Tag Archives: Water

Broken Down and Built Up Again

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Jeremiah 18:1-4 (NIV)

Life is a series of screw ups. Let’s face it. I like to project an image of having it all together. I’ve spent most of my life thinking that there’s some acceptable level of life perfection out there (that everyone else seemingly has) while I quietly haplessly flail my appendages behind a series  of nicely painted stage flats. I’ve come to the conclusion along the journey that the real illusion is thinking that any one is any different than me. God’s Message is perfectly clear (in several different places) on this count:

  • No temptation has seized you except what is common to all
  • There’s no one righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.”
  • All have sinned and fall short.”
  • Whoever keeps the whole law and stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

I’ve always loved the word picture God gave Jeremiah in today’s chapter. He tells Jeremiah to throw on his sandals because he was going on field trip. They end up at the house of the local potter who was working at his wheel. If you’ve ever tried your hand at a potter’s wheel you know how tricky it is. It looks so deceptively easy, but one slight miscue and the whole pot falls apart in your hands and you’re starting again from scratch.

I had a friend one time who was walking with me through a terribly difficult stretch of my life journey. I went through a litany of all the things that had gone wrong in my life, the mistakes I’d made, the consequences I was facing, and the stresses that felt as if they were tearing me apart. My friend smiled at me warmly and quietly observed that my life was breaking down, being “deconstructed” so that God could remake it like a Potter reworking the marred mess of clay in His hands.

It’s a good thing to have wise companions walking alongside you on your journey.

I find myself so drawn to this notion of the “one-and-done” transformation, the miraculous touch leading to a perfect ending, or God suddenly drawing my number in the Life lottery and suddenly everything is as it should be.

I’ve come to observe that the truth is a lot earthier, more substantive and repetitive. The word picture of the Potter and the clay is not a “once in a lifetime” deal. Rather, I find that life is a constant process of being broken down and rebuilt. My job is to allow Living Water to make me more pliable in the Potter’s hand, to release myself to the steady flow of the wheel spinning, to allow myself to be molded at the Potter’s touch; To stop resisting, even when life breaks me down again and the process starts all over.

Have a good week, friends. Here’s to being pliable.

Fahrenheit 451 and a Famine of Words

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
    “when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
    but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”
Amos 8:11 (NIV)

Twenty-four years ago, in the summer of 1993, the City of Des Moines was hit with a terrible flood. No one living in Iowa had seen anything like it in our lifetime. The city’s water works facility was flooded and was unable to generate clean water for ten days. I will never forget those days of having to chug five gallon buckets of water from our apartment building’s swimming pool to use for flushing toilets. Walking to watering stations where tanker trucks would fill whatever receptacles you could find with fresh water to use for cooking. The mindless daily routine of showering took on new meaning.

We don’ t realize how much we take for granted until it’s gone.

The same can be said for spiritual things. The first chapter of John’s biography of Jesus is one of the most beautiful passages ever penned. John introduces us to Jesus, the “Word.”

Food provides for our physical daily nourishment. In the same way God tells us that the Word provides us with spiritual daily nourishment. In our day and culture, this resource is ours in abundance and I know that I take it for granted. I have access to God’s Message on my bookshelves, library, cell phone, tablet, and computer. We don’t realize how much we take for granted until it’s gone.

In today’s chapter God gives the ancient prophet Amos a vision of what’s to come. A spiritual famine was coming to Israel: “A famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” The famine did come generations later. The last prophet of the Old Testament was Malachi who died in 430 B.C. For over 400 years there was spiritual silence. There was a famine of the words of the Lord. Until a deeper and far older prophecy was fulfilled when, as John wrote, “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

This morning I’m pondering the incredible luxury I have of enjoying such unfettered access to the Word. I have such rich spiritual nourishment so readily available to me 24/7/365 from countless sources. Such a thing was unthinkable just a few generations ago, and I wonder what happens when we begin to take such a thing for granted.

I’m reminded this morning of Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451. It was required reading back when I was a kid, but I’m not sure younger generations know it or study it today. In Bradbury’s dystopian vision parallels Amos’ vision of a famine of words. Society is given wholly to quick and efficient media entertainment. Books are first abridged then completely outlawed, burned, and forgotten as needless and having no value to society. The Bible and all great works of literature are tossed aside for easier, shorter, and more entertaining media. I’ve never forgotten Bradbury’s vision of a small group of people living in the wilderness and committing great works to memory to pass down to future generations.

I know there are some who regularly read these blog posts that I scatter like seed across the internet, and I’m grateful for those who care to read my thought and words. At the same time, I hope that readers click on the chapter and verse link at the top of each post and read the very chapter themselves. It’s one thing to read my thoughts about a chapter, but there’s nothing as spiritually nourishing as tapping directly into the Source.

The Latest 10-04-15

Summer has turned to autumn. The mornings are crisp and cool. The late summer sun is strong, but tempered with the cool fall breeze. The trees are changing color and looking increasingly bare. Here in the Iowa heartland the combines are out and the landscape changes daily as fields full of tall corn are laid bare with the harvest.

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A few weeks ago we returned from our fall weekend at the lake with Kevin and Becky. While we were in Missouri there had been a big rain back here at home. And, I had been watering our fledgling lawn religiously. Early that week I was sitting in Vander Well Pub with Taylor talking about her day when I looked into the basement family room and noticed that a big pillow sitting on the floor was discolored. It was then that I discovered our sump pump had not been working and our storage room and family room were flooded. When our contractor came over to inspect the issue, he found that at some point the sump pump plug was not flush in the outlet. All he did was push it in and the sump started to work. It was not a good evening.

We had a lot of damaged photos, artwork and other belongings that were still boxed in the storage room from the move. Fortunately, our friend Brad responded to my text and brought over huge fans and a special machine for sucking up water out of the carpet/pad. I was up until the wee hours trying to dry things out. Ugh.

The Latest 10 04 2015 - 1The Latest 10 04 2015 - 4Wendy has been planning a new tat for a long time now, and had vowed to put it off until after the summer (You’re supposed to keep new tattoos out of the sunlight). She finally pulled the trigger and had a gorgeous phoenix inked onto her upper left arm. It’s a gorgeous tat. The phoenix, a symbol of rebirth and glory from ashes, has long held special significance for Wendy. I’m happy that she finally got it done.

The Latest 10 04 2015 - 5

Last weekend was Pella’s Marching Band Festival. Des Moines Christian was marching, so Jody and my folks drove down for it. Wendy and I met them at the field to watch the band, then came back to the house for a quick bite. It was great to have them here and to see both Emma and Harry Roose marching.

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This past week Taylor received word that her Master’s dissertation had been accepted by Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. We uncorked a nice bottle of wine, made a special dinner of grilled salmon, and toasted her acheivement!

Yesterday we were in Ames. My dear friend, Megan, asked me to be honorary dad at ISU Dad’s Weekend. Her mom picked Wendy and me up early in the morning and we drove up to the campus. Megan has pledged to a sorority, so after picking her up at her dorm we went to the house for tailgating and games. We then walked to Jack Trice stadium and sat in the student section to watch the Cyclones beat Kansas. It was a cloudless day and one half of my face got nicely burned! It was great to see Megan and, as always, it was a privilege to be honorary dad.

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Wendy and I have spent the past couple of weeks finalizing our transition out of leadership with Union Street Players. There have been files to transfer, final reports to prepare, meetings with the new Board. Last night was the 2015 USP Award’s Night which was essentially our final major responsibility. Wendy planned the event and made several cheesecakes. I put together the year-in-review video and emcee’d the event. Suzanna came back from school to attend. Our friend Heather MacClennan came down from Des Moines with her trio to provide entertainment. Good time had by all (despite some maddening technical difficulties that just about fubar’d the entire evening for me).

Words in My Heart

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.
Deuteronomy 6:5-6 (NRSV)

I’m posting a little late today because, I’ll be honest with you, it’s been a really rough couple of weeks. I don’t want to whine and I’m not complaining. It just is what it is. There has been unexpected trials in business. There has been unforeseen relational conflict with friends that hit like a blind-side tackle. Then last night we discovered our basement flooded. Somehow the electrical plug to our sump pump got pulled a tiny bit out of the outlet. The heavy rains of last week and the watering of our newly seeded lawn backed up into our storage room and family room. I’ve spent much of the past 24 hours in Noah mode.

As I was working the wet-vac into the wee hours last night, I found myself thinking about Job, for whom things were much worse than a wet basement, and yet he said, “The Lord gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I had other verses come to mind like those from James when he wrote “Consider it pure joy when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Or, the prophet Isaiah who said, “Don’t fear for I am with you. Do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God. Surely I will strengthen you. Surely I will help you.” Or the prophet Jeremiah who while looking over the desolation of his home town said, “This I recall to mind. Therefore I have hope. God’s love never ceases. His compassion does not fail. His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.”

These various words are not just in my head. They are in my heart. And, as I read Moses command this afternoon to keep God’s Message in our heart, it struck me that the difference between having these words in your head and having them in your heart is all the difference in the world. When they are in your head they affect your thinking. When they are in your heart they affect your life.

Last night was a long evening of sorting through our ruined belongings. Many of them were irreplaceable and with priceless sentimental value. We had a very short night’s rest and woke sore and worn but got right back to the clean up. Mid-morning, Wendy and I took a breather. We found ourselves laughing. We hugged, and between the two of us we found a few silver linings for which to be grateful. Among the things for which we are grateful are God, His promises, and His mercies that are new each morning – even when that morning calls you back to the clean up.

Dead Sea to Living Water

israel floating in the Dead Sea cropped

He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.
Ezekiel 47:8-9 (NIV)

The Dead Sea is one of the more amazing places I’ve visited in this world. Located in the desert southeast of Jerusalem, it is the Earth’s lowest elevation on land and the water is 34 percent salt which is almost 10 times as much salt as you find in the oceans. The saline content is so high, in fact, that you float on the surface which is a surreal experience. It’s hard to stand upright in the lake if the water gets much higher than your waist.

Because of the salt content, the “Dead Sea” is aptly named. Nothing lives in it. It is too salty to sustain life. Which provides context for the remarkable vision the ancient Hebrew prophet, Ezekiel, is given in today’s chapter. His heavenly host shows him a small stream of water flowing out of God’s temple in Jerusalem. The waters grow as the stream descends from its Source until it is a giant river. The river flows downstream to the Dead Sea and floods it with Life.

I am reminded this morning of Jesus’ conversation with a woman by a well. Striking up a conversation, Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus spoke of a personal, spiritual transformation that parallel’s Ezekiel’s vision of the Dead Sea. A flowing transfusion of living water that brings Life where there had previously been death.

Water and Life go hand in hand. We need water to physically survive. We need living water to spiritually survive. Without it, we become as spiritually lifeless as the Dead Sea. When tapped into the Source, we experience Life that wells up in our spirits and resurrects lifeless parts of our soul.

Today, I’m thankful for experiencing the Dead Sea. I’m thankful for the Water of Life. I’m praying for a deep draught from the Source and an infusion of life.

Sewage and the Source

Septic Tank: Illustration shows how an undergr...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wickedness never brings stability,
    but the godly have deep roots.
Proverbs 12:3 (NLT)

A few weeks ago, Wendy and I had five dead oak trees cut down near our lake home. Add to that total the three dead oak trees we had to cut down last year. When we updated our family’s lake property a few years ago there was a small forest between the house and the shoreline, and the trees gave shade to the Playhouse each summer. Now, the trees are gone along with the shade they provided. I have to admit I’m a little saddened by this and was a little confused why we lost the trees so quickly. When Jason came from the tree service to give me an estimate for cutting down the trees this spring, I asked the arborist what the problem could be and what we could do to replace them.

Jason quickly pointed out the problem with our dead trees and the reason it will nearly be impossible to replace them. As part of our renovation of the property, we added a new septic system which introduced a sprawling leach field across our yard and between the trees. Sewage from our home goes through a system of treatment tanks and then is leeched out across our lawn through a system of buried sewage lines that zig-zag in a snake like fashion across our lawn.

The feeder roots for trees like our oaks, Jason explained, are between ten and eighteen inches below the surface of the ground. When we introduced the sewage lines and their easy, shallow diet of moisture and nutrients, the trees quickly become dependent on feeding off the leach lines. The network of roots that would typically dig deep into the ground to get food and moisture in times of drought tend to go dormant because they aren’t needed. Then, a time of drought comes. Fall and winter arrive when no one is at the lake house using the septic system. The leach field isn’t spreading its sewage. The trees are shocked by the sudden change. There is no longer an easy meal for the shallow feeder roots and the deep roots are no longer doing their job. The tree can’t make the adjustment and dies.

What an amazing word picture. I thought of our trees when I read the proverb above from today’s chapter. How easy it is to feed on the shit this world seeps into the shallows of our lives. Momentary highs, thin pursuits, fast food and intoxicating distractions that offer a quick fix to feed the emptiness in our souls. All the time, our roots aren’t digging deep. We never seek after the life giving springs that lay buried deep below the surface.

The further I get in my life journey, the more I feel a need for my roots to go deeper. I want to tap into the deep wells of God’s living water. But in order to do that, I have to abandon the leach lines I’ve fed from for so long and choose to go deep. I must direct my time, energy and resources to the slow, arduous, often boring discipline of digging, and reaching, and seeking out the Source. When drought comes, and it always comes eventually, I want the roots of my life tapped into that which will sustain me.

Chapter-a-Day John 4

Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Ha Ha Tonka State Park (Photo credit: Darin House)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NLT)

On Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, a nice long boat ride from our Playhouse, you’ll find Ha Ha Tonka State Park. It’s an annual summer destination for us. Park the boat at the dock and walk down the winding path along the banks of the cove. Deeper and deeper it goes as the cove narrows. Eventually, you arrive at a natural spring where water continuously flows from deep inside the Earth. I’ve stood there many times watching as water ceaselessly flows from that spot, seemingly out of nowhere.

Today, as I read Jesus’ words I thought about that spring in the Ozarks and all the water ceaselessly bubbling out of it. We call it a “source.” The place from which water flows. What Jesus told the woman at the well in today’s chapter was that He was the Source of Life-giving, spiritual thirst quenching, eternal flow.

What is the Source of flow in my daily life? That’s the question I’m asking myself today. Where is it that I seek after energy, acceptance, peace, esteem, provision, healing, or anesthetic? Am I seeking after the Source in a bottle, a relationship, a walk-in closet, a paycheck, a gadget, a job, or a jackpot? It’s interesting how Jesus contrasted the water the woman wanted to give Him with the flow about which He was speaking.

You know you’re seeking after the wrong source if after a taste it always leaves you thirsty and seeking for more.