Friday, October 19, 2012

Dinosaur Train

I just knew that I was not going to get a post written this week, but today, I got an unexpected day off.  Mason wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed home with him.  His favorite snuggle spot on days like these is Mommy and Daddy’s bed, so I started folding laundry while he rested and watched Dinosaur Train (a PBS Kids show).  I was half listening to Dinosaur Train and half thanking God for a moment to catch up on my laundry (not that I wanted Mason to be sick) when the show captured my full attention …

There was a forest fire that was causing the dinosaurs to temporarily leave their homes aboard the Dinosaur Train.  The dinosaur children were nervous about the fire.  Would they lose their home?  If they lost their home, what about their section of the forest; would it look the same?  Would they or someone they love be hurt?  The train conductor told them that a fire although scary can actually be beneficial to a forest.  It helps keep the forest healthy by clearing away old or dead trees that are blocking out sunlight seeds need to sprout and grow.  He even said that there are seeds that can/do only break open in the intense heat of a fire.  (I kind of knew the part about the old trees, but seeds opening in intense heat … apparently even parents have things to learn from Dinosaur Train.)

Whether you know me personally or just through thoughts shared on this blog, you can probably tell that I’m a thinker.  So as I continued to fold laundry and Dinosaur Train changed to some other kid show, my mind would not let go of the show’s message more specifically, its biblical connections.  I just LOVE how God hides things in plain sight things for us to discover and explore in the context of His Word!  If you have a journal, you may want to grab it.  I have some questions for you to think about.  If you don’t journal, just read on and give God a chance to bring up these questions in your mind over the coming days.

Jesus tells us in Mark 9:49 that “everyone will be salted with fire” (Amplified Bible).  The New Living Translation reads: “tested with fire” (emphasis mine).  Thinking about the characters on today’s Dinosaur Train, with which do you most closely identify?  Are you one of the children who has not yet been through the fire?  Did you see it start, or do you see it coming?  Are you scared about what the fire will or won’t leave behind?  Remember God’s message in Hebrews 13:5 (I know that someone needs this very Word today.  Read it aloud.  I admit that the Amplified version is wordy, but in this verse, it‘s totally worth it!):

“for God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support.  I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down (relax My hold on you)!  Assuredly not!”

Was anyone else practically shouting by the third “I will not”?!  Whatever fire you’re being tested with, if you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you, then God Himself is with you in the midst of your trial.  You will not be consumed. 

Are you more like the train conductor with knowledge to educate people about the new life for which a cleansing fire can make a way?  Observe those God has put in your sphere of influence.  Reach out to those who need to know that there is life after the fire.  I already referenced Mark 9:49.  Earlier in that passage, Jesus “took a little child and put him in the center of their group; and taking him in His arms, He said to them, Whoever in my Name and for my sake accepts and receives and welcomes one such child also accepts and receives and welcomes Me …” (vv. 36-37).

Regardless of whether you identify with the children on-board or with the train’s conductor, we all have old, dead trees in our lives.  Look around you, what things attitudes, habits, routines, people, etc. are or have been blocking the Light of the Son (Journal Question #2)?  Identify them, claim God’s cleansing power over them, and watch as “ the darkness is clearing away and the true Light … is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

Already shining.  What does that mean for those of us who are looking around at a scorched landscape?  It’s Good News, my friends:  “The Lord has sent me [Isaiah] … to grant consolation and joy to those who mourn in Zionto give them an ornament of beauty instead of ashes, … that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, …] the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1, 3 emphasis mine).  Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Take on the Day!

What do you need to start your day?  That thing that those you live with don’t want to talk to you until you’ve done it.  You would be late for work just to fit it in because you feel physically ill without it.  Maybe it’s a shower?  Coffee?  The newspaper?  Exercise?  For me I absolutely LOVE my breakfast routine.  I wake up hungry, and I can’t think of anything else until I’m fed. 
Monday morning as I was going through my regular breakfast routine, a commercial caught my attention – which I suppose is the point of commercials.  Go ahead and view it (just 30 seconds long).

I completely identified with the girl sitting at her kitchen table (again the genius of commercials), but my orange juice (as much as I love it) can’t prepare me to take on the day.  What can is the thing sitting right beside it on my kitchen table – God’s Word.  It is AMAZING how many times a Scripture I read during my regular morning quiet time was EXACTLY what I needed later in the day – when faced with a decision, in conversation with a friend/student/stranger, etc.

In thinking about the commercial, I realized that, for me, waking up hungry goes beyond my morning breakfast; it’s a hunger from deep within that nothing can satisfy except for time with God ­– in prayer and in His Word.  Take on the Day?  Yes!  Just don’t be fooled into thinking a glass of orange juice is all you need.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Remembering the Journey

I’ve been thinking back on a major adventure I took one year ago – running a half marathon.  The journey itself actually began in January of 2011 when I started running with a friend – in an effort to be more healthy and fit.  We went from barely gutting out a few blocks in January to running a 5K in March and 13.1 miles in October.  Since then we’ve continued to run – adding another friend.  This weekend, the three of us will run that race together!  I am both nervous and excited all at the same time.  I know that God has amazing things in store for us, and I can’t wait to see them!

I wonder if the apostle Paul felt similarly, thinking about his journey from Jewish Pharisee to Gentile missionary.  As we’ve reached the end of his first missionary journey (with the conclusion of Acts 14), there is so much to reflect on – how far he’d come … the adventures he’d had … the friends who’d been added along the way.  Today, with Sunday’s race in mind, I leave you with an email I typed last year in the days following my first race:

Sunday morning before the race, I was able to have my normal quiet time.  It was offering some insight on the training and preparation of Roman soldiers.  It talked about how diligently they trained.  So much so that when it came time for battle, they breezed right through it.  Reading that day's lesson, I had NO IDEA how appropriate that message was for me right at that moment.  Just hours later as we ran, I found myself thinking about how much easier this run was than the training I had endured over the last weeks (months really).  And then WHAM, my mind went to that morning's study...  The reason the race was so easy (and exhilarating) was because I had prepared my body for it!

At times throughout the race I was on the verge of tears looking at those around me (all 2400+ of us) – what each one of us was accomplishing ... what God had enabled us to do.  Then around mile 11, I heard a band coming up (There was music of some sort at nearly every mile to encourage us – mostly Christian).  The song that was starting was already very special to me ("He Loves Us" by David Crowder Band).  Yet another glorious detail that God had put in place FOR ME.  It is truly AMAZING the lengths to which God has gone so that we can feel His Presence and providence in our lives!!  When I heard that song, I was overcome with emotion at God's love for me!  Breaking down and crying in the middle of the road was NOT an option, so I just sang aloud and raised both hands over my head in praise and kept running – my race wasn’t finished.

Overall it was the most empowering experience of my life.  I knew/know that the power that flowed through my body that morning did NOT come from anything in me.  It came from God.  Now, I set my sights on learning how to harness that power in every area of my life - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we could as or think." (Eph 3:20)