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Some things are just strange aren’t they? Just yesterday I received a message from a friend of mine thanking me for ministering to her the day before.

Day 232

Red Vines can help you minister to others.

As I sat looking at the message, I wondered what in the world she was talking about. I quickly went over the day before, and couldn’t see any way that I had ministered to her. So, I took stock of the day again, this time much more slowly, and still, I couldn’t come up with a thing. As far as I could see, it was just another Sunday.

I though about asking her, but then thought “no”, because really it feels like a stupid question. Someone tells you that you helped them a bit, ministered to them (which is a little step up from just helping) and then you don’t remember what you did? I mean really, aren’t we supposed to remember this sort of thing?

Finally, after a couple of hours of coming back to it and wondering about it, it dawned on me that I just had to know what on earth she was talking about. So, I contacted her and her answer was simple. Red Vines.

Red Vines. The red, tasty licorice candy that’s low in fat and high in sugar. And, because it seems to chew forever, makes it feel like you’re eating a lot of the sugary treat when in reality you’ve only had a twist or two. Okay, maybe three, but that’s not the point.

Her answer left me more confused than ever, I realized that I had given her a box of Red Vines, and they weren’t even mine. They were hers. I had bought them for her when we were at the store the day before. She left them at my house, and, I knew I would see her the next day. So, I took them to church with me to give to her, praying all the while that they wouldn’t melt into some weird red gob of gooeyness as they sat in my hot truck during the service.

When I gave them to her, as far as I was concerned that was the end of it. But, for her, it wasn’t. The act of my remembering to giver her the box of Red Vines reminded her that someone thought about her, remembered her and cared enough about her to make sure that she could enjoy something she liked.

Later, I got to thinking that that’s really what ministry is all about. Thinking about someone, remembering them and then caring about them enough to do something about it. It’s in this very way, in the small things of life, that we can show others how much God thinks about each one of us, remembers who and what we are, and loves us enough to want to be a part of our lives.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

Psalm 103:13-14

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Rain is rare in the San Francisco Bay Area dur...

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The other day my son hopped into the Blue Beast after his junior high youth group, pulled the door shut and before I could put the truck into gear handed me a white paper.

“You need to sign this,” he said, adding “please” before I had a chance to comment on the reality that just because you’re now officially a teenager that doesn’t mean you give up being polite.

When we got home, I looked closely at the paper and immediately I smiled as I read what it said.

“It’s a permission slip,” my son informed me in a tone that only a teenager can.

I looked at him and resisted the urge to roll my eyes, like only a parent can.

“I know that,” I said, but my mind was off and running elsewhere along paths into the past.

Nowadays with budget cuts, education requirements and all around liability issues, children just don’t go on very many field trips, either with school or anywhere else. So, the sight of permission slip is a rather rare and unique experience.

But, I remember back when I was in school, that wasn’t the case. As I looked at the piece of paper in my hands, I was taken back to that time when I would bring home different colored permission slips for different field trips, yellow, pink, blue, and, yes, white. I knew every time I brought one home that we would be going to a fun and exciting place.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and, every year my school would go on a field trip to Marine World ( this was before it moved), to Angels Island, to the theatre, to the symphony, to any number of wonderful places. Just the thought of them still gives me a warm feeling as I remember getting on the yellow school bus with my friends and classmates, and chugging off to a wonderful destination.

All of those trips and the things we learned on them, along with the feelings of excitement, anticipation and feel goodness all began when I brought that permission slip home for my mom to sign.

It made me realize that many times, we consider a life with the LORD as the end of permission slips and all the wonderful things that go along with them. The excitement. The anticipation. The journey. The adventure.

On some level we think that He’s not going to give us permission to do anything we want, anything we desire, that He’s all about taking things away and not giving anything back. Yet, there is nothing further from the truth. The longer we walk with Him, the more we realize that He’s all about giving us the permission to be who He created us to be, and there is nothing more exciting that.

“Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!””

2 Kings 5:13

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Collection of small Bungee Cords

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Typically I’m not someone who likes to get anywhere early. I like to get to places exactly on time, which in some instances means I’m a little earlier than those others who like to be fashionably late, but there are times when I’m the one who’s late – like arriving at church every Sunday just a few minutes late -, but more often than not, I tend to be a little too early in my quest to be on time.

 Because I’m generally a background person – which I prefer – when I get places a little early even though people know that I’m there, because I fade into the background, it doesn’t bother them. I’ve found that this often gives me a bird’s eye view of what happens before the crowd shows up.

 Every Friday, I attend the chapel service at my son’s school. I’m always a little early because there’s lag time between the time I drop him off and the time chapel starts. During this time, I plant myself at the back of the sanctuary and very often listen to the praise team run through the songs they’re planning on singing during chapel.

 Typically, they’re all on board when they get there. So, it’s just a matter of running through that they already know and warming up a bit, but one Friday it was totally different.

 We have a great music teacher who also leads the praise and worship group, which is made up of three girls with wonderful voices. Although their ranges are all different with one high soprano, a lower soprano and an alto, they typically sing within the same melody, and don’t have to truly harmonize with one another.

 But, like I said, this Friday was different. Their teacher decided that they had enough time to truly harmonize and blend their voices one to the other. So, it was like pulling three disparate threads together to form one whole cord.

 When they first began to sing, they didn’t harmonize at all. In fact, even though they were all singing the same words they all sounded like they were singing with their own accompanist. From the back, I could hear each of their individual voices instead of a seamless whole. I could almost see the three different threads of sound weaving their way to the back of the room. But, as they practiced that began to change.

 With their teacher giving them a hint here and an encouragement there, the three began to blend beautifully until you couldn’t distinguish one voice from the other because the three harmonized perfectly into a seamless whole.

 As I sat and watched them, it reminded me of the body of Christ and how all of us are so different from one another. We definitely march to the beat of our own drummer when we become a part of it. On top of that, we all have such different functions in it, one is a healer, one is a teacher, one is a seer, one is a motivator, and so on and so on. Yet, under the instruction of Christ, with a hint from Him here, an encouragement from Him there, He turns us into a fully functioning, seamless whole.

 His bringing us into the body, causing us to pull together with each of our individual gifts and talents, then making a body that actually functions seamlessly is a miracle of huge proportions. He is patiently working with us making the impossibility of us truly coming together in Him not only a possibility, but a reality.

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”

Romans 12: 4 – 6b

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Meander pattern on the valley floor of the riv...

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The other day in church a friend of mine was telling me about the trips he’s been making since he retired. And, yes, I did say in church. Sometimes this happens. You just get to talking to your neighbor between the worship time and the start of the sermon. This is typically about the time that the collection plates are slowly being circulated around the building like mini wooden flying saucers lazily flitting between one set of hands and another.

My friend has been gone from home longer than he’s been there, and has covered quite a lot of ground since he retired a couple of months ago, traveling from California to Houston, Texas on Highway 10. The same route my son and I went on just last December. Then returning home for a few days before setting out to see the Northwest, where I’d been a few years ago. As the collection plates were passed around we both laughed at the fact that Seattle was warm and dry, not a raindrop in sight when we’d both visited there.

He definitely has the traveling bug for sure, and is planning another trip to the East Coast before too long. But he said, he thinks he’ll fly there instead of driving.

One of the great things about traveling is the fact that you see and experience all sorts of things that you wouldn’t necessarily know existed if you hadn’t gotten out of your own backyard. Of course, I think driving is the best way to really see things, because, well you’re at ground level and can see things, walk through towns and learn about all the weird and quirky ways that things are discovered and come to be.

I have a writer friend, Sunny Lockwood, who’s just started a series of travel books for the older traveler. She’s named it the “Not So Fast” series and it focuses on meandering through towns that she and her husband visit at a walker’s pace that allows you to just relax and enjoy the unique things that every town, large or small, has to offer.

Someone who has achieved retirement status herself, she said she chose to write this type of meandering, slow travel guide because there are so many people her age who want to just take it easy when they travel, not run through a town making sure they’ve seen everything there is to see so they can check it off their list, before moving to the next town like a lot of younger people do.

Her most recent publication is “Not So Fast: Meandering Through Soda Springs, Idaho” in which she takes a slow pace through the town that features a huge geyser that was discovered while someone was digging  a hole for a swimming pool, along with the historic Enders Hotel with what looks to be a zillion stuffed and mounted animal heads on its walls, including that of a white buffalo with what seems to have had a devil-may-care attitude when he was alive, among other interesting travel tidbits that you would only see if you were going through a town slowly.

A glaring benefit of taking things slowly, whether you’re traveling or not, is that you actually get to experience things, not just do them. And, this is no more so apparent than in our relationships with the LORD. It seems to be in our nature to sort of run through the motions, checking everything off on our relationship-with-God checklist.

Prayer? Check.

Morning quiet time? Check.

Church on Sunday? Check.

Sunday School? Check.

Family Night? Check.

The list goes on and on, then at the end of it when we a have a nice little line of check marks in a neat little row, we can’t quite figure out why we’re not only burnt out, but we’re no closer to the LORD. It’s like we run in circles, then look up to see that we’re right back where we started, no closer to Him, just worn out after all that effort.

Even though we’ve made a valiant effort at running around and doing what we think we should, the reality is that we haven’t given ourselves, or Him, the time we need to actually sit and be with Him. And, in the process, slow down enough to actually experience Him and what He is actually like.

A relationship with Him is not a sprint, but a slow meandering journey that will take us to all sorts of places we could never have imagined, allowing us to discover of amazing things, if we just slow down and walk with Him.

“A man’s steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way.”

Psalm 37:23

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Ripe Arkansas Black apples.

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Compare and contrast, we all do this don’t we? And, whether we’d like to admit it or not, we do it a lot.

 It doesn’t matter if we’re believers or not, we look around at other people’s lives, then look at our own and automatically what do we do? We compare and contrast ours to theirs, and theirs to ours, to see what the differences are and who seems to be doing better in our eyes.

 Whether we’re actually born with a little gene with compare and contrast on it, or we’re taught it, it sort of reminds me of the game that some of us played while we were planted in front of the television watching Sesame Street.

The game was played on the television screen when someone held an apple in one hand and another apple in the other hand. You saw the two apples were exactly the same, then a deep, booming voice off camera would say, “same”. Another shot would show one hand holding an apple and the other holding an orange ( or some other fruit) and the booming voice would say “different”. It showed very clearly that some things were the same and other things were different.

 Of course, when we’re children we need to know what is the same, and what is different because we need to know how to differentiate between things. But, as we get older, seeing the differences between things becomes seeing the differences between ourselves, then making value judgments and decisions about another person or ourselves based on those differences.

 Think about it, very rarely do we automatically see the similarities we have with another person. Usually we see the differences first, then the similarities, if we even get that far.

 Unfortunately, we do this in all arenas of life, with our jobs, our houses, our spouses, our children, and our relationships with the LORD. We look at someone and assume that they are so much more spiritual than we are, so much closer to the LORD than we are, or so much less so depending on our perception of them, which drives division between us instead of unity.

 Or, worse yet, we look at what we perceive as blessings ( usually defined as wealth and achievement in the Western World) coming one person’s way and wonder why someone else doesn’t recieve the same blessings from the LORD, then take it one step further and use that as the plumb line to determine how close each of us is to the LORD.

 Think about that. Very often we use physical wealth and success to determine the strength of someone’s spiritual connection with the LORD.

 When I see others do this, and yes, do it myself, I am reminded of Job, who had every physical blessing only to have it all taken away from him. His friends assumed it was because there was something very wrong in his relationship with the LORD that caused it, when in actual fact it was the complete opposite. It was his righteousness and his reverence of the LORD that allowed it.

 The experience reaffirmed to Job, and to us in looking at his story, that no matter what we have, or don’t have, the most important thing is having reverence for, and rightness with the LORD, because He doesn’t view things the way we do.

 “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.””

 1 Samuel 16:7

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the first page from the First Epistle of John

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Truth, especially Biblical truth, is worth thinking about.

Skip Moen in his blog today, Incorrect Theology, gives many of us food for thought.

“The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

1 John 2:4

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A day-old chick

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Although there a lot of people around the area where I live who raise chickens, usually for their eggs, I’m not really a chicken fan. I’m not sure why, but the birds have never appealed to me, but all the changed for about an hour when I was younger.

My parents were looking into buying a chicken farm, and moving us all out to start a new life in a different state. Although their plans ultimately didn’t come to much, we did visit a farm that mass produced chickens so they, and by extension I, could see how the farms were actually run.

It was a far cry from the picture most of us have of chickens running around a farmyard, scratching away for their food and sleeping outside or in their chicken coup. This farm was amazing in its organization, its knowledge of chickens and just the overall way it was run, raising chickens from the time they were hatched in the hatching buildings to the time they were loaded onto the trucks to be taken away.

What I remember most about this farm was one of the buildings we went into which was where newly hatched chickens lived. Now, there were several of these buildings for this age of chick, and when we stepped inside and the door closed behind us – because not one chicken could be allowed to get out – there in the dim light with its close, warm and humid air was a sea of little yellow balls all chirping away.

The sound rose up from the thousands of chicks – I couldn’t even see the end of the building it was so large – in what could only be called a symphony of peeps. They all blended together and wove themselves into one great big sound that filled the place.

Yet, after a moment, I heard a little cheep that didn’t fit in with the rest. It came from the far end of the building and its quality was more piercing than the rest. It rose lightly above the concert of peeps and floated towards me. I was a teenager at the time, and I looked at the adults who were busily engaged in conversation about the technical details of the building and realized they didn’t even notice it.

As I stood waiting for my parents to finish their conversation, the little cheep started to move towards me. First, it was on my far left, then as its little owner doggedly made its way through the crowd it veered right, all the while getting a little louder and a little louder as it zigzagged this way and that through the throng of cottony yellow.

Then I couldn’t hear it for a moment or two and strained my ears wondered where it went, when all of sudden that distinctive cheep came from my foot. I looked down and there was its owner, all three inches of baby chick perched on the strap of my sandal cheeping away excitedly and looking up at me as if he belonged to me.

“He sure likes you,” the manager of the farm said as he looked at the little chick before going on to comment that he’d never seen anything quite like it.

Until recently I’d forgotten that experience of mine, but as I thought about it, I began to think about prayer and the sheer numbers of prayers that go to the LORD everyday in a cloud of praise, worship and request. Yet, just like I knew the cheep of that chick through the cloud of peeps, the LORD knows our voice among the multitude when we make our way towards Him and perch on His sandal cheeping away to Him because we are His and He is ours and no crowd of others will ever get in the way of that.

“Because He has turned His ear to me, I will cry out to Him as long as I live.”

Psalm 116:2

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