Elisha and the Two Bears

As parents we all have certain things that we find difficult to let go of as our children age…  I cherished the nightly bedtime reading ritual that I shared with Lee and Briana.  We read through many a story and several children’s series when they were young.

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One of the Bible story books was told through the words of animals in the Bible.  The ravens that fed Elijah, the donkey that talked to Balaam, the animals in the stable when Jesus was born helped make the stories come alive to my preschooler.

One story was not included though – the story found in 2 Kings 2:24:  “He (Elisha) turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.”  Oops!  Not great bed time reading unless you want the little ones to wake you up in the middle of the night with nightmares!

Let’s explore the story… Elisha had just watched Elijah ascend to Heaven in a whirlwind and had accepted the mantle of responsibility as the next prophet of God.  As he begins this new phase of his life, a gang of teenagers begin to make fun of him.  They “mock the man of God.”  Because of their choices the Bible tells us that 42 of them were mauled by bears.

I found it interesting that the Bible does not say they were killed.  To be mauled by an animal means that you are attacked and wounded and often severely injured, but it does not necessarily mean death.

Maybe we should share this story with our kids when they are old enough to understand that their choices in life will have consequences.  Like the youths in 2 Kings 2, many of us made stupid choices when we were young that mocked God and His Word. We bear the scars of those choices on our hearts and in our minds to this day…  The sinful things we choose to do as young adults may not kill us, but the wounds go deep and it is only by the grace of God that we find healing and peace.

“Goldilocks and the Three Bears” may teach our little ones to honor the property of others, but “Elisha and the Two Bears” will teach our kids the importance of honoring God.

“Therefore, the Lord, the God of Israel, says:  I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me.”  (1 Samuel 2:30)

For such a time as this…

Foolish Secrets

Years ago I was friends with a woman who was overweight.  I couldn’t understand it.  She hardly ever ate anything when I was around her.  She would pick at the food on her plate and seldom finish a meal.  I assumed she had a sluggish metabolism or a thyroid condition.

After we became close friends she felt comfortable sharing her secrets with me.  I was shocked to learn that even though I seldom saw her eat, she often got up in the middle of
the night and ate whole loaves of bread or half-gallon article-2287020-1863bbf7000005dc-500_634x730cartons of ice cream or entire pies and cakes.  No wonder she had difficulty losing weight!

Although I haven’t seen her in many years, I often think about her when I read Proverbs 9.  The first part of the chapter personifies wisdom as a woman who is inviting people into her home.  The last verses of the chapter picture foolishness as a woman as well – loud and brash – doing everything she can to get us into her house…

“To someone weak-willed [the foolish woman] says,… ‘food eaten in secret is pleasant.” (v. 16-17)

Many people who struggle with weight control (self included!) can fall into the habit of eating while others are not around.  Self-control may be exhibited in public, but once alone, when no one is looking, it’s a different story.   This can become a foolish and destructive habit.  (see v.18)

In contrast… “Wisdom…has set her table.” (v.1-2)

She invites you to sit at a table and eat, out in the open, no pretense.   Many dietitians will offer this same advice.  Think before you eat; sit down at a table and make wise choices; don’t just fill up on junk to satisfy unhealthy cravings.

Don’t think for a moment that you are off the hook if you do not have issues in the area of eating!  Anything you do in secret; anything done impulsively without forethought is also foolish behavior and will lead to trouble and eventual destruction.  (see v.18)

Wisdom teaches us to “proceed in the way of understanding” (v.6).  IOW, before you do something, think about the outcome and where your choices will eventually take you.  This will put you on the path that leads to life and peace.

And who wants to keep that a secret??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sparkling Spider Webs

What do Pan Am, E.F. Hutton, Oldsmobile, Banker’s Trust, and Amoco have in common?  They are all major companies that have come and gone; the once familiar icons now relegated to museums.

If you had your retirement nest egg resting in the branches of these companies, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” cannot put it back together again!

   What we are trusting in matters – it matters a great deal. 

“The hope of the godless comes to nothing.  Everything they count on will collapse.  They are leaning on a spider’s web.” ~ Job 8:13b-14 NLT

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Spider’s webs.  I love to look at them shimmering in the early light of a morning sun; the dew drops revealing the intricate design of the tiny artist.  Nevertheless as lovely as that creation may be, I know better than to lean on it and expect any kind of support.  (Sorry, Spiderman, it is just not possible!)

In the same manner, we must be careful what we are “leaning on.”  The companies we work for today may go overseas tomorrow… The hot stock we are counting on to see us through in our golden years may become ice cold… The politician who promises gold may turn out to be Rumpelstiltskin… The spouse who vowed eternal love may decide to rewrite the definition of eternity…

The only One we can lean on is the eternal God who holds us up with “everlasting arms.” (Deut. 33:27)  He is faithful and true; an intensively present helper in times of trouble and the only Rock worth building our lives upon.  His icon – an old rugged cross and an empty tomb – is not gathering dust in a man-made museum, but is forever enshrined as the hope of mankind.

 

What are you leaning on?

Faith is Believing

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” ~ Hebrews 11:6

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When David and I were barely “Mr. and Mrs.” we decided to memorize scripture together on a regular basis.  Hebrews 11:6  was our first verse.  Sadly, we let the busyness of life and ministry sidetrack us and we didn’t follow through on this plan, but I have never forgotten this verse.

Out of all the verses in God’s word that we could have chosen, this one is a gem.  As I read it now almost 38 years down the road, I can see how it has marked our lives and shaped us into the man and woman we are today.

Have we always done everything right? No.  Have we wandered away from the path of righteousness?  Yes, a time or two (or three or four…)  But through it all, our lives have been grounded on the belief that there is a God in Heaven who loves us; who sent His Son to die for our sins and His Spirit to dwell in our hearts.

Have we dropped the ball and wished for a “magic eraser” so that parts of our story could be re-written?  Yes.  But day after day, year after year, our hearts have been drawn to the only source of wisdom and knowledge – God’s holy word.  We have sought Him diligently and it has made all the difference in our story.

One often hears, “seeing is believing.”  But I ask you to consider an alternative…

“Faith is believing.”  Truly, the only belief that will alter the course of our destinies and change the dynamics of our family stories is believing in Jesus Christ and earnestly pursuing His presence day after day.

This will not only please God, but will bring a pleasing reward greater than we can begin to imagine.

 

Drudgery or Delight?

When David and I bought a house 14 years ago, four people, one cat and one dog moved in.  Today we live in a parsonage in Simpsonville, SC that houses two people and two cats; two empty bedrooms and only the memory of our furry dog – Frodo.

Life moves on… that’s why every time I read Proverbs 14, the 4th verse causes me to reflect on this truth:

“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”  (NKJV)

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When my kids were part of the household, I remember bemoaning the work it required to keep “the trough clean!”  Washing clothes, tidying the bathrooms, picking up toys, cooking and cleaning up afterwards were daily occurrences.  There may have even been a time or two that I whined in my mind about taking care of my husband as well. J

Yes, taking care of a family is work, work, work.  But when we consider the alternative – an empty house with no one but ourselves to clean up after – it will help change our attitude.  Yes, life moves on.  Our children grow up and our pets pass on; but while we have them with us, may we remember that an increase in work can also mean an increase in joy and purpose.

By all means, keep the trough clean, but do it with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.  It will help turn drudgery to delight.

 

I’ll Take Door #2

70s-Doors    Back in the day, day-time television was all about game shows. One of my favorites was “Let’s Make A Deal.” People would dress up in silly costumes and hope to make it to the final round where they would be given the chance to select door number one, two or three. When I played along I would usually shout, “I’ll take door number two!” Sometimes the Big Deal would be revealed behind this door and sometimes I would get “zonked.” Since I was playing along at home, the choice I made was inconsequential and meaningless.
But life is not a television game show and the things we take hold of do make a difference.
In Acts 27:22, Paul says to his traveling companions: “Take courage! None of you will lose your lives.” And in verse 25 he repeats the deal: “Take courage! For I believe God.” (NLT) The NKJV translates it as “take heart.”
We live in discouraging and disheartening times. Like a Mac truck barreling toward us on a one-way street, life comes at us hard and fast, often leaving us shaken and disturbed. God’s word reminds us that we have a choice… We can take courage or we can take fear. We can believe His word and take heart or we can doubt and become disheartened.
Why not trade in fear and doubt for the sure reward that awaits a life of believing faith?
“As the Scripture tells us, ‘Anyone who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’” ~ Romans 10:11 NLT
Or to put it in game-show parlance – anyone who believes in Him will never be ‘zonked’!!

Vacation Frustration

It’s vacation time again!  Time to hit the road and drive to delightful destinations.  Hooray!  Or… Help me Lord!

I reminisced about a couple of our trips when I read the words of Moses in Numbers 11.  He wasn’t on a vacation but he was taking a trip.  Unfortunately, all was not rosy as they rambled down the road.

“Moses heard all the …whining…Moses was very aggravated…And Moses said to the Lord, ‘Have mercy on me!’…The load is far too heavy!  If this is how You intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me.  Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”  (v.10,11,14,15 NLT)

Ever felt like that before?  Does this bring back memories of long car rides or delays at an airport?  Can you hear the kids whining in the back seat during hour three of a multi-hour journey?  I can.

36992_1448459048196_2425001_nThe summer of 1990 brings back such memories.  Lee was nine years old and Briana was four.  Our first trip was to Michigan and took fifteen hours.  The second was to the General Assembly at San Antonio, Texas and you don’t even want to know how long of a drive that was.  To make matters worse, we were in a very small Oldsmobile Calais.  On the journey home, by the time we hit Atlanta, I was ready to bypass our house and head to the psychiatric hospital!  Honestly!

Looking back through the mist of the years, I wonder, “Why did I get so upset?  Why did I fret and fuss over the kids being kids?”  Why couldn’t I understand that life passes so swiftly; that the little irritations of today will initiate longings in our heart tomorrow?

God gave Moses a plan to help him deal with his frustrations.  Maybe God can use me to speak into your life today and tell you to lighten upEnjoy the journey.  The kids will be grown and gone before you know it and all you will have are memories and pixels on a screen.  Don’t let the little irritations and frustrations of life rob you of the joy and wonder experienced through the eyes of a child.

By all means, have a plan for discipline and follow through if disobedience occurs, but if it’s just your kids being kids… kick off your shoes and join in the fun.  Twenty years from now, you’ll be glad you did.