right the first time.”
I sighed. It seemed as though we had had this conversation before. I always lost, or gave up; overwhelmed by the tidal wave of verbiage he is so gifted with.
“Besides, there’s the electricity it uses.”
Then it was back to the double washing.
“And you know what happens if you don’t get all the junk off before you put the dishes in the thing. Those traps are really small, and they get easily clogged. The next thing you know the water can’t escape. You open the door and out comes all the water all over the floor.”
I nodded my head. Okay, I get the message.
“Then there’s the bill to repair the thing.”
He finally noticed my facial expression.
“But you know, I do anything for you. If you really want a dishwasher, then it’s a dishwasher we’ll get.”
He was trying and I appreciated it. However, we both knew where this argument was going and what the conclusion would be.
“Honey, you really don’t need one, you know. I’ll do all the dishes. You won’t have to worry about them ever again, I promise. I already do my own after breakfast, right?”
“Yes, that’s true, dear,” I said, gamely. He had been doing his own breakfast dishes for a while now in an effort to be a husband more aware of his wife’s needs. I didn’t want to discourage him.
He nodded, satisfied that his point had been made, and then took off down the hall as I cleared the kitchen table of my cereal bowl and coffee cup.
I turned toward the sink and picked up the first of the breakfast dishes already stacked in the rack. I examined each one, putting aside the still cloudy glasses, the frying pan with grease still stuck to its side, the pieces of the juicer to which bits of orange still clung. As I washed—for the second time—the dishes he had so “carefully” done after his early morning breakfast, I breathed a prayer:
“Lord, bless him, but I’d still like a dishwasher.”
There is no man so deceived as he who, being blind, thinks that he can see.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The Great Thaw was controlled. Intentional. But with it came the sounds of spring: the trickle of water, the crack and thud of ice breaking and falling.
Sounds of hope.
An upright freezer can be a contrary thing, especially when it knows how to sneak its door open a crack for warmer air. In this particular household lurked one of these, rare in that its cold sprang from its shelves themselves rather than its walls.
Between the effects of time and the thaw/freeze cycle from its warm-air penchant, the shelves achieved great thickness: three times the original, and in places more.
Woe to the individual who had to fit a turkey or other non-tortilla-shaped item between these shelves. The frost grew, until an arm reaching for veggies wedged at the back would come out scratched and frost-tinged.
The time of fresh blueberries rapidly approached, and what were the homeowners to do? Never in their wildest imaginings could they fathom how to lodge sufficient boxes of the dark blue treasures for the year ahead.
The female of the home, a courageous lass, took drastic action. She flung open the freezer door, carried the contents to safe haven, and turned off the thermostat.
At the word of her intrepid mother, who is wise in these ways, she set an electric fan to blow into the den of frost.
The frost protested, turned to ice, but to no avail. First slowly, then with the eagerness of spring, water began to drip and ice to loose its hold.
Freedom came to the home.
Ice-free but cold again, the freezer has a new chance to preserve the family’s food. To help with this vital mission, it now wears an appliance lock to curtail midnight chats with the furnace that shares its lair.
May it long stand, this cold sentinel, protecting blueberries, ice cream and all manner of precious and perishable goods.
© Janet Sketchley, 2009
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.
Friday, July 24, 2009
IF YOU'VE EVER LIVED in a dorm with a bunch of noisy girls, you’ll understand that sometimes you need a little peace and quiet. And sometimes the only quiet spot available is the storage closet down the hall. Stuffy and dusty, not to mention piled to the rafters with suitcases and cardboard boxes, it is not the most inviting of places.
But as a young Bible school student and a fairly new Christian, I was hungry to meet with God. I’d read about other people’s experiences where the presence of God would fill their rooms as they waited. I desired an experience that would let me know God was really present in my life. I wanted Him to talk to me. I wanted to know what He thought about me, what He wanted me to do with my life.
Yet, so often I would come away feeling disappointed because I never had any great momentous experience. The ceiling of that stale room never opened and angels never came down on ladders (at least not to my natural eyes and senses).
Many years passed since then and memories of that time are almost as dusty as that closet. But once in a while, I’d remember how I’d hang out on the old mattress and wonder why it seemed God hadn't shown up and why I couldn’t seem to find Him. I could still feel the emotional pang of it.
Then a couple of year ago I went through some inner healing, where I began to deal with issues that still poked and hurt. So when the memory resurfaced I asked for an answer. I became quiet, focused my thoughts on Jesus, and tuned to the language of my heart. So God, why didn’t You come? Quick as a blink, I heard in my spirit: But I was there. Don’t you remember My Word in James 4:8? As soon as you came near to Me, I came near to you.
Of course! I knew that, my head had known it, but the reality of it burst upon my heart when He spoke those words to me. As the joy flooded in, the feeling of abandonment totally left.
On a later occasion, I asked Him, But why couldn’t I feel your Presence? This is what I felt Him saying: Because I was teaching you to trust my Word above all else. What you learned in the closet back in the 1970’s has been your foundation of trusting Me for the rest of your life. In this season of your life, you feel My Presence and nearness often. But when I have to hide a little for a very good reason, I know I can trust you that you won’t stop believing Me. And you have believed that when you call out to Me, I AM listening to you, My Dear One.
Not that long ago, I envisioned that stuffy closet in my mind’s eye and smiled. There we were, Jesus and me, lounging on that old mattress. He had come….He had always come. And promises He always will!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
When the question was posed on The Word Guild discussion forum, I discovered that just as all writers are different, their writing places are as unique.
N.J. Lindquist likes to sit on her back deck, inside a tent with the netting closed. Her dog sits on the loveseat beside her. Stephanie Tombari taps away on her laptop late in the evening sitting on her bed with her husband out cold beside her. Patricia Paddey loves the freedom of her laptop. “It lets me write anywhere. And I do.”
Janice Dick uses a little white Mac laptop at her desk in the balcony overlooking her living room. Andi Harris is content to sit on her living room futon (curved out just so from her constant use), laptop in front, side table with fruit juice or water, and a couple of clip boards.
Belinda Burston sits “in a dappled place beside a sturdy clump of silver birch--so lovely that I had to capture it with the eye of my camera. A canopy of leaf laden branches, danced above my head, while a breeze passed through them with a sigh. The electronic drone of an air conditioner added to the symphony of tweets, twitters, chirrups and soft coo-ing. Over my arms, warmed by the sun, the cool, silken veil of breeze flowed. I was ready to listen in the cool of this morning.”
Carolyn Wilker writes most often in her home office using pen or pencil and paper, which she takes with her whenever she goes away from home. Linda Hall writes “with pen and paper –actually medium point gel pens, the ultra-fine Sharpies are good, on back sides of paper (unlined), and I like to write with various colored sharpies - like orange or red. I write in half shorthand (which I used way back in the dark ages when they taught shorthand to journalism students). And I usually work in Starbucks.” Heather Kendall also writes “the old-fashioned way with pen and paper”. She needs to have a rough outline down on paper before she dares put it in the computer.
Each writer and her writing space is unique. Today, I plan to sit in my tent-trailer and open all the windows to let in the air without the bugs. It’ll provide the shade I need so I’m not roasting in the sun. It also offers a clear view of the blue sky with a smattering of puffy clouds in the distance. Now that I’ve picked my place to write, I actually need to do so. What to write, what to write?
Monday, July 20, 2009
We sang a few songs, led by the pastor and a worship band, then one of the leaders stood to talk about all the upcoming events at the church. He did so with a flourish that made us laugh often. Then he grew a bit more serious and said he knew of an old Scottish legend about "thin spots." They are described as places where we sense we are close to heaven. He sincerely hoped we would all feel that we'd been in a "thin spot" by the end of the service.
I realized at that moment that we were already in that place, whether or not we were all feeling it. No doubt there were people there who were not - people who were feeling dry spiritually, people who were angry with one another, people who were angry with God. No doubt there were people there whose pain blocked any sense of heaven whatsoever.
But that does not change the reality. Jesus promised - "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:20). When God's people gather to praise Him, we not only draw close to heaven, God comes to us - He is in our midst! What an amazing thought.
Even more amazing is the reality that He is always with us - not just when we're in a church building, not just when we're singing songs of praise. He is with us when we're dry and angry and so overcome by pain that we can't see or hear or feel anything else. He is right there beside us, waiting for us to turn to Him, waiting for us to acknowledge Him, waiting for us to cry out to Him. And He will never walk away. We are His people. He is our God.
Everywhere is a "thin spot." Glory be to God.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
A woman just found out that Jesus was in town. She learned that He was a guest at a Pharisee’s house. With her best perfume in hand, she decided to make her way there. What do you suppose she was thinking as she walked toward that house? What did she have in mind? When she approached Jesus who was sitting there in the home, she fell beside him, and began to weep and his feet became wet with her tears. Then she wiped his feet with her hair. She kissed his feet and poured perfume on them.
I wondered what her motive was. It must have taken great courage to go and visit the King of Kings, especially when all the townsfolk’s knew her reputation. So, what was her yearning all about? Jesus knew. He even explained it to the Pharisee and the other guests who had negative thoughts about her, teaching them a lesson at the same time.
Imagine the expression that must have been on their faces when she showered her affection on Jesus. They wondered if Jesus really knew what this woman was really like. The Pharisee in his own mind was testing Jesus’ credibility as a prophet. So he waited for a response from Jesus to see if he was going to acknowledge this woman.
Of course Jesus knew this woman. He also knew the men who were sitting there…their thoughts. The Pharisee must have forgotten that part. Jesus was quick to point out that the woman’s expression of love and actions was far greater than that of the Pharisee. “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t give me a kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I first came in. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.”
The Pharisee was hospitable in inviting Jesus to dinner and it very well may have been a three-course meal but the sinful woman did so much more. She brought expensive perfume, she wept in repentance, she gave herself to him, and she met the Savior. He was the one she had heard who was coming to town that day!
She must have heard that Jesus could offer something better than living a deliberate sinful life. She must have grown tired of her sinful ways. Perhaps she needed renewal and refreshment in her life. It was her intention to seek Jesus when she set out to meet him. Her mind was made up. “I am going to change my bad habits,” she may have said. “I want to know what this Jesus can do for me,” she may have determined.
Her experience that day was far greater than words can say. This woman whose name we do not know, was determined to find new life. She directed her attention totally to Jesus. She showered him with love. She may have been prepared to repent of her sins but was she prepared to enter into the presence of the almighty and loving God? So much that the encounter resulted in tears in place of words?
The omnipotent Jesus forgave her of her sins. Jesus didn’t have to wait to be told by the Pharisee what kind of life this woman was living. The master knew her yearning heart. The Lord’s forgiveness was hers without question! Jesus said to the woman, “your faith has saved you. Go in peace!”
Do you need refreshing? Seek the One who longs to dine with you! He offers peace!
Friday, July 17, 2009
I was rather disappointed. I’d found the kit about three months earlier, while wandering through Chapters with a girlfriend. It seemed like a perfect gift – he loves sushi and he has fun creating things in the kitchen. So, after some debate (I was slightly broke at the time), I bought it and managed to keep it hidden in our small apartment for the ensuing months (despite the fact that he knew I had a surprise for him somewhere and occasionally went looking for it). I couldn’t wait to see his face when he opened, but I’d anticipated a better reaction.
Wondering when he’d ever use it, he put it aside. It remained in the kitchen, unopened, for the next several weeks. Then we invited friends over for the evening, and my husband had a brilliant idea. His friend like sushi, so why not make some? He poured over the book, made an ingredient list, and we were off to the grocery store. Much to our surprise, the local Safeway had most of the ingredients that he needed. We were soon home again and he went to work in the kitchen, concocting sushi.
It turns out that sushi is a rather time-consuming process. While us wives chatted and watched their baby, our husbands worked in the kitchen. A couple hours later, the sushi was finally ready. My husband’s friend turned out to be a wealth of information on sushi, having not only often eaten it but also watched it being made. He had a few suggestions that made the process quicker and easier. The sushi they’d made disappeared in much less time than it had taken them to make it!
A few weeks later, my husband again made sushi, using up some leftovers that we’d had in the fridge. Last week, as we were preparing to have some friends over for my birthday party, he decided to make some party food. After whipping up a bowl of guacamole, he went to work on sushi. Again, he and another fellow spent most of the evening in the kitchen, while I and my girlfriends occupied the living room, admiring Sunshine and catching up on all our news.
So, just as I knew, he did like his Christmas present. Now I need to find him a birthday present…
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
After that bit of fun, it occurred to me that I’ve often lived my Christian life as if it were a secret identity. God created in me something new, but instead of living that new life in the power and confidence that goes with it, I fearfully shrink back into the attitudes and behavior of my sinful self.
Some verses from the Bible bring this to my attention. (Notice, they are about working out my salvation, which means making it work. This is not about working for my salvation. I don’t have to, nor can I do that.)
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)As these verses point out, an obedient and productive Christian life is directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. God works in me so that I can live the life He wants me to live. I do not do it myself.
This is a supernatural life and foreign to the old life. When I am thinking as my old self used to think, such a life seems impossible and unattainable. The old me has no confidence in God and now, after years of being a Christian, very little confidence in
I never used to be like that. I once thought I could do anything, but years of walking with God (however on and off that has been) have taught me that in myself I can do nothing. Instead of being cocky and sure of what I can do, I feel incapable and even reluctant to try most things, even those things that were once easy for me. While I understand this realization is a necessary part of Christian growth, I do not like the sense of weakness that goes with it.
At the same time, I know the verses that say God’s strength is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9, etc.) and feeling weak is not a bad thing. It is just that I tend to use that sense of “I can’t do it” as an excuse to not do it, to disobey God. Hence, the power that belongs to my new nature is hidden, like a secret identity.
I know that supernatural living is about conforming my outer life to my inner life, and living out the new nature that I have in Jesus Christ. This is “not a mystical, undefined life based on abstract philosophical concepts” but a practical life that flows out of deliberate obedience to God’s commands, no matter how I feel.
Therefore, obedience in the face of weakness is my challenge and my solution. Superman had to step out of his Clark Kent costume before he was seen as the man of steel. I have to step out of my old way of thinking and obey God in all situations, regardless of how inadequate I feel. Otherwise, my true identity will remain a secret.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
The Word of God tells me to pray without a thought to ceasing.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Philip isn’t being asked to leave the Samaritan revival to go to on holidays. The passage above continues, “This is desert.”
But we hear no demur on Philip’s part. No, “But I'm being used here ..." Just, "So he arose and went," without any further explanation from the angel about why or exactly where.
He gets that when he reaches the desert and sees the chariot with its Ethiopian passenger. Then the Spirit whispers, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”
From that point Philip is on his own again in that he has to run to catch up, then use his intellect, experience and common sense to figure out what the man’s spiritual need is and how to address it.
But from God’s point of view the situation is puzzle pieces fitting together. This official of Candace’s court is interested in spiritual things, has just made a trip to Jerusalem to worship God and is engrossed in and mulling over the prophetic writings of Isaiah. Philip is the perfect one to explain things to him. Even more important, he's God's 'yes-man'!
Philip takes a sum of the situation and wastes no time explaining the Gospel to the Ethiopian, who accepts it to the extent of requesting baptism at the sight of the first sizable puddle.
Then Philip’s work with him is done. After the baptism “...the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so the eunuch saw him no more and he went on his way rejoicing.”
I’ll bet. And I would think Philip felt the same joyful. Because if there is any feeling on earth as wonderful as realizing that the God of the universe cares enough about little me to answer the question of my heart, it’s when God uses me to be part of that answer – whether to many, or one.
Such unselfconscious asking (and getting), such care-less obeying (knowing that sometimes obeying means not being whisked away; sometimes it means sticking with the already-given assignment and faithfully doing the day’s duties without any visible sign that heaven is involved) is, I think, part of what Jesus meant when He said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)
Daily devotions for kids: Bible Drive-Thru
Monday, July 6, 2009
I nearly tripped as I backed away from the well-meaning gift bearer. My girlfriends all fled the scene with a smirk, but somehow before I could craft a polite 'no thank you', I held a warm, smelly container in my hands, complete with bonus recipes. "Add raisins, chocolate chips, or dried apricots for a different flavour."
It's still sitting in my freezer. Nothing against the delicious cinnamon topped, warm from the oven muffins, but my kids have made it clear they're tired of the growing, overflowing dough on my countertop.
Sourdough reminds me of my stinking thoughts. It starts out with an innocent thought like 'why am I so tired?' or 'what will happen if my plan fails?' or 'what will my boss say if...?' However, rather than taking that thought out and exposing it to fresh air, I stir it every day. Soon it begins to grow. Then every few days I toss in a few more negative thoughts such as 'maybe it's a disease I have'. Before long I have a mess of worry that begins to overflow. Fear stinks. Anxiety carries an offensive aroma.
"Casting all your care on Him for he cares for you," (I Peter 5:7). If only I would think of this first, rather than allowing the yeast of anxiety to grow.
Today I shared a worry with a friend of mine. She immediately shared her perspective on it. She had a line of reasoning I hadn't thought of. New information and knowledge opened my eyes to another way of thinking. My worry shrunk. Instead of stirring it and adding more yeast, I left the lid off and open to the fresh air. Now it has no chance to fester.
It reminds me of lifting a rock and watching the insects scatter. They don't like the light nor the breeze. Worry starves when we add the truth of God's light and the wind of His spirit.
My sourdough thoughts were exposed by my friend. God used her to share truth and light. I would like to return the favour. I wonder, would she like some frozen sourdough? I hear you can use applesauce in place of oil...
© Pam Mytroen
Friday, July 3, 2009
Abby likes violets. Somehow she knows they are in bloom. Whenever I enter the bedroom she waits below the stand by the window where I keep the plants. She waits expectantly in the hopes that I will gives her a flower to eat.
Both cats know how to wait. They know how to make their wishes known. At daybreak, Abby sits by my head, meowing gently. She's waiting for her teaspoon of milk. Both Abby and Lou Lou Belle "park," sprawled in the doorway to the kitchen or right where they know I have to walk while they wait for their dishes of wet cat food—a cat's "breakfast of champions."
Every new bag of dry food that comes into the apartment has to be taste-tested. They hang around, underfoot, until I open the bag and give them a few nibbles. This same exercise is repeated at night. They know when it is time for bed, and that last little treat of the evening, the cats' version of breath mints.
Lou Lou waits patiently just outside the shower. She has a "thing" for the water that gets caught in the cracks between the sliding doors as I shower.
I admire their patience as they wait. They know me well enough to understand that I will not fail to meet their expectations. They simply have to persist in waiting. They have to "be there."
I am reminded of Jesus' admonition in his parable about the persistent widow in Luke 18. She insisted, even in her dealing with a judge who had no regard for God or for her. Eventually the man broke down and gave her what she asked. Jesus says: "And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly" —Luke 18:6, 7 NIV.
The next statement is the most telling. He has told his disciples to persist in prayer and wraps up his story with this: "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
Abby and Lou have faith that I will respond to their expectant waiting. Can I demonstrate any less faith in my loving, Heavenly Father? Will he find me waiting expectantly?
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
We have a wealth of Scripture at our disposal to speak into others’ lives—and into our own. “The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb 4:12, NIV)
I don’t know if it’s any more powerful spoken aloud, or if our minds just believe it easier that way. I do know that reciting passages from the Psalms, declaring them resolutely in the face of despair, has strengthened me when I was overwhelmed.
When anxiety was gaining ground, I needed to be lovingly reminded that: “Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” (James 1:2b-4 NLT) I knew the truth, but I needed to hear it to anchor myself in its power.
Often we don’t speak Scripture to one another because we don’t want to come across as pious, trite or hypocritical. Certainly we need to speak from a place of humility and empathy, as the Holy Spirit nudges us. There are times to be silent and cry with a hurting believer. But there are times for a well-placed word of encouragement, and what better word than from the Word?
Scripture is not a tool that we use as we see fit. (This separates Christians from those who simply decide what they want and then try to speak it into being.) But if we spend time daily with the Lord in worship and prayer, reading and absorbing His Word, we will find sections that stand out to us—words to speak to Him in prayer, to ourselves for strength, or to others in love for their encouragement and edification.
© Janet Sketchley, 2009
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.