Archives For November 2009

Safety Guards

Tim Jackson —  November 30, 2009 — 2 Comments

Four weeks ago I was working in my garage on a project that’s been long overdue. Okay, true confessions, I haven’t been able to park a car in my garage since . . . who knows when . . . because it functions more like a shop and storage than a garage. Saw guard-fullAnyway, I was ripping some plywood on my table saw to build some storage cabinets and was having trouble with the blade binding up. Against my better judgment but in the attempt to expedite progress on a project (remember, it was long overdue?), I removed the blade guard to make the ripping easier.

In short order I had completed all but the last of my cuts when it happened. I was slightly distracted for a mere microsecond and . . . I brushed the saw blade with my left thumb. I’ll spare you the gory details, but needless to say you don’t brush up against a carbide blade rotating at 3400 rpms and walk away without some physical reminders that the saw manufacturer knows more about saw safety than saw users (no matter how smart they think they are) can afford to ignore.

Hand warning on saw guard

My first thought as I clutched my left thumb with my right hand was: “Did I just cut my thumb off?!?! I saw the blood, but I didn’t feel any pain yet (that followed quickly). I had a vision of my father’s right hand–three fingers missing parts from a job-related accident where a safety devise failed to protect him. I’m thrilled to tell you that I still have a thumb. And I’m extremely grateful, because it could have been so much worse. Talk about a very close call that could have been disastrous.

So you might be reading this and say, “Tim, that was dumb!” And you’d get no arguments from me. It was dumb. But, at the time is seemed so reasonable. And why? Frankly, I was in a hurry (never a good sign) and I thought I knew better and could remove the safety guards placed on the saw for my protection.

While I was nursing my shredded thumb (which made typing and Blade Guard warning labelbuttoning my shirts a painful experience for several weeks–but at least I still had a thumb) and reflecting on how stupid it was for me to remove the guards, I was prompted to ask some larger questions.

Why do we ignore the warnings that are clearly printed on the products we use? There could be any number of so-called good reasons–or at least they seemed good at the moment. And that got me thinking about how often we ignore the “safety guards” that God has placed in our way. How often do we remove those guards and plunge full-speed ahead without thinking about the disastrous results that could happen? Unfortunately–in my case–it’s more often than I’d like to admit. How about you? Are you with me here?

A quick search for “do not’s” in Proverbs alone reveals 72 times that God places safe guards for us. One in particular stands out to me that sums up the matter: “Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it” (Prov. 8:33).  Ignoring God’s warning labels is always to our own peril.

So why do we ignore or blast through God’s “do not” warnings? Here’s some of the reasons I came up with:

1. We don’t trust that God has given warnings or restrictions to us for our protection–our safety. We think that He’s into controlling us vs. loving us. And we have a natural aversion to anyone who tries to control us.

2. We’re too independent and self-sufficient. Boil it down, we think we know better about what’s in our best interests. Again, we don’t trust God’s intentions.

3. We think we’re smarter and  don’t need someone else telling us how to live our lives.

4. We believe we can maneuver around the safe guards without  serious incident.

To sum it all up, I was foolish to remove the blade guard on my saw. Saw blade-reflectionAnd I paid with blood and pain. Carbide teeth are not very forgiving. But fortunately for us, God is gracious and always willing to forgive, even when we foolishly jump over or around the guards He’s placed for our protection because He loves us. I feel like I got off with a painful reminder of what my foolish choices can do . . . and what I dare not ever ignore . . . even if I think I have good reasons. They’re not good enough.

So how about you? Ever ignore the warning signs in your life? Feel free to share your story. Please, no gory details, just what you ignored, what you learned, and how God was gracious to you in the midst of you jumping over His safety guards.

Man’s Best Friend

Jeff Olson —  November 25, 2009 — 5 Comments

AndreI had to make the decision to have our family dog put to sleep last weekend. It was one of the most heart wrenching decisions I’ve ever made. Andre, affectionately known as our “little buddy” (pictured to the left), was a part of our family for fifteen years. We will miss him deeply.

There’s a reason why we refer to dogs as “man’s best friend.” Roger Caras once said, “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

As we enter the Thanks Giving Holiday season, I find myself feeling deeply grateful for the joy our little guy brought into our lives. I’m also thankful for the lessons he taught me, mostly about forgiveness.

I can recall many times where I’ve gotten so mad at him when he wouldn’t stop barking or snatched a piece of food off one of our plates. He certainly had his moments where he took strong exception to the fact that he wasn’t the alpha male in the house. But as upset as I would get with him or he would get with me, Andre was always quick to forgive and move on.

He likely didn’t realize the significance of it, but he showed me what it looked like to keep short accounts. He illustrated what Paul stressed as essential for human relationships, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you” (Colossians 3:13 NLT).

Be thankful

Allison Stevens —  November 23, 2009 — 3 Comments

thanksgivingLet the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, (Heb 12:28)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. (Ps 100:4)

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. (Ps 105:1)

Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Ps 106:1)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Ps 107:1)

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, (Ps 107:8, 15, 21, 31)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Ps 118:1)

Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.    (Ps 118:19)

I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. (Ps 118:21)

You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. (Ps 118:28)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Ps 118:29)

At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. (Ps 119:62)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. (Ps 136:1)

Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. (Ps 136:2)

Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.(Ps 136:3)

Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever. (Ps 136:26)

In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. (Isa 12:4)

The sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the LORD. (Jer 33:11)

God’s Word is powerful and speaks to us.  Let’s be thankful for all He’s done!

Grateful for little things

Tim Jackson —  November 20, 2009 — 3 Comments

I just came back from 2 days in the Michigan woods hunting for whitetail deer with my son. We invested a bunch of time, energy, effort, and expense . . . and came back empty handed. Skunked. Not only did we not bag a deer, we didn’t even see any. Now that’s really skunked! And a real rarity for me. While we don’t always come back with some venison for the freezer, we usually do end up seeing a lot of deer. Not so this year. And yet, as I reflected on the day in my mind’s eye, there was much to be grateful for.

Like what?

Well, like  hiking into a swamp at 5:00AM. Watching where you step in the dark is an adventure all it’s own. Not knowing if your next step will land on a hidden underwater obstruction that will send you sprawling into the frigid water. Now that’s an adventure!

Orion star constellationNot convinced? Okay, so that’s an adventure that only a dyed-in-the-wool outdoorsman can understand.

But the night sky that morning was nothing short of stunning. I mean, it was so crisp, clear, and the stars were so brilliant that it almost felt like I could touch them. I sat in silence for an hour in the hushed veil of darkness, soaked in the spectacular star-show, punctuated by the occasional blazing flares of shooting stars provided by a November meteor shower (that we rarely see in Michigan because our Novembers are often cloudy), and serenaded by the hoots of a lonely owl.

I picked out all the stars in each of the constellations that I can’t see from my home because of the light pollution from the nearby shopping plaza. Orion, The Hunter, is one of my favorites. What a fantastic start to a day . . . and worth getting up for.

That celestial display took me back to earlier adventures with my son when we’d gone camping in the same national forest together. We viewed that same sky and slept under the same stars around the campfire, and I’d ask him, “Who made those stars?” His response was simple and confident: “God did.”

In the stillness of that morning and soaking in the splendor of the night, I was reminded of the words of David, the shepherd boy, whose shepherding duties gave him ample opportunity to gaze up at the stars of a Middle Eastern sky some 3,000 years ago and write:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2)Otter1

As the day wore on and there still were no deer to be seen, I found delight in watch a pair of river otters playfully swimming in the swamp. One, totally unaware of my presence, swam within 3 feet of me and my son. It’s one thing to see them in a zoo, but to observe them in the wild in their own habitat is quite special.

NuthatchAnd then there were the birds. I’ve built and maintain a variety of feeders that are strategically placed around my home, all with the purpose of luring in these birds to entertain my family. I love watching the cardinals, gold and purple finches, nuthatches, and 5 different varieties of woodpeckers feeding around my yard.

But seeing them up close and personal in their backyard–like on the branch next to me–or trying to land on the barrel of my gun is amazing.

My favorite is the black-capped chickadee. Black-capped Chickadee-smallThey are absolutely adorable. I love their gregarious nature as they move through the woods in groups–never alone–and sporting their distinctive black-feathered cap and their signature call of chick-a-dee-dee-dee. Yea, you guessed it, that’s how they got their name. They are curious little creatures that add a joyful presence to the woods.

And again, as I witnessed the life in the woods that my Heavenly Father made, my mind is drawn back to Jesus words in Matthew 7:11,

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Looking back, opening day had it’s deer-less disappointments. But it also was a great day to soak in and learn to enjoy all the little “gifts” from my Heavenly Father who provides them for our delight and His. It really was a good day.

What about you? Are you sometimes so overwhelmed by the disappointment of not getting what you want that you miss out on the the little pleasures–the good gifts–God has given you? Please feel free to share how you’ve missed out and how God is reawakening your heart to gratefulness for the little things.

A story of abuse

Allison Stevens —  November 16, 2009 — 12 Comments

hand over faceThis post reveals what it’s like living with an abusive spouse. It’s written from a wife’s perspective about what happened in her marriage with her battering husband.

I should have left the first time he hit me. But I was afraid. We had just gotten back from our honeymoon and I couldn’t bear the scrutiny or shame I’d feel if I left my husband so soon.  That would mean that I made a mistake. I wasn’t up for admitting that. I was so used to hiding and carrying my burdens alone that living with the abuse and keeping it secret seemed like my only option.

We were eating dinner one night, and we started to argue about something. I can’t remember what it was about.  It was something like where to spend Christmas or how we were spending money. He became very upset and angry, and then, it felt as if with all his might, he back-handed me across the face.

I was stunned. It felt like my front teeth were loose and maybe would fall out. You know how when you really hurt yourself, it takes a few seconds to feel the pain?  That’s what it was like.  At first, no pain, then the throbbing. I held my mouth, and I couldn’t move my hand. I couldn’t move at all. I realized I was almost hyperventiling. I was crying, and then I tasted blood. It hurt so bad. The physical pain was bad, but the hurt I felt in my heart was agonizing. The man I married, the one who was supposed to protect and love me, just hit me with all his strength.

Ice stopped the bleeding, but it didn’t do much to stop the bruising, nor the sick feeling I had in my stomach.

After a short while, he apologized.  He was strangely calm for being so upset a few minutes earlier. He tried to hug me and comfort me.  I felt completely numb, emotionally. I pretended to let him hug me, but really, there was no comfort. I knew then that I was in big trouble and I felt that I had absolutely no way out of this. I did all I could to cover the bruises with makeup. But a woman at work noticed and asked me about it. I made up some lame story to cover it up. I don’t think she believed me, though. But she didn’t say anymore about it.

And thus began a sick, perverted, twisted marriage. After that incident, he was nice for awhile, but then I could feel the tension rising again. And then he’d explode again. But even during the “good” times when he wasn’t hitting me, twisting my arm, or pulling my hair, he had his ways of putting me down. He preferred the name “stupid bitch” or laughing at me or my family. He loved making fun of my family.

It’s unthinkable to me now that I was more willing to suffer quietly on my own, bearing the weight of shame that was wrongly placed on me, than I was to go through the embarrassment of a separation or divorce. But through God’s grace and trusting in His love and believing that He wanted me to be safe, I was, with his help, able to get free from this abusive, oppressive relationship. I’ve learned so much about myself and my relationships. I can honestly say now that I’m thankful for all I’ve been through because it’s made me who I am today.  And I like who I am.

If you’ve experienced this kind of relationship, and you feel comfortable sharing a part of your story with us, please blog. We’d like to hear from you.

coffeeCoffee shops intimidate me.  I stand there with this dumbfounded look on my face wondering not only what flavor I’m in the mood for (why this becomes such a mystery to me whenever I stand in front of that counter I don’t know, –it’s always chocolate), but I also worry that I haven’t correctly learned the coffee-house language. I’m going to say Frappe wrong or order a frappachino when I really want a latte.  I order a tall, but really, that’s quite small, and I want a grande size.

This morning I met some friends at a coffee shop. I wanted a hot coffee, thought I ordered a hot coffee, but what I actually ordered was a cold, 1000-calorie, yummy dessert with whipped topping and drizzled chocolate– at 8:30 in the morning.

It’s not the young man’s fault behind the counter.  I got exactly what I ordered. But I’m confused by it all.

And then, he tells me, “That will be five dollars and 23 cents.”  I said, “Five dollars? Are you sure?  I ordered a tall, not the grande.”  He said, yes, it’s right, because it’s a specialty drink.  Well, I didn’t intend to order something cold with whipped cream on top, or anything special at all, especially not a coffee for $5.00. In my part of the country, that’s a bit steep. 

Well, I wanted to write about this because it was a quirky little experience this morning, but I almost didn’t put it on the blog because I really had no spiritually significant point to make of it. 

Then again, maybe there is a point to all this.  As I was getting my money out, I thought, wow, I really can’t make a habit of this. Five bucks isn’t a ton of money, but it can add up pretty quickly. Then I thought about all the people who can’t afford a $5.00 coffee drink. I wondered if I was being wasteful with my, no, God’s money.  How many hungry children were there in my city that could have enjoyed a nice lunch with that five-dollar bill?  What about the homeless folks who could use a cup of hot coffee and a bagel to get through the day? How many children and families could that money feed in other countries?

I’m not down on coffee houses or coffee, or anything like that. The drink I had was fantastic, and I love that there is a place you can meet with friends and stay there for 2 hours. And I’ll go again, I’m sure. Coffee isn’t the point at all. But I want to be aware of how I’m spending my, no, God’s money, and maybe how that money can be used for a better purpose.  My sister says, “We are pretty much desensitized to plopping down a $5.00 bill for a coffee drink, and, unfortunately, to the needs of the poor.” I don’t want to be that way. I don’t want to ignore the poor, the hungry, or the needy. I want to be more like Jesus who cares for people.

What are your thoughts on this topic of how we spend money and if we’re aware of God’s reminders about frivolous spending and taking care of others?

It must have been fun . . .

Tim Jackson —  November 4, 2009 — 3 Comments

20091022_lead-ipc-eye[1]

Wow!!! Have you ever seen anything like that before? I love the outdoors and I love good photography, but this shot of this little gecko just blew me away. At first I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking at. Was it a marble? Or was it some kind of exotic semiprecious gem mounted in a uniquely crafted setting? Then I saw it–an eye like none I’d ever seen before.

This stunning photo was sent to me by none other than National Geographic in their email update. Anke Seidlitz submitted this as her entry in NG’s 2009 photo contest. The editors selected this shot as the featured picture of the month for October 2009 and I can certainly see why.

What captured my attention was the exotic beauty and attention to detail that was reflected in this little gal’s eye (Yes, the photographer confirmed that she’s a female Smith’s green-eyed gecko that hung out on one of the  chalets next to her home, indulging on insects drawn to the lights at night). The exquisite detail and opalescence of the eye causes me to pause in awe and wonder: Why would God bother to pour so much creative energy and delicate artistry into the detail of this creature’s eye that few of us would ever take the time to notice, much less stop and appreciate?

This kind of painstaking attention to detail and beauty tells me at least 3 things about God.

First, He loves beauty. Eccl. 3:11 states, “He has made everything beautiful in it’s time.”  The heart of God is one that excels in the creation of, appreciation for, and delight in beauty. In bold and beautiful splashes of color, the intricacy of His designs are displayed with a creative flare that can only be a product of His wild imagination. After all, who else would have thought of giving this common little lizard such a spectacularly gorgeous eye?

Second, He’s into the details. In Luke 12:6-7, Jesus taught His disciples once: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” How many hairs cluttered the bathroom counter this morning as you got ready for your day? (Have you noticed that they increase more and more each year as we age?) Did you count them? Probably not. If you did, you probably need to seek help for being a little too obsessive-compulsive. But what’s amazing it that while we could care less, Jesus tells us that God keeps count. Why? Because He’s got nothing better to do with His time? Of course not. It’s His way of saying that He pays attention to every detail of life . . . of green-eyed geckos and of your life and mine.

Third, He has fun being God. I can just imagine Him smiling with an almost precocious grin as He playfully splashes the color into the eye of the gecko and laughs with delight. Don’t paint God into a box! He’s not an impersonal and impervious being who creates with machine-like precision. He’s an artist who indulges in a creative imagination like none other. He’s an infinitely personal God who has an unlimited capacity for unbridled imagination. I can barely image the intense joy He must have experienced in creating such a wonderful world.

It must have been fun!

Every year, my husband and daughter plant flowers for me in our garden, for Mother’s Day. By mid summer, the flowers have grown and filled in and the colors are stunning. Sometimes, I just sit and stare at them. I guess I actually watch my flowers grow.

 

pink-desert-flowermountainsdesertI can’t imagine a world without flowers.  No color. Just green. Now, green is great, as a matter of fact, everyone is going green and green is the new black.  That’s all well and good, but what about the ferociously gorgeous splashes of pink, red, purple, orange, yellow, blues that we see in tulips, snapdragons, and irises?

 

Imagine a world without the scorching hues of red, orange and yellow in a sunset or a sunrise?

 

Imagine a world without snow-capped mountains? Deep blue oceans? Desert sands?

 

Imagine a world without beauty. That would be a world without God, for God is beautiful. Take time to soak in the beauty of the Lord today, because “From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth (Psalms 50:2).ocean-wavessnocapped-mountainsnapdragons