Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Lord's Prayer, Old School

Something reminded me this week of a story told by some friends who own a book store. A Caucasian American lady asked them to help her locate a Spanish version of the King James Bible so she might give it to a Hispanic person she knew. It may take you a minute to think through that. The King James is an (old) English version. It can't be translated into Spanish and still get the "Thees" and "Thous" the woman wanted. That's like buying an English dictionary so you can translate it into Spanish. Why not just buy a Spanish dictionary to begin with?!

Anyway, that got me to thinking about Bible versions, and I came across the following version of the Lord's Prayer as translated and written by William Tyndale in the 1520s:

"O oure father which arte in heve halowed be thy name. Let thy kyngdome come. Thy wyll be fulfilled as well in erth as it ys in heven. Geve vs this daye oure dayly breede. And forgeve vs oure treaspases eve as we forgeve oure trespacers. And leade vs not into teptacion: but delyver vs fro evell. For thyne is ye kyngedome and ye power and ye glorye for ever. Amen." (Matthew 6:9-13)

The picture to the right is from Tyndale's version, although not the Lord's Prayer passage; it's Matthew 26 and 27. Remember, this pre-dates the King James Version by nearly 100 years. And Tyndale wasn't the first. John Wycliffe translated the Gospels into English in the 1380s! (I promise, this really is an English version!)

So for all those who swear the 1611 KJV is the first and only "God-approved" version, that it's never been revised or changed, to the left is a page from Hebrews. Note Hebrews is ascribed to Pauline authorship. In current editions of the KJV, no such claim is made. Let me know how your devotional goes trying to read this.

As for me, I'm thankful God sees fit to make his word made available in every era, every tongue and dialect, and I'm praying for those who are seeking to make that a reality in our world today!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thoughts Brought About By Fire

As I sit huddled in front of our fireplace in these sub-freezing temperatures, I marvel at the heat emitted by the coals. It didn't take much effort to re-start the fire again this morning, since the embers still glowed from last night's blaze.

Staring at their radiance, I'm reminded of Isaiah's encounter with God:
"I am doomed," he said, "for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven” (Is. 6:5-7).
Consider for a moment: the coal was so hot a celestial being (a seraphim) had to hold it with tongs. Yet that same burning coal touched Isaiah's soft, thin lips. I burn my mouth on a piece of hot toast and tears well up in my eyes!

True, this was a vision, probably not an actual event. Nevertheless, I've had dreams that were so real, I awakened believing those events actually occurred. I bet it was similar for Isaiah. I suspect there was a sting to his lips when the vision was over. A reminder of the pain, the cost of reconciliation and atonement. The burning sensation's effect was so much greater than simply washing his mouth out with soap.

Human lips have about 5 layers of skin as opposed to the 16 or so layers covering the rest of the face. That's why they're typically darker; the blood is so much closer to the surface. I think it's poignant God cleanses Isaiah's (acknowledged) unclean lips. Sin that's close to the surface of our hearts and minds is more easily "cleaned-up" than those things we bury deep within. Isaiah's confession was at the ready; I hope I'm that attentive to keeping accounts with God short, so he can do his cleansing work. No matter how much it hurts. For it's then he can most effectively "send me” (Is. 6:8).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Chasing Rabbits

My Bible study class is fantastic at chasing rabbits (or chickens, but that's a subject for another day). Just ask Andy, our teacher. He even has to preface his thoughts from time to time with, "Now we're not going to chase this rabbit, but you might consider ...." Then, diligently and faithful to the task, he trudges forward with a biblical truth in the midst of a rash of small group conversations about the very "rabbit" he told us not to chase. Please understand, I'm not pointing fingers, I'm fully culpable on this matter! Why only yesterday...

Just kidding.

From what I understand, the idea of chasing rabbits comes from hunting. A dog should remain focused on the scent of the animal being tracked, but sometimes a rabbit will cross the path, and a finely tuned and trained canine will suddenly diverge from the task at hand, chasing after the wild hare.

How true that is of my life and worship. Focused on serving and obedience to God in one area, I'll suddenly diverge from the path he's given me, either because of sin or distraction, and the next thing I know, I'm chasing rabbits. Or, even in times of personal or corporate worship, I'll catch myself musing the grocery list on the fridge - or wondering where that candle and photo frame might be. More rabbit chasing. I think that could even be a paraphrase of Rev. 2:4's "you've lost your First Love" passage. It could read, "You're chasing rabbits." (Perhaps I'll recommend this idea to my husband for his translation of scripture - that's the DWI version: Darin Wood International.)

Look, there, I just chased a rabbit. (As I slap my palm against my forehead.)

What's even more remarkable is very often, the rabbits I chase aren't even worth the time and effort. They're more like Dodger's bunny you see to the right - artificial, lifeless and filled with nothing good. Just a mock image of what is truly reality, holding nothing of value, except perhaps sentiment. It can't even move of its own volition or momentum. In order for Dodger to have reason to chase it, I have to throw it. I'm quite sure Satan does the same thing to me. He throws a lifeless, worthless pursuit across my path and I chase after it. He picks it up again and throws it a little further. All the while, leading me further and further from the presence and truth of Christ.

For a time is coming when people will ... reject the truth and chase after myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation .... Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you (2 Tim 4:3-5).

God, help me to ignore the rabbits today.

Oh, and Andy, if you're reading this, I'll try to do better in Sunday School, too. ;-)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lost or Raptured?

I realize Scripture tells us one day the earth and all it contains will pass away and only the souls of humanity will remain, but I'm convinced the Lord has already raptured a candle and a picture frame from my house.

Seriously, I can't find them anywhere. If I didn't remember moving them from the other house, I'd swear Mary's hiding them in the parsonage. (Just kidding, Mary.) I remember them being on the buffet in the dining room before Christmas and then storing them away (in a "safe" place) in order to make room for more festive decorations. Where I put them ... only the Lord knows. The good thing is, I know they're together, wherever they are.

I actually remember coming across them at one point back in late December and thinking, "Oh, this is where I put these things! I'll have to remember this when it comes time to replace the Christmas decorations." Yeah. That worked out. I've actually prayed multiple times the Lord will remind me where I've put them. Thus, since I haven't had a revealing answer to this prayer, I'm beginning to believe he liked them so well, he wanted to have them in heaven with him. That's great with me; it's a pretty candle, and it's one of our wedding photos in the frame. Someday, they'll be pleasant reminders of life here on earth.

Thank goodness Jesus isn't as absent-minded about me. He even told a crowd of people it was God's will that he never lose me - or you (see John 6:39), and he always did what pleased God (John 8:29). I'm glad he never hides me away or replaces me for something more attractive or festive.

Now, in all honesty, the candle doesn't smell that good; it's just pretty, and we can print out another of that wedding photo. So I'm not devastated, just stinkin' annoyed!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Privilege of Prayer

Prayer is certainly a powerful exercise for believers - a privilege to carry our concerns and joys to the God of all creation. Historically, no great movement of God has ever begun without prayer. Yesterday, Darin challenged our church with the opportunity to pray for our entire community- 6000 strong in the 75763 zip code-and distributed copied sheets of the telephone book throughout the congregation by which to provide a method for this challenge.

I got "U."

While there are a few actual people listed, I'm amused that the Lord should ordain for me to receive the "U.S. Government." Not that I question the need for prayer for our nation's leadership; it's just I so often sense such deep corruption (on both sides of the political fence), I am usually less than optimistic about prayer truly making a difference in the outcome of elections, law-making sessions, etc. Yet, I think this was God's wake-up call to me. A reminder he is still "King of [all] kings" (1 Tim 6:15) and "there is no authority except from [him]" (Rom 13:1).

That's important to me, because as C.S. Lewis says, we are the "object[s] of God's love," and he has more than just an "indifferent concern for our welfare." In that all-consuming love, we are valued beyond all measure, up to and including the sacrifice of his only perfect Son on our behalf. Why shouldn't I trust prayer to make a difference, then? If he can change the course of my eternity, surely he can handle law-makers and judges for the time they are in office.

Father John of Kronstadt said, "Oh, what great happiness and bliss, what exaltation it is to address oneself to the Eternal Father. Always, without fail, value this joy which has been accorded to you by God's infinite grace." - Even while I'm praying for the government.

Friday, January 9, 2009

God's Soundtrack

I've always been a fan of musicals. Ever since I was a wee little girl. I'd dance through the house singing "Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens...." The combination of music and drama, coupled with romance and conflict has always scratched right where I've itched. Add to that the incredibly (however far-fetched) happy endings, and I'm sold. Movies with good soundtracks have the same effect, and not just the chick flicks. I've never watched the entirety of "Gettysburg," but I can follow the story just by listening to the music.

Sitting at the dining room table late this morning, I began to think musicals, or at least movie soundtracks, must have been God's idea. I was sewing, listening to some of my favorite songs on the IPod. Chris Rice's "Untitled Hymn" began to play - a tender lullaby of calling and comfort.
Weak and wounded sinner, lost and left to die
The words matched the view out our 10 foot window: overcast; the sun hidden behind gray and white clouds. Then, suddenly...
O, raise your head, for love is passing by, come to Jesus and live!
Now your burden's lifted
and carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
sing to Jesus and live!
The sun's glow beamed into the room so brilliantly I had to squint. Yet in a heartbeat,
clouds covered the sun, and a cold darkness settled itself over the room again.
And like a newborn baby, don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk sometimes we fall...
Sometimes the way is lonely and steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain...
As the sun burst forth again, tears jumped to my eyes as I realized God's handiwork matched the music...
O, and when the love spills over and music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside, then dance for Jesus
Suddenly, the clouds passed over, covering the sun, yet again.
And with your final heartbeat, kiss the world goodbye
As the clouds departed, the sun shone directly on my face, warming my body and soul...
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and fly to Jesus and live!
I guess God puts a soundtrack to life almost every day in one way or another. Whether it's birds singing, wind howling, water tripping over rocks. The big question is, "Are my eyes and ears open to see and hear his music?"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Humility of Jesus

Several months ago, I read the following devotional by Michael Card and was struck by the absolute humility Christ demonstrated, even in his most "powerful" moments of miracles and the resurrection. Jesus could have enjoyed plenty of celebrity status following the feeding of the 5000, the public healings, etc., but he didn't find security in the opinions of others, so their praise or jeers didn't affect his intentions and purposes (although I truly believe such comments affected his feelings). Nevertheless, Jesus' demonstrations of humility at the best and worst of life's moments have caused me to deeply reflect upon my own humility (or lack thereof). I certainly hope that when people observe my life and behavior, they recognize an "un-prideful" person, but more than other's observations, I want my heart and mind to be characterized by an inescapable and desperate dependence on God, so much so that He is in my thoughts at all times: first, last and always, with others or alone with Him.
"I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." John 5:19

The humility of Jesus is evident on every page of the Gospels. Though he might have grasped equality with God, Jesus lets go of position and authority. He comes in poverty and weakness. He always points away from himself and directly to the Father upon whom he says again and again he is totally dependent. As a result, when Jesus performs a miracle, he ... always [redirects] the praise for the Father.

The humility of Jesus is most strikingly portrayed in his miracles. Without question they are literally miracles. They shatter and defy nature, physics and the world as we know it. But if you listen closely to the text, you will notice that Jesus' manner, his demeanor, the way in which he does his miracles is ordinary and simple.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Slow to Join; Glad I Did

I've got this thing. I don't want to do something if everyone else is doing it. Not because I'm such a great individualist, but because I don't want to be left holding the bag if it all goes bad. It's true. Throughout large portions of my childhood and adolescence, I would go along with everyone else because I couldn't think of anything better to do. (I'm not terribly creative.) But, time and again, I'd be the one caught and in trouble because I couldn't make a quick enough getaway.

Case in point: one afternoon several of us girls were romping through the church building while waiting on our parents to finish a meeting. Now, at the time, the R.A.s had a secret hideout thingy they'd built in the children's area with ladders and false walls and stuff, but it was (naturally) off limits to any and all females.

We girls decided while the boys were out on the playground, we'd take the opportunity to hunt for the secret hideout. Sneaking away, that's exactly what we did. We searched high and low until we found the ladder leading to the cedar-paneled room filled with boy stuff (none of which interested us, of course). To our delight, we'd located their secret, even if it wasn't terribly exciting. I was looking around the room, searching for something unique enough to make this trek worthwhile, when suddenly, all the girls scattered and I was alone. Face-to-face with a boy two years older than me who wasn't at all happy about seeing a third grade girl in a boy's hideout. I hemmed and hawed and took off like a bolt of lightning, but, I'd been caught. He reported the invasion to his dad, who told my dad, and well, let's just say I didn't venture up there again.

See what I mean? I was the only one caught, even though I insisted I wasn't alone. Since then, I've rarely even signed political petitions as a safety measure. Should I ever decide to run for public office (ha!), my opponents will have a hard time saying I was a supporter of "such and such" or adverse to "fill-in-the-blank."

I guess that's why I was so slow to join the Facebook revolution. If it all breaks down, I don't want to be responsible! But, I'm now realizing just how much I've already missed. Since last Monday, I've rediscovered old friendships and reconnected with people I love. As much as we are and claim to be a "hibernating" culture, I can't help but believe we still desire relationship most of all. Facebook just helps us do relationships on our own terms; for good or bad is still to be determined, I think. But for now, I'm loving it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Year in Review

Wow. Thinking back over 2008, I'm amazed at the things Darin, the Lord and I walked through.

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to publish something (anything!) and I'm happy to report my goal was met! In cooperation with the Baptist World Alliance, I got to participate in writing a devotional for Advent (see it online at BaptistWay, "Online Reading" - mine was Dec. 29) so I just barely met it, but hey, it happened nonetheless!

April brought the 90th birthday of my precious grandfather, which we celebrated with a huge family gathering. And, praise God, he's still doing quite well! It also brought the delightful addition of a goofy and precious puppy we named Dodger: family member and mascot for Darin's T-Ball team!

In May, we enjoyed a delightful touring vacation through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, and then our world turned upside with the advent of three children under three moving into our home. Fostering those kids was a tremendous blessing and labor, simultaneously. I still celebrate with fondness and joy the progress and growth we saw in them as the Lord allowed us (and so many of our friends) to invest our lives into theirs.

The greatest blessing of all came in October, as we purchased our beautiful home. We're so glad buying the house enabled us to set down more stable roots and, and at the same time, help the church by providing more comfortable housing for the NeSmiths. We've been thrilled to get to know our neighbors as we've settled in to our new surroundings. If you're in the area, please stop by: we're the only house with a mailbox!

So, there it is, 2008 in review. Full of new experiences and blessings and relationships and even an accomplishment or two! (Although not printed this year, a lesson I wrote for BaptistWay is scheduled to appear in the Adult Sunday School Literature, Spring of 2009!)

So I celebrate and say with James "Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father" (1:17)!