Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Benjamin’s Sand Adventure

I wrote this story several years ago, and it is loosely based on an actual event. Benjamin's Sand Adventure was one of my first experiments in writing, so I enjoy pulling it out to read every once in awhile.

Benjamin Smith ran around the track. His six year old heart was full of joy. He had gone around the track twice now, and he wanted to go around at least once more before he rested. His Mom and older sister Abigail were walking. That was too slow for him.

Around the football field he went. Benjamin slowed and came to a halt. He was too tired to go on. His attention was drawn to a large sandbox next to the track. That looks like fun, he thought.

The next moment found Benjamin on his knees in the sand. It was mid January, and it had been months since he had been to the beach. He loved the feel of the coarse sand as he drove his hand deep under the surface. It would be great to be completely covered in the cold sand.

As soon as the thought crossed his mind he began to dig. He used both of his hands to bring up the sand. It didn’t take long for there to be a large pile next to him. Deeper and deeper down he went until the sand became wet and harder to move. That is far enough, he reasoned.

Benjamin jumped into his hole and swept the sand in around him. Soon he couldn’t move his legs. I’ve planted myself, he giggled. He moved more sand towards himself. It is hard to dig when half your body is stuck fast, and he began to feel uncomfortable.

Perhaps it is not such a good idea to be buried in sand, he worried. Benjamin decided he had better unearth himself. After much trouble he wiggled out. He was covered in sand. His foot felt odd so he looked to see what was wrong. His shoe was gone!

Oh well, he sighed. Benjamin ran off toward his Mom and sister. He wanted to go home and have lunch. Lunch is more important than my shoe. He thought.

Mrs. Smith did not notice immediately that Benjamin was missing his shoe. It was such a beautiful day for a walk, even if it was slightly chilly. Benjamin’s request for lunch could not be ignored though. “We will go home as soon as we finish this lap, dear. But tell me, how did you get so filthy?”

“I buried myself in the sandbox. I left my shoe there.”

“Well, go get it, Benjamin.”

“Yes, Mom”

Benjamin ran to get the shoe, but after digging in what he thought was the right place, he couldn’t find it!

Mrs. Smith and Abigail were waiting by the car. The minutes passed without Benjamin appearing. “I think I should help him. I will be right back, Abigail.”

Benjamin was very relieved to see his Mom coming across the football field toward him. He needed help. He continued to dig furiously with his hands. Sand no longer looked pleasant.

Mrs. Smith and Benjamin worked for another fifteen minutes without success. “We need to go now Benjamin. Your Dad will want his lunch before he goes to work.”

“But what do we do about my shoe?” He realized now that it might not be good to have only one shoe.

“We will have to come back tomorrow.” Mom answered. They were both discouraged as they walked to the car and drove home.

The next day Mrs. Smith, Abigail, and Benjamin returned to the track. This time they were equipped with shovels. All three of them set to work on the excavation of the sandbox. What had taken a short time in fun took much longer to fix.

After twenty minutes of hard work the shoe was finally uncovered. Benjamin was glad he was the one to find it as he was the cause of the trouble.

“Let’s go get ice-cream to celebrate!” suggested Abigail.

“All right.” agreed Mrs. Smith. “But we all need to be more careful with our shoes. For unlike seeds, they will not grow into trees when planted!”

(c) 2002 Elizabeth Ellen Moore

Saturday, May 27, 2006

He Cares for Us

Spring can be a beautiful season. Everything is growing and blooming, and it has long ceased to be cold and forbidding outside. Warm weather has come with its many joys and pleasures.

The most amusing sights to be seen are the squirrels, rabbits, and birds that appear to make even the mundane yards fresh and alive with life. The bunnies speed away when startled, while the curious squirrels peer out from the safe vantage points of the trees. Musical birds lift our eyes in the hope that we will see the delightful singers.

I was riding my bike yesterday when I caught sight of a dead young blue jay. It was obvious that no human cared that it had fallen, and it lay in a neglected spot that kept it from being seen by most who passed by.

It reminded me that while we often disregard or overlook the deaths of these beautiful creatures, God never fails to see and remember. Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

We are worth more than a multitude of birds, yet God cares even for them. I love reading Matthew 6:25-34

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?´ or `What shall we drink?´ or `What shall we wear?´ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Jesus told us not to worry or be anxious. God provides for the little things in nature, and he cares even more deeply for us. We are His special creation, made in His image. Our loving Heavenly Father will see us safely to the end. We have no need to worry!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Trust in Him

Psalm 3
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah

This is a Psalm of faith and trust. Even while David’s world was falling around him, he was able to rest in the knowledge that the Lord sustains and blesses His people.

David was facing a real danger. His son Absalom sought to kill him and become king in his place. The people of Israel had been swayed by the winning ways of the young prince and the slander that he spoke against his father David.

The king had been forced to flee the capital city of Jerusalem. He was cursed, ridiculed, and betrayed. In this circumstance David put his faith in God. Although the Psalm begins with describing his enemies and tumultuous position, it soon turns into a declaration of God’s protection and might. “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me.”

It is usually difficult to go to sleep when troubles weigh on the mind, but King David had turned his dilemma over completely to the Lord. He refused to be afraid and rested in the knowledge that God was his sustainer.

David used war terms such as enemies, shield, and victory to illustrate the dire need of his army. He prayed for God’s deliverance and acknowledged that the outcome belonged to the Lord.

As we know from the story of Absalom’s Rebellion in 2 Samuel 15-19, God did deliver King David in safety to his throne in Jerusalem. God is faithful, and he rejoices in helping those who are nothing in and of themselves but are confident in God. He is larger than any problem we will ever face.

God showed His great power and grace when He took our penalty upon himself and saved us from eternal punishment. If we can trust Jesus to do such a mighty work in us, we should also be able to rely on him for help and guidance in the daily trials that face us.

“Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah”

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Nine Most Terrifying Words...

"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

"Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty."

"Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged."

"Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives."

"No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!"

"Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing."

"The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much."

"There are no easy answers' but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right."

"We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions."

All quotes are by Ronald Reagan

Saturday, May 13, 2006

End of the Spear – The Book

“And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15

This true story is not exactly about a man going into a foreign country and preaching the gospel to an unknown people. That would have been his father’s story. As Steve Saint explains in the beginning chapter of the book, he wasn’t even a missionary.

“I had not been sent by North Americans to help people of the Amazon with their medical, educational, political, economic, and spiritual needs. I was born here. Though my “shell” looked North American, my heart and thinking processes were quite Latin American. And my passport said I was just as Ecuadorean as the president of the country.”

Steve Saint grew up with a foot in two entirely different worlds; the fast paced United States and the slow, uncomplicated, but often deadly jungles of South America. His father was one of the five missionaries killed by the savage “Aucas" when he was a small boy, but through a miracle of God and the ministry of his family they had turned to Christ, put aside their killing lifestyle, and accepted Steve as part of their family.

Steve was in his forties, married, and the father of four teenagers when the Waodani asked him to return and live in Ecuador with them. They were requesting, almost demanding, that he teach them to survive in the modern world that was fast pushing in on them. Outside groups had lavished medicine and other commodities on them, but it was putting them into a state of dependence that, if continued, would take their remaining freedom away.

It was fascinating to read about the Saint family’s move into the rain forest. They faced many challenges, but their love for the people and the knowlege that they were following God's plan for their lives kept them going. I was touched by the sincere love the Waodani “God followers” had for their Savior. It was wonderful to read the prayers and sermons given by the Christian elders in the community. They were filled with faith in Christ and thankfulness for His plentiful mercy.

Mincaye, the man who killed Nate Saint but is now called “Grandfather” by Steve Saint and his children, said once, “My heart was black and sick in sin, but then I heard that God sent His own son. His blood dripping and dripping, He washed my heart clean. Now I see you well because you are truly my brothers, God’s blood having washed your hearts clean too.”

I highly recommend this book. The message is one of God’s forgiveness and sovereign plan. He knows the beginning from the end and uses everything for our good.

“We acted badly, badly until they brought us God’s markings. Now, seeing those markings and walking Waengongi’s (God’s) trial, we live happily and in peace.”

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Avoid Such People

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5

According to the list given here, it appears that we are in the last days. These faults are rampant in today’s society, and a lack of self-control is a major part of the problem.

Paul was instructing Timothy and the church to avoid those who were reckless, lovers of pleasure, disobedient to parents, etc. Many tragedies would be avoided if people stopped acting selfishly. Much heartache would be avoided if people began working to control self and its ungodly tendencies.

Think about a car full of young people out for a drive. If the driver is reckless, proud, and arrogant, it is a potential car accident for everyone in the car, not just the one behind the wheel. It is dangerous physically and spiritually to be with foolish and uncontrolled people.

Our avoidance should not only extend to foolish people. We need be careful while selecting our entertainment, books, and music. People tend to become like those they spend time with, and this means that we need to use wisdom and self-control while choosing our friends. We should be thoughtful instead of extravagant and full of self-conceit.

George Eliot's wise advice encourages us in self-control while speaking with others:

“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving in words evidence of the fact.”

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Galatians 5:22-26

When Paul spoke to the Galatians about crucifying their flesh with its passions and desires, he was referring to self-control. Demonstrating self-control means exercising restraint over one’s own impulses, emotions, and desires. It means checking our reactions before responding to a situation.

Proverbs 25:28 states, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

We step into a dangerous position when we act without restraint. Our emotions and feelings may not be the purest at all times, and a lack of self-control leads to sinful behavior. We are defenseless against temptation if we do not actively develop self-control in our lives.

All of the other fruit -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness -- require some measure of self-control. They require diligence, commitment, and discipline.

We are powerless to have absolute control over our lives. We cannot implement personal reform and expect it to work because of our own merits or strong will. Without the Lord’s help we will ultimately fail. Self-control is the fruit of God's Spirit and a gift from Him.

2 Timothy 1:6-7 says, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” God is our help and sustainer as we practice control over our emotions and sinful tendencies.

We make hundreds of decisions every day, and there are two sides to demonstrating self-control. The first is in the restrictions we place on our actions. There are certain things we cannot do, and even some good things must be done in moderation. As an example, it is a good thing to speak, but speech can become bad if we scorn self-control and talk excessively or spitefully.

It is human nature to desire more of the things we enjoy, and it takes self-restraint to say no when we want something that could harm us physically or spiritually. It takes self-control to turn down the extra cookie or keep from being disrespectful when tempted.

The second part of self-control is found in being responsible to complete tasks that I may not always feel like doing. It takes self-control for me to practice my violin consistently, obey immediately, and do my school-work in a timely fashion.

We have choices in almost every area of our lives. Our decisions to demonstrate godly control in our actions will impact our service to God. When we are intemperate, allowing excess in our emotions or actions, we are like a city broken into and left without walls. When we give ourselves over completely to God and His keeping, He makes us a fortress against temptation.

Picture Note: My choice of a pineapple has a double meaning today. First, my Mother loves pineapple, but she used to be only able to have just one bite, since she was allergic to it. Second, we are having it for breakfast this morning!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Destructive Quarrels

When Joseph sent his brothers home with the glad tidings that he was still alive, he gave them a special instruction. "Do not quarrel on the way." He wanted to make sure that nothing happened to prevent Jacob from hearing the news of God’s miraculous provision and protection in his son’s life.

Quarreling is always destructive. It can begin easily enough with one selfish act or cutting remark. Quarrels are difficult to end because one party or the other will nearly always lose face. Proverbs 17:14 states wisely, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” The very nature of quarreling is that it tends to escalate and broaden until the situation reaches a standstill. No one wins, and nothing is resolved to satisfaction.

Gentleness is in direct opposition to quarreling. A gentle spirit prevents itself from striking back in anger. Proverbs 15:18 tells us that, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention."
A gentle answer is a powerful tool. In Proverbs 25:15 we are told that, “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” Our words will have more impact and believability if we speak persuasively and courteously without losing our temper and “blowing up” at those who oppose us.

As Christians we can sometimes fall into quarreling as a result of the sincere conviction with which we hold our beliefs. We might have the attitude that we are right, and everyone else is wrong, and we need to say anything and everything to persuade those who disagree with us. We should evangelize, but we need be careful not to engage in argumentative and insulting quarrels that only alienate the unbeliever from the gospel.

Quarreling can also be a problem among Christians. Sadly, there is much conflict between Christian denominations and churches as to how they interpret Scripture. It is possible to become so passionate about our differences that we forget the many ways in which we agree.

Remember that Titus 3:2 tells us to avoid quarrels and be gentle. We want to display the fruit of the Holy Spirit at all times in our evangelism to the lost and our conversations with our brothers and sisters in Christ.