Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One Smooth Stone...

The young boy stood, staring straight ahead, resolved to finish the battle started by the Giant he faced. Behind rocks and craters the soldiers peered out at the child and trembled in their armor. This was the point of no return and in the balance hung the freedom of every man. Their minds raced back to the comfort of days past, as they recalled the familiarity of avoidance. Sitting in limbo was a much safer option than what faced them all right now. How many sunsets had come and gone since that mighty soldier had disgraced them all?  It had long become more important for this army to be safe than to risk it all in what appeared to be a suicide mission.

Until the boy came along, stirring up trouble and unspoken fears. With his awkward stance, hands and feet to large for his gangly body. His question raised the hairs on the back of these mighty men.  Soldiers.  Really.  It wasn’t about who was mighty enough to fight this monster, because the truth was he was bigger and stronger than any of them.  Despite the powerful jawlines and muscular stance of each of the king’s men no one dared to stand face to face with this enemy and look him in the eye - this giant that taunted them incessantly.  Deep in the recesses of their heart was a nagging far stronger than the giant’s.  "Was the God that they stood for, who had called their people "Chosen", even strong enough?  They spent their days waiting for a sign, or a flash from the sky.  One that woul densure their safety and prove they served the one true God.  Then, this adolescent entered the camp, stepped on their toes and dare to insinuate that they should do anything but wait.  The thought that someone should step up and fight sent a wave of discomfort through the ranks.

Even after it was agreed that he would be the one to go, the king looked to secure his victory with the trappings of a common soldier.  But no, the young boy would not don armor and mighty sword to defend his God, but rather the familiar feel of five smooth stones.  Then, face set towards the enemy, he walked away from the camp with a backbone no man at camp had ever witnessed.

He stood alone, stone in hand.  And the people for whom he would one day be king, crouched, holding their breath and waiting.

Either their God was who He said He was or they had all been deceived.

It was fear that kept them cowering behind rocks, living in tents, waiting endlessly for someone else to make a move.  Even now, they remained, poised to retreat, fearing the worst as Goliath stood unhumanly tall mocking the boy.

Had the giant looked closely he would have seen the fire of God blazing behind David’s eyes...and  might have glimpsed the destiny of this youth.  But rather, mired in conceit, he spewed threats and barbs.

And then...shoulders back, arm poised, David threw his stone.

The scream, the dust flying, the crash seared in the minds and hearts of each Israelite watching.

It would be a story told again and again over their lifetimes.  Through the rheumy eyes of aged men whose years would fall away like scales as they told the story,  "Our God, young child, the one true God came through that day."

The glory was not in the felling of the Giant, but a bolstering of the faith of a nation and a reassurance in the heart of each man The power and deity of their maker was laid bare and known to them. The fear that had immobilized the Israelites had been shaken to its very core and at its root they discovered the greatness of their God displayed not in the might of a sword but in a small round stone placed in the hand of a young boy.

Do you remember this David & Goliath?  My favorite Sunday Morning TV Show!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

...and Sunday came...

But Jesus, with a loud cry, gave his last breath. At that moment the Temple curtain ripped right down the middle. When the Roman captain standing guard in front of him saw that he had quit breathing, he said, "This has to be the Son of God!"
All of creation surely held their breath waiting. Soon. Humanity would be once again reconciled to their creator. The sting of death and their separation from God, would be swallowed up in the victory of the Resurrection. Instead of a monumental, loud crescendo, God in true form revealed himself to his friends, quietly in a garden tomb, with barely a hint of all that truth would mean for every person who has lived since that day.
10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she cried, she bent over to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white. They were seated where Jesus' body had been. One of them was where Jesus' head had been laid. The other sat where his feet had been placed.
13 They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"
"They have taken my Lord away," she said. "I don't know where they have put him."
14 Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn't realize that it was Jesus.
15 "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who are you looking for?"
She thought he was the gardener. So she said, "Sir, did you carry him away? Tell me where you put him. Then I will go and get him."
16 Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him. Then she cried out in the Aramaic language, "Rabboni!" Rabboni means Teacher.
17 Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me. I have not yet returned to the Father. Instead, go to those who believe in me. Tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news. She said, "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

...their beloved soldier...

Master Corporal Anthony Klumpenhouwer

The years since I wrote the post below have brought much to this precious family.  Births, graduations, and all the many celebrations that come with belonging to such a large family. But, as the days and weeks and years pass, the ache for what could have been, for one more day, never subsides.  November 11th is Rememberance Day in Canada.  On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour we stop and remember.  As a child I sat in the packed school gymnasium while decorated soldiers spoke of sacrifice.  What did that mean to a child? I would stop wherever I was at 11:00am while everything paused for a moment in and I would follow along, quieting my thoughts, fidgeting with the poppy pinned to my coat.  Yet, until I observed the sacrifice in the face of a grieving loved one I could never truly internalize the cost.  Never before could I picture the mommies and daddies who drop to the ground in devastation, as a uniformed man stands solemnly in their kitchen.  Nor could I imagine the ache that each Christmas or birthday party will always bring - an empty seat and a void.  Freedom costs...  much more than even the lives of our young soldiers.  It costs the very souls of many left behind.  Those who live on cloaked in the weight of the loss.  They will never forget - and we must always remember.

We heard the awful news last night on the way home from AWANAS. The girls told us that their friends’ brother had died in Afghanistan. Immediately my heart sank as I thought of this young man whom we had not seen for a long time. He had been a soldier for a few years now.

When I got home I looked up the news station on the Internet to see if there were any more details about him. The top story Canadian soldier dies in accident in Afghanistan. Reading that was almost surreal because I could picture the young man they were talking about. I have sat at the family’s long dinner table after church with his whole family – all thirteen brothers and sisters, a mom and a dad … and always a few guests. I remembered the new pictures hanging on the wall as you come in the door of their home. Portraits of the whole family together: a snapshot of how they have all grown together through the years. The later pictures show an ever enlarging bunch as many of the kids have married and brought children of their own into the fold.

My heart broke as I thought of them. For the media: those who watch the news or read the papers he will be another soldier killed in Afghanistan. A headline too soon forgotten, but for the family, he is a beloved son, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, and a friend. He is a face that will be missing from family pictures and a warm soul that will never sit at their table again.

My prayers and tears are with them as they begin to say goodbye to a precious piece that makes them who they are.

...they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed...He guided them to their haven.
Psalms 107:28-30

Monday, October 18, 2010

What do you SEE?

How good are you at SEEing things?  Especially things that have not come to pass yet.  I love to read about inventors - people who SEE even when that vision is not yet tangible.  SEE-ing in ministry helps motivate me to persevere, to put aside my insecurities and ambitions and press on.  I just read Mary Beth Chapman's book "Choosing to SEE" about the tragic death of their five year old daughter and how the simple word "SEE"  became a choice for them every day.  Even now, when things are tough and heartbreaking and even when hope abound they make the choice to SEE.

This month our children are learning about INITIAVE - SEEing what needs to be done and doing it.  We are studying the story of Nehemiah how he chose to SEE not just the visible crumbling wall but the unseen finished work.   Nehemiah chose to SEE, and then to plan and act.  And as he moved forward doing what needed to be done, others were inspired to follow. They will learn that when we do our part God shows up and does what only HE can do.   For some it might appear to be a story about a building project but God knew it was so much more and this quote  brings it all into perspective for me...

"Ezra reads the scroll, and God's word becomes more important to them than it had ever been before, because they actually witnessed and saw what God did.   And there was an entire generation of children who had lived in a broken down city and as a result of SEEing what God did through Nehemiah and their parents and the adults of that generation, believed in God, in a way they had never believed in Him before.  Nehemiah taught an entire generation to SEE things in a way they had never seen."

That's a challenge for me - and a vision I want to hold tight to.  When we, as leaders, see what needs to be done and do it God can speak into our children and youth in ways we can only imagine... and do what only God can do.  Can you SEE it?!

Friday, March 6, 2009

...flipping ahead...

March 16th the doors will open and the children will race through the doors of our church for a week of Day Camp. Some will be hesitant, some will cling to a parent and many are ready to run (literally) from the minute they get there. They all know that something is going to happen that week but are not sure what that something is. By about three in the afternoon everyone has become acquainted and the place is buzzing with excitement. I can stand on the platform now and ask for volunteers and just about every hand will not only be raised, but children will begin to moan and whine and hold their hand higher, hoping for the chance to be the "chosen one". As I look down at the crowd and call one out I promise you they don't sit down and smile and my gesture, but rather they race to the front of the stage, ready for whatever is coming next. Not an ounce of hesitation is evident, they are completely present in the moment and awaiting your next words. They know that whatever I have for them to do is going to be good.

And then I am humbled.

Humbled at the realization that this is what Jesus is looking for in me. When he calls my name. When He choses me for a job, I know He would love me to race to his side eager to hear His instructions. Attentive to His voice and calling ready to act.

There was a day when I was like that. I was a child then. I embraced the call with everything that was in me and doubts were squashed under my readiness to act. Now, I have grown, and matured, discovered many of my weaknesses. I've realized my list of shortcomings is huge and accepted that I'll never be wise enough, talented enough, educated enough... I've become adept at making excuses and settling for a big pile of mediocrity. Kind of like the man we are going to be learning about at Day Camp.

Meet my buddy Moses.

This guy stood, barefoot, in front of a burning bush, listening to the voice of God and his response was basically, "Sorry God, I'd love to help you out but...well, there's these sheep... and I have a bit of a stutter, so THAT would work would it?... and well, I could recommend my cousin if you're still interested in this whole, letting your people go thing... do you want his number?"

I've been reading about him, preparing for camp and smiling at His foolishness. I confess I have an advantage over him. I can flip the pages of my Bible and read ahead. I know about the plagues, and the passover, and the parting of the Red Sea. I've read about Joshua and the wall of Jericho, of the Promised Land and the fulfillment of all God's promises. I can flip back and read about his sister, Miriam, caring for him in the bulrushes, and his childhood amongst Egyptian royalty. I can see how his whole life had prepared him for this task and I know what God did through Moses.

But, sitting on a hill, all this shepherd could see was the Midian landscape where he had taken up residence. This vista represented his escape from his mistakes and from an identity he wanted to deny. In this field, a world away from the king's palace, Moses had safely curled up amongst the sheep content to live out his days in complacency.

But God could see, and we know God had a plan.

Jeremiah 29:11 promises us that God still has plans. Just like unsuspecting Moses, He has a job for me, for you, for all of us. His desire is that we become like the children in Mark 10 who race to his side, eagerly anticipating what His words, not like Moses hunkered down amongst the sheep making excuses. (As if it was about me in the first place!)

Do you ever wonder what Jesus said as they ran to his lap? What did He see as He looked in their faces? What does He see when He looks in yours? Maybe it's time to climb on up and hear for yourself...

The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: "Don't push these children away. Don't ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in." Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them. Mark 10:13-16

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain." Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." Then the LORD's anger burned against Moses and he said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it." Exodus 3:4-12 & 4:10-17