Friday, November 30, 2012

Heeding the Road Signs of Life

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a ladies' Bible study at the international church where I live. I cannot often make it to these events. My ministry with a children's home and home schooling my daughter make that study something I cannot do on a regular basis.

I attended yesterday because one of the ladies was being baptized after the study. The ladies were finishing up the last session of a Beth Moore study called Stepping Up. I cannot begin to share everything I learned from this session, I will will share the part that especially captured my attention.

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In Jeremiah 31:21a we read:

Set up for yourself roadmarks,
Place for yourself guideposts;
Direct your mind to the highway,
The way by which you went.


Beth Moore asked us to consider the role of road signs we encounter in our life journey. SOme road signs we set up ourselves to help other people who come after us along the way.

However, there are road signs already there to help us in our journey. Beth asked us to consider three common road signs we see on a journey. What are they? I'd like to share my own "take-away" from this lesson.
  • Sometimes, we all have attitudes that are less than mature and godly. Perhaps we gripe and complain, whinge and whine (in a grown-up way, of course...ahem) about how unfair something is, or how we aren't getting what we want. 
We could be moving on in our journey with God, but we won't, because we insist on our own way first. You know how it goes. "I can't (translate "won't) do this until so-and-so does that." Am I the only one who has ever done this? I suspect not.

It is at times like these that we meet up with one of God's big old stop signs along the road. As Beth Moore put it, it is as if God gets right down there and looks us straight in the eye and says, "STOP IT!" Whatever we were whinging and whining about, we need to let it go. We cannot move on in our journey if we ignore this kind of a stop sign.
  • The next sign is the Yield sign. This sign reminds us to submit to God's plans for us. This may mean laying down hopes and dreams that we have long cherished, a ministry that we love, or a relationship that we wanted to hang on to, even though it wasn't good for us.
I have been through a number of significant Yield moments in my life when I resisted letting go of the safe and secure in order to step out in the direction God was calling me. I am sure I will face these moments again.

An important point Beth made is that unless we let go of the things that encumber us, we will not be able to move ahead. The thing we need to let go of may not be a bad thing. In fact it may be very good. But if it is more than what God has for us to carry, we will be burdened. 

For Beth, this meant giving up teaching a Sunday School class. I can't even begin to name all the things this has meant for me. We'd be here until New Years' Day at least. What would this look like for you?

  • Finally, we come to the Caution sign. We know we''ve run across one of these when we spend time with God and deep in our hearts, He points out something to us and says, "Danger!" This may be a message on behalf of our children, our spouse, our friend, our church... ourselves. 

When we realize that God has given us a caution sign, we'd better heed it. The sign is there for a reason. 

We need to take careful notice of the road signs along our journey. We ignore these signs at our own peril if we are on a journey in the car. When we ignore God's road signs, we can expect things to not go well. If we heed them, we can journey in security and peace with Him!

What road signs is God showing you? What ones has He shown you in the past? Whether you heeded them or not, I am sure the experience taught you something. Why not take a moment to share what God taught you in a comment below.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

At Christmas, Less May Be More

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, 
as for the Lord rather than for men,...
Colossians 3:23

This verse is often used to urge us to work hard and never settle for less than our best in order to glorify God. It is an appealing verse to perfectionists. This is especially so during the myriads of activities associated with the Christmas season.

For most of us, this is a season of incredible busy-ness. 
  • Christmas trees to decorate
  • Christmas shopping to do
  • Christmas cookies to bake
  • Christmas fudge to make
  • Christmas programs at your kids' school
  • Christmas celebrations at church
  • Christmas get-togethers with the family.
  • Christmas traditions to carry out
All these are things that we somehow feel absolutely HAVE to be done. To a certain extent, these things are a legitimate part of the season. Unless we don't celebrate Christmas at all, or make a choice to leave the secular elements of Christmas out of the celebration, most of these will have a part in the holiday. 

Those of us who deal with a tendency toward perfectionism, however, soon find ourselves swamped with a myriad of self-imposed demands to do each and every thing, event, or activity to a standard of perfection.

After all, this is the birth of our Lord Jesus that we celebrate. This is a time of the year that is supposed to be filled with warmth, laughter, good times with family, and a sense of awe and wonder at the gift God gave us when He sent his Son. 

This is what we want. But far too often, our best intentions fall flat in the face of frazzled nerves and too little time to complete everything on our to do list. 

I believe that, to some extent, we have unconsciously equated the trappings of Christmas with Christmas itself. 

Why does that happen year after year, despite our promises to do better the next time around? More importantly, what can we do about it?

Perhaps we remember our own mothers or grandmothers always making dozens upon dozens of Christmas cookies, and pounds of fudge as part of the holidays. We enjoyed that. We want our children to enjoy the same. Yet when we try to fit that baking / fudge making day into our hectic schedule, it becomes something we simply have to do rather than something we can do with joy.
  • Why not instead decide that we will only make and bake if and when we can do it with a joyful heart. Perhaps our kids would be perfectly content with one type of Christmas confection if it meant a calmer and more peaceful mother. (Besides...with the modern tendency toward expanding waistlines, cutting back on the cookies may not be a bad idea.)
We love our families and want to give gifts that will bring a sparkle to their eyes and a smile to their faces. The trouble is that multiple trips to the mall, not to mention the late-night gift-wrapping session on Christmas Eve leave us frazzled, irritable, and not much fun to be around. 
  •  I am convinced that our families would be quite content with a gift or two each rather than a pile of presents if it meant they could all enjoy each other...not just on Christmas Day, but in the weeks leading up to it.
Those of us involved in ministry probably want to arrange a Christmas celebration that will be memorable, beautiful, and meaningful. We will go to great lengths to do this. We may end up with lavish, exciting events that leave people who attend saying "WOW! That was spectacular!" Unfortunately, that very same event may leave the organizers saying, "I'm ready to drop." Not to mention that for weeks ahead of time, their families have probably been saying, "Where's Dad?" or "Where's Mom?"
  • We want to give our very best to the Lord. That is appropriate. That is admirable. Let's just not lose sight of the fact that our "best" must encompass all of life. If our "best" given to the Christmas program means that we give our "worst" or even almost nothing to our families, I am convinced that God is not truly glorified. Perhaps the most God-glorifying thing we can do is to simplify our celebrations, and focus our efforts on giving ourselves to others.
Perhaps, as we celebrate Christmas this year we should take as our motto that "Less is More". 
  • Less of the rush and more of the peace
  • Less of the trappings and more of ourselves
  • Less of the program and more of the Person
May your celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace be a time truly filled with His love, His joy, and His peace.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rat Tales, Part 3 - Rodents Rule?

The Critters I Live With #2

I was only in bed for a few minutes when I heard a new sound.


Great! Just great! I knew exactly what that sound was. Ralph had not made his escape from the house as I had hoped. No, he had hidden inside one of the lower cupboards. And I had trapped him there.

This time, I didn’t even bother with the broom as I knew Ralph was safely locked away. I went back into the kitchen, turned on the light, and waited…listening intently. Which door hid my unwelcome housemate? Finally, I heard him.


The sound came from the first set of doors. The ones sealed off by the gas tank. OK. At least I knew where he was. I remembered then that I had some rat poison. I got a little piece of paper, put some rice on it, and sprinkled the rice with the poison.

I put the poisoned rice on the floor near door number one and moved the gas tank far enough away so Ralph could get out. I hoped that he would nibble a bit of the rice and make his exit from this world…permanently.

Then, with a prayer for relief, I went back to bed. Sadly, the story is not over. A few minutes later, I heard another sound – one more puzzling than the others.

SCRAPE! SCRAPE! SCRAPE! I had no clue what that sound was.

“Oh, good grief! Not again!”

Dragging myself out of bed one more time, I went through the kitchen ritual. Broom. Open door. Enter. Close door. Look and listen. I could see absolutely nothing unusual. And I heard nothing.

As I wearily headed back to bed, I lifted an earnest prayer. “Dear Lord, please help. I really need some sleep!”

A few minutes later, I heard one more sound. An identifiable sound. A welcome sound. It was the sound of Ralph climbing the tiered wire basket that hung in the corner near the ventilation openings. This was no doubt his usual way to get in and out of the kitchen. This welcome sound meant that Ralph was leaving.

Ralph made his exit. Sleep…sweet sleep made its entrance…at last.

The story is not over yet, though. In the morning, I got a better look at the kitchen. I noticed something I had not seen the night before. I knew what had made that scraping sound.

Hidden by the gas tank, right next to the poisoned rice, was that big old metal rat trap. Ralph had indeed left the house. Before he did, that cheeky rodent had bypassed the rice, pushed the rat trap across the floor, and dropped it off next to what was to have been his final meal.

Ralph’s message was unmistakable. “Nah-nee-nah-nee-boo-boo! You can’t catch me!”

Then again, maybe it was something more ominous. Something like, “You humans think you are soooo smart. But we rats rule the world.”

Click below for the rest of the story.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rat Tales, Part 2 - Ralph the Rat Does a Houdini

The Critters I Live With - Part #2

Slowly, the sleep fog lifted, and I could identify the sound.  I was hearing some creature repeatedly hitting something plastic. I had a pretty good idea what the creature was. But what in the world did I have in the kitchen that would make that sound?

Finally, I figured it out. The trash can I used to seal off the second set of cupboard doors had a swivel top. Obviously, my nocturnal visitor had somehow fallen into the trash can and now could not find its way out. With every jump, he hit the swivel top and was knocked back down

“Just great!” I thought. “I have a rat in my trash can. NOW what am I going to do with it?”

I went to the kitchen door and listened. Of course, as soon as he heard the sound of my movements, Ralph the Rat stopped jumping. I can picture him sitting inside the trash can listening for my sounds every bit as intently as I listened for his. Finally, the sound came again.


OK. He was still in the trash can. I grabbed the broom, opened the door, and slipped into the kitchen, quickly closing the door behind me. If Ralph got out, I certainly didn’t want him to be able to take refuge in my bedroom.

Of course, when I opened the door, the thumping stopped. After tuning on the light, I stood there eyeing the trash can warily. Finally,…


With the advantage of the light, Ralph was able to get a grip on the rim of the trash can. He clutched the rim just long enough for me to get a glimpse of a big ugly rat paw before he fell back down.

“Oh gross!,” I thought. “I was right!. It is a rat, and he’s a big one! WHAT am I going to do with him?”

Then, I got an idea. In my office, I had a roll of clear packing tape. I’d get that, pull off a sizeable strip, and fasten it over the top of the trash can so the swivel top couldn’t swivel. I’d take the trash can outside, as far from my bedroom as I could, and deal with it in the morning.

Still armed with the broom, I went back through the kitchen door and closed it swiftly behind me. I found the tape and returned to the kitchen. Same routine. Get broom. Listen. Open door. Slip inside. Close door.

This time, I pulled off a length of tape and quickly whipped it over the top of the trash can. Now that I knew nothing could escape through the swivel top, I ventured to kick the can.

          Small kick. Nothing.

          Stronger kick. Still nothing.

Ralph the Rat had escaped. Now where was he?

I could only hope that Ralph was so shaken up by his captivity in the trash can that he had escaped my house the same way he had gotten in.

I noticed at that point that I had failed to complete the nighttime routine of sealing off the cupboards. That is probably why Ralph fell in to begin with. The trash can was not in its usual nighttime position. I remedied that oversight and headed back to bed.

I was only in bed for a few minutes when I heard a new sound.


Great! Just great! I knew exactly what that sound was. …(to be continued)

Click below for the rest of the story. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rat Tales, Part 1 - A Thump in the Night

After hours waiting to fall asleep, I finally dropped off. I was suddenly startled out of a sound slumber by a loud


I huddled there in bed under the covers, trying to bring my mind out of the fog of sleep.

There was the sound again.


“What in the world is THAT?” I wondered.

Slowly, the sleep fog lifted, and I could finally identify the sound.   (story continued below)

Way back at the end of September, I came up with an idea of once in a while doing a story about one of the variety of creatures that share my home here in Bali. I call this series The Critters I Live With.These stories probably won't have any deep spiritual application. But they will give you a taste of my life here in Indonesia.

For the first post, I introduced you to Greg the Gecko, the twelve inch long barking lizard that eats mosquitoes and makes me jump out of my skin whenever he sounds off. You can read about him in the post entitled “Not Your Average Geico Gecko”.

I’m finally back today with #2. This will be a three-part story as it is kind of long...and because this month, I am spending most of my writing time on a first draft of a book for children about the parables of Jesus.

Anyway, for this story, I have to go back more than a decade to a period of time when rodents made life miserable. Other rats may be bigger. Others may be more threatening. But my tale is about Ralph the Rat, a particularly persistent rodent.

Rat Tales, Part 1- A Thump in the Night
The Critters I Live With #2

It was sometime in the late 1990’s. I had been in the United States for about six months to visit family and supporters. As I recall, I had done a semester of study at Columbia International University on this trip. This meant that I needed to find someone to house sit my home in Bali while I was away.

A young Indonesian couple agreed to take care of my home. They were newly married and were expecting their first child about the time I expected to return. It seemed that the timing was exactly right. I’d be back in Bali about the time my friend would want to go stay with her mother during the last weeks of her pregnancy.

Unfortunately, she decided she needed her mother earlier than expected, and the young couple moved out. This left my house empty for a month before my return.

Here in Bali, an empty house does not remain empty very long. At least, if there are no human inhabitants, the local rodents are happy to move in. That is what happened.

For weeks following my return, every morning I would find evidence of rats in the kitchen. Sizable droppings left here and there, including in the lower cupboards where pots and pans were kept. Bits of garbage drug out of the small trash can under the sink. Even deep tooth marks in a cake of soap by the kitchen sink. (I have no idea what kind of nutritional need soap supplied for a rat.)

I had an extremely heightened awareness that there was rat activity going on in my kitchen. Sleep was often slow in coming, as I lay there in bed imagining I heard rustling sounds in the kitchen. In light of all this potential rat activity, I took precautions.

I had bought a strong metal rat trap, but didn’t have the nerve to set it. I figured the likelihood of the trap catching my fingers was much greater than the chances of catching a rodent. So the metal trap lay there unused in the corner of the kitchen.

Since my offense was weak, I bolstered my defenses.

The lower cupboards in the kitchen didn’t have any latches, so I took to securing them at night by pushing something up against them so no rats could get in. The gas can for my table-top stove sealed off one pair of doors. The trash can took care of another pair. A strategically-placed brick closed off the final set. It was part of my nightime routine to secure the kitchen cabinets, and was rarely forgotten.

With the way my house was laid out, I had to go through the kitchen to get to the bathroom. Thankfully, there was a door that I could close at night to keep the kitchen rats from getting into the rest of the house…especially my bedroom. During this time, I always left a trusty broom by the kitchen door, so I could arm myself if I needed to use the toilet in the middle of the night. I never actually had to use the broom to fend off a rat attack, but it made me feel good to have it there anyway.

One night in particular stands out in my mind more than ten years later. After hours waiting to fall asleep, I finally dropped off. I was suddenly startled out of a sound slumber by a loud


I huddled there in bed under the covers, trying to bring my mind out of the fog of sleep.

There was the sound again.


“What in the world is THAT?” I wondered.

Slowly, the sleep fog lifted, and I could finally identify the sound.   (to be continued)


Click below for the rest of the story.

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