People are dangerous when

they feel in danger,
threatened,
afraid.

Let them know you
are safe

and they will pose
no threat.

Reflections from Deuteronomy 2:4—

New Living Translation:
“Give these orders to the people: “You will pass through the country belonging to your relatives the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. The Edomites will feel threatened, so be careful.

English Standard Version:
“and command the people, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful.

New American Standard Bible:
“and command the people, saying, “You will pass through the territory of your brothers the sons of Esau who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful

King James Bible:
“And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore:

Holman Christian Standard Bible:
“Command the people: You are about to travel through the territory of your brothers, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, so you must be very careful.

Running Uphill

For The High Calling community link-up topic: How do you pursue God? One way I pursue God is by obeying Him—and when I pursue Him this way, His blessings pursue me!

How about you? Submit your own story on pursuing God by October 4!

UPDATE: This post was featured at The High Calling. Join me there.

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Over the 2009 holidays I fed my belly with lumpia, atole, chocolate cake—everything that came out of my kitchen.

I overindulged. Something had to change.

Two days after Christmas, I started running every day. We live on a hill, so those first days I ran half a block (downhill) and walked half a block (uphill), three times. Three times around the block wasn’t much.

Still, each day built on the one before. Eventually, I worked up from almost-negligible to three miles a day. I still go slowly, but I go.

A couple of years after I started running, someone close to me had hurt me. That Wednesday and Thursday, I was raging. I fed my heart with too much bitterness, resentment, hatred—everything I allowed to come out of my heart.

I overindulged in anger. Something had to change.

As I jogged that angry Wednesday I asked God my standard question that works for any circumstance: “Father, how do You want me to respond?” When I pray like this, I often get no neon sign, no immediate answer.

But this time it was immediate, in big, flashing neon:
Love her.

Impossible, I thought, feeling my upper lip wrinkle. IM-POSS-I-BLE.

Yet I chose to remember God’s works in my past. (The remembering was crucial.) I prayed out loud in faith: God, I remember years ago when I thought it was impossible to forgive Ben. But you did the impossible and helped me forgive in that relationship. I believe you can do it again, in this relationship. (I spoke these words with my vocal cords, but inside I thought, Yeah, right.)

I turned left, up Centennial Blvd (the steepest part of my running route). God brought to mind the run with endurance verses. I felt my leg muscles pushing off the pavement, steadily. There was a time, though, when I refused even to attempt that route, turning right instead of left because there was no way I could run up that hill.

extreme uphill portion
But one day I tried it, and it was hard. I repeated it every day, and the hill became not only possible but no longer difficult.

This brought new meaning to the phrase “run with endurance.” If I would try loving her just once, and build up my endurance by repeating loving acts, then rather than seeming impossible, it would actually no longer be difficult. It would eventually become easy—as Jesus said His yoke would be.

In order to “run with endurance,” I first had to … start running.

The biblical “run with endurance” doesn’t happen at the first attempt; it happens over time, when I run over and over. Running with endurance doesn’t mean I can wake up in the morning and, if I set my jaw firmly enough, I can finish any race, whether marathon or hundred-meter dash. Endurance doesn’t come instantly. Endurance has to be built up.

The transformative process is always done little by little, small obediences over and over.
– Jean Fleming

I turned to do the steep uphill in this relationship. My first act of obedience was to call her on the phone. A little later, I called her again simply to ask, “How are you?” I kept running up the hill, showing her acts of love, because my Father told me to love her.

Now, I don’t consider this a hard path. Not anymore.

———-

Photo credit: djfrantic, via Flickr Creative Commons

A Crown Like That

ti leaf head lei by lanietuu

With this crown
how can I not
but dance

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion.

(Psalm 103:2-4)

(Photo credit: lanietuu)

Heart Talk

The words of my mouth
reading a story aloud
to the child on my lap
but though I read every word perfectly
I do not know the storyline,
my mind on less important thoughts
though the child is on my lap.

The words of my mouth
asking “How are you?”
to the friend on the phone
but though she pours out the real answer
I do not hear,
my mind on less important thoughts
though the friend is on the phone.

The words of my mouth
chatting with the neighbors on the driveway
telling of aches in the hips
and strawberries that the deer ate
but though I nod at their daily lives
I do not hear,
my mind on less important thoughts
though the neighbors are on the driveway.

The words of my mouth
are not the same
as the words of my heart.

Father, change me . . .

Here is something very simple about relationships…Nobody will listen to you unless they sense that you like them…

When I am talking to somebody there are always two conversations going on. The first is on the surface; it is about politics or music or whatever it is our mouths are saying. The other is beneath the surface, on the level of the heart, and my heart is either communicating that I like the person I am talking to or I don’t. God wants both conversations to be true. That is, we are supposed to speak truth in love.

– Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, page 221.

In-Betweens Are Places, Too

I stalked him shamelessly. I hounded him, followed his scent, tracked his every move. I kept close on his tail, and I wasn’t even discreet about it.

In the process, I learned so much. Tracking Jesus was a fun and wonderful way to know him better…

Read the rest of this article at BibleDude.net. I’d love to see you there!

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i'm a bibledude.net writer

An Uncanny Combination (by Charles Sharman)

(The following is an excerpt from our Christmas letter describing a typical Sharman day, written by Charles Sharman. (Thanks, Gorgeous!))

It’s 8 p.m., and it’s time to prepare for bed. I read Byron The Two Towers while Derek and Titus shower. “What do you think Treebeard will do?” I ask. When I’m done, Byron begs for a few more pages, and I consent. Who could say no?

Derek and Titus return, and Byron and I head upstairs. I help Byron prepare for his bath while Monica reads White Fang to Derek and Titus. Jim Hall is about to murder Judge Scott, but White Fang jumps on him in the dark.

I get a little contemplative while Byron bathes and Monica reads. The uncanny combination of immense power and love attracts us to characters like Treebeard and White Fang. It’s the stuff for tales. Yet, we find it originates in our Lord, as the Psalmist says:

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare his praise?
(Psalm 106:1-2)

My God can move the mountains; and he channels that power toward us in love: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

****

From the blog owner:

A Blessed and Worshipful Christmas to you!

May you know God’s peace,

and may his favor rest on you.

~Monica

(This week Ann Voskamp hosts a community of those who share about The Advent Practice of Preparation. Our year-round, non-holiday, daily lives are our preparation. Sometimes, in the established pattern of bedtime reading, God teaches us about Himself. Click on the Holy Experience badge below to read more community posts on Preparation!)

(Also linking with Bonnie Gray who encourages us to consider someone in the Christmas story. Because I’m thinking of power and love, and what one would be like without the other, I consider Herod who ordered all the baby boys killed (Matthew 2:7-8,13-18). Herod’s power was without love; God’s power is shown in love. Click on the FaithBarista badge below to read more community posts on Unwrapping Jesus: Which character in the Christmas story is speaking to you?)

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When Our Home Was Like a Prison

My husband says that “love believes all things” means that we should believe the best about one another, that we should give one another the benefit of the doubt, that we should not assume the worst.

Marriage strengthens in the refining, and we were in one of those crucible times. The way to a deeper love and stronger marriage was not to walk around the fire but through it, and we did so. We were “open and honest with one another in an attitude of love and humility” (quoted from our wedding vows). That morning we had one of those soul-wrenching conversations, and I carried it with me throughout the day. But it was morning, and we had to go to work.

Charles works at home, down there in the basement office. I work at home, too, so I heard the noise coming up through the walls between us. I stopped short at the sound. I couldn’t believe it.

He was humming.

While I spent my day stewing, burning over the morning’s interaction, he was joyfully humming! My brow muscles violently bunched together, and I exhaled a puff of disgust. How could he hum at a time like this?!

God (thank God!) did not allow me to remain in bitterness, and my boiling spirit calmed to a simmer. Later that night, Charles and I had a chance to talk again.

I listened as he shared, “I understand better the importance of music. I’ve been having a hard time focusing on the wrong things, and my mind kept going back to the morning’s conversation. I couldn’t get any work done. But then I started humming, and that helped a lot. It got my mind back on God.”

Oh.

Then I remembered the song he was humming:
“Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus . . .”

Our home that day was like the prison in Philippi long ago.

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown in prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

– Acts 16:22-25

Charles was simply being like Paul and Silas, singing and praising God in the midst of hardship. I was another prisoner who heard him.

But instead of singing, too, I only kept myself beaten and flogged, slouching in the shackles of bitterness.

Next time, I will believe the best about my husband. I know why he sings—and I will sing, too.

(Linking with Ann Voskamp for Wednesday. Click on the Holy Experience badge below to read more posts on The Practice of Love)

Food Love

The realization came while preparing a Thai curry chicken dish: I love my knives. I hold my knives in such high regard that I name them. Because it came from Japan, my cleaver is “Aiko.” From taking college Japanese (sixteen years ago), I have a vague feeling that “ai” means love, and “ko” is a diminutive suffix for a female. Hence, “Aiko” (I think) is an endearing term meaning something like “little love.” Oh, yes. I love my knives.

Back to the Thai dinner. I bash the skin off garlic, clove after clove, the way my older sisters taught me when I was a girl. The heel of my hand comes down on the flat side of my Henckels 8″ chef’s knife (yet unnamed; I never learned German) which in turn rests over a garlic clove. If the hand motion is swift and the garlic with its convex side up, like a rainbow, the skin will come off easily with minimal bruising to the “meat.” I remove the cores, for (I once read in a breastfeeding how-to book) the core—the part that sprouts when garlic gets old—is what causes digestive problems. I quadruple the cookbook’s prescribed amount.

Though the recipe doesn’t call for water chestnuts, I add them. (All my boys love water chestnuts.) For dessert: oatmeal raisin cookies—extra raisins, for my husband who calls them “the heavenly fruit” and nearly panics when we run out.

Cooking, baking, peeling, chopping, stir-frying—these are my acts of love. New family at church? Let’s have them over! Neighbor feels stressed? I’ll bring her cinnamon-banana bread! Friends are having trouble? Give them something to eat!

I love my knives because they help me to love. I love people with food.


As usual, I was lying belly-down on the living room carpet. The double-spaced, wide-margin manuscript pages of Genesis 45 were before me, and the words grabbed my attention:

So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.”

And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. (Genesis 45:25-26)

Of course not. Why should Jacob believe them? Joseph is dead to him—has been dead all this time.

But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” (Genesis 45:27-28)

This time, he believed them! What made the difference? What brought Jacob from numb-hearted disbelief, to believing—knowing—that Joseph was indeed alive and ruler of Egypt?

But when they told him all the words of Joseph… It was the details of the story, the very words and phrases Joseph spoke. And, what else? When he saw the wagons… What was in the wagons? Joseph commanded their filling. What did they contain?

Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey . . . To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey… (Genesis 45:21,23)

The food! Joseph loved his father with food, and the generously filled wagons caused Jacob to believe, My son lives! I have always said I love people with food, and I can say that Joseph did, too.

If I take off my chef’s hat and apron and move myself from the kitchen to the table, the love is there just as strong. Not only do I love people with food, I also feel loved when people feed me. Food must be one of my “love languages.”

God uses scenes and scenarios from people’s daily lives to reveal His character. Parables help me know Him better. As I write these words I realize that, because I love to cook and feed others, He uses this part of me as a parable. I know what it feels like to love others from the kitchen, and I consider God’s love. Does He love me?

I have never before referred to God as a Master Chef, but it’s true. He feeds me with the best delicacies and richest, most nourishing fare. This is God’s culinary masterpiece: His Word.

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

(Psalm 119:103)

He prepared His Word, a full menu exactly as it should be, and He prepared it for me because He loves me. On this I will feed, and it is a feast!

(Linking with both The High Calling book club and Bonnie Gray this week.)

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