The Message

The guy who wrote the Bible died last month.

I should clarify: the guy who wrote “The Message” version of the Bible passed away in October. His name was Eugene Peterson. Last January, I made a list in my bullet journal of most of the books he wrote, with the intention of one day checking them all off. And then I’ll start over and read them again. He’s that kind of guy.

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As you can see, I’ve only just begun.
Three down, eighteen to go.

One of the things I loved about Eugene Peterson was his humility. He was a brilliant scholar, teacher and pastor, but he never served a church with more than 250 members. It was his belief that a pastor should be able to call every parishioner by name. He spoke forcefully against the “mega-church” movement and “CEO-type” pastors. After years of pastoring and teaching, he went home to Montana where he wrote books and lived in a house without a TV.

Peterson undertook the mammoth task of singlehandedly writing a translation of the whole Bible. It has become a beloved version to many because of its accessiblity to modern readers.

For instance, the Revised Standard Version of Psalm 35:1 says,
“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me.”
Peterson’s rendering in “The Message” reads,
“God, punch these bullies in the nose.” 

It’s fun to read this Bible.
Thank you, Eugene.
Well done.

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“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-3, The Message

This Wobbly World

This week someone dear to me said these words:
“Your world seems to lack a wobble that is so prevalent today.”

Then I went grocery shopping and pushed a cart with a wobbly wheel all around the store. I started paying attention. Lord, what am I to learn about wobbling?

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By the time I noticed the odd roller under my cart, I was in the dairy section, so I decided to push through. My usual glide through the aisles looked like a crazy zigzag as I tried to manhandle the defective cart. Steering around the end caps was particularly challenging. Plus, that loose wheel was noisy, spinning around in circles while the other three stayed the course. More than one sympathetic shopper smiled in my direction.

Why the wobble?
Something got loose in there.
Something made it unbalanced. 

This is a wobbly world, for many reasons. But we keep pushing through. Some days we are able to glide through life, but most days feel defective — like we’re navigating with an unsteady wheel base. Challenging circumstances can put us into a spin that seems out of control. So we try harder and talk louder, adding to the confusing cacophony of culture.

Something is coming loose.
We need to tighten up a bit.
Do more by doing less.
Control the calendar.
Say no to self.
Sit still.

Something is out of balance.
We need to recalibrate.
Every seven days or so.
Put first things first.
Say yes to God.
Rest.

This wobbly world needs a few steady voices, a few balanced souls, a few glimmers of hope. We should be people who can offer more than a sympathetic smile. A little lack of wobbliness might speak volumes.

God will be the stability for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Isaiah 33:6

“Our hope is real and true, an anchor to steady our restless souls.” Hebrews 6:19

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This Is Not Us

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PB and I just finished watching season one of the NBC hit show “This Is Us”. I know — we’re a little late to the party. With season three in full swing, it will be awhile before we are up to speed on the Pearson clan. Don’t spoil it, please. I’m assuming there are many more tragedies in store, many more gut-wrenching, tear-jerking episodes in our future.

The endearing characters have wormed their way into our hearts. The concept of weaving together the generations is intriguing and compelling. The theme of family and struggle and growth really resonates. The Pearsons try hard to build a good life. They make plenty of mistakes and poor choices along the way, but we forgive them and keep on rooting for them. We hope Jack and Rebecca and Kate and Kevin and Randall find happiness.

But when season 1 episode 18 rolled the credits,
I didn’t feel inspired or heart-warmed.
I just felt sad.

Sad because these dear characters are empty —
yet trying so hard to find fulfillment.

Sad because they are all looking for significance and security —
things only a relationship with their Maker can provide.

Sad because they are seeking freedom from painful pasts —
something only God can redeem.

If “This Is Us” is an accurate portrayal of contemporary life in America, then its depiction should cause us to wonder, “What’s missing here?” Because what’s missing in the show is also what is missing in our increasingly secular culture.

If we are believers in the power of the resurrection to heal and bring hope into people’s lives, then we should be willing to display what that looks like to the watching world.

We need to be couples who take hold of each others’ hands and, in humility, pray together about our problems. We need to be families who seek out the direction and support of pastors and spiritual leaders when things get too hard to handle. We need to be people who understand sacrifice and selflessness in light of eternity.

I get it — a drama like this can capture the television viewing public.
But this is not us.

Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ….
without hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 2:12

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, he who formed you:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Isaiah 43:1

The Seed House

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I grew up on a farm that raised seed corn. Across the road from our house there was a large building where the dried corn was sorted, bagged and stored. We called it “The Seed House”. On late fall evenings, my dad would go over there and bag corn. He would set a bag on the scale, open the shoot and let those golden kernels pour in, then sew the bag shut. Over and over and over.

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Sometimes I went to the Seed House with my dad. I would watch him for a while, sitting on the ever growing stack of seed corn bags. Eventually, I would wander away to pretend that the warehouse was my castle, or my theater, or my business office. No matter where I went in my imagination, it always smelled of fresh corn and aged wood and good country air.

I don’t live on a farm in the country anymore.
I don’t plant seeds in fertile fields or harvest a corn crop.
I don’t bag kernels or stack bags or fill a warehouse.

But I have a Seed House.

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Years ago, I wistfully mentioned to PB that someday I’d like to have a tiny cabin in the woods. Nothing fancy — just a place to sit with my thoughts, put those thoughts into words and put those words onto paper.

PB doesn’t forget things like that.
He’s the kind of guy who loves to take a dream and make it come true.
He’s been making my dreams come true for years,
but he really outdid himself this time.

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I hope the seed of an idea will germinate in my little cabin in the woods.

Like a good farmer, I will give that precious seed a safe place to land, cultivate it, make sure it has time to grow and hopefully, bring forth fruit.

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“For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer.” 2 Corinthians 9:10

Tomato Wisdom

This week in Bible study we talked about wisdom and knowledge.
Are they the same thing?
Or not?

So, what’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

There were many helpful thoughts on this:

  • Knowledge is a matter of knowing facts. Wisdom is understanding and applying principles.
  • Wisdom is knowing what, how, when, why, where to use the knowledge.
  • Wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective.
  • Wisdom is knowing how to navigate the realities of life when the rules don’t help.

But, by far, the best definition came from a guy named Miles Kington:

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.

Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

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We learn some good stuff in Bible study.

“Wisdom is more precious than rubies.” Proverbs 8:11

(And ruby red tomatoes.)

A Prayer for the Cooks and Custodians

Several years ago, PB and I were asked to join with other faith leaders in the community in a service of prayer for our schools. A few days before school started, we gathered together to lift up all aspects of education in our town. We were each assigned a special group of people to pray for and we each took our turn giving voice to our prayers in the assembly. One prayed for the teachers, another for the students; someone prayed for the principles and administrators. There were prayers for the elementary schools, the middle school and the high school; we prayed for the Christian schools and for home-schoolers. Prayers were lifted up for the safety of the buildings and all the people in them.

My assignment that night was to pray for the cooks and custodians.

“Father, You know I’ve done my fair share of cooking meals and cleaning up after kids. And what I know to be true is that those things often go unnoticed and unappreciated. Unless, of course, there is no food on the table and no clean clothes in the closet. We do not want to overlook these dear people, the cafeteria workers and custodians, who feed our kids and clean up after them. These people are servants, and we know that’s something You value greatly. Equip these good people all over our schools to carry out their responsibilities with excellence and integrity.

It’s hard for kids to concentrate on math when their tummies are empty. And it’s hard to pay attention in science when the toilets are plugged and you gotta go. As these servants meet physical needs of both students and teachers, help them to also be aware of and sensitive to the child who needs a smile as they go through the lunch line. Give them Your grace to see the student who may need a kind word.

We pray for the hearts of our cooks and custodians, dear Lord. Let there be joy for them in the baking of the bread and in the sweeping of the floors. Use their hands to do this holy work.

We pray in the name of Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve. Amen.”

We may not be able to pray IN our schools,
but we sure can pray FOR our schools.

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“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people —
for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
1 Timothy 2:1-
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10 Things I Learned This Summer

1. Taking a break is a good idea. Summer is a good time to throw the routine out the window and ease up on all of my self-imposed assignments. Summer needs to be about napping in a hammock and roasting marshmallows and picking Kentucky Wonder beans in the garden. I always hope that by the time fall rolls around I will be like a racehorse, ready to bust out of the gates and run like the wind.

2. Taking a break is a bad idea. It’s hard to get the creative juices flowing again after a long hiatus. In truth, I feel less like a racehorse and more like Fred Flintstone, feet running in place as I try to get a car made out of rock moving again.

3. PB and I have found our vacation groove: put a few things in a suitcase, grab a podcast-loaded Ipod and start driving. This foray into spontaneity is so much fun for me and PB gets to decide which roads to take. We heard a trombone trio concert at Interlocken, biked around an island, went to Canada for 20 minutes, watched the fish at Kitch-iti-kipi, and ate a pasty in the U.P. We ended the week with a sunset in Door County.

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4. The Brewers can’t win when we are at Miller Park. Even when they are ahead in the 9th inning. All five games we attended this summer ended up in the loss column. No more Brewer games for us.

5. Ninety years of life calls for a celebration. PB’s mom turned 90 in July and the extended family showed up to help her blow out those candles. She is the matriarch of our clan and it was a joy to hear the the kids, the grands and the great-grands sing a boisterous “Happy Birthday” in her honor. I hope I can be a nonagenarian someday. Only 32 more years to go.

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6. Noah’s Ark was big. Really big. We went with a group to The Ark Encounter in Kentucky and saw it for ourselves. This amazing boat was built according to measurements given in Genesis and it was impressive. The detail, the quality of workmanship, the presentation, the buffet — all spectacular.

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7. Talent abounds in the next generation. The Family Talent Show on Family Weekend was quite entertaining. Hudson showed us his skateboarding moves, Eli played the first level of Mario Brothers for us, Ella gave a dramatic recitation and danced, Evie sang a very special song with her daddy, and Charlie cheered everyone on. The littles jumped around and looked cute.

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8. Our two pound baby girl proved Psalm 46:5 true. “God is within her, she will not fall.” Ember Blake made the happy trip from NICU to home, giving us all something to rejoice in and marvel at. She is over 10 pounds now and rewarding us all with smiles and coos.

9. Solomon was wise but not very smart. I’ve been digging into this man’s life to prepare for our fall women’s Bible study and he will give us a lot to talk about. Still trying to figure out how the wisest man to ever live ended up with 700 wives.

10. I’m not ready to quit. This summer, I spent some time thinking about what to do with “a small drop of ink”. This blog has been going since February 2010 and I felt ready to put it to rest. Then one day I noticed that of the 17 people who visited the site, five were from Great Britain, three were from Singapore, two were from Sweden and one was from the United Arab Emirates. My eyes went to the prayer I have on my desk:

“Help me to please You with what I write.
Give me a message that impacts lives for the Kingdom.
Put wings to my words and send them to whoever needs to know about Jesus.”

What better way to let words fly around the globe than to put them on the internet? As unsavory as social media can be, there is a good side too. So I’ll keep putting words out there and trust the Holy Spirit to give them wings.

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