“24”–Freaky Friday

Sorry, I’m not talking about Jack Bauer’s real time adventures in saving the United States from terrorists. (But I sure do miss that show!) Today’s Freaky Friday post is an adventure in Old Testament history. Both 2 Samuel and I Chronicles report details of some of Israel’s battles against the Philistines. You might remember the Philistines. The guys with Goliath–the giant who came tumbling down when a boy named David went down to the brook where 5 little stones he took. One little stone went into his sling and the sling went round and round . . . and round and round and round and round and round and round and round. And that one little stone hit the giant in the head, and the giant came tumbling down, and David chopped his head off! End of giant!

Well, end of that giant anyway. For Goliath wasn’t the only giant to come tumbling down. The Philistines grew their boys big, and they continued to bring it on to the armies of God. By sheer size alone these were some pretty freaky dudes, but one in particular, gets a little bigger mention than the others. Seriously, take a look:

“In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot–twenty four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan, son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him.” I Chronicles 20:6-7

That’s all the info we get–“a huge man with 12 fingers and 12 toes.” “24” My guess is people had heard of him before. He’s no better, no worse than any of the other giants; he just has a few extra digits. That must have been a little unusual for that time, seeing as this information is shared in his giant, yet very short story.

There’s no super spiritual application here. Ok, well maybe there is a little something “spiritual” here for us. We all tend to have “enemies” in our life, although they aren’t always people. Just things that work to keep us from victory, declaring war on us and the peace God has promised.

Some of our enemies are pretty common. Some of them are bigger than others, and sometimes we face things that may seem a bit freaky. But God is our defender, our sword and our shield, our fortress and stronghold, and He is able and faithful to take care of our enemies once and for all. Just like in the days of the giants.

We also, like David and his mighty men, are up to the fight. Because of Christ, we are brave; we are valiant; we are called and we will overcome! Because of Christ.

Just like in the days of the giants–even the freaky ones!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal

I think it’s incredibly crazy how God uses the most unexpected things to bring your mind back to Him or to His word. For example: Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal is one of my favorite fall and winter foods. I love it for breakfast and I love it late at night when I’m craving something that I shouldn’t be eating like. . . .um. . .a dozen chocolate chip cookies. It satisfies my craving for all things chocolate, and it’s good for me.

So yesterday I was whipping up a double batch, and as I started running the ingredients through my mind, my mind was saying, “Add to the water, milk; and to the milk, cocoa; and to the cocoa, sweetener; and to the sweetener, oats; and to the oats, peanut butter.” Well, you get the idea. (Yes, my mind talks to me, doesn’t yours?)

And the next thing you know my mind had switched from oatmeal ingredients to, “Add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I knew the verse, but couldn’t remember exactly where it came from, (and I should have because God has been bringing me back to it ever so often these days). But since God put it in my mind, off to Bible Gateway I went.

The Gateway took me to 2 Peter 1:3-8 which reminded me again that God has given me everything I need to live this life He has called me to. I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed with some circumstances lately, and I just loved how He took these couple of minutes in the morning to remind me that His power is at work in me. I was encouraged to be making every effort to be doin’ the spiritual math word problems. I need to be adding to my faith, and subtracting from my fear. I need to be adding to my self control and subtracting from my desire to eat that dozen chocolate chip cookies or let those unkind thoughts in my brain slip through my lips.

But these verses for me are about more than cookies or oatmeal. These verses are about knowing God and His awesome power at work in me, and in you; and that simple truth makes me smile, and that truth gives me hope, and helps me to persevere; and the reminder of that truth came to me yesterday through my awesome God and a bowl of chocolate peanut butter oatmeal—taste and see that they both are good.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal
Recipe for Two Servings:

2 cups milk or 1 cup milk and 1 cup water
1 TB cocoa pwdr
1 TB sweetener (or to taste)
1 TB peanut butter
1 cup quick oats

Heat these on the stove until the peanut melts and the milk is steaming. Add the oats and continue to cook for one minute. Cover for 5 minutes or so. Then put some in a bowl. I add more cold milk to mine. Enjoy.

**I also usually add some mashed banana to mine while cooking.
**You can use PB2 for fat free peanut butter, but add a little extra water if you do.
It’s good cold too. But not lukewarm. If you eat it lukewarm, you’ll want to spit it out of your mouth. (Not really)

Swimming Upstream

Swimming Upstream May Be Hard, But It’s Not Impossible

I recently said these words when talking to a friend about the challenges a kid faces today when they want to follow Christ while living in the world. It’s like swimming upstream. And although swimming upstream is hard, it’s not impossible—oh, and that metaphor isn’t just for kids.

We all know some days it is hard. Today is one of those days. I never want to be a whiner. Never. I do it sometimes, probably more than I should, and about little things, things that don’t matter—like long lines at Wal Mart and when someone “borrows” my iPod cable without returning it. But all in all, I don’t want to complain because I know it dishonors God, I know it can keep people from seeing God, and I know that I have a pretty easy life compared to a zillion other people.

Yet even when I know with my head that my life is pretty good, and that testing and trials grow my faith, the truth is the trials still hurt. Friends hurt us; our friends hurt. We feel helpless to help them. Things are out of our control. Good people are wronged. People we love die. Or walk away from God. Or disappoint us. Or we, them. Then there’s illness and cancer and the economy and loneliness. And on those days, when you want to turn back, you want to quit swimming, what do you do?

Well this is what I think. You keep swimming. Upstream. You may need to rest a bit. You may need to call in reinforcements, but you don’t give up. You don’t turn around. You don’t follow the tide. You keep swimming. You keep following God. You keep on trusting His precepts and His path. It may hurt. It may burn. Tears may fill your eyes and you may find it hard to breathe. You may, with every fiber of your being, want to quit. But you don’t.

You find your strength in His strength and His power made perfect in your weakness. You count it all joy, and you remember that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character, hope. And hope doesn’t 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 5:3-4, ESV)

And so you keep swimming, upstream, against the current–because it’s worth it, or more to the point, because He’s worth it, and there’s a whole world swimming past you in the opposite direction that needs to know that it’s possible to keep swimming, and to know the Hope and the Difference that can be theirs if they follow Him, too.

No Cause for Alarm

The text began with the words, “Hey Mom, no cause for alarm, but I’m in the hospital.” Ohhhh Kayyyyyy. Followed by something like, “I won’t be able to put money on my phone from here, but someone will message you.” Two hours later a following text asks, “Am I immunized for diptheria?” Ohhhh Kayyyyyy. No cause for alarm though, Mom, even though I’m across the world in another country where, by the way, I moved without ever giving you my complete phone number!

He’s still in that hospital, but he’s doing better. He doesn’t have diptheria, and I can’t say that I was ever alarmed–concerned, but not alarmed. During the course of the week, the words of his text kept coming back to my mind. They made me smile. It sounded just like him, and his words were certainly reassuring. I was also working on a new HiSKidZ lesson–a lesson that would take us through the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. A lesson that would be teaching HiSKidZ that “Whatever happens, remember what Jesus promised.”

Jesus’ disciples experienced some pretty awesome stuff: miraculous meals, spit in the mud healings, and waking of the dead, as well as some pretty scarry stuff like the death threats, Jesus’ arrest and the trial and crucifiction that followed. Ultimately, we know Jesus tried to explain all that would happen, but the disciples just weren’t able to grasp it. We also know that Jesus was trying to prepare them that some pretty crazy things were going to be happening and that whatever happened, there would be “no cause for alarm.”

“No cause for alarm” because Jesus’ arrest was part of the plan. “No cause for alarm” because His death was part of the plan, too. “No cause for alarm” because with His plan His body wouldn’t stay in the tomb. “No cause for alarm” because His plan included leaving them the Holy Spirit. “No cause for alarm,” because His plan promises that He’s coming back again. “No cause for alarm” because He’s God and we can trust Him and His ultimate plan–whatever happens.

Looking back and looking forward, because of my son’s text, God reminded me that no matter what happens, the One who came to save us has a great plan for His great glory. So, no matter what it is we are facing, we can have rest, we can be at peace and we can trust Him no matter what with “no cause for alarm.”

Tackling Drills 101

It’s no secret there are several things I like alot:  Oreos, a good word picture and football.  Alone, each has its merits, but combine them and you get a fun new blog post and a satisfied chocolate craving.  Lately, it seems like everywhere I go people are tackling problems in their homes, jobs and relationships without much success.   I don’t know whether it’s just winter blues, the cycles of life or not enough Oreos on the shelves of the average home, but I know that we don’t have to let things drag us down. In fact, it can absolutely work the other way around–We can be the ones doing the tackling, instead of the ones getting sacked.  I remember learning a few facts about the fundamentals of tackling  when our son was starting out in football. I thought then, as I do now, that there was a lot I could learn from the basics of tackling.  Here are 3 beginning steps for tackling tough problems that have helped me gain some victory:

1–Start with a good base.  Start by standing firm in Christ. I learned I needed a good stance, firm footing and a strong foundation. I needed to take a stand on the truth of what God’s Word says. I began by memorizing and meditating on His Word and planting myself on what He has promised.

2—Stay Low. In football, staying low gives you the leverage to bring down your opponent. In battling life’s situations, I am continuing to learn to stay low through prayer and humility. No matter what I’m up against, whether it’s something I can control or not, it’s not as big as the God who gives me the power to overcome.

3—Keep your head up and look at what you are tackling. In a game, it’s easy to get off target, and miss the tackle, wind up injured  just like it’s easy to get off target, miss the real issue completely and wind up hurt and confused.  It doesn’t take much to get distracted and  find yourself lost in play.  Remember what it is you need to tackle, and keep after it. In my life, whether I’ve been up against a sin issue, managing my emotions,or  the consequences of poor decisions (mine or someone else’s) I have had to learn to keep my focus and to not let myself get distracted. I have had to keep the voice of my Coach in my head and follow the plan He has set out for me. (See tackling points 1 & 2).

I’m always amazed when I see a great tackle. I love to watch a player get up, flex a little, maybe chest bump a team mate or two, excited over the personal victory. I know it takes humility, strength, skill and wisdom to tackle well and tackle consistantly.  Applying these simple football techniques to my spiritual life has not only given me alot more personal victory, it has kept me from being injured both spiritually and emotionally. And strong individual players make for a stronger team.

It’s not just the season we are in or lack of Oreos that keeps us from victory, often we just need to brush up on the basics. God tells us there will always be things in our lives that need to be tackled, and by picking up the play book we gain the strength, skill, power and wisdom that comes from Him, to tackle whatever comes our way.