Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hand in the Candy Jar

Appearing so inviting
        bright rainbow colors
                delectable shapes
Calling to my taste buds
        solid pieces
                creamy centers
Drawing me to appealing
        nutty caramel
                milk chocolate

All deceptively good
                then craving more
My hand stuck in the candy jar
        greedily grabbing hold
                yearning for new satisfaction

Holding onto sins leaves me
                desiring more

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why Should I Forgive?

Do you write comments in the margins of your Bible? I do. This morning I ran across a comment in the margin that caused a flash of negative emotion. I suddenly and intensely remembered the destruction that the acrimonious dissolving of a relationship with a close Christian friend caused. I think the extreme hurt I experienced is a result not only of the former emotional closeness but also because of the sharing of our spiritual lives. This former friend’s name and a comment were scribbled in my Bible beside this verse.

“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8  ESV

A flood of emotions engulfed me. I remembered the hurt and the time of difficulty. It is such an ingrained part of our human nature—to bring up the hurts and to nurse them. I wanted to focus on me and my feelings, my wants, my desires. That is why at times I have struggled with mild depression and anger. How can I expect to not be angry and depressed if I choose to spend time rehashing old hurts and rationalizing my behaviors? I am sure that by now, my side of the story only vaguely resembles what really happened. In my mind, my behavior has been justified and the other person’s behavior has been vilified. What have I gained? Nothing but the negative experiences caused by anger and depression. You would think that by making the events look better from my perspective would make me happier not sadder. That is not the case. The more I think about those sad events and sanitize my actions, the more I feel the strength of the negativism the breakup of a Christian friendship created. Scripture has instructions for dealing with other Christians.

 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up...” 1 Thessalonians 5:11a  ESV

“…Be at peace among yourselves.” 1 Thessalonians 5:13b  ESV
“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15  ESV

So if I want to follow God’s directions, I must choose to forgive and let go of the bad memories.  I must purposefully choose to focus on the good traits of Christians and the endearing memories. I must, at a heart level, seek only what is good for my former friend.  

Lord, give me the ability to choose to remember the good times. Create in me the mindset of building up and seeking the good for all of my fellow Christians. Give me a forgiving spirit when others do not meet my expectations.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Guns and God—Breaking the Mold

“Do you want to get a Kansas hunting license? Then come on over to The Benton Church for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) hunters education course.” That was the invitation this fall. And what an event it was!

Why would a church allow a hunting course to be taught in the church building? Because hunting is a family activity in our community. It is an excellent way for fathers to build relationships with their sons (yes, mothers and daughters enjoy hunting too). The actual course is taught by KDWPT approved instructors, but local volunteers are needed for a successful event.

Ken Taber saw the need for a local hunter education course. He checked the church calendar for availability, secured permission to hold the event, and arranged for the instructor. Of course he enlisted the support of his wife Kim. Ken’s friends Don Hoover and Todd Crouch were eager to help him in planning and conducting the event. Naturally there were doubters who said no one would attend an event in our small town. Wrong. Our location on a major highway meant easy access, and The Benton Church was glad to promote our location to the outlying communities

One of the disadvantages given for holding the event in Benton was the lack of fast-food restaurants in our town.  The closest one is over fifteen minutes away so people would have very little time for lunch on Saturday. However, that was no obstacle for the Tabers. They sought donations for lunch and refreshments. Dustrol in Towanda and Ditchwitch in Wichita provided money for food as did the church and some friends. For the free lunch Saturday, tacos with all the fixings were served. Kim’s mother, Mike Erikson, Laurie Pfeiffer, Barb Crouch, and Aubrey Pirtle helped with cooking and serving food. Snacks and bottled water were available for breaks in the sessions.

Because Ken and Kim wanted people to feel comfortable in the church setting, they made sure class members were greeted in the parking lot and volunteers were available to assist at various times throughout the event. Karsten Reilly, Don Hoover, Curt Ghormley, Jeff Schiesser, Joel Fox, Todd Pfeiffer, and others provided help with technology, security, training assistance, and answering questions. These church members not only provided help for the event, but they witnessed to the people present. It was not an in-your-face witnessing but the very relational, friendly type of conversations which take place each Sunday between services. Some of the people had not been inside a church in many years. The church men could easily talk with these people about hunting and sprinkle in some information about church activities and praise to God. Both the ladies and men who volunteered were skillful at putting people at ease in strange surroundings. Several Benton Church middle school church youth were attending the course. These young men confidently worked to make the visitors in their church feel welcome.

Serving others is natural for Kim. Because she is a teacher, Kim was asked to read the test to a couple of boys who were difficulty with reading.  This course was not about reading skill. It was about knowing how to hunt safely. So Kim took the boys to a location where she could read the test to them. The boys were able to demonstrate that they knew the material well.

Over one hundred people were at this event because parents bringing children chose to stay. They saw how our men controlled misbehaviors in a friendly relational manner before the behaviors became a problem. They saw church men and women having a joyful time serving others.

Quite often God works in ways which seem illogical to us. People who seldom, maybe never step inside a church, found being in a church building to be a pleasant experience. This event demonstrated that Christians are relational and caring. It was promoting family activity. God provided an opportunity for the un-churched to have contact with Christians who are not stuffy do-gooders but are real people who love to have fun.

Jesus prayed to God the Father, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15  ESV