Saturday, March 05, 2011

So, yeah...

I started taking this course on creativity and bringing it out in you.

And you aren't supposed to read ahead and you're only supposed to one chapter at a time and all that. Say what you want about me, but when I undertake something, I do it exactly the way it's supposed to be done.

Each week there are these little exercises and such to help you get rid of any kind of creativity "blocks." You know, like writer's block or whatever. It's been kind of fun so far as there are these little surprises in the curriculum that do try to "unblock" you.

This week's little surprise: Except what's ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for your job (which, this week for me is one Bible study prep time...most weeks it's 3)...


No newspapers.
No web pages for reading...or blogs and stuff.
No social networking, like Facebook and Twitter.
No magazines.
No novels.
No anything.

The stupid chapter anticipated my arguments and refuted them in short order.

So that means the little essay series that I started is probably kaput. I can't imagine it bothers the 30 of you reading this thing every day, though. No comments in an entire week? Yeah. It was probably time to give it up, anyway.

So, starting tonight at midnight, no reading for a week.

For me.

For the first time in probably 15 years I won't finish a book in...

a week.

Oh, man. Kind of a little mini Fat Tuesday for me tonight, I guess.

See ya next Sunday.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 61

What I Read Today: Joshua 6-8.

What Stood Out About What I Read Today: Joshua 6: 6-16, " So Joshua son of Nun summoned the priests and instructed them, 'Pick up the ark of the covenant, and seven priests must carry seven rams’ horns in front of the ark of the Lord.' And he told the army, 'Move ahead and march around the city, with armed troops going ahead of the ark of the Lord.'

When Joshua gave the army its orders, the seven priests carrying the seven rams’ horns before the Lord moved ahead and blew the horns as the ark of the covenant of the Lord followed behind. Armed troops marched ahead of the priests blowing the horns, while the rear guard followed along behind the ark blowing rams’ horns. Now Joshua had instructed the army, 'Do not give a battle cry or raise your voices; say nothing until the day I tell you, ‘Give the battle cry.’ Then give the battle cry!' So Joshua made sure they marched the ark of the Lord around the city one time. Then they went back to the camp and spent the night there.

Bright and early the next morning Joshua had the priests pick up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord marched along blowing their horns. Armed troops marched ahead of them, while the rear guard followed along behind the ark of the Lord blowing rams’ horns. They marched around the city one time on the second day, then returned to the camp. They did this six days in all.

On the seventh day they were up at the crack of dawn and marched around the city as before – only this time they marched around it seven times. The seventh time around, the priests blew the rams’ horns and Joshua told the army, 'Give the battle cry, for the Lord is handing the city over to you!'"

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

It seemed odd to me, but my wife and I were pretty darn convinced.

I mean, we were a part of a unique ministry that was growing numerically and all that jazz...and we'd been a part of it long enough to establish "roots" in both the ministry and the community. But that organization was focused on evangelism...and all the growth we were experiencing (and the thing I was most passionate about) was in the area of discipling folks.

So, we felt like we needed to work for a church.
And, all the resumes were coming up "snake-eyes." Including one interview that went so well they took me house-hunting before dropping me off at the airport. Weird.

But after much prayer and fasting (yep), we felt God was leading us to Dallas Seminary to prepare for church work.

But, it was October, smack in the middle of any semester and almost past the application date for the new year.
But, how do you sell a house that fast when the neighbor's had been on the market for months?
But, we have a toddler and an infant.
But, what about the kids we've grown to love?

It seemed odd to go.

Just like it must've seemed odd for warriors who spent their lives preparing for battle to be told to follow a bunch of priests who'd been reading books their whole lives carrying a symbolic box.

Just like it seemed odd to walk aroud, blow some trumpets and then go sit and wait. For six days.

Just like it seemed odd that God would help you cross the Jordan in miraculous ways and then bring the process to a tedious, grinding game of patience.

Just like it must've seemed odd that trumpets and shouting were the tools of war.

But that's what it's like when you follow God. You might have the big picture in hand, but it's the details that make you crazy.

And the same thing must've been going through Joshua's mind when the horrible military defeat at Ai transpired after the miraculous military victory over much more powerful Jericho. He focused on the consequences of the loss...not the cause. He was worried now. The military victory at Jericho would give them leverage and intimidation moving through the Promised Land. Now, the loss might've not only undone the victory but also taken them a few steps back. He was fearful and worried.

But once Joshua discovered the cause and dealt with it in obedience, it was full steam ahead.

Obedience was the key in both instances. When Joshua was likely highly frustrated and dealing with warriors who were chomping at the bit to get going, it was simply "be obedient." Do the Lord's work the Lord's way and you'll be fine. Even if it means walking around a city with no human voices going.

Even if it means stoning a man and his family for their crime (the family was an accomplice by their silence) which led to the death of 36 warriors in a battle they should've easily won.

Even if it means another unique battle plan to defeat Ai.

Just go forward trusting God, with obedience as evidence of that.

And when Tracy and I decided to be obedient...

...the house sold in 5 hours, we made money, and even had two buyers going at it for a little bit there.
...the application process got streamlined and we got in.
...the house we rented sight unseen was perfect for our needs, close to seminary and with nice neighbors.
...the kids understood and were great to us as we departed. We still keep in touch with many of them.

...we wound up in a church after seminary that has been a joy to serve as well as made us a part of their family for nearly 15 years.

And the moral of the story is that whatever it is that God is asking you to do, whether big or small, simply be obedient, especially if you don't know all the consequences. No matter how strange of goofy that may appear to you or to others. The benefits show themselves, even if all the details don't.

(Tomorrow's Reading: Joshua 9-12)
Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 60

What I Read Today: Joshua 1-5.

What Stood Out About What I Read Today: "When the entire nation was on the other side, the Lord told Joshua, 'Select for yourselves twelve men from the people, one per tribe.' Instruct them, ‘Pick up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests stand firmly, and carry them over with you and put them in the place where you camp tonight.’”

Joshua summoned the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one per tribe. Joshua told them, 'Go in front of the ark of the Lord your God to the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to put a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the Israelite tribes. The stones 3 will be a reminder to you. When your children ask someday, ‘Why are these stones important to you?’ tell them how the water of the Jordan stopped flowing before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the water of the Jordan stopped flowing. These stones will be a lasting memorial for the Israelites.”

The Israelites did just as Joshua commanded. They picked up twelve stones, according to the number of the Israelite tribes, from the middle of the Jordan as the Lord had instructed Joshua. They carried them over with them to the camp and put them there. Joshua also set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan in the very place where the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood. They remain there to this very day."

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

Our church used to have a summer "Family Camp" in Colorado. Now, from our location in Texas to the resort town in the mountains it's about 840 for most families it's a two-day drive. And since the idea is that families would be traveling together with their little kids, we invented a game to make it bearable.

For example, there were various points your family could get for spotting license plates on the highway or in a parking lot. The further away the state, the more points your family was awarded. You could get more points for stopping at various roadside attractions and tourist traps.

One particular exit had a big sign saying that you could see the monument to the Ludlow Massacre. It seemed interesting enough...and I was certainly expecting some sort of slice of American history having something to do with westward expansion.

Turns out, not so much. This was a monument to a labor dispute gone horribly wrong, and women and kids were killed. The story is one that, unless you took Colorado history as a kid, I can't imagine you'd ever heard of. The bottom line is that it had an effect on unions and labor relations that led to several reforms for workers and their bosses.

Now, there are about 30 familes who know about it all because they needed to stretch their legs and could get points (which winners were given ice cream cones)...and I'm pretty sure they'll remember it. The monument, which isn't much of a much, and surrounding park (with picnic tables) made a lasting impression even if most of us didn't relate or have a dog in that fight. It was important enough to the people of Colorado to put it up and maintain the park and put a sign on the interstate.

The power of memorials is strong. I mean, I've never been to Washington, D.C. But the images in my brain of that city...The Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Monument. The WWII Mermorial. The Vietnam Memorial. And when I grew up in Alabama, there were restored homes from the Civil War era and battlefields preserved. I can tell you all sorts of things about the events that spurred those memorials even if I've only seen them on TV!

And God knows that the power of memorials is strong.

When we pick up the story today, Joshua is about to lead the Israelites into the promised land. Moses died, and his 2nd in command was now in charge. 40 long years of wandering in the desert was about to come to an end and they were about to come home.

It wasn't going to be easy. God repeatedly told them to be strong and courageous. Wars and battles would be fought. People were living there already and likely wouldn't just say, "Oh, the Lord said you could have this land? Sure, give us a minute to grab our things and we'll be on our way." It might take a while.

So, Joshua sent out spies to see what needed to be done. The spies were close to getting caught, but were helped out by a prositute who kept them safe through her knowledge of the town and how the search would go. When the spies came back and informed them that the people of Jericho were already worried and disheartened as they saw the Israelites coming, it was time to go into the Promised Land (which, interestingly, Joshua had been into as a spy 40 years earlier).

They set out early one morning with specific instructions: Carry the ark of the covenant into the Jordan River and stand still.

Joshua, well aware of Moses' impatience in following the minor details (which kept him out of the land after 40 years of paying for that failure) instructed them to do so with painstaking precision...


...tell me if you've heard this one before...

...when they took the ark into the river, dry land was provided for them to cross. That would certainly speed up the military operation, wouldn't it?

And Joshua got representatives from each tribe to pick up a stone so large that they'd have to carry it on their shoulders. The priests would show them where to put it.

They were builing a monument out of the stones from the river bottom, that to them was only a path on that day. And God instructed Joseph as to the "why" of that act:

When the kids ask, and they will, you'll tell them about God's faithfulness on that day. And that memory will be important in their story, too. Even years from now when everybody's moved on with their lives and have their own events to remember, you'll walk with your kid and they'll ask why that pile of rocks is there.

And you'll tell them about God.
And his faithfulness then.
And how He's faithful now...even if you don't know how your story turns out.

When you look around my office, there are all sort of monuments: A Coke bottle from my grandmother's house I lifted when she passed away because she always gave us a Coke when we sat on her porch to talk. I have souvenir baseballs from Opening Day every year I went with my daughter. I have pieces of wood signed by the kids who built a home in from every house we ever built. I have photos of mission trips...all of them.

They're monuments of special moments, and when I tell you about the hockey puck from Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs where Brett Hull scored an important goal with 4 minutes left and the Stars hung on for dear life in an incredibly loud arena...


...I hope I get that same fond look in my eye when I tell you about God's faithfulness in the moments in my past.

Because I think that monuments are really only as important as they story they tell, and the reminder of why it's important enough to remember.

And God's handiwork is always worthy of remembrance, and re-telling.

(Tomorrow's Reading: Joshua 6-8)