In This Corner (a FFM exercise on challenge)

Well, it’s Friday once again and time for the FiveMinuteFriday.com writing exercise hosted by Kate Motaung.  Today’s prompt word is challenge.  I think it’s appropriate that today’s word is challenge.  I usually try to write just before work but today was one of the challenging days that we all have and it just didn’t work out.  That being said it made me ponder what I was going to write about even more than usual. After all that thinking, I ended up with something I learned about as a child.

I always loved to read about David and Goliath and still do.  To recap the story, the Philistine army had a champion named Goliath.  He was one big dude, 9 foot and nine inches tall.  His armor weighed 125 pounds and just the point of his spear weighed 15 pounds.  Every day he would come out on the edge of the battlefield and challenge anyone in the Israelite army to come out and fight him.  Winner take all.  No one was willing to take this challenge because they looked at Goliath and then at themselves. This included King Saul who was supposed to be a pretty mighty soldier himself. Here is where I harken back to my kids growing up and insert a little Veggie Tales with the Philistine army sounding like ze French Peas asking if all the Israelites we all just chickens in a very bad french accent. This went on for forty days until a young man named David brought some supplies from home for his 3 brothers who were serving in the army.  David happened to arrive just before Goliath began his trash talking that afternoon.  Everyone else ran and hid but David asked, “Who is this to defy the armies of the Living God.”  Now David’s older brothers, as they often do, basically called him a punk who just wanted to watch the fight.   Other soldiers overheard David and figured that if he was stupid enough to make the offer, they would let him so they took David to the King.   Saul looked at David like he was crazy and basically said, “Boy, you must be crazy in the head. Have you seen how big this dude is?  He vill break you. (ala Ivan Drago)”  David presented his resume (lion and bear killing) so Saul agreed.  He tried to give David his armor but that wasn’t him.  David was going to face Goliath’s challenge with the weapons he had.  Goliath understandably laughed at this little boy who had been sent out to accept the challenge.  Goliath elevated smack talk to an art form as he ridiculed the teen.  I love it when David fires right back in his best WWE smack.  You know the rest, David fired the first God guided missile from his sling and then went on to give Goliath a haircut at his neck line with his own sword.

Now, I know that almost everyone knows this story but it says so much to me about challenges.  Jesus challenges us to pick up our cross everyday.  When someone picked up a cross that meant they were going to die.  Does that really mean we need to die to ourselves everyday? Too often, I’m afraid I’m like those in the rest of the army.  God issues a challenge but either I’m afraid of what it will cost or that I don’t have the tools to do it on my own.  If I could do it on my own, it wouldn’t really be a challenge.  The thing is that if God calls me to do a challenge that also means He will give me what I need to face it.  It doesn’t always mean that I’m going to overcome the challenge, sometimes I’m only called to endure it.  Shadrach , Meshach and  Abednego faced the big challenge of being thrown into the furnace for their beliefs.  Their response in Daniel 3 is the classic example of excepting God’s challenge without really knowing the end result.

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists,[f] then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not rescue us,[g] we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

We sometimes face giant challenges that we don’t want, like illnesses, injuries, and accidents but need to rely on the One that will help us endure them.  We have someone better than Mick (another Rocky reference) in our  corner.  I’ll close with God’s answer through David to Goliath’s smack talk.

1 Samuel 17

45 David said to the Philistine: “You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of Yahweh of Hosts, the God of Israel’s armies—you have defied Him. 46 Today, the Lord will hand you over to me. Today, I’ll strike you down, cut your head off, and give the corpses[l] of the Philistine camp to the birds of the sky and the creatures of the earth. Then all the world will know that Israel has a God, 47 and this whole assembly will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s. He will hand you over to us.”

BTW: The duhdad  paraphrase of the story will definitely not appear in any known translation of the Bible.

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They Say It’s Your Birthday

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The Race (a FMF exercise on start)

Friday.  The day of the week I both dread and enjoy.  It’s the day that I participate in the Five Minute Friday writing exercise hosted by Kate Motaung where we are given a prompt word to write about for five minutes.  Today’s word is start.

It’s funny but start is the reason that I enjoy but also dread Friday.  The moment I see the prompt word each Friday, I begin thinking where to start.  As a matter of fact, I left my lunch at home this morning because of all thoughts rolling around in my head of where to start. I struggle with this because I know that the starts are very important because if you don’t grab someone’s attention from the beginning, you very often have already lost them. I want make sure to start off right but as I think a little bit more, it dawns on me that often the important part is just to start.  No one has ever finished a race that they didn’t start first.  If I want to get to the part I enjoy, writing, I must start.

This is true of every aspect in life.  Do I want to lose weight and get in better shape?  Well I can think about what I need to do, make plans, and psyche myself up but the weight won’t start to come off until I actually begin doing something about it. Do I want to know the God’s word better?  I can talk all I want about how much I want this.  I can even stare at a Bible all day but unless I open it it up and start reading, I’m not going to suddenly understand what He said.  I have two large maple trees in my front yard, every fall they dump an enormous amount of leaves that need to be raked.  When my son was a teen, he vehemently hated this chore because there seemed to be no end in sight so he postponed as long as he could beginning the task.  I must admit that I find it a daunting job myself.  I can complain, make excuses and can put it off but the only way to get rid of the problem is to start raking.  It may take a little longer than I like.  Rain may temporarily stop the process but if I ever hope to see my yard again and to preserve the little bit of green grass on it, I have to start.

An interesting feature in many races is the restart.  In auto racing, this occurs when there has been an accident or weather delay. In track and field, it is when someone, even the person who did it, has jumped the gun and started too soon.  In both cases, it is an opportunity to begin again for all the racers.  I started writing a blog about 10 years ago with the goal of it honing my writing skills to kick start writing the great American novel.  I blogged a bit and even started started several stories but got discouraged when life happened and stopped eight years ago. I questioned my ability and even if I should even write in the first place.  Then this year, I got the opportunity for a restart when I tore my quadracept tendon and was incapacitated at home for recovery after surgery.  Let’s just admit it, you can only watch so much Netflix before your brain turns to mush.  I had my wife bring me the laptop and started writing about my wonderful and exciting journey through recovery and rehab (after recovering my password for wordpress).  I’ve kept it up for almost 6 monthe now and have even toyed with the idea of putting down some of the stories rattling around in my head again. I can’t finish them until I start.  I thank God that He is the originator of the restart.  According to Lamentations, each morning His mercies are new.  He gives me the chance to start each day fresh.

Lamentations 3:22-23

22 Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,[a]
for His mercies never end.
23 They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!

Here’s a link to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song base on these verses.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frw2eKj7fTc

I promise it’s worth the click.

By the way, happy anniversary to my wonderful wife who started this amazing journey with me 33 years ago today.

For more blogs like this from other writers or to even join, go to fiveminutefriday.com hosted by Kate Motaung.

Is that with My Senior Citizen Discount?

Lots of stuff happening this week. On Friday, Sherry and I will celebrate our 33rd anniversary. The traditional 33rd anniversary gift is Amethyst. Google is the only reason I know that and everybody knows that if it says it on the internet, it must be true.
We are breaking with tradition, though and giving each other foundation repair for our house. Next year will be new windows and each anniversary following until our 50th will be Hardie siding for the house. Who says I’m not romantic?
September 13th was also my mom’s birthday. She’s been gone for 8 years now but if birthdays are celebrated in heaven, she’s had parties starting in mid-August which will last until the end of September. When we picked a day to get married, we asked Mom if it was OK to have the wedding on her birthday. I think she agreed because her birthday celebration lasted so long that sharing one day didn’t make a big difference. For someone who loved birthdays so much, it always amazed me that she didn’t want to admit she got any older.  Mom would Never ask for a senior discount.  She was 73 when she passed, but never admitted to being a senior citizen.  She and Dad would go on senior field trips with the group at church but she always said that she was going as a “chafferone”.

On the other hand, I’ve got a birthday next Monday. I’m not too proud to ask for a senior discount.  I figure that I’ve earned it so I’m going to make sure I get it if it’s available.  We are planning a trip to see Sherry’s dad and I gladly click senior rates without a second thought. I was disappointed that I could not find any senior discounts for all this home repair we are about to begin.  I was rewarded by puzzled looks on the representative’s faces when I asked, “Is that including my senior discount?” They are still talking about the dance I did at the rec center reception desk, when my wife turned old enough so that we can get the family senior discount.  They assured me that it would be valid as long as I promised to never do that “celebration” dance again.

The best example I can give of attaining senior discount status is when we got our dog Gertie from Animal Control.  After having to put our 18 year old dog down, I missed having someone to greet me or sit by me as I worked in the yard.  I had seen that the adoption fee was 50% off and thought I would check out the available dogs (Sherry didn’t know this.)  There was a litter of 5 pups I thought was pretty cute.  The males were spoken for but Gertie was available.  I took pictures and waited for when I thought Sherry would be the most vulnerable.  I said I really would like a dog and showed her the pictures.  I told her that if she really didn’t want a dog, I would be OK with her decision.  She thought the puppy was cute but she didn’t really want a dog.  Fast forward to Saturday.  We had been to a great-nephew’s birthday party and Sherry had gone to clean the office.  I was asleep in my recliner when the phone rang.  My lovely wife said without greeting. “Do you think Gertie is still there?”  I took me a moment to get my thoughts together.  “Let me check to see if the place is still open.”  It was about 1:20 and animal control closed at 2:00 so I told Sherry to meet me there.  Cute puppies are hard to resist so Sherry caved on the having a dog issue.  I told Sherry it was a new month so the 50% deal was off but the person at the adoption desk asked if I was over 55.  I said yes and she told us that that month the adoption fee was waived for seniors.  (It’s a good thing she was free because Gertie has been costly in other ways ie.  eating masonite siding) I gave Gertie a high five or was it a high four.  Needless to say,  “Is that including my senior discount”  will remain a staple in my vocabulary and I don’t need to be a “chafferone”.

Titus 2:2

Older men are to be level headed, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance.

Tell Me a Story (FMF exercise on testimony)

Friday is here once again and time for the Five Minute Friday challenge hosted by Kate Motaung where we are give a prompt word to write about for five minutes. Today’s word is testimony.
A testimony is just telling what you saw or experienced and yet so many believers have a difficult time with being able to give theirs, myself included. Why it’s just telling your story. I love to hear and tell stories so it should be easy, right?

As long as I can remember, we were always in church so I was familiar with God from an early age. When I was 5, a kid threw a piece of fiberglass that hit me in the eye. The doctor operated but told my parents that I would be blind. Lots of folks started praying for me and several days after the operation I told the doctor I could see. He didn’t believe me until I counted how many fingers he held up. He said it wasn’t him that it must have been God. I knew from that point on that there was definitely a God and He cared about me.

Fast forward a year. We lived in a different city and went to see a different eye doctor. I had a cataract over that eye. Now a days, it’s no big deal but at that time, this doctor had never operated on someone so young. It was risky but had to be done. Folks got to praying again and the operation was successful. A couple of years later, I accepted Jesus because I knew He was real and personal.

Fast forward.  I’m now a high school sophomore, I had a double-detached retina in that eye, I knew it was going to be alright because God had always taken care of it for me.  This time the operation wasn’t successful but I knew that somehow God would fix this.  My doctor warned me that I would probably eventually need to have the eye removed. I just couldn’t see God letting that happen.

Fast forward.  I’m now a junior in college. I’ve had lots of problems with the eye.  It was painful, always red and irritated, and causing me lots of headaches.  At an eye doctor’s appointment, he told me it was time to remove the eye because it was becoming a risk to my other eye.  The operation was scheduled but I went back to my college confused.  I couldn’t understand how and why God could let this happen.  I sat on the fire escape shaking my fist at God and asking why.  There was no lightening across the sky, no voice from above but at that moment, I felt His presence and knew it would be alright.  No happy ending here, I still lost my eye.

Fast forward 5 or 6 years.  I had given my testimony lots of different times during this period but I always left out the last part of the story because I didn’t like it.  I thought it made me look like a bad Christian to get mad and doubt God.  I was serving as a counselor for our church youth group at a camp.  We had invited another group to join us for devotion.  I felt God speaking to me to share my story.  I started with what I had shared many times but felt God telling me to tell my whole story.  After I had finished, in my mind, I said,” There, are You happy.  I did it.”  I can’t say I was too elated with Him. The next morning though, I had my Paul Harvey moment. You know, “and now here’s the rest of the story.”  I was standing in line for breakfast, still pouting at God when someone from the other group approached with tears in their eyes.  They said that they had been angry with God and sharing my story had helped them to begin tearing down walls that they had built.  We had a “come to Jesus” moment right there in the breakfast line.

Ever since then, anytime I’ve felt prompted by God to share my whole story, even when I don’t want to, there has been someone that identified with it.  When someone is called in court to give their testimony, they swear to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  All they can tell is what has happened to them. My testimony is my story of what has happened to me.  It’s not a road to Damascus story but I can tell what has happened to me but it needs to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  You never know who your story may touch.  So what’s your story?

1 John 5:11

11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son

Once again I’ve blown past my five minutes, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

  I used to read a book when my kids were little called If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff.  If you’ve never read it, the premise of the story is that giving a mouse a cookie will cause him to want milk then a straw and so on until the mouse ends up owning your home.  I’ve not found it yet but I’m sure that somewhere in the series is a title If You Do Any Home Improvement.  I know because we are living it out now.  It all started because anything capable of rolling would eventually stop at the front of the house in the kitchen.  I really didn’t see that it was a huge problem.  As a matter of fact, it was rather reassuring to know that result with certainty.  We’ve known for a while that we have an issue with our foundation but kid’s in college, weddings, and wanting to eat more than once a week carried a little more priority in the budget.  Now that we are ready to begin the foundation repair, the house, like the mouse, will never be satisfied.  The repaired foundation would make the old masonite siding look shabby so that is going to have to go.  Then if we’re replacing the siding, we may as well replace the windows.  You get the drift.  My wife is now caving to the house’s demands with little or no fight or negotiations. We have plans for bathroom remodels and she is saying something about the house feeling inadequate with the present state of the kitchen. To think, I probably could have avoided this whole remodelling cycle if I had only rid the house of anything that would roll.  Live and learn, I guess.

I probably should have been more diligent in my Bible study,too.  Jesus warned us about poor building practices and I really have no excuse.  Way back in Sunbeams and Children’s Sunday School, we sang, “The wise man built his house upon the rock”.  The only way to keep the value in our home is to fix the foundation.  It’s true.  Everything we need to know, we learned in kindergarten.  The house may not have been so demanding if we had taken care of first things first.  Fortunately, we have tried to build our lives, our marriage and our family on the solid foundation  of  Jesus. We are far from perfect but building on the stable Rock has kept our family safe and secure even when everything around has sometimes been shaky.

By the way, happy Labor Day.  We celebrated Labor Day in an odd manner.  My wife and I took our dog, Gertie, on a hike at Timberland Park on the Natchez Trace.  Afterwards, we had lunch at an outdoor restaurant in Leiper’s Fork with ice cream (which the dog loved. No lectures please. This dog can digest masonite siding so she’ll be fine)  It’s funny that labor was the one thing we didn’t do.  We took the day off from the home improvement planning too. It’s a good thing.  I think that today being Labor Day is significant because I know that the labor is only just starting in this whirlwind tour on Home Improvement Island. I should have shot that mouse the moment I saw it.  I only hope he is willing to pay his part of the remodel.

Matthew 7:24-27

The Two Foundations

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”

 

What’s It Worth to You? (an FmF exercise on back)

Time once again to participate in the Five Minute Friday writing exercise hosted by Kate Montaung where we’re given a prompt word. Today’s word is back. I have yet to stay within the 5 minute limit and today will be no different because I love to tell stories. The best way I can write about back is with a couple of stories so I’ll have to ask for forgiveness instead of permission.

The first is one when my kids were much younger. My son, who is the oldest, liked to tease his sisters which precipitated this whole incident. He took his sister’s stuffed rabbit named Leslie and ran to the back bedroom. Due to our middle child’s strong mothering instinct, Leslie very nearly never left her side. The screaming started when she heard a flushing sound coming from the master bath. Our son opened the door with a Cheshire cat grin on his face saying, “Leslie’s gone.” My daughter ran to the toilet and yelled, “Don’t worry, Leslie! I am coming to get you back.” Of course, Ty had only hidden the rabbit but Mal was willing to do what was necessary to get her rabbit back, even take a swim through perilous waters.

On the other hand, last fall we took a daughter’s college graduation, anniversary, and birthday trip to New York City. We had to catch an early morning flight. Everyone else had cleared security but me. The screener noticed something suspicious in my carry on bag. I had accidentally left an old swiss army knife buried deep in an outside pocket. I had put it there when I was a counselor for our youth at camp for emergencies but had completely forgotten about it. The TSA official was very polite and informed me that if I wanted it back I could exit the secure area and mail it to my home. The knife was cheap to start with, dull, and the line for security was lengthening at an alarming rate so I decided that it wasn’t worth it. I left the knife without another thought.

In the beginning, we were designed to walk with God every day but we messed up. We rejected Him but He had a plan so that we could come back. He would have to pay an exorbitant price, His Son, to give us that way back. He thought we were worth it so He sent Jesus. Jesus, being God Himself, had the power as He hung on the cross to say, “I’m done with this, They’re not worth it.” We would have been discarded just like my swiss army knife but He loved us enough to do whatever was necessary to provide us a way back to Him. He cried out, “It is finished”, and with that showed us that inspite of ourselves that we are worth it to Him.

 

Matthew 13

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. 46 When he found one priceless[l] pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it

For more Christian blogs check out FiveMinuteFriday.com hosted by Kate Montaung.