I Don’t Know What It Is

What is it?

What is it?

I downloaded the photos from my camera and remembered all except this one. I had no clue. If I was taking pictures with film and the developed photo looked like this, I would think there had been trash all over it. Or perhaps thought it was a shot from the movie Ghost that picked up the dark spirits passing by.

I reviewed the other photos from the download and retraced my day’s steps. Then I remembered this was a shot from the front yard and there was a flock of hundreds of blackbirds landing and circling in the peanut field across the road. Obviously my camera isn’t fast enough for rapidly moving blackbirds.

If you were able to tell what this was before I explained it, you were more perceptive than even me, who took the photo in the first place. But, I would think most folks were like I was at first – didn’t have a clue.

My confusion over the photo reminded me of Philip and the Ethiopian in the desert (Acts 8.) The Ethiopian was sitting in his chariot reading out loud from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Philip heard him read: “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living

Philip asked if he understood what he was reading, and the Ethiopian replied “How can I, except some man should guide me?” And Philip guided him through Scripture and he understood (in fact, came to saving faith and was baptized.)

At times we may feel like we don’t have a clue about a passage in the Bible. If prayer and meditation don’t provide clarity, that means it’s also time to ask  someone to guide us. And, on the other side, there are Scripture passages we understand clearly. Along with prayer and meditation, that may be the opportunity to guide someone else.

How can I, except some man should guide me?” Acts 8:31

 

A Change of Perspective May be Needed

Pecan Orchard Cropped

See the Forest and the Trees

The facilitator of the corporate liability workshop mentioned the famous case when the woman sued McDonald’s because she was burned when she spilled a cup of coffee in her lap. Of course, there was laughter and some guffaws about how frivolous the lawsuit was. “Surprise! the coffee’s hot – well, duh”.

When the laughter quieted down, the teacher asked: “What would be your response if I told you that particular McDonald’s had a defective coffee maker that overheated the coffee, and they had been receiving complaints about it for several months?”

The room was totally hushed as we pondered what she had said. Someone quietly spoke up, with no laughter, “How could they let a problem go on like that?” The perspective had totally changed.

The facilitator (an attorney) wouldn’t verify that was the situation, but she did get our attention – both from a corporate liability point and a personal aspect. Sometimes we need to change our perspective and get more information or do a little more thinking before we react hastily.

Balaam was riding his donkey and the animal stopped and would not move. (Numbers 22). Balaam beat the donkey mercilessly and threatened to kill him. The Lord opened the animal’s mouth and the donkey asked, in effect, “why are you beating me? Haven’t I always been your faithful servant?”

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes and Balaam saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the path with a drawn sword. Had the donkey not seen that and stopped, Balaam would have been slain. Balaam bowed his head and fell flat on his face. His perspective had totally changed.

A bit of waiting and thinking can change our perspective and keep us from making mistakes.
Be still, and know that I am God;” Psalm 46:10

The Door of Temptation?

The Door of Temptation?

The Door of Temptation?

When I walk through this door each Friday, my rebellious streak confronts me. This door is at the local Post Office and I go there to check our church’s mail.

The problem is there is a rule, but there are also choices. See the PULL decal? That’s the problem. Some door signs say PULL and the door is physically built so that’s the only way. If you PUSH, it goes nowhere. If you want to go through, you PULL.

The problem with this door is it swings both ways – you can follow the sign and pull, or you can ignore the sign and push, and either choice will get you into the Post Office.

I think I know the logical reason for it being a PULL not a PUSH. If you push the door, you’re more likely to hit someone who is coming toward the exit from inside. But, my thoughts are it’s a glass door and I can clearly see the area around the door. I’ll be careful and I won’t hit anyone. And, besides, physically, the push is easier, smoother and faster. You don’t stop but just move right through.

Good excuses, aren’t they.

If you follow the sign and pull, it’s safer. Being “easier” and “smoother” probably aren’t measurable. And, “faster” could be measured in fractions of a second. So, why would the thought of pushing even come to mind?

That’s where the rebellious streak comes in. We don’t want to be told what to do and not do. We want to make the choices and “do what’s right in our own eyes.” That’s when we get into trouble.

If deciding once a week whether to push or pull a door was the only time we had to confront our rebelliousness, that would be simple. The problem is we are confronted with it in every decision we make, and many, obviously, are much more important than push or pull.

So, what should we do? We should pay attention to the signs. If it says PULL, we should pull. Or yield for a YIELD, and stop for a STOP.

However, all signs aren’t written in plain sight in capital letters. Some are simply written in our hearts. If we notice our anger rising, or if we think thoughts like “this is a stupid thing to have to do!” or “I’m not going to do that!”, we need to realize our rebellious streak (put simply, our pride and selfishness) could be rearing its head and we may be ignoring a sign. Then, instead of pushing on through, we need to stop and look within our heart for the Lord’s sign and follow it.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:” Hebrews 8:10

Do We Have a Birthmark – From Our Second Birth?

Pole Birthmark

Pole Birthmark

The “birthmark” on this power pole provides several bits of information. “SOCO” is the company it was “made” for (changed from a tree into a pole for.) ACE is the pole making company. “515” is May, 2015. And the bottom “5-35”, means it is a 35 foot long, class 5 pole. The class refers to the diameter and thus, the strength. I’m not familiar with the other line of characters, but it most likely refers to the species of tree (since it’s in southeast Georgia, almost surely a Southern Yellow Pine), and type of preservative treatment of the pole. When the tree is “re-birthed” into a pole, it receives its birthmark. (For reference, this is the information I was looking for when I came upon the eyed click beetle featured in my last post.)

Some people are born with birthmarks (and that, of course, is where the term comes from.) These birthmarks come in different forms, such as spots in the eye, or streaks of different colored hair. Most I have seen are colored patches of skin of various sizes and shapes. Birthmarks can identify a person, showing clearly there is something different about them.

My question is, do we have a “birthmark” from our second birth (when we received the Holy Spirit in our heart – or, we can also say, when we became a Christian)? Are there characteristics we have that make it clear to others that we are different? The Bible says there should be. We are to be humble. We are to love one another – not superficially, and not just those who love us – even loving our enemies. We should not retaliate for wrongs (not repaying evil for evil.)

That list could continue for several pages, but let’s consider this birthmark a bit more. A Christian’s birthmark isn’t branded on like a power pole’s – deep and complete the moment it’s done. Nor, is it like most physical birthmarks – clear to those who see it when the baby is born.

Our Christian birthmark may not even be evident to anyone when it’s begun. It’s like a painting. In the beginning, there is no clarity. The painter knows his plans, whether it will be a portrait or a landscape, but an early view won’t reveal which it is to be. Over time, the artist adds layers of color, blends light’s and dark’s, and creates textures to bring out previously unseen dimensions. What’s on the canvas becomes clearer, and those who see it begin to understand what it is becoming.

The artist of our Christian birthmark is, of course, God Himself. As He makes our birthmark clearer and deeper, the Holy Spirit leads us, strengthens us, teaches us, and, yes, sometimes chastises us. However, unlike the lifeless canvas which has no part in a painting, we are a part of the process. We have responsibilities to exercise faith, to learn and to change in response to the Spirit.

In the first chapter of 2 Peter, the Apostle writes that we have obtained faith by the righteousness of Christ, and through Christ’s work have become “partakers of the divine nature.” In our context, we could say we were given a birthmark that showed we became children of the King.

Then Peter writes that because of that, we should be working to make that birthmark visible to all around us:
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7 NKJV

With each step in the process, our birthmark becomes clearer, deeper and more complete. Those around us notice we are different. But, before we begin to take credit for all the work we’re accomplishing, we must acknowledge the Artist is still in control. The Holy Spirit provides the power and abilities to take these steps and without Him, as Jesus said, we can do nothing.

So, just what is our birthmark for? Why does the Spirit work in us and with us to make it clearer and more visible? There’s a simple answer for a child of the King: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 NKJV

You Are the Light of the World

harbor lights

There’s a song our choir sings titled Be Ye Glad (Michael Blanchard) that has the line “So, be like lights on the rim of the water, giving hope in the storm of the night”. I’m not sure exactly what Mr. Blanchard meant but I imagine it’s close to what I think of in this photo.

The lighthouse shines brighter than all the other lights and is the true one to follow. But, the lights along the shore are also helpful and make the journey safer and easier. They show where and where not to go as we focus on the lighthouse.

The lighthouse, of course, represents Christ, Who outshines all others and is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But we’re in the picture, too. The lights along the shore represent us – the lights on the rim of the water that help others on their journey. This fact doesn’t diminish the brightness or glory of the true Lighthouse, for it is Him, our Savior, who gives us our light, and places us where we can best shine to help others.

You are the light of the world.” Jesus’ words given in Matthew 5:14

So, let us shine.

 

 

A Busted Mailbox, and Just Getting By Spiritually

Rural-Mailbox-Post

It was the middle of the night when someone swerved off the dirt road in front of our house and flattened our mailbox. It would have been better if the box and post were demolished, but they happened to be salvageable.

The post had broken below ground, so I stood it up and tamped the dirt back around it. A couple of leftover deck railing balusters nailed between the post and the landscape timbers around it made suitable braces. The contraption worked, but had a slight forward lean and twisted to the left, and looked like a busted post held up by two sticks.

“New post and mailbox” went on the to-do list that day. My wife, Sharon, and I discussed it at times, and we searched for what we wanted. Maybe it was time for a change – perhaps, a different style that would still fit with the dirt road location. After several tries to find something different, we gave up and decided on a mailbox identical to the one we had, and a post only slightly different from the old one.

“Put up post and mailbox” went on the to-do list that day. But, everyone knows you can’t rush out and just do it. You have to think and plan, consider the weather, decide to paint or stain the post, etc. etc. And, with a mailbox, you need to make sure you have the time to complete the installation without being interrupted (after all, the mail comes every day except Sunday, so you must have a place for it at delivery time.) So, the mailbox and post sat under the carport where I laid it when I brought it home from Lowes. After that, anytime I got in or out of the truck, I had to step around the post and mailbox.

I’m not sure how or why it all came together, but one Saturday morning I took down the old mailbox and began the installation. The post was standing and the mailbox labeled and attached when the mail carrier drove up. I asked her if the height suited her and met the regulations, and she said it was great. I tamped the post in and stained it, and the task was complete.

And, it only took me two years.

The problem was the old mailbox worked in its catawampus condition, so it never made it to the top of the to-do list. It was ugly, and the door might flop open if you didn’t close it just right, but it held mail just fine. As I said above, it would have been better if it had been a total loss. Then, I would have had to get a new one and install it quickly. But, we could get by with the old one and did, for two years.

Just getting by can become quite comfortable. The knowledge of something being out of kilter becomes blurred or filtered out of our vision. The thoughts of “I need to fix that” come farther apart and last shorter and shorter times, until the response becomes “Well, it’s not really that bad. I can get by with it.” And, we do just that – get by with it.

The physical things in our lives, such as catawampus mailboxes, should be addressed. But, it often happens the top of our to-do list should come on the spiritual side. “Just getting by” in that area could mean we’re outwardly following God’s Word, while inwardly our attitude conflicts with it, as Jesus explained in the Sermon on the Mount (“Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…” Matthew 5:21-22.)

Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 13, our faith, knowledge and charity might be what people would consider good, but we are just getting by if we aren’t acting with love.

Jesus, in Matthew 23, berated the Scribes and Pharisees for just getting by with tithing of their herbs and spices, while leaving out such matters as mercy. I picture them proudly going to the Temple with their pouch containing an ounce of this herb and five grams of that spice, while stepping around the blind beggar on the steps outside.

As I said, just getting by can become quite comfortable, and in these busy times, sometimes it seems necessary. In some areas, such as mailboxes and posts, it may not be significant. But, if we discover we are just getting by (going through the motions, checking off a list, etc.) concerning our walk with God, it’s time to stop “stepping around the post and mailbox on the carport” and address it.

It’s possible that may be easy to do, but usually it won’t be comfortable and it won’t be instantaneous. It may take two days, or two years, or a lifetime of continuous work, but, thankfully we don’t have to do it alone (because we can’t).

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10

Polishing Up Our Graces, for God’s Glory

Needs Some Polishing!

This Reflector Needs Some Polishing!

 

My first real job was as projectionist at the Georgia Theater in downtown Statesboro, Georgia. It was an interesting and fun job, most of the time – but, since it was back in the time of one screen with the same movie showing for several days, it could be boring, too.

Several memories come to mind about the job: My first night working by myself, I learned that if you incorrectly flip the thingy that holds the film frames straight, the movie shows half on the screen and half on the wall, and you start getting yelled at by members of the audience.

When I worked on Friday or Saturday night, my (future) wife, Sharon, and I sometimes stayed after the last showing. We were able to eat the surplus popcorn and listen to music on the theater’s sound system. It wasn’t fancy by today’s standards but was the best sound in town in those days.

But, something I read this week reminded me of the projector’s carbon arc lamps used back then, and the reflector that focused the light on the film. In the arc lamp, two carbon rods are brought together and an electric current flows through them (see photo.) As you move the rods apart, an arc forms and creates a blinding white light. The light from the arc goes in all directions within the projector chamber, and because the frame of the film is very small, there isn’t enough light going to that one spot to clearly show the movie on the screen.

That problem is solved with a concave shaped mirror near the back of the chamber. It reflects and focuses the light on the film frame and the images as bright and clear as daylight appear on the screen.

Since the reflector was partially surrounding this miniature blast furnace (the arc consumed the copper bit by bit), it would get smoky and splattered with bits of metal. If you paid attention to how the movies looked you could see the screen darken over time and know when to polish the reflector. (The one in the photo definitely needs polishing)

That meant it was time to get out the Bon Ami. Bon Ami was, and still is, a powdered cleanser that consists of tallow soap and feldspar, a natural mineral abrasive. The cleanser was spread over the reflector with a wet cloth, then allowed to dry. When it dried, it formed a film on the mirror (much like car wax.) As you rubbed the film off, you were using the abrasive to remove the smoke and tiny bits of carbon, and also polishing the surface. It was amazing how improved the reflector was after the process. The images “bright and clear as daylight” were a reality again.

In his Bible Study on Philippians, Sinclair Ferguson wrote “Suffering is the friction which polishes our graces. Without it, we would be all the poorer as reflectors of the image of (Jesus).” As I read that in our Bible Study this week, you can see why it reminded me of getting out the Bon Ami and polishing the reflector.

Many books have been written about Christians’ suffering, and these few words can’t address the depth of questions that can be discussed. So, I’ll just try to give us something to think about.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of us being the light of the world, and noted that you put a lamp on a lampstand for it to be seen. Then, He said  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 ESV

We have no true light of our own that will glorify God. As Ferguson wrote, the light we want to shine before others is a reflection of the image of Jesus.

As you read the following passage, think of God using our suffering as His spiritual cleanser – maybe taking off a bit of pride here, or a bit of self-righteousness there, but particularly polishing off the smoky film that not only blocks out God’s marvelous light that is shining upon us, but also prevents us from being able to reflect that light (the image of Jesus) and focus it on others.

Through him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ” Romans 5:2-5 ESV

And the image becomes bright and clear as daylight again, and the Father, who is in heaven, is glorified

(If you’re interested in a little more info on the projectors of the past, here’s a link with good info and photos)
http://www.mywvhome.com/1900s/plaza3.html

(PS: I hope to be posting again on a more regular basis – life got in the way!)