Sat, Jun 30th - 1:04AM
When the artist closed his eyes, he saw a negative image of the sunset he was studying. Stan opened his eyes again and stared intently at the orange sun, memorizing it. The colors were perfect at this moment but they would be changing gradually and he wanted to get it right. The bottom of the sun was just touching the ocean. It glowed vivid orange. The clouds that stretched just above the sun varied from dark rose to black. The ocean itself was dark and rippled but near the the it reflected the colors above it.
Stan used all sides of his brush to achieve the effects that he wanted. He held it flat for the water, rippling it for the waves. He turned it on edge for the clouds cutting in more color as he worked down the canvas. He worked quickly, so as not to lose the light. He stood before the easel on the beach with his legs spread wide for a good base. Unconciously, his toes dug into the sand.
"Can I see it yet?" his Father asked.
The Father grinned and continued to enjoy his side view of his son.
Reluctantly, Stan began to work away from the center of the canvas. The setting sun was by far the most challenging, and important, aspect of the painting but he couldn't stop there. He worked the waves all the way out to the edges. He gently changed shades to darken the sky further away from the sun. He lessened the definition of the waves on the sides.
"You are doing a great job," his Father said.
Stan tore his eyes away from the painting for a moment to look at his Father. "Are you looking?"
"At you. Not the painting"
Stan went back to work. It was quickly becoming hard to see in the failing light.
Finally Stan was done. He took a deep breath and gestured for his Father to come over. The Father rose slowly from his seat on the beach, brushing the sand off of himself. He walked over next to Stan a looked intently at the canvass for a while before speaking.
"Its beautiful." he said finally.
"I like it," Stan said.
The Father continued to look closely, trying to understand the strokes. There was a large glob of orange paint near the middle. Frantic swirls of black covered the top half of the canvas. Gray waves covered the bottom. There was a patch of green partially covered over with black near the top. Apparently Stan had garbbed the wrong color by mistake at one point. All in all it really wasn't bad for an eight year old.
The Father put his large hand on his son's head.
"That is your best one yet!" he said with great pleasure in his voice.
Can you tell what this has to do with service?
Fri, Jun 29th - 9:52AM
In the last year everything that we used to do in service in our church has ended. The college ministry is the last and it will straggle through until September. We have been waiting, wondering where we will be called next, and even considering other churches. We have ben hoping that our comfort level would somehow be restored and we will again feel good about serving here. We have tried to find a way to still trust the Pastor and the leadership.
I am, ironically, teaching the adults once this quarter. It is on service. Last night, in working on the lesson, I realized that I was going about it all wrong. Service isn't about us. Its not, "Where can I serve that will feel good and be rewarding?". Service needs to be the natural result of our love for God. It shouldn't be about us at all. When I vaccuum the floor to help out Taryn, I don't say, "Will I enjoy this?", I'm just helping because I love her. (Yes, one could argue that housework is as much my job as hers, but one revelation at a time.)
"The primary relationship of a servant is to the Master and not to those served." G.C. Morgan
Mon, Jun 25th - 9:16PM
I was thinking maybe it would help if we here at CU knew each other better personally. So here's a meme. At least I think a meme is a kind of blogger challenge.
Post 5 things about yourself that no one here knows. I think that you are supposed to "tag" five people to rspond, but I'll leave this open to anyone who wants to play.
1. Tomorrow is my birthday. I'll be 48. One of the things that bother me about leaving the youth program is that I think one of my unique gifts is the ability to be old and still relate to teens. I'm afraid I'll lose my most special skill.
2. I used to write horror and science fiction short stories and try to sell them to magazines. I never did but I did get some personal comments from editors, which is supposed to mean that you have some potential. I still get a craving for a scarey movie sometimes.
3. When we work on projects around the house, my wife Taryn is the brains. She tells me where to cut and when to hammer. We just finished a garden gate. Taryn did all the design and I made two cool decorative suggestions.
4. I often read and watch TV at the same time. Once, when we were newly married Taryn came home and I was on the floor, reading a book, watching a movie, and listening to a baseball game. She didn't beieve that I could do that until I told her the plot of the movie, the point of the book, and the score of the game. I do watch way too much TV.
5. Whenever a waiter brings me a straw in my drink (soda or tea) I put in C'Anne's drink. When she went off to college I was at a loss what to do with the straw.
Ok, your turn. Post five things on your blog so we can get to know each other better.
Sat, Jun 23rd - 4:23PM
The Angel was tiring. The three spirits, Despair, Anger and Surrender had pressed closer to the family than they had been an hour before. Despair’s long tail had managed to sting the Wife a few times and Anger had stung the two sons with his tongue. The hospital waiting room was a war zone. None of the humans could see it, but they could feel the results.
In the intensive care room, the Husband clung to his life. He would live. It had been determined. This was not the Angel’s battle. There everything gleamed shiny and white, except for the thin blue hospital blanket that had been bunched and shoved down around the Husband’s feet. His thin hospital gown was wide open at the chest. The pattern on it was the hospital’s name in tiny blue letters. The air smelled like a medicine chest.
The young doctor paused in his instructions to the nurse. He was tired too. The result of a busy 24 hour shift in the intensive care ward. He ran his fingers through his dark hair. Normally an attempt to keep it looking stylishly casual, this combing was out of habit and a blurry mind. He was about to order the newest heart medication for the patient when a memory came to him. He saw his old anatomy professor saying, "A drug doesn’t work better just because it’s new." The doctor paused for a moment, then ordered the old, proven drug administered to the Husband. This decision sped the man’s healing by a month. It was the result of the prayers of an internet friend a thousand miles away. Although the friend had never met the Husband, she knew the Wife from a website. She had prayed for wisdom for the Wife’s Husband’s doctor.
Anger slipped its ugly head under the Angel’s arm and stung the Wife. She felt a rush of anger at God for what her husband was going through. Why him? He’s so young to have had a heart attack. She had been incredibly strong and faithful, but she was tired and very worried now. She started to snap at her oldest son for putting his feet up on the magazine rack, but she stopped herself and whispered a silent prayer for her sons instead.
The Angel strained against the three spirits. He had let them push too close to the family. He thrust them back for a moment but they recovered quickly. Suddenly, he felt a surge of energy. He flexed his powerful arms and shoved the three spirits back and then back again. The look on the faces of the three spirits changed instantly, from grinning mischief to terror. The Angel felt his strength grow again. Someone was praying for the family. He pushed hard against the spirits and drove them further, out into the hallway. And then he pushed them through the wall and outside the building. Surrender, who had been less aggressively waiting his time, turned his back. Anger and Despair soon turned also and fled. They would be gone, for a while.
A Nurse came into the waiting room to talk to the family. She didn’t have a lot to say, but she spoke encouraging words. Even more than her words, her face showed confidence and love. The Wife and Sons felt much better. Like God was still in charge. The nurse went back to her assignment on another floor. Her visit was the result of someone’s prayer.
The Angel flew quickly off. He had an assignment across the ocean. As he streaked though the heavens, he felt his energy lag again. These days it seemed like he was always racing somewhere. The battle was getting heavier. Along the way he was confronted by a spirit trying to delay him. They wrestled for a time before the Angel felt another surge of energy. Someone had prayed for the woman in Africa, with some huge conflicts and a big outreach event coming up. He threw the spirit off and sped on.
Thu, Jun 21st - 12:48PM
Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
I recently read someone say that we shouldn’t take the creation story literally because this verse showed that it isn’t literal. That Eve did not literally die when she ate the fruit. I’m not totally sure what I believe about the creation story but that argument is wrong. And it shows a real lack of understanding of creation from God’s view. Which is the only view that matters.
Adam and Eve had the perfect life. It was how they were created to live. It was like the life that we someday will have when creation reaches its fulfillment. We will be with God in perfection. It might not look like the Garden of Eden, (then again it could) but the most important elements will be the same. We will be sinless, with no barriers between us and a relationship with God.
When Eve chose to disobey God, she died. Right there. On the spot. Not physically, but that is secondary. She died spiritually. They had enjoyed a great relationship with God. Now she had sin in her life and that made it impossible for her to have a relationship with a holy God. From then on, she, and everyone born after her, would be born dead. And they would stay dead until Christ’s sacrifice would make them new, sinless.
To say that she "died spiritually but not physically" is to see things from a human view. To God, it’s the spiritual that matters. The physical is secondary. That is why physical death is no barrier to him. It is a big reason why He sometimes doesn’t seem loving or fair to us. It is because we see things on a physical level. He sees things on a spiritual one. The death of four missionaries in the jungle doesn’t make sense physically, but the resulting salvation of many of the villagers makes great sense spiritually. Physical lives are temporary, spiritual things are eternal.
The more that we can see this life in the spiritual. The closer to God we will be. In the physical realm it matters what we look like, how much money we have, who we know, what we’ve done, what someone else has done. In the spiritual it doesn’t. All that matters is our relationship with God and how we can affect others relationship with Him.
Tue, Jun 19th - 12:17PM
Yeah, so we went to youth camp last week.
It was our new youth director, Josh's, "debut". Since he got here, he has ben getting ready for this camp. It was scheduled before we hired him. I think we all knew that it was a little over his head, and it was rushed, but the timing just kinda happened.
It was a very hard assignment because our youth team had run camp for the last two years. That lead to comparisons and expectations that weren't very fair to Josh. I had advised Billy, our former volunteer leader, not to come, but our pastor had talked him into it. It made things very awkward for Josh because everyone was looking to Billy to lead, and for Billy because he wasn't really the leader. Although I did teach one session, I felt like my role was to try to keep peace.
It went pretty much that way. Billy did a lot more than he needed to. Josh didn't really take charge. And we did end up listening to some of grumbling. This was mostly behind the scenes stuff. The kids seemed to have a good camp experience; which is what matters most. We taught on purpose. Day one was not to make things into "idols. Day two was not to put ourselves first. And the conclusion was to glorify God.
My conclusion of the week was the confirmation that we should withdraw from youth work. Josh needs his space. He bristles at being given advice, so we wouldn't really be mentors. And he needs to teach as much as possible; to improve and to build relationships with the kids.
We are waiting to see in what new direction God is taking us. Patiently.
*sighs* * taps foot*
Tue, Jun 19th - 12:04AM
Sorry for the absence.
We were at camp with the teens for one last time.
I meant to post before we left but it got hectic.
I'll try to report on camp soon.
Fri, Jun 1st - 10:40PM
I found this in my files today and I couldn't remember if I posted it here before:
The Little Old Man
Our caravan stopped in Jericho. Of course, we needed to rest and water the camels, but we also needed the city. One can only look at so much hot sand. We were a little ahead of schedule so we decided that we could spend the day. First I found out where the Roman soldiers were and moved as far away as possible. I found a place for the animals. I put our money in a bag and slung it over my shoulder. After two weeks of traveling by camel, I certainly didn't look like I had any money, so I wouldn't be a mark for anyone. And I can handle trouble better than most.
I walked through the market without much interest. I wasn't really shopping, just wandering. A vendor gave me a taste of dates rolled in sweet spices and I bought a handful. I hadn't tasted anything sweet in months. Eventually I felt like I had a feel for the city, where it was safe and where to avoid, and what mood it was in. I found a low wall in the shade of a large tree and sat down to watch the women pass by. One thing I hadn't seen enough of on this trip was women.
Many of them passed by alright. After endless hours of watching camels sway, the people were very interesting. The sun was very hot. The men seemed to scurry about, making money, and the women moved slowly. They argued and laughed. They wore many layers of very colorful clothes. I ate sweet dates and enjoyed the scenery.
Two young women and a boy came by, moving faster than everyone else. The girls laughed constantly, a beautiful sound. The boy seemed caught between them, trying to impress them both. As they moved from vendor to vendor, they seemed to sample everything but didn't buy anything. Something caught the eye of one of the girls and she pointed and laughed. Soon all three were staring and laughing.
A moment later I saw the object of their laughter. A very old, very small man was coming down the main street, dragging a small barrel behind. He was so old, so small, so frail, shimmering in the heat, that I thought for an instant that he might just fade away. But he continued slowly down the street, dragging the barrel behind him. He wore mostly white. His head was uncovered. there were a few grey hairs left on his head that shone with sweat.
I watched with great interest, honestly wondering if the old man would die before he finished his journey. He staggered closer and closer until he stopped at the very tree that was giving me shade. It was a tall sycamore, strong and healthy despite the desert heat. It was one of the finest trees that I had seen for hundreds of miles.
The man stopped next to it, under its shade. He leaned one gnarled hand against the thick trunk. He had thin arms and fingers with huge swollen knuckles between them. He was panting. With a pull of all of his strength, he drew the barrel closer to the tree. This close, I was able to hear something inside the barrel slosh as he pulled.
The man knelt down and began to shape the hot dust in his hands. He clawed at the ground with his bony fingers, raking the dirt into a wall that he formed into a well at the base of the tree. When he was satisfied, he stood with great difficulty, and again rested one hand against the tree trunk to rest. Huge drops of sweat rolled down his face. Then slowly, he lowered the barrel towards the base of the tree.
Sparkling, clean water splashed from the barrel, into the well around the tree. Instantly the musky smell of wet dirt filled the air. I breathed in the welcome smell deeply, somehow feeling refreshed by it. The water sunk into the sandy ground almost instantly and it was quite a while before it started to collect behind the dirt walls he had built. Finally it filled the well, then slowly began to sink into the dry ground.
The barrel hadn't even been half full and was soon almost empty. The man sighed loudly when the water stopped flowing. He looked up and saw me for the first time. Gradually he smiled. "There is a little left in the bottom," he said. It was an invitation.
I jumped from the wall. I reached into the dark bottom of the barrel and felt a full handful of water. It wasn't cool, but it was wet. I carefully pulled it up and poured the handful on my head, and washed my blistered face with my wet hands. The old man also seemed to crawl inside the barrel and emerge with a handful of precious moisture. He annnointed himself and smiled a huge smile. Many of his teeth were gone. Water dripped from the strings of hair on his forehead.
I looked at him without saying a word, but he knew. "Why?" he said. I nodded. "I take care of this tree because it is very special," he said. "This is the place where I met Jesus," He was looking fondly into the branches, remembering a time long ago. "My name is Zacchaeus. Do you know Jesus?"
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