Summer Reading List Shaping Up

readingWith my birthday and a number of gifts purchased off my Amazon wish list, the summer reading list is shaping up. The themes this year are baseball (once again) and the Monuments Men with a little business, art, and spirituality thrown in.

Here’s what I’ve got (so far):

  • The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri M Nouwen
  • The Art of the Sale by Philip Broughton
  • The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
  • The Rape of Europa by Lynn H. Nicholas
  • Practicing the Way of Jesus by Mark Scandrette
  • I Never Had It Made by Jackie Robinson
  • Wrigley Field the Centennial by Les Krantz
  • A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Better Business by Ari Weinzweig
  • A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader by Ari Weinzweig

The reading list is always greater than my amount of time to read, but (as I always remind myself) slow and steady wins the race.

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A Lesson in Abner

joab assassinates saulMay God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the Lord promised him on oath and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” 2 Samuel 3:9-10 (NIV)

Abner is one of the most fascinating characters in the unfolding drama of the conflict between the houses of Saul and David. Abner was Saul’s general, and second in command. As such, Abner had amassed tremendous power and influence. With Saul’s well known mental health issues, it was likely Abner who provided stability, respect and fear in the chain of command. Upon Saul’s death, it was Abner who quickly propped up the weaker younger brother of Jonathan, Ish-bosheth as his puppet to maintain control of the northern tribes.

Abner served Saul and his family faithfully, but his ultimate service was always about himself.

It struck me as I read this morning that Abner was well aware God had anointed David king of Israel. The way he worded his threat to Ish-bosheth it would seem he even believed that David’s ascent to the throne was a divine oath. Yet, Abner spent two decades fighting faithfully for the house of Saul because that was where his bread was buttered.

Today’s chapter gives us a clear picture of Abner’s character. Abner seems to have enjoyed the fruits of his position. Now we see that he so disrespected his former master and the son of Saul made his political marionette, that he felt it his right to feast on the forbidden fruit of his Saul’s harem. After all, who was going to stop him? When Ish-bosheth finds the guts to stand up to Abner and call him to account, Abner does what all power brokers do: he makes a power play. He plays the powerful trump card he’s been holding and vows to deliver the northern tribes to David wrapped with a bow.

Abner is Judas. The inner-circle confidant who is secretly pilfering things for himself, and willing to betray his master if it suits his personal agenda. Abner is Iago, the 2nd in command whom the commander shouldn’t trust. Abner is the one who knows God’s truth, but never submits to it unless it happens to dovetail with his duplicitous purposes.

Today, I’m also recognizing the Abner in me. David wrote in the lyric of one of his songs: “search me God…and see if there is any offensive way in me.” I’m kind of feeling that same spirit this morning as I mull over the person of Abner. I can see in my own life the perpendicular lines of God’s way and my way. I am guilty of being duplicitous, too. It could be said that I have served God for personal ends.

On this my 48th birthday, I am reminded by today’s chapter of the difference between the man I desire to be, and the man I sometimes prove to be by my own words and actions. I’m reminded that after 48 years I have still not arrived. I am reminded that I’m still in process. God, examine my heart – and help me be less like Abner and more a man after your own heart.

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Life is Messy [Shocking]

Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah. 2 Samuel 2:4 (NIV)

Life gets messy. When individuals and complex systems of individuals are all navigating their disparate paths and personal agendas, the results are inevitably going to include conflict. Tracing David’s path from being anointed king as a young man and his ascension to the throne of Israel is a meandering path through some very messy personal and political terrain.

King Saul is dead, but that doesn’t mean that David’s path to the throne is now less messy. Just the opposite. Things are going to get even messier. David’s family belongs to the tribe of Judah, and with the death of Saul the men of Judah move quickly to anoint David as their king. There are 12 tribes in Israel, however, and Judah’s brash act of independence reveals a schism between Judah and the other tribes that foreshadows centuries of bloody civil unrest to come when the nation splits in two during the reign of David’s grandson.

David is now King of Judah and its vast southern territory. The remnants of Saul’s political machine are not, however, eager to lose power or cede control of the nation to Judah’s famous outlaw. David was, after all, the young man Saul had designated as #1 on his most wanted list. Saul’s general, Abner, has is own political agenda. Abner sets up Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth as King of Israel and, no doubt, his puppet. Let the games begin.

Today I am again reminded of how messy life can get. Even as time and events lead towards divine ends, the journey is fraught with difficulties, dangers, toils and snares both personal and corporate. History should teach us that this has always been the case east of Eden, but I find we humans constantly surprised by the reality of it. In midst of the mess I’ve found no other recourse than to spiritually focus on the basics:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love others.
  3. Seek God’s kingdom first

… and then to press on one step, one day, at a time in the right direction.

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Memory Monday: The Birthday Gift

English: 1968 Schwinn Sting-ray Orange Krate 5...
English: 1968 Schwinn Sting-ray Orange Krate 5-speed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being the youngest of four, I got used to hand-me-downs. And, when I did get something that mom and dad bought me new it was usually built with growth in mind.

My birthday is on Wednesday this week and I’ve been thinking about birthdays past. One of my birthdays as a child became one of my most memorable, and it came with both good news and bad news. The good news was that my parents bought me a shiny, brand new Schwinn Stingray five-speed bicycle complete with banana seat that was the coolest, most unexpected birthday gift I think I’ve ever gotten. The bad news is that they bought it big so that I could grow into it and so it would last me a long time. In fact, I did ride it until I was almost in high school. But my little legs struggled to reach the pedals and I grew frustrated with my siblings who all took turns riding my bike (it seemed to fit them perfectly).

I guess sometimes when we get things “to grow into” the growth is more than mere physicality. Despite my frustration with the bike being to big to begin with, I did grow into it quickly and it became one of the most cherished childhood possessions. It became a tool of childhood freedom as I explored the streets and neighborhoods around my childhood home. It became a symbol of a young boy’s machismo as I learned to pop wheelies and ride with no hands. It taught me that some things you do grow into, grow out of, but never forget.

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Timing is Everything

david mourns saul and jonathanThen David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 2 Samuel 1:11-12 (NIV)

One afternoon while in high school I sat at the counter in our kitchen/dining room and was having an after school snack. My mom had gotten home from work and was opening the mail. All of a sudden her hand went to her mouth (her signature gesture when she’s going to start crying) and she began to weep. At first I was scared, but then I realized that they were tears of astonishment.

My sister was in college. Times were tight. My folks were struggling financially. I hadn’t known it because I was a clueless teenager, and no one else knew it because my parents had not said anything to anyone. But, God knew. They received an envelope anonymous with cash in it and an anonymous note about God’s provision.

“Timing is everything,” they say.

Along the journey I’ve been both amazed and incredibly frustrated by God’s timing. I have witnessed what I consider to be miraculous events of God’s timing like my parents’ cash gift. I’ve also been through long, difficult stretches of life’s journey when my timing was definitely not calibrated with God’s timing. What I wanted, and felt I/we needed, was perpetually not provided. This has usually led to grief, doubt, silent tantrums, and anger. In most every case, a dose of 20/20 hindsight from a waypoint a bit further down the road made me grateful for God’s wisdom in NOT letting me have what I thought I wanted.

In today’s chapter we pick up the story of David, who had been anointed King of Israel by the prophet Samuel as a boy. But, the timing of his ascension to the position was not immediate. Saul occupied the throne and David refused to usurp the throne or depose Saul, choosing to defer to God’s timing. This led to David being branded an outlaw, having a price put on his head, fleeing to neighboring countries, and living for years on the lam. Now we read of David’s response when he hears of the death of Saul and Saul’s son Jonathon, who happened to be David’s best friend.

I was struck by David’s grief this morning. Believe me, David was also frustrated by God’s timing. We’ve recently journeyed through some of the blues-like psalms David wrote in the wilderness expressing his anger and frustration with the situation. Yet, when his enemy Saul is finally killed and the way is finally opened up for David to walk into his anointed calling, David recognizes that his anointed calling comes with a price. David grieves for the king who had been “God’s anointed” king before him. He grieves for his friend Jonathon who also died and gave David a clear line of accession without political rival.

Today I’m thinking about God’s timing in my life. I’m exploring how I see God working in my journey on the macro level. I’m thinking about paths we desired to take which God blocked, paths that remain closed, and paths that have opened up to us. I want to follow David’s example from this moment of his own journey, when he acknowledged and honored God’s timing.

 

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10 Ways I Tried NOT to Exasperate My Children

Family
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord
. Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

Exasperate v. \ig-ˈzas-pə-ˌrāt\
1. To excite the anger of: Enrage
2. To cause irritation or annoyance

From the home office in Pella, Iowa. Top Ten Ways I tried not to exasperate my children:

  1. Let them become who they are called to be, not who I wanted them to be.
  2. Be patient with their small mistakes and accidents. I make them too.
  3. Be patient with their big mistakes and accidents. I make them too.
  4. Expect progress, not perfection.
  5. Life is short: Enjoy letting them be children/teens/young adults with all the irritations, aggravations, lessons, and foibles. I’m the adult, and should be the one to understand that it’s a stage of life they are in and be patient with it.
  6. Found and complimented the beauty in who they were in the moment, refusing to tease or be critical of them in the awkward stage(s) they went through.
  7. Be critical of their behaviors, never of their person.
  8. Believe in and trust: Make my default answer “yes.”
  9. When angry or frustrated, express it appropriately. Sometimes yelling, ranting, and screaming are counter productive. Let silence do the heavy lifting.
  10. Forgive them, just as I have (and need to be) been forgiven.

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Throw Back Thursday: Members Only

TBT Members Only

“Jump back!” Here’s a little blast back to the 1980’s. This is a picture of me sitting in Prof. Satre’s office at Judson College. Gotta love the turned up Izod collar (back when Izod and Lacoste were one) and the Members Only jacket.

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