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Archive for October, 2007

10/23/07 – Saw another Black Racer on this day. The other guys wanted to kill it. I wanted to save it. We were trimming barrier grass (we’ve probably done a hundred or so at this point). I was the advanced trimmer, which means I do the rough work of cutting enough of the stuff to make individual plants distinguishable so the other guy can make them look nice. The snake was found by the detail guy in an area where I had done the rough cutting, so that means I probably was right by it for about five minutes making a lot of racket and brushing up against these plants.

I tried to scoop the snake out of this barrier grass (now trimmed to a small, thin, nicer looking plant) with a small rake. It moved from plant to plant. It was amazing! I finally got it on the ground where I tried to pin it with the handle so I could pick it up by the tail and protect myself by keeping the handle between me and the snake. I wasn’t fast enough. It actually struck at the handle and I could feel the hit (the snake was only a foot long – Racers won’t fight back unless they feel trapped). The snake ducked into another grass plant and disappeared (I have no idea where it went – there was no hole or anything).

In reality, I was afraid to catch it. I didn’t know how to "win" this contest because I, one, didn’t know how to catch it and, two, I have no idea how that type of snake will act when caught. So, the spiritual gist is this: A great deal of our problems with our enemy stems from the fact that we neither know how to discern their actions in order to catch them in the act of their evil, nor do we know what to do if we were to catch them. I was I chicken, not because this snake was a ferocious man-eater, poisonous, or even dangerous, but because I knew next to nothing about my "enemy." Had I been trained by an expert and followed the experts advice, I would not have been nearly paralyzed by fear.

We are to know Christ better than anyone or anything. But I would suggest we should also know our enemy extremely well. We need to catch them early. We need to be aware of their behavior and their schemes. It is good to have a healthy fear of their evil, but to be paralyzed by fear because of ignorance is our fault for not being prepared by listening to the Master Snake Handler.

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Comaprison

10/25/07 — comaprison – In an e-mail to a youth pastor, I accidently wrote that word instead of "comparison." Of course, it hit me that when we are in the comparison trap, we get so paralyzed, it is like being in some kind of walking coma. Like being in a coma in a prison.

Comparing ourselves to others is like Saul trying to get David to wear Saul’s armor. Fortunately, David had the courage (or youthful independence and confidence, or childlike faith) to not get stuck in that outfit. Looking up to others is fine. Emulating positive characteristics of godly people is fine. But when a follower of Jesus forgets, or is never taught, that we are the BODY of Christ and that they are a part that has been specifically placed by God for a work he has specifically called them to do, their growth is stunted and we all lose out because we don’t get to see what God wants them to be.

Besides, the only one we are supposed to compare ourselves to is Jesus and that is tough enough. Fortunately, our big brother is a kind, humble servant and we are saved by grace. I do believe that if followers of Jesus and ministries and churches would stop comparing others to others, and stop competing with each other, we might just see a revival that stuns the world.

PS – I’m goona stop here. As a former counselor, youth pastor and teacher, I don’t want to get on my hobby horse about how ministers are dissected by a handful of congregants who compare them with their favorite minister, church or ministry or a Christian celebrity who has carefully edited books, radio programs or TV shows.

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The Spider and the Vine, part 2

Today, 10/8/07, William and I were cleaning up a clump of trees and a border of tall landscaping grass that surround a large pump. My task was to clear the vines and pull out their roots, along with the weeds and their roots. Now, understand, this area is only about 10 feet wide and about 20 feet long. It has four trees and about 20 grass plants. It looked like a two our job at most. It took 7. My part is what took the longest.

From a distance, the area looked pretty good and the only problem (from a long distance) was some vines growing along the ground. Upon closer examination, these vines were all over one side of this area. One entire tree was completely engulfed by the vines. What tricked us was the leaves of the vines were almost the same color as the tree leaves. The vines were even pretty because some small flowers had begun to bloom. This was a decent size tree, requiring me to use the truck bed as a platform to clear the top. There were a lot of roots and it wasn’t until I’d cleared almost everything out that I was able to find the large root ball located about 6 feet from the tree.
Of course, while I was clearing, I began to think about the vines in our lives. They can trick us if our examination of ourselves is merely a passing glance. But if we stay diligent (like working 7 hours on this project instead of giving up after we had mistakenly estimated 2 hours for the project), God will direct us to the roots of the vines and even to the big root ball that connects them. Our Enemy (Satan and his cohorts, the world, and the flesh) is deceptive. Sin may not be obvious because it might look good or look like what our lives should be like. Kind of like the vine blending in with the tree, sin can blend in with our lives.

When I finished, the tree that was revealed was noticeable thinner than the healthy trees. Not as many leaves, not as many branches. Not as much shade to give to a weary creature. When the vine was covering the tree, it looked as big and full as the others, but underneath, it was suffocating, wilting and dying. When we don’t clear and root out the vines in our own lives (or, really, to be honest with God so he can point them out and direct us in clearing and pulling them out even though what is revealed may not be as attractive as the others around us), we will wither, suffocate and parts of us will begin to die.

I have no doubt the tree will grow strong and catch up with the others. Right now, it will have to accept that it is thinner and weaker. I must be diligent to check on a regular basis so as to pull out any vines that may be trying to grow back. They will until I get all the roots out or they are all killed with RoundUp. The same is true with us – we must get at the root of problems to deal with anything affectively. It takes discernment, time, hard work, the courage not to be paralyzed by shame and trust in our "Landscaper" to prune, cut and throw away anything that is harmful, no matter how pretty we may think it is.

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The Spider and the Vine, part 1

Today, 10/8/07, William and I were trimming the landscape grasses and pulling up vines in and around a large pump in front of the ministry’s education center. As usual, there was an adult Black & Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia for you arachnophiles). If spiders can be called beautiful, these are beautiful things to see – an incredible creature that defies evolution. Whenever I am working near shrubs and trees, I always try to find them so I can work around them. I did the same today until we had to do something to finish the job. So, William clasped it with his hands and moved it to a tree 10 yards away. Understand, William is about the size and shape of a NFL tight end. His forearms and wrists are HUGE because he used to work at a submarine yard ginding propellers. He tried to grab the spider on the hindquarters but it kept moving away from him so he claspped it with two hands as quickly and gently as you can imagine. He had thick gloves on and he was still able to do this without crushing the spider. The spider bit his glove. He (William) couldn’t feel it. He said, "Look at it! It’s biting me! It doesn’t know I’m trying to help it!"

I immediately said, "It’s kinda like how God is with humans." (I was unusually clear headed today. I think its because I had a flu bug last week and I spent most of the weekend on the couch). Then we got to talking about the Incarnation and how people misunderstand God’s intentions with them and so on. It was an amazing time that God set up so clearly. We often think God’s handling of us is inconvenient, scary, unpopular, etc. and it is not until things have settled down that we see it was his hands around us that carried us to a different place than we would have chosen. The spider did not know that there were power tools coming its way and that it and its home would be destroyed. It just found itself in the grasp of a creature it couldn’t understand and it fought back. It didn’t know these hands were taking it to safety. Even when we see God’s hand in our lives, we complain about his choice not being our choice.

From Philippians 2 — Christ Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

From John 1 — The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

From Hebrews 2 — Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

God became like us so we could see his love for us. We can’t say he doesn’t understand what we go through. We can’t claim that he is too scary, because he is not "out there somewhere." He has been here, like us. When we don’t understand, we can trust. Even when we see his hand and don’t like it, we can trust. If if we are scared out of our minds and bite God’s hand, he still wants to take us to a safe place because he knows what is best for us. He can see the "power tools" coming our way to destroy our homes, even our lives. The spider could have held on to its territory in the face of power tools, but it would have been shredded. Sure, it lost its home that it worked for (thanks to God’s creative gifts, by the way), and it was carried along by something that probably terrified it, and it ended up in a strange place, but it had its life and a safer future. God knows what is best. he has been here in the flesh and he knows what we go though. So, we trust his heart, irregardless of whether or not we see his hand, understand what is going on, or like his decision.

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