Monday, March 28, 2005

Childhood Memories

Childhood seems so long ago. Or was it just yesterday.

One thing was for sure, as soon as the weather was warm enough, I was out riding my black and yellow striped banana seat bike around and around our dead end street. I never thought of it at the time but this was my solitude time. My mind would wander off into the conversations of the day or daydream of tomorrow’s adventures.

Was that my bike or am I remembering my brother's bike? I guess childhood was some time ago.

Tommy was the only kid on the block near my age. When Tommy and I played, I never really thought about him being a boy and me a girl. I don’t think he did either until the day I told him I went to the altar at church and he informed me that girls can’t be altar boys. Neither of us had a clue what the other was talking about. The conversation didn’t last long.

Peter was the grandson of the Greek couple on the block. Peter was my age. I think I always impressed Tommy when I could run faster than Peter. Together, we were the Three Musketeers. Once in a while we allowed Peter’s younger cousin to be a fourth musketeer. But usually it was the three of us scouting about as if we could conquer the world.

Our clubhouse was under Tommy’s back porch. It was great! Dark and damp with a dirt floor. We entered through a piece of lattice work hinged as a door – a very small door. Then the coolest part was the window we could climb though to get into Tommy’s basement.

Tommy’s house was amazing to me. The front door was very big – one of those fancy double doors. The porch of the house wrapped around one side and the roof of the porch stood a distinguished two stories high on white columns. The floor was tile. Our porch had indoor outdoor carpet. We didn’t play on Tommy’s porch much. My porch was the porch for adventure with its high brick front that was perfect for jumping off.

The intrigue of Tommy’s house did not stop at the porch. Once you went through the beautiful double front doors, there was another door. For some reason this was impressive to me. But not as impressive as the staircase and the second floor hallway. A full size pool table with plenty of room around the sides stood ready for a game anytime. Apparently, we were too young to play on the pool table. I only remember being in Tommy’s house a few times and we never played pool.

The pool table in our house was in the damp musty basement. Oh the fun we had down there. It could be the greatest scene of a scary plot or filled with laughter of friends playing pool. We also had a ping pong table that could be placed on top of the pool table.

Ahhh, the ping pong table. I am the youngest of five children. The oldest, by seven years, is my sister. Three brothers are between us. Ronnie, the brother closest to me in age was the greatest thing on earth in my eyes. I remember playing ping pong with my siblings and my dad. My favorite challenger was Ronnie. Dad would let me win too easily. The other brothers seem to have no mercy. Ronnie was always willing to make it challenging for me without beating me horribly – which he could have done easily – and without giving me the game. Sometimes he would play with his left hand to give me the advantage. He was good even with his left hand.

I am told that Ronnie always took care of me. When I was a baby, he would hide me if anyone acted like they were going to take me home with them. He shared his toys. My favorite was playing with the flat bed remote control truck in the kitchen. We’d back that long bed, 18 wheeler up to the cabinets and load it with canned food. Then we’d drive it around the kitchen and return the load to the cabinet.

Ronnie was three years older than me. With that age difference it is amazing to me that he ever wanted me around. He was such a great brother that he even allowed me to be an honorary member of his WC Fields club.

I’m sure we had our sibling spats but overall we got along great. He did get very upset with me one time. I’m not sure he has forgiven me yet. I happened to be in the room when he was asking Mom if he could go see a movie (American Graffiti, I think). I was probably in fourth grade and he in seventh. The scoop on that movie in my peer group was there was a scene of a guy mooning out his window. That’s probably the only information I had on the entire movie and I was glad to share it. This caused Mom not to approve Ronnie’s request to go to that movie. He must have forgiven me. As we got older, he allowed me to double date with him – at least while I was dating his girlfriend’s brother.

There are so many stories coming to mind. One evening we “ran away” together. We actually locked up our suitcases outside the house and rode our bikes to the park for a while. Apparently, Mom wasn’t too concerned. It seems she calmly (mom was always calm) said something like “have fun, be back for dinner.”

Ronnie had his hideout in the basement under the stairs. That was a cool place. He collected pop bottles there until time to load up a grocery cart and wheeled them to the grocery store across the parking lot that joined our back yard. He also had a BB gun target in that little hideout. Of course, I got my turn at that too. His science lab was tucked into that little three foot by four foot space as well. I remember looking at specimens of all kinds on the microscope.

Now in our 40s, we don’t keep in touch much but it is always good to see him and chat with him when our visits to mom and dad coincide. It’s also nice that his youngest daughter is one of my kids’ favorite cousins.

Childhood memories last a lifetime. He will always be my big brother. I’m thankful that he allowed me into his life.

Editing Note: Dad says the basement was not damp and musty. I guess we don't always have accurate perceptions of our childhood memories. :)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Esh Oklah, El Kanna – Consuming Fire, Jealous God

Deuteronomy 4:23-24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Ann Spangler opens chapter 10 of “Praying the Names of God” with this statement: “The Lord is a Consuming Fire who will ultimately destroy what ever is opposed to his holiness.”

God’s wrath is not well accepted in our culture of tolerance. It seems that “tolerance” in our society means accepting anything that is comfortable.

How could a loving God send anyone to Hell? Why would a loving God allow such pain in our world? How can a Christ follower be loving and not accept ways of living that are against the Bible?

The book of Daniel in the Bible tells of three men who were thrown into a blazing furnace because of their devotion to God’s standards. An amazing thing happens. In his anger, the king ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. The furnace was so hot, the flames killed the men who threw them in. As the king looked into the furnace, he saw a fourth person with the three men. The three men walked out of the consuming fire unharmed.

It is important to understand that “acceptance” and “tolerance” are not equivalent. The definition for tolerance is “the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.” Acceptance indicates approval. As a Christ follower I can be tolerant because God allows everyone to make their own choices. But for my faith to be sincere, I cannot accept or approve anything that is against the Bible because that is the standard of my faith. Those who argue my stance on that are not being tolerant (recognizing and respecting) my beliefs. The three men in Daniel were not intolerant of the King’s laws but because of their beliefs, they could not accept those laws. They were so sure of their God, they were willing to die rather than live against their beliefs.

If your beliefs are different than mine and you feel as strong about your beliefs as I do, then we both should attempt to help each other understand our beliefs. This is not intolerance. This is a desire to share what we believe gives meaning and purpose to life. If I attempt to share the reasons for my faith in Christ, it is not because I want to prove you wrong. It is because I have discovered something that makes sense of life and makes living more than just an existence. I have become a part of our Jealous God. I want you to be a part of Him with me.

Spangler quotes English poet Joseph Addison as saying “Jealousy is that pain which a man feels from the apprehension that he is not equally beloved by the person whom he entirely loves.”

Our society is so tolerant and accepting of imperfection that we totally ignore the concept of a Holy God. If you are applying for a prestigious position, your resume will be destroyed if it doesn’t conform to the standards required. This is not a hateful act. If we really want to be a part of that company, we will conform to their values and mission.

God instructs us to be holy because He is holy. Until recently, I thought that meant that we should strive to be perfect. Similar to conforming to the standards to get the position desired. I’ve never felt that my acceptance by God was anything I could strive for. God’s acceptance of me comes only through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So why I thought holiness was something I could strive for, I do not know.

Leviticus 20:8 plainly says “I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” Therefore, I am either holy or I am not holy. God’s wrath is not determined by my striving to be good.

When I accepted Jesus Christ, I accepted Him as my means of holiness. Literally accepted Him into my life. I’m not the one making me holy. Ephesians 4:30 (The Message) says, “Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.” I am holy not because of what I believe or what I do, but because the Spirit of God which was in Jesus Christ is now in me.

God is jealous for you. He wants you to love him as much as he loves you. Will you accept him into the blazing furnace of this life with you or will you be consumed by the fire?

Whatever you believe, I respect you. Because of what I believe, my heart and God’s heart breaks for you to give up your individual comfort and allow God’s Holy Spirit to make you fit to live in His presence. Let's walk out of this blazing furnace together, unharmed.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Pool Cleaning

Copyright © Lisa Biggs Crum

I am an outside-of-the-box thinker except when it comes to my children’s sand box. Summer time brings plenty of sand in our house. I often don’t notice it until I’m walking bare foot across the kitchen floor. As I sweep it up, I try not to think about how much is in the carpet.

There is another place that sand gathers - the beach. My ultimate vacation is anywhere there is a large body of water. The down side of the beach is getting in the hotel pool and feeling sand around my feet. I'm fairly certain that cleaning the pool is an everyday task for beach hotels. Even with all the chemicals put in the pool for health safety, there is still sand and other debris that sinks to the bottom that must be removed with a pool vacuum.

There is stuff floating on top sometimes. Those articles are easy to see and most anyone will move them away or lift them out of the pool. But that stuff on the bottom, I’ve never seen anyone diving down to pick up grains of sand with their hands.

Our lives can get gritty sometimes. It easy to see the stuff that floats to the top. We can push it away or someone else will gently (or not so gently) bring it to our attention and help us remove it. The grit down deep is not as easy to remove. For one thing, it probably didn’t get there in one big lump. It came on the soles (or souls) of other people or circumstances that may have accumulated over a long period of time. We most likely won’t even notice it until our souls are bare. Just as shoes protect us from noticing the sand on the kitchen floor, we wear shoes on our soul to protect us from feeling the grit in the depths of who we are.

As we dive deep into spiritual formation and discover the grit that needs to be removed, it’s tempting to try to pick it up with our own hands. We might also try putting in more spiritual chemicals – Bible study, prayer etc. Those disciplines are essential to our spiritual health. However, to really get the grit cleaned out, we must bring in a vacuum with a line that extends beyond ourselves. The vacuum itself is useless if there is no power source at the other end.

Baring our soles on the kitchen floor doesn’t clean up the mess – it may just spread more of it throughout house. Wearing water shoes in the pool doesn’t make the water cleaner. We need other people to walk on the perimeters, inserting the vacuum line powered by the love and truth of God. Only He can take that stuff and dispose of it properly. But don’t pack up the vacuum. Just like that pool at the beach, it won’t be a one time experience. There are a lot of grains of sand on the beach.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Snake Bites

Copyright © Lisa Biggs Crum

Numbers 21:8 “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’”

John 3:14-15 Jesus said “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Numbers 21:4-9 is the story of mankind and Christ. The Israelites had grown impatient. They had been wandering in the desert nearly 40 years – a consequence of their doubt and fears. Instead of accepting their consequences, they started complaining against God and Moses. God added venomous snakes to their consequences. Then God himself provided the remedy for the snake bites. The remedy required no action on the part of the person inflicted except to look up at the snake on the pole and live.

John 3:16 is the first Bible verse many people my age memorized. Somewhere along the way we get impatient and start complaining. We know that God sent his son into the world and if we believe in him, we will have life with Him forever. Then we start thinking maybe the old life wasn’t so bad. It’s taking too long to get to this “Promised Land” of eternal happiness. A life time in the desert doesn’t seem fair. We want the good life and we want it now.

Then we progress to figuring out our own “problems” as we see them. We don’t like the way God is doing things. We want to do it our way. It’s like a young child insisting on pouring his own milk from a full gallon jug into a small glass. You can see the mess coming before it happens.

God did not give the Israelites instructions on how to handle the snake bite on their own. He simply instructs them to look up at the snake on the pole. When one of my children insists on trying something beyond their ability, I sometimes let them try so they will learn from it. However, I stay close by so I can rescue them when they look up with panic in their eye.

Even as Christ followers, we often want to handle things on our own. What happened physically in the Israelite that was bitten and looked at the snake on the pole does not make sense. So it is with the person who looks up to Christ on the cross. What happens spiritually doesn’t make sense. His wholeness flows into our being. There is absolutely nothing we can do for ourselves to make that happen.

God has taught me this lesson this week. I have been frustrated over of my circumstances for some time. I know that God has promised something that I can’t get to fast enough. At times I'm ready to give up. Although I am more in God’s will than I ever have been, the life I had before seems less complicated. Yesterday, I realized I was trying to pour life from a container far too heavy for me to handle into someone else. Fortunately, I looked up before the mess happened. My whole being changed. My venomous attitude disappeared. I love it when God does that!

I know it doesn't make sense but the remedy for deadly snake bites is simple: Look up and live.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Sit Down

Copyright © Lisa Biggs Crum

Exodus 17:12 “When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.”

The remainder of that verse tells of Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ hands. The Israelites were at war with the Amalekites. As long as Moses had his hands raised to God, the Israelites were wining.

This scripture is often used to emphasize our need of support from others when we grow tired and weary in our battles. Today, I saw something different. Before they stood beside him supporting his arms, they placed a stone for Moses to sit on.

Here comes the “ouch” part of this lesson for me. Sometimes, I just need to sit down and let other people do the work. Sitting down doesn’t mean I give up or leave the scene. It simply means I recognize my limitations and the strengths of others and trust God to be in charge.

That can be a difficult task in leadership. At least for me. I tend to want to have my hands on everything that’s going on. God has brought outstanding strength along side me and offered me a stone to sit on. There is a part of me that wants to be the strength. Although, when I sit and do just my part of raising the banner of God, it is so peaceful.

There is no doubt those God has brought beside me are much better at what they are called to do than I am. A warm sense of awe overwhelms me when I sit with them and hear and see what God is producing through them. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

May I always remember that sitting on the stone can be as significant in the battle as those on the front line. “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Living Truth

Copyright © Lisa Biggs Crum

“People try to fit components of the truth into their life rather than fit their life into the truth.” - R. Stroud MS OTR/L

That statement sums up our culture perfectly. Stroud is a friend of mine and it has been a fun journey getting to know each other over the past couple years. She has broadened my perspective of life in fabulous ways. Our friendship grew deep rapidly as we challenged each other with questions and statements on everything from spirituality to politics. We don’t agree on everything but we have great respect for each other. We both are searching for truth and we are not afraid to be challenged to mold our life into the truth rather than, as she put it, try to fit components of the truth into our life.

We’ve all heard the child’s cry of “but all my friends are doing it” followed by “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?” That may bring a smile to our mature way of thinking but do we not continue that thought into adulthood? We may call it “keeping up with the Jones” in someone else. In ourselves we may call it “keeping up with the times.” Pope John Paul II once said “The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.”

Selective truth can hardly be classified as truth, can it?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Show Me How, Lord!

Copyright © Lisa Biggs Crum

“Show me how to serve you, Lord.” If I wrote a book of “common prayers,” that seven word prayer would be included. Recently, though, God has been asking me to think about that request. Does my brain show my hand how to move or my feet how to walk?

It seems we are still deceived just as Eve was, that we can “be like God.” All we need is to be shown how. Then we think we can handle whatever it is we are to do.

Although my “common prayer” has become almost habit, I’m trying to change my prayer to give God all control. “Lord, use me.” Oh my, what a culturally belittling thought. “Use me.” No one wants to be “used.” We are very happy to help and do for others. It gives us a sense of worthiness and respect for our willingness to give of ourselves. But to be used? To fully give up recognition for our efforts. To be willing to let someone else make all the decisions? To not give our input on a better way to accomplish the task? How absurd! How Christ-like.

Show me how so that others will see me act like Christ or use me so that others will see Christ likeness, not me.

Not my will, but yours be done. Don’t show me, Lord, just do it through me.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Anyone Listening?

Copyright © 2005 Lisa Biggs Crum

Isaiah 53
…He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
…He was despised and rejected by men
…and we esteemed him not.

I am at a stage in my spiritual journey where I feel I am more in God’s will than I ever have been. Yet I still struggle with acceptance and rejection.

Personality wise, I do not like attention. But my personality also desires that everything I do be of value or benefit to someone.

What do we do when we feel we are doing God’s will but cannot see the benefits or acceptance of our efforts?

In discussing these frustrations with my husband, he enjoys reminding me of Ezekiel 2:5 where God is commissioning Ezekiel to speak to the Israelites “whether they listen or fail to listen.”

I’m certainly not Ezekiel but I do believe Jesus commissions us to be witnesses of what He is doing in and around us. (Acts 1:8) That’s my desire: to simply tell others what I have seen (witnessed) of Him. There’s nothing spectacular about that. We all are witnesses of His presence in our life. The tricky part is recognizing Him.

It is easy to recognize those who have unusual beauty. How do we recognize one who has “nothing in his appearance that we should desire him?” Interesting thought when we seem to always recognize the artist depiction of Jesus. Our culture even likes to think his name, Jesus, was unique to the Son of God.

When I was pregnant with my son, I had nightmares about leaving him in the nursery at church and not recognizing him when I went to get him. Being my first child, I thought all babies looked alike. When he was born and I held him in my arms, changed his diapers, fed him and played with him; he became very familiar in more than just appearance.

Perhaps you have met someone and walked away thinking you wouldn't recognize them if you saw them again. But if you spend time with them, become familiar with their expressions and personality, you will recognize them. Or perhaps someone has told you so much about their experience with another person that when you see them together, you instantly recognize the one you have heard so much about. I want everything I do in life to help others recognize Christ in their own life.

Maybe it is pride that desires to have more confirmation from others about what I do. I could argue: Why speak or write if no one seems to be listening? But when I really stop and think about it, the peace of being in God’s will far outweighs the emotions of acceptance or rejection from people. I suppose that is why the passion of Christ enabled Him to do what he did.

Note: I do appreciate those who have encouraged me in my writing through posting comments and in person. This blog just represents my sentiments today. We all have these kind of days, right? :)

Today’s quote from seemed to go well with this blog: “It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” - Moliere 1622-1673

May the peace of Christ be with you today.
the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

Copyright 2005-2010 Lisa Biggs Crum
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