Thought For Today

I am so glad that you have found this site and I hope you will find encouragement and joy as you read through my thoughts on God, family and life.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What God Sees

When reading scriptures this morning my thoughts pondered how we as humans look at people in contrast to that of how God view’s them.  Zachariah, (John’s the Baptist’s father) when visited by the angel Gabriel was told that his wife (Elizabeth) would bear a son and his name would be called John.  Zachariah immediately thinks of how impossible it would be for his wife to bear a son in her old age.  He looked at reasons “why” things could not be accomplished rather than seeing how God could do the impossible, and rejoice over that fact.

God chose Mary to be Jesus’ mother.  It naturally would have been easier for Mary to become pregnant after she was married, but then God does not think the way we do.  He chose the more complicated way by having her get pregnant by the Holy Spirit before marriage.  As with Zachariah, faith was required on the part of Joseph (Mary’s husband to be) that she had become pregnant by God’s hand.  It was finally revealed to Joseph in a dream from God that Mary was indeed to carry God’s son.  Hearing from Mary it seems was too difficult for Joseph to accept.  Perhaps it would be the same for you and me as well.

Another area that must have confounded mankind was when Jesus was born, Joseph might have thought, “Being God’s son, why doesn’t he provide at least a room for him to be born in or even a castle?  After all, Jesus is God’s son!”  God chose to have his son born instead, in a stable rather than a palace like most of the world was looking for, perhaps we would have thought the same as well.

Through a child's eyes.
When news of Jesus’ ministry was just beginning, the apostle Nathanial was told by Phillip that Jesus was from Nazareth.  Nathanial’s response was, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”   (John 1:46)  Obviously God chose to raise Jesus in a town with a bad reputation, one must ask again, why?  Is location looked upon when growing up as important to God as it is for us?

 Studies have been done with newborn babies when showing them a picture of an average looking woman and that of a very beautiful woman.  The babies’ eye movements were tracked and it became plain to the researchers that baby after baby looked more at the attractive woman.

Once again, one has to ask, why?  Are we hardwired to be attracted to handsome and pretty faces?  Look at pictures of Jesus today in paintings as well as pictures of him; are they the same as what scripture described what he looked like?  The Old Testament scripture (Isaiah 53:2 says that he had "no beauty that we should desire him.") And so it says that Jesus was to be born as not comely in appearance so that man is not attracted to him by his appearance.  Again, why did God choose to go this route?  Wouldn't Jesus be more acceptable if he were attractive like in the pictures that we draw of him?

Next we look at Saul, he was chosen to be Israel’s first king. Israel demanded from God a king and so God gave them the person the people were looking for.  He was said to be tall and good-looking. (1 Samuel 9:2).   Later, Samuel 10:22 recorded that he was found by Samuel hiding behind a wagon with the luggage.  In the end we see that Saul turned out to be vain and self-seeking in his leadership and he didn’t accept wrongdoing when confronted with his choices.  On the other hand, in looking at God’s choice for king, David was the youngest, smallest, and the least thought of in his family, yet God chose him, again one must ask, why?  Later, when Samuel was looking at Saul’s successor, Samuel was found to be looking at appearance, but God was teaching him what to really for.  (When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, 'Surely the Lord's anointed stands here before the Lord.'
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (Samuel 16:6–7)

Can one begin to see a pattern here?  It makes me want to look at, and examine what I see as important.  “God please give me eyes, heart and mind to see, feel, and think as you do.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

When Children Teach Their Parents

When Children Teach Their Parents

Our family attended a musical recently of the “Beauty and the Beast” at Disney World.  We were seated in the front, in the handicap section right in front of the stage.  As I sat there, I noticed that many individuals had various illnesses.  It appeared that a family in front of us had a little girl who was 6.  Abby had struck up a conversation with her and I noticed Abby was telling her how much she liked her dress.  The little girl was shy and smiled almost reluctantly.  There was no wheel chair so I assume it was some other reason why they were seated in our section.  Then it came to me; I believe they were a part of “Make a Wish Foundation.”  Children who were seriously ill or terminally ill are given the means to go to the place of their dreams.  I watched Abby make this little girl feel very special and I was overcome with gratitude seeing this dialogue-taking place between these two little girls. 

Since there was about a half hour before the performance began, I looked around at the people surrounding me.  One set of parents had a mentally handicap son who was absolutely filled with joy at being able to see this upcoming event.  His parents listened to all he had to say and they in turn listened to their son when he carried on a conversation with the attendant who was speaking like Mickey.  It made the young man laugh and laugh.  The mother of this young man started a conversation with an older lady who was also mentally handicap.  They both were gentle souls that enjoyed each other’s company.  I felt very privileged to be there among them. 

What made me even more joyful was an older man wearing an Air Force hat.  He was in a wheelchair and he sat by himself.  At first I felt sad that he had no one to share his joy with in seeing the upcoming play.  Later I would come to realize that I was wrong in my assessment though.  What he did next surprised me very much.  This man turned around and asked the little girl Abby was speaking to if she wanted a lollypop, she reluctantly took it and then she smiled.  He then offered some to the adults around him and they in turn smiled and received his gift as well.  Then he looked up at Abby and Will and asked if they would like some.  Both of our children eagerly accepted his gift.  When the musical began this gentleman raised his hands high in the air and began clapping very loudly.  The rest of us in the audience saw this and did the same.  Each time he clapped for the actors and actresses, the audience fell into sync with him.  We felt this man’s exhilaration and joy and it made the rest of us more excited as ever.  Then it came to me, he was not alone, he had the whole audience with him, including me. 

I was not done being surprised though.  When the performance was over, Will said, “Daddy, I want to thank that man for his gift.”  I found myself stepping back to allow Will to pass when I saw Abby pressing by me heading in the same direction.  I could not hear their conversation, but everyone was smiling, including myself.  God was teaching me through children about kindness, respect, and thankfulness.  I was a very humbled father when walking out of the musical.  I realized when leaving that I saw much more than a performance that day, it was life at its best. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sin's Attraction

Chinese Bittersweet behind Will.  Notice the red berries and the snapped off Willow.
Lately I have been cutting down Sumac trees for firewood.  Back in Jackson, Minnesota, where I grew up, they grow to about 5-10 feet tall and have about 1”-3” trunks.  We look at them as mostly a bush.  Here in the bluff country on the other hand, they grow as high as 20-30 feet tall and have as much as a 8-9 inch trunk at their base.  The reason though that I am cutting them into firewood is that they are either dead or dying. 

Chinese Bittersweet spreading.
In this isolated area of the woods, we have an infestation of Chinese Bittersweet.  It is a beautiful vine that many think, looks wonderful as a wreath at Christmas.  In fact, I have seen people come in and harvest them for that purpose.  They are unknowingly spreading the vine to other locations.  The Department of Agriculture told me that they believe that is how it came into our nearby forest.  Someone in a nearby cemetery brought the wreath of vines for a grave decoration.  The birds took the red berries and spread it from there.  It is a vine that wraps itself around trees and overcomes it with its leaves and vines, and many times causes it to even bend the tree over until it is dead.  Since Sumac grows in well-lighted areas, such as around the timber trails, the Bittersweet is choosing its victims (Sumac) to kill first.  It then grows with underground shoots to other trees nearby. 

Chinese Bittersweet growing up toward the nearest tree.  At first we thought it was beautiful in the shape of a hummingbird, but within a month it was wrapped around the nearby tree.
I have made an agreement with the nearby landowner to keep his timber trail open first and then I am allowed to harvest other dead trees for firewood.  Right now I have cleared the timber trail as far as I can go and the job, at times, seems overwhelming.  The Department of Agriculture along with the University of Minnesota are slowly trying to eradicate this noxious vine for some time now, but funding is limited, and unfortunately, the vine is spreading at an alarming rate.  If you see it growing around your area, destroy it.  To me it is pure evil and it survives by destroying the bushes and trees around it. 

Chinese Bittersweet covered in snow.
I see this plant as a parallel to sin in our lives.  It looks pretty on the outside and we are attracted to it by its outward beauty, but when we take hold of it and make it ours, it destroys the good in us, and when it is done with us, it spreads to others around us.  This is somewhat a radical perspective, but sin is just that, sin.  God gives us eyes to see what it really is and helps us in our struggles when attracted to sin’s lures. 

Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Chinese Bittersweet covering the Sumac.
Sometimes we want to take sin home with us and make it into to something beautiful and lovely, but in the end, we cannot change its nature.  It then becomes something that we never would have thought it could be.  Like the Chinese Bittersweet, sin destroys.

Lord, please help us to see with your eyes and your heart the areas of sin in our lives, and help us to become pleasing in your sight.

Psalm 119:18
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

John 3:16-17
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

If God is speaking to you, listen to him and accept him as your savior.  Ask him into your heart.  If you are a Christian and God is speaking to you about a sin in your life, ask him for wisdom and strength to turn from sin’s grip and he will give it to you.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 So, we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.