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-
2

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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Do You Trust the Cloud?

What is “the cloud”, exactly?
And where is it, honestly?
And who is in charge, precisely?

Are the pictures of my grands and my garden floating somewhere in space? Are my documents being filed in a cosmic cabinet in the sky? Is my stuff safe up there? Am I a fool to trust my work to an ethereal nimbus?

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It seems we are not the first generation to question “the cloud”.

The Israelites, who had been delivered from slavery in Egypt, had to deal with a cloud as well. They would wake up in the morning, look out their tent flap and see what the cloud was doing. If it was lifting up, it was time to pack and move. If the cloud was settled over the Tabernacle, they could go back to bed after gathering their portion of manna for the day.

Easy.
If the cloud moves, you move.
If the cloud stays, you stay.

Imagine — a visual representation of God’s glorious presence right outside your door 24/7. A comforting cloud during the day to shade the intense desert sun and a fiery pillar at night to provide warmth and a nightlight. What more could anyone want?

Except people tend to get stiff sleeping in tents. And stiff-necked.

Only a few days after walking through the Red Sea on dry ground,
there was grumbling.
Only a few weeks after being delivered from 400 years of enslavement,
there was quarreling.
Only three months into their trip to the Promised Land,
the people had stopped looking at the cloud
and decided a golden calf was a better option.

Oy vey.

I’m tempted to think it would have been easier to follow God back then. Yet His visual presence didn’t seem to make obedience any easier for people. Perhaps it was just as tempting then for people to take their eyes off the Lord as it is now. Then again, it’s hard to love a cloud.

How glorious is it that the cloud returned when Jesus came onto the scene in the New Testament? There was a cloud at Jesus’ baptism, at the transfiguration and at His ascension. How starkly revealing is it that there was no cloud present at the crucifixion? The death of Jesus at Golgotha was the one time the Father turned His back on His Son because of the sin He carried on our behalf.

When Jesus returns, He will be seen coming in the clouds — unbridled glory for all the world to see. All believers who are living on earth will be caught up in those very same clouds.

It takes a lot of faith to hit “save” and believe that our personal information is safe and sound, somewhere in “the cloud”. May we all have the same kind of trust in “The Cloud”.

“Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out;
wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.
Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year,
the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out;
but when it lifted, they would set out.”
Numbers 9:17, 22

In Every Pew

I once read a book by Ann Graham Lotz (Billy Graham’s daughter) entitled “In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart”. I’ve often wondered, as I’ve taken my seat in the 3rd pew from the front right side,

“Whose heart is breaking here today?”

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The thing is, we’re all so good at coming to church with our game faces on that it’s hard to tell. But, as Pastor H. A. Ironside told his seminary students, “Always preach to broken hearts and you will never lack for an audience.”

I have several friends going through trials right now. Each situation is different, each one is painful. I have these dear names written on a card that I keep in my prayer book. “Carry one another’s burdens,” the Apostle Paul told his friends in Galatia. But how do we do that, exactly?

“What do I do with other people’s pain, Lord?”
“Child, learn from the Good Samaritan.”

Good Sam was walking down the road when he noticed someone in the ditch, beaten and bloody. It wasn’t his tragedy. It wasn’t his problem. He could have kept going. Instead, he entered into the pain and did what he could. The Bible says it was compassion that drove him to action. (Luke 10:30-35)

I think God puts others’ sorrows in our hearts from time to time. The inability to shake off the burden must mean that we are being invited in, to help shoulder the load. It should be received as a privilege. To share in someone’s grief is a holy summons. Maybe the nudge means nothing more than to pray. Perhaps at that moment, no one else is doing that for our wounded friends. The hurting person may never even know that our tears and prayers went to the throne on their behalf. It is a hidden ministry — an anonymous service.

It takes time.
It requires emotional energy.
It demands a compassionate heart.
But,
we dare not walk by on the other side.  

There’s more.

Good Sam did what he could — above and beyond what most would do. He eased the poor man’s pain and tended to his wounds. Good Sam put the helpless victim on his donkey and took him to an inn where he stayed with him for one night.

Then he left.

He didn’t stop living his life. He carried on with his other responsibilities. Yet he provided resources and caretakers with a promise to follow up and continue to help.

That’s a truth we need to hear.
Our job is to enter into others’ pain in order to carry them to Jesus
not to carry them.
Only the Everlasting Arms are able to bear that kind of load.

Like Good Sam, we need to check in regularly and see what needs tending. It might mean providing a meal or a hug or a well-chosen book. It might mean introducing other caretakers who can meet a particular need. It might mean interrupting your regularly scheduled program for an intense season of suffering alongside a friend.

Look down your pew this Sunday and watch for broken hearts.

They are hiding there.
Let compassion move you
to help carry a burden,
to soothe a wound,
to bind up a hurt.

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Of course, broken hearts aren’t only in pews.
Many more are outside the doors of the church.
Take your compassion with you into the world.
It’s desperate for hope and help.

10 Things I Learned This Spring

1. Sometimes we skip spring. There was a winter storm on April 18 followed by several days of unseasonably cool temps. Then there was maybe a week of legitimate spring weather followed by a stretch of 90 degree days. Winter moved right into summer, it seems.

2. The Lenten journey was especially meaningful for me this year. Ash Wednesday collided with Valentine’s Day. Holy Week collided with Spring Break. Easter Sunday collided with April Fool’s Day. All that colliding made me feel the force of impact. I wrote in my journal, “This is Holy Week and I must stay with You, Jesus. Watch with You. See what my sin has done to You. Weep. I feel sorry for those who skip Lent and drop in on Easter Sunday. I want to come to Resurrection Day exhausted, and beside myself with relief. I want to see You through tears of woeful grief that turn into tears of wild joy. I want to stand in the shadow of Your death until there is no more death, but only life coming from the tomb.”

3. Every season needs its own soundtrack. This spring I stumbled onto Andrew Peterson’s CD “Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1”. The song “Is He Worthy?” gives me goosebumps. Every. Single. Time. Why have I never heard of this guy before? Not only is he a prolific and creative musician, he has also written a series of fantasy/adventure books and runs an online community fostering “spiritual formation through music, story and art”. Be still my beating heart.

4. Back when the temps were still in the 30’s and the ground was still too hard to dig in and baseball games hadn’t started yet, I did the most spring-y thing I could think of: I cleaned a closet. That undeniable desire to spring-clean starts rising up in me as winter winds down. It all began with a drawer in the kitchen, continued with the bathroom cupboard and then I tackled the messiest closet in the house.

5. If Andrew Peterson provided the soundtrack to my spring, then John Eldredge supplied the words in his book, “Beautiful Outlaw: A Dangerous Book About a Scandalous Savior”. The way he wrapped up his book, wrapped right back around to our “Abide With Me” theme for Lent. “Jesus has no intention of letting you become whole apart from his moment-to-moment presence and life within you. You are still a branch in desperate need of a Vine.”

6. Noah was on the Ark for 370 days. So many new things came to light in our Women’s Bible study on Noah. The Sunday school version leaves out a whole bunch. One of the people I am most looking forward to talking to in heaven is Mrs. Noah. The Biblical account focuses on Mr. Noah, but you and I both know who was doing most of the work on that boat.

7. Opening Day of baseball season should be a national holiday. PB and I went to the Brewer’s home opener in April and loved everything about it — except the final score. One of the reasons I love baseball season is because I get texts like this from my son at 1:29 a.m.: “Please tell me you saw that 9th inning go down.”

8. Working with a team is way better than working solo on something as big as VBS. My heart was singing praises as twenty people gathered around the table and divvied up all the responsibilities involved in pulling off Vacation Bible School. It’s so much more fun this way. And PB doesn’t have to make all my visions become reality single-handedly. He also doesn’t have to deal with a cranky, stressed-out wife. Blessings all around!

9. My enchantment with the Enneagram personality profile was heightened when I discovered Ryan O’Neal’s songs for each of the nine Enneagram types. His work is depth and artistry at its best. If this doesn’t make you tear up, then you’re not a type 1:
“Now I have learned my lesson;
The price of this so-called perfection is everything.
I’ve spent my whole life searching desperately
To find out grace requires nothing of me.”

10. The biggest and best news of the spring was the unexpected arrival of our 9th grandchild. She was twelve weeks early and just over 2 pounds. As May comes to a close, she has joined the 4 pound club! Once she gets the breathing-sucking-swallowing thing down, she will get to move out of NICU. For now, we are so thankful for nurses and doctors who know just what to do to keep a miniature human’s heart beating and lungs breathing. Ember Blake, welcome to the world. You have already changed it for the better.

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My Three Moms

I used to dread Mother’s Day.

While most girls my age were making cards and picking flowers to give to their moms, I was visiting a cemetery. I only had a mom for thirteen years and then, she was gone. For the next ten years, Mother’s Day only reminded me of what I had lost.

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Becoming a mother at age 23 provided welcome relief when May rolled around. I could focus on the wonder and joy of having a sweet baby girl who called me “momma”. By the time my nest was full of boys and girls, time had brought some healing. I didn’t dread Mother’s Day anymore.

Watching my own girls enter the world of motherhood has been a dream come true. All four of my daughters are grace-filled, loving mothers. They are my new role models, my kindred spirits, my best friends. Mother’s Day is now a celebration of life.

Today, I salute three other women who stepped into the dual roles of sister and mother years ago on my behalf. Fortunately I wasn’t left to navigate grief, dating and growing up all alone. Although they were dealing with their own feelings of loss, I was grounded by the love and care of my sister and two sisters-in-law.

I spent hours at Peggy’s house. She always had a project going that interested me and served as a good distraction. Sewing, making jam, planting a garden. I could walk across the road and find an inviting household that comforted me and lightened my loneliness.

Robin eased the pressure I suddenly felt of cooking meals and doing household chores. She brought over Mom’s sweet rolls and Mom’s apple slices and Mom’s Christmas cookies. She took me on a girl’s weekend to shop and talk about boys. Her influence kept me on the right track.

Barbie helped me find joy. She had a way of injecting fun into the mundane and taught me how to belch. She also gave me a Living Bible with verses marked that she knew I would need. Her prayers lifted me up.

My sisters filled the gap.
I so am grateful for this trio of sisters/moms/friends.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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