Joseph and Our Hard Times

2016-04-06 16.09.13

Last week my Bible reading included Genesis chapters 39 and 40. Joseph’s brothers had sold him to a caravan of travelling merchants, and he ended up in Egypt as a slave to Potiphar, an official in Pharaoh’s court. Potiphar’s wife “cast her eyes” on Joseph and tried to seduce him.    Joseph refused her over and over but one day she caught him alone in the house and grabbed him. He pulled away and ran but she held onto his coat and he left it behind. Potiphar’s wife yelled out and lied that he had tried to assault her. The result was that Joseph ended up in prison even though not guilty.

After two years, Joseph was released from prison because God enabled him to interpret  Pharaoh’s dream about seven good years and seven years of famine that were coming. Joseph told what the dream meant and also gave a plan to deal with the famine. The plan pleased Pharaoh and his advisors, and Pharaoh made Joseph second in command because it was obvious to him that     Joseph was wise because God was with him.

About that time in the chapter, my brain began wondering about a possible scenario. Say, two or three months after Joseph became second in command, he called his administrative assistant. “Here, Hapusenaram, take this note over to Mrs. Potiphar. Tell her to come to Pharaoh’s palace, where I’m second in command, by the way. I’d like to talk with her a few minutes.”

Wouldn’t that get her excited about what Joseph might do and say? I have a hint of what I might do and say in that situation and it might not be nice (We can deduce that because my mind wandered in this direction in the first place). But I also think we can deduce what Joseph would say based on what he later told his brothers about being sold by them: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

Those words can easily roll off our tongue, but it takes a work of the Holy Spirit and much work by us to have them come from our heart. So, we pray and work against our wandering mind so that we can mean it when we say “God is good—all the time!” – no matter what situation we’re in.

And in the End……..

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We went through a course at work many years ago on Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the habits was: “Begin with the end in mind.” In the postscript, beyond the business aspect, of his book, he explained the life aspect rather starkly. What do you want people saying about you at your funeral? Figure that out and live toward it.

Along those same lines of thought, my Uncle Ivy once told me he had spent a night in his recliner praying and meditating while considering much that same question—what kind of man did he want to be? He concluded that he wanted folks to think of him and say, “Ivy Spivey is always willing to help in any way he can.” (And he always was.)

In another course at work we were required to develop a personal mission statement. I didn’t think a lot about it and just took the Boy Scout Oath as mine. That is a great statement and living by it is certainly a good “mission.”

But, through the years I’ve thought more about my life’s mission, as Steven Covey suggested and as Uncle Ivy did. My latest rendition is:

  1. The only things that really matter in life are God and other people – so live like it. (You may recognize this is a paraphrase of the two great commandments Jesus gave – Love the Lord, and Love your neighbor. I was thankful when I realized that.)
  2. Do the right things – for the right reasons. (It’s obvious The Bible tells us to do the right things and not do the wrong things. But 1st Corinthians chapter 13 (“the love chapter”) makes it clear that without the right motivation, particularly love, doing the right thing means nothing. See also the Sermon on the Mount and what I call the “woe” chapter—Matthew chapter 23)
  3. Pay Attention (If we don’t, we’ll miss opportunities to do the first two. Isaiah chapter 42 mentions looking but not seeing and listening but not hearing.)

I’m not writing those points here because I’m always successful in following them – The older I get, the more I realize how pitiful my results often are. And, I’m not saying you should take them as yours. I’m just suggesting as we go into this New Year, along with making resolutions like eating healthier and exercising, which are still good resolutions, we also spend time in prayer and meditation and, as Jesus said, consider the “weightier matters of…justice, mercy and faithfulness.”  (Matthew 23:23)
Micah 6:8  “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Sometimes We Have to Love Enough to Insist

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I’ve neglected spending time playing my guitar for several years. It’s a mighty fine guitar. I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time in the late 1970’s when a friend wanted to sell it and buy a fancier one. (It was made in 1973, the year Sharon and I were married – neat, huh?)

Over time, I noticed it wasn’t sounding like it once did (more than just my being out of     practice.) Little by little the sound had degraded – a rattle here, a buzz there, dull sounding, a piece of binding coming loose, etc. It still sounded ok, but because it happened slowly over time, the level of degradation wasn’t obvious.

I often mentioned to Sharon that I needed to take it to Randy Wood, but never followed through. (fyi – Randy Wood is a premier instrument maker/customizer/repairer who has built       instruments and done work through the years for Elvis, Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, etc. Randy was in the middle of the Nashville scene for years and got tired of the hustle-bustle and somehow ended up with a shop in Bloomingdale, Georgia.)

Last Christmas, after many mentions by me of what I needed to do, Sharon told me what her Christmas present to me was going to be – she was going to insist that I take the guitar to Randy’s shop the first week in January. Those who know me, know that Sharon moving from suggesting and encouraging to insisting on something pretty much makes it a done deal for me. So, I took it in, and it was repaired. It was in bad shape. They reset the neck, glued a couple of braces back into place, reset the binding, cleaned it up and changed the strings. And, the first time I strummed a G chord in its “like new” condition, tears came to my eyes. How wonderful! That’s the way it was made to sound. How could I have let it go like I did?

Many things we let slide aren’t physical, like my guitar, but are spiritual. The first steps in    correcting those are prayer, faith and obedience to God. Another step could be looking for someone with wisdom and life experiences they can use to help us. And, we can look for someone who loves us enough to insist on something (whatever that may be.)
Then, as we go through that process, we can ask God to help us learn enough to become someone else’s “expert” when they need it, and love them enough to insist.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” Hebrews 10:24

 

The Spirit in the Car Wash

car wash

(Written last Spring)
I had never been inside a drive-through car wash (outside the vehicle) until yesterday. With all the  pollen on the truck, I decided to stop by Enmark and get a wash during my usual Friday afternoon grocery run. There were several vehicles in line so I pulled in to wait.
After a minute, the door of the car ahead of me opened and an elderly woman got out and slowly walked toward me. I rolled down the window and in a strong Indian accent she haltingly said she had never been through a car wash before, didn’t know what to do, and was scared. I told her not to be scared and said I’d walk up to the machine and get her started. When we got there, I saw the taped-on sign saying the machine couldn’t take payments so you had to go to the kiosk to get a ticket.
So, after a bit of cajoling and explanation, I convinced her to drive through the car wash (“yes, without a ticket, and without getting a wash this round”) and go to the cashier and get a ticket. I needed gas, so I went to a pump and paid for the car wash with the gas, but got the notice to “see cashier for receipt”.
I went over and told the cashier I needed my receipt. The lady was still standing by her car by the kiosk so I asked the cashier to get her a car wash. The lady handed me her credit card, so I bought the wash, gave her the ticket and told her to go back to the car wash and I’d be right there. As I walked toward my truck, I saw I had the wrong receipt so went back to the cashier. She couldn’t find mine in the system, so I asked her to look while I hurried to help the lady, who by this time was parked at the machine by the car wash.
I entered her code and thought I explained OK to go forward until the green light turned red. But, she continued slowly through as the light turned red and then back to green. So, I walked in the car wash and after several times of her backing up and creeping forward, got her stopped at the right position and the car wash started. I waved as I quickly headed out to avoid getting soaked. I went back and got my receipt (the cashier had found it by then), got my truck and got back in line. I realized the lady hadn’t come out, so, I walked in the car wash again and told her it was finished and it was OK to leave. She waved, thanked me and headed out.
The incident was funny in some ways, but not really in the important ones. I wrote this because just before it happened, I was stuck in a drive through lane at a bank across the street getting aggravated and impatient (mostly     calling myself stupid for not paying attention and going to a bank at lunch time on a Friday afternoon.) And, once you’re in the line, especially if a car pulls up behind you, you are stuck.
I was still grumbling at myself as I pulled in the car wash line. But, thankfully, when the lady got out of her car, God’s Holy Spirit took over. C. H. Spurgeon once wrote of the Holy Spirit, that “There is no spiritual good in all the world of which He is not the author and sustainer.” I’d have to say Amen to that, Brother Spurgeon!

 

Contemplation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn a whim, I bought two baskets and a small box for $2 at the auction. Didn’t need any of them but figured the   flower shop in Brooklet could probably use the baskets. The box was a neat little miniature crate with a butterfly painted on one of the slats. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it.

As the auction continued, a family came in and sat next to me in the pew (yes, this one has old pews as part of the seating). They had a daughter, probably eight years old, with them. Later, as I was leaving, I asked the mother if the young girl might like the box (the girl was at the snack bar). The mother said sure and took it and thanked me.

While I was checking out at the register, the little girl’s grandmother walked by and stopped to talk with me. The grandmother said the girl loved the box. She also said that her (the grandmother’s) friend had died the previous week of breast cancer and they had released butterflies in her honor. The butterfly on the box reminded her of that and she said it was a great blessing to her. I looked over at the little girl and she was sitting in the pew with her new box in her lap and her bag of       popcorn handily placed in it. I was feeling pretty good.

I went to the grocery store the next day and as I turned in one aisle, I saw an older man at the other end of the aisle trying to get a plastic container from the shelf. He had dropped several of them and was putting them back up. I headed that way but by the time I got there he had things arranged and one container in the buggy (for some reason he wanted one from the middle of the stack). I asked him if I could help and we talked a minute. It was obvious some of the confusion that comes as we get older was there. I made sure he was ok and headed to the next aisle. I was feeling pretty good.

I finished shopping, loaded the groceries in the truck and headed out of the parking lot. I wasn’t paying attention and pulled behind a car trying to turn left onto the busy street. (I usually go some other way if I see that happening). I sat and sat and sat (and got aggravated and more aggravated) as cars came by from both directions and several opportunities for the car in front to exit came and went. Finally, it was very clear from both ways and nothing happened. I honked the horn. The driver hesitantly pulled out and as his head turned, I recognized it was the confused man with the plastic containers. I wasn’t feeling very good.

I know it was the Holy Spirit that led me to give the box to the little girl and to try to help the man. In reflecting on those situations, I remember there was a feeling of thankfulness to the Lord for those opportunities. But, also knowing how arrogant I can be, I’m sure there was some pride in the mix, too.

So, the Lord let me go my own way and showed me where I would go when not paying attention to His leading. But, as God’s lesson convicted my heart, I realized in true thankfulness that He had not stopped leading and loving me. Yes, His love endures forever!         1 Cor. 10:12 “Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

 

Six Month Checkup

August vegetable garden

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12 (Fallow ground – left uncultivated and unproductive)

“Hey, Bill— Didn’t you say six months ago that you were going to retire and break up your fallow ground? How’s it going on that?

Well, it depends. You can see from this photo from earlier this week, that the physical break up, rebuild, renovate of the vegetable garden’s fallow ground has stayed on hold through these six months. Now, it’s too hot these days to get started with a good spray of Roundup and have it be effective. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) This garden hopefully, will rise to the top of the list in the Fall.

But, on the flower garden side of things, the Lord has blessed us with much beauty. Much fallow ground was broken up. I’ve posted a couple of photos on blog posts, and several more on Facebook. The one below is the view from our bedroom window.

On other things, I haven’t done as much writing as I had planned (but, I have done more than I was doing, so that’s progress.) My plans to spend more time with my guitar and banjo are still in their cases, so to speak—but they’re still on the list.

I’ve discovered that what happens to impede progress—is life. Like always, there are planned and unplanned things that come up that divert attention from the to-do list of items mentioned above. Also, now that I’m a bit older, I’ve discovered that just resting and staying out of the heat are needful, too.

But, the fallow ground in the above verse from Hosea isn’t referring to these physical things I’ve mentioned (although, I would hope writing and music could fit in with it). The verse is talking about the more important aspects of life—sowing righteousness, reaping love, and seeking the Lord. I’ve been working on those, too.

I won’t mention specifics. But, there have been successes and wonderful blessings (all by the grace of God), and utter failures of commission and omission (all by the humanity of Bill). I don’t plan to quit trying, but I do get discouraged at times. Then, the Lord sends me a message, like He did through our Pastor the other night. In His preface to our church conference, he talked a bit about Galatians 6:9—
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
So, with the Lord’s help, I won’t faint.

Bedroom window view

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – But be careful!

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – But be careful! (Facebook folks, click on the link to see the entire post)

wheat and tares phlox 2

Here’s some fallow ground that needed breaking up in late winter. Looks like I could just go in and turn over everything and get ready for Spring. But if you look closely you see some things that aren’t weeds. So I had to be careful breaking  up this fallow ground.

This reminded me of Jesus’ Kingdom parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). There was a field a man planted with good seed (wheat) and at night an enemy came and planted bad seed (tares) in the field. When the field hands saw it (later, when both had grown enough to recognize) they asked the owner if he wanted them to pull the tares up. The owner’s reply was to wait, since pulling up the tares may also pull up the wheat.

While, I had to be careful what to pull up, and pulling some of the weeds actually unrooted a good plant, it was clear enough I could pull the weeds and leave the plants. I’ll leave it to you to study more on Jesus’ parable since it goes deeper than good plants and bad plants. But, I’ll leave a warning that we be careful when breaking up fallow ground – whether physical, spiritual, or relationships. Be sure to look closely for the good and not take it away with the bad.

It’s summer now, and here are the white phlox that were hiding in the weeds.

Phlox in bloom