Chapter-a-Day Exodus 4

[Moses] said, "Oh, Master, please! Send somebody else!" Exodus 4:13 (MSG)

The most crucial tasks in life are rarely easy, and seldom do I feel confident and up to the challenge. The most crucial tasks come down to the realization that no one else is going to do it, and if it's going to be done, it's up to me to do what needs to be done.

I read through the chapters that tell the story of God calling Moses, and I'm struck by how honestly the story is told. Moses was no superhero and he certainly didn't believe in himself. In fact, Moses was reluctant to follow God, nor did he have a willing spirit.

Following God is not always an easy path. Even Jesus said the path to life is narrow, and the gate is small. Sometimes, it comes down to swallowing fear and taking that first step.

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 3

Take another look. Moses answered God, "But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?" Exodus 3:11 (MSG)

There is a HUGE difference between what God sees in Moses and what Moses sees in himself.

God sees a man who has been prepared since birth for this task. God sees a man who knows Pharaoh's court, who knows Egypt's ways, who has an insider's understanding of the Egyptian political elite. Beyond that, God sees in Moses a humbled heart (that He can raise up), a heart stirred by justice (through which He can deliver the law), a man who, after years in the wilderness, now knows how to shepherd bunch of silly sheep (and can now lead His "flock" out of Egypt).

Moses, on the other hand, sees a murderer. Moses sees an escaped criminal. Moses sees a failure. Moses sees a worthless shepherd who has nothing to his name but what his father-in-law has provided for him.

How easily we look at ourselves, desire to believe what God says about us, but can't see past the worst of what we know about ourselves. Like Moses, we react to thoughts of what we could do for God with our buts…

But, I'm a failure.
But, I killed my unborn child.
But, I'm an addict.
But, I'm a secret sinner.
But, I'm fat and ugly.
But, I'm an adulterer.
But, I never finished college.
But, I'm a victim of…
But, I'm stupid.
But, I'm divorced.
But, I've got an eating disorder.
But…
But…
But…

I am convinced that there is no mere human on Earth, listed among the "great," who did not have as many hang-ups, issues, and failures as anybody else. The difference is not in being a better, more worthy person. The difference is in choosing to believe that what God sees in me, is more important than what I see in myself.

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Chapter-a-Day Exodus 2

Wilderness wandering. Pharaoh heard about it and tried to kill Moses, but Moses got away to the land of Midian. He sat down by a well. Exodus 2:15 (MSG)

It's amazing to think about how much story can be crammed into one verse; how much life experience can be condensed into two short sentences.

Moses, the "chosen one" now stripped of every luxurious blessing that was afforded him as an adopted son of Pharaoh. Moses, the murderer. Moses, the man on Egypt's "Most Wanted" list. Moses, the man on the lam. Moses, the rich and famous member of the King's household now alone, broke, and homeless in the barren wastelands.

How often do we find God's people alone in the wilderness? Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden, and flung into the wilderness outside. Abraham leaving his comfortable home to become a nomadic wanderer. The nation of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years in search of the Promised Land. David, anointed king of Israel, flees from Saul into the wilderness of Judah and waits almost 30 years before ascending to the throne. Elijah, the triumphant prophet, flees into the wilderness in fear for his life. John the Baptist, preaching repentance from his desert pulpit. Jesus, led into the wilderness for 40 days of testing and temptation.

Life's road leads us all to barren places. The wilderness is an unavoidable stretch of the journey for any who desire to follow in Jesus' footsteps. You don't learn about perseverance in Pharoah's palace. The lifestyles of the rich and famous do little to build the necessary character qualities God desires from His disciples. Purity is acheived in the refining fire. Maturity is found on the journey through the hinterlands.

And, you never know what divine appointment God has for you when you stop at the well for a drink.

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Chapter-a-Day Exodus 1

Deep roots. But the midwives had far too much respect for God and didn't do what the king of Egypt ordered; they let the boy babies live. Exodus 1:17 (MSG)

Interesting. I just wrote a post on my professional blog about principles, and the start of our journey through the book of Exodus seems to pick up on the same theme. There are moments in each of our lives when we must make a choice. We can do the expedient thing or we can do the right thing. It's easy for me to say I'll do the right thing, but these choices sometimes have to be made in the heat of a stormy moment when we're all alone.

The midwives could have made a great case for doing what they were told, being obedient to authority, and saving their own lives.  But they had too much respect for God

I think everyone has certain principles, if you ask them. The real question that interests me is: "In whom are your principles rooted?" If my principles are rooted in a higher authority, l find it a whole lot easier to stand amidst the storm and make right choices. If my principles are rooted in myself - my own sense of right and wrong, I find that what is "right" seems to expediently shift with the prevailing wind.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and amandochka

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Our Little Visitor

Wendy & Sophia 082409 LR Our neice, Sophia, has been visiting our house since Sunday afternoon. Sophia's mom needed to make a quick, unexpected trip south to help grandma with some health issues, and her Daddy is neck deep in dental school, so we've enjoyed having the little 20 month old bundle o' love staying with us for a few days.

Sophia has kept us on the go and she's kept us laughing with her non-stop antics. Of course, she's also wormed her way even deeper into Aunt Wendy's heart each time she snuggles up in her lap for a pre-night-night cuddle!

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 150

The Divine Hours Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship, praise him under the open skies; Psalm 150:1 (MSG)

Over the past two weekends I've been able to spend a lot of time "under the open skies." It never ceases to amaze me how our little place at the lake is as much spiritual refuge as it is vacation play place. For several months now I've been enjoying "The Divine Hours." It's a selection of daily prayers divided into four daily offices. It's a return to the ancient idea of taking time each day, at different times of the day, to stop what you're doing and pray.

At the lake, the daily prayer times took on a deeper meaning for me. I felt the depth of the water, the rootedness of the trees, and the expanse of the skies as I quietly prayed through each office in the morning, mid-day and evening. As I read the opening lyric to Psalm 150 this morning, I caught the contrast of the author. Praise God in church, but praise Him under the open skies, too. There is much to be gained from learning to praise God inside church and out.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 149

Dance like no one is watching. Let them praise his name in dance; strike up the band and make great music! Psalm 149:3 (MSG)

Q: Why do Baptists forbid couples to make love standing up?
A: It might lead to dancing.

Ha! That joke is an oldie, but a goodie. The humor, of course, is rooted in the fact that we often become so rigid in our religious rules that we miss the point entirely. We diminish things of real importance like love, obedience, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness and in their place we raise up religious rules and regulations to manage the behavior of the masses.

I remember attending a church many years ago. One of the staunch, old denominational members of the church was talking to me after church. He was uncomfortable with the fact that, during the worship service, several people had raised their hands while singing.

"I don't get it," he said to me with a shake of his head, "Why do these people raise their hands in the air during the service?"

I shrugged my shoulders, "I don't know, Jim," I answered, "Maybe it's because the Bible tells us to."

Ouch! You know what? I think the church would benefit from us letting our hair down, striking up the band, and, in obedience to Psalm 149, doing a little dancing before the Lord!

Summer 2009 Winds Down

I realized this morning that, other than my chapter-a-day posts, I haven't really posted since the 4th of July! Wow! Where does all the time go?!

There isn't a lot to share, news-wise, for Wendy, the girls and me these past couple of months. Here are the highlights:

  • Wendy and I have had a quiet couple of months, making a few trips down to the lake for some R&R. We were here with the girls and my folks back in July (pics below). I came down with my friend, Matthew, for a guys weekend. Wendy and have had a nice long weekend this weekend, arriving on Wed night. One of the blessings of a home office is that we can work anywhere if we don't have client meetings. It's kind of nice to sit lake-side with our lap-tops. It makes work feel less work-like.
  • We were both re-elected to another term on the Board of Directors of the community theatre. I think it's my fifth term as President. Wendy has been on the board longer, but this will be her second term as Treasurer. I was slated to direct the play "Sabrina Fair" this fall, but at the last meeting the group felt we should do something more Christmas-like and family friendly. So, I'm off the hook. The group has our annual award's dinner coming up in September. So, that'll keep us busy.
  • It's been a tough year business-wise. Wendy and I have tried to take advantage of the slower pace this year work-wise (a la' spending more time at the lake). We have a busy fall travel schedule coming up. I'll have trips to Montana, Minnesota, and Texas. Wendy and I are both traveling to Maine for one client project. I'm also speaking at a conference in Las Vegas in October and Wendy's joining me for that week.
  • Taylor is neck deep in wedding plans. She and Clayton will live in the basement apartment of a college professor. The prof's wife has MS, so they are giving the kids free rent in exchange for about 15 hours per week of help with the house and medical needs. Taylor's a CNA, Clayton's dad has MS, so it works out really well for all parties. Clayton is already moved in and Taylor will join him after the wedding. It's been fun watching them accumulate all the stuff they need for life together, and to help them during this transition. The wedding is coming up fast! Clayton is back in school. Taylor will take a few core classes at the local area community college this fall and then may join Clayton at Central in the Spring. Taylor worked at the coffee shop all spring and summer, but recently got another job waitressing at the local cafe.
  • Madison has continued to work at the local florist and really likes the job. She has become a regular babysitter for her boss' three kids and loves the little puddin's. Car ownership has given Madison mobility and she's enjoyed being able to drive to Des Moines, Osky and Ottumwa for various activities. She's also learning how older cars can nickel and dime you to death. The air conditioner broke and fixing it costs more than the car is worth (ouch). The door handle on the driver's door broke this week. The part alone is $200. So, for now she gets to open the driver's door through an open window (with the A/C broke it's likely rolled down, I expect) or the back seat. Madison starts her senior year next week. Wow! It's hard to believe.

Here are a few pics from the last couple of summer months:

Tom & girls at the lake 0709

Tom & dad 0709 LR Tom & Madison on waverunners 0709

We welcomed a new friend to the world. Aaron VL came over for a visit with his parents, Chad & Shay and his brother, Nathan.

Taylor and Aaron VL 0709 SNC00007 SNC00018

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 148

In praise of our team. Let them praise the name of God— it's the only Name worth praising. Psalm 148:13 (MSG)

Yesterday I mentioned my favorite football team in my post and received some grief from my friend, Kathy, who happens to be a fan of a rival team. She ribbed me because a certain famous former player just signed to play with my team for a year. That's alright. I should have expected it and it gave me a great chuckle for the day. Sport rivalries are one of the many little things in life that help make it enjoyable.

It did, however, get me to thinking this morning as I read Psalm 148. It's human nature to glorify our heroes. Whether they are historical figures, soldiers, celebrities or athletes, we're good at praising their names. We list them in Top 10 and Top 100 lists. We dedicate magazines, raise statues, write books, dedicate concerts and albums to them. We will pay top dollar to see them in person and be in their presence. We do a good job of lifting our heroes up in praise.

Funny isn't it, how that constrasts with our praise of God? The One who deserves our loudest, most exclusive praise is more likely to receive an earful of complaints, petitions and laments.

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Chapter-a-Day Psalm 147

Celebrity visit. He heals the heartbroken and bandages their wounds. He counts the stars and assigns each a name. Psalm 147:3-4 (MSG)

Many years ago I was at a Minnesota Vikings game in Minneapolis. It was back when star wide receiver, Randy Moss, played for the Vikings. I remember watching him catch a touchdown pass. On the side of the field was a severely handicapped boy in a wheelchair. After running, leaping and making a spectacular catch, the famous player ran immediately to the boy who, in this life, would never know the joy of running, leaping and catching a football. Moss bowed down and gave him the football.

I am always glad to see when celebrities and big name athletes take the time to make the day of children who are sick or soldiers serving their country far from home. I was reminded of it when I read the third and fourth verses of Psalm 147 and was struck by the contrast. The God of the universe who creates the stars and names each one still has time, love and energy to heal the broken hearted and bandage their wounds.

It's quite common to feel lost and alone in this crazy world. How comforting to know that the all-powerful God of creation, whose exhaustive presence knows each star by name, also cares for me so much that he intimately knows each hair on my head.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and kawetijoru

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