Category Archives: Making choices

The Horrible Truth about Deep Water Horizon and Deep Waters

Seven years ago, on April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon exploded into a firestorm that could be seen for 40 miles, resulting in the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Deepwater Horizon was an offshore drilling rig that had successfully drilled the deepest oil well in history (over 10,000 ft. deep) in the Gulf of Mexico just a few months earlier, and           on April 20th, the crew of 126 were hard at work testing the new well               at Macondo Prospect, forty-one miles off the coast of Louisiana. Deepwater Horizon cost almost a million dollars per day to operate with equipment and crew, and although there were issues with safety, the project was over a month behind schedule and overdue at a new site, so the decision makers decided to test the well before they were sure all the work was properly completed and all the concrete had time to cure.  The movie dramatizing this disaster is excellent and rated PG-13, but it is so graphic (and bad language) that I recommend it with caution. As one who’s inexperienced with the technical side of oil drilling, it was somewhat hard to follow what was happening, but the message was crystal clear: Often those who take the risks and make the decisions are not those who suffer the greatest consequences for their greed and irresponsible selfishness. Eleven men died, scores of men suffered, and the responsible companies ended up spending not millions —but billions—of dollars trying to recover and compensate for the damages. As we make important decisions, let’s remember that if we choose selfishly and unwisely, we’re not just going to hurt ourselves, we’re likely to do more damage than we could ever possibly imagine.  But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! (Psalm 81:11-13)

Keeping Track of Our Puzzles

This afternoon will be the memorial service for a 21-year-old student from Calvin College here in GR. Tara Oskam was killed in a car crash not far from our home on March 11 when her car was struck by the car of a 16-year-old who was fleeing the police. Tara was pronounced dead on the scene, and the 15-year-0ld passenger in the teen’s car also died; the suspected teenage driver was seriously injured but is in a stable condition at the hospital at this time. Tara was a beautiful young woman, admired and loved by many, a junior studying speech pathology, very much in love, and looking forward to a bright future. Where’s the justice in that? Can you tell me? I can’t explain it to you at all.

We’re a family of puzzlers. It’s been a favorite pass time on quiet winter evenings since our kids were little, and now even our grand children are hard at work learning how to solve puzzles. I love to watch the progress over time
as the kids think through how to put the pieces together. They’ve learned to arrange the border first.cinderellas-castle-puzzle-almost-completeNext, they sort out pieces that have the most color contrast. Finally, they fill in the hardest pieces
that look so similar it’s hard to figure out where they go.

I think trying to understand and solve the puzzles in our lives is a similar process. First, we develop a framework of ideas and beliefs for understanding our world and life experiences…often referred to as our “world view.” For the Christian believer, this framework is based on belief that God exists, and that He has spoken to us through His Word, the Bible. The scripture is our moral guide and compass. It’s filled with principles for making wise decisions, and it shows us what the picture is supposed to look like if we put life together right.The second step in puzzling out life is figuring out the contrasts: our perceptions of God, the world, and how we interpret our experiences with God in our world. This requires a lot of thought! How can we deal with all the circumstantial  contrasts and put them in the right order so our world makes sense to us?God gives believers the Holy Spirit to guide us. His Spirit takes the words of Scripture and helps us apply them to the various situations we face, so that we have the wisdom to make correct decisions and solve the puzzles in our lives. Finally, we tackle the hardest challenge: figuring out all the subtle situations that don’t have quick, easy, obvious solutions. Sometimes, even though we’ve figured out where the pieces belong, something is still missing. We don’t always have every piece of the puzzle in this life.I’m convinced that no one can solve all the puzzles completely here on earth. Some things are beyond us, and in those things—like little children—we need to trust in what we do know of God: God is good; God loves us; God works all things together for the good of those who love him.God calls us to faith in Christ, asking us to believe in Him and trust him with all the unsolved mysteries of life. Either we let our experiences kill our faith when we don’t understand what’s happening, or we allow our faith to transform our experiences. One makes us bitter; the other makes us better. Are we willing to trust God and obey Him even in the painful mysteries of life? Let’s trust Him to keep track of the missing pieces of our puzzles until we reach heaven, where I believe everything will at last make perfect sense to us.

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Get Me to the Church On Time…or On Line!

I have devout friends who never travel on the Sabbath in order to keep it holy and make sure they’re worshiping with their congregation at the appointed hour. I admire that, although Alan and I do not have such a firm conviction in that area. However, I strongly believe in “a day of rest” and the principle of consistency in corporate worship, so we often visit new churches wherever we are on Sunday. In Kauai, we enjoyed a church recommended to us by a friend who’d spent a summer there. It’s always enriching and a joy to share in new (and old) worship music, hear fresh perspectives on the scripture, and fellowship with believers we’ve never met before.* In South Africa, Alan and I had no clue where a good church might be, and so (thanks to the internet) we tuned in to our own church service at  http://calvarygr.org/sermons-resources/livestream-current-service/ . It’s not quite the same as singing along with thousands of other believers, but it’s still a great blessing! Last week was spring break, and we enjoyed some vacation time together combined with a medical meeting for Alan and a little family visiting time for me.  Our flight home was Sunday morning, but the timing worked out so that we could share a set of headphones at the airport and hear the best message I can ever remember on Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” Pastor Jim told us that we have a moral obligation to bear patiently with the failings of those who are weak in faith and the sins they commit which cause us pain. Strong words and very challenging! I needed to hear that message.  So, may I share a simple encouragement? Whenever you’re on vacation (or at home!), don’t miss the opportunity for corporate worship, spiritual growth and communion with other believers. People need people! If you can’t make it to a church for some reason, try participating with some faithful church online. If your church doesn’t provide online services, I can heartily recommend ours—not as a “perfect” church, but as a church that does try to stay true to the teachings found in the Bible.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)

(*I didn’t take any photos at the church in Kauai, but this is a photo of flowers and the handmade leis they gave us [and all visitors]!)

Lisa’s Diary of Israel: Day 5—Lotta Masada

We got a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call today so we could get an early start to travel from Jerusalem to Masada.  We stopped in En Gedi early enough to see Nubian Ibex
(an animal listed in the Bible).  They graze and visit before they tour buses come through,
and then scatter to the hills of the wilderness.  We had stayed near the Jaffa Gate (oldest gate) in Jerusalem. The drive from Jerusalem through the Judean wilderness to Masada took about two hours, and went we from +250 meters to -300 meters below sea level.  We traveled early to escape the heat of the day, and it was still 105 degrees F.  Masada is in the Judean desert overlooking the Dead Sea.

We’re still getting used to seeing the amount of automatic weapons in the hands of young adults, since the Israelis are compelled to be in the military after graduating from high school (boys for 3 years, girls for 2 years).  Even when they’re not training, they still have their weapon with them.

So if they’re on a break,
you may see people in shorts and flip flops carrying their weapon.  We all took a cable car up, because the Snake Path walking trail was closed due to high temperatures.  Masada (Hebrew metsudhah) means stronghold.  King Herod the Great built the city and palaces for protection
between 37 – 31 BC.  75 years after Herod’s death, during the Great Revolt against the Roman Empire, the Zealots (Jewish rebels) ran away to the desert. It was a good place to hide because of the challenge for the Romans to follow. (There were no stairs then!) 960 Jewish people hid in Masada and used Herod’s stores of food.  Herod had employed Roman architecture for the bathing rooms – cold room (frigidarium), warm room (tepidarium), hot room (caldarium) like our sauna.  Everything below the black line is original archaeology.  King David may have used this stronghold when fleeing enemies
– but didn’t have stairs for access.  The columns and colors are original, over 2000 years old!

Psalm 59:9, 16 (HCSB) -“I will keep watch for You, my strength, because God is my stronghold.  But I will sing of Your strength and will joyfully proclaim Your faithful love in the morning.  For You have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble.”

(Even the birds find shelter in the stronghold.)  Psalm 62:1-2 – “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken.”  Mosaic floors were popular in Jewish art of the Herodian period.  Byzantine West Gate  Artifacts and archaeology
tell much of the sad ending of Masada, when the Jewish people chose mass suicide
rather than being captured by the Romans.  It’s sobering to consider in whom or what we take refuge.Where do you and I seek our strength?”  (Overlooking the remains of the synagogue.)

Psalm 62:5-8 (HCSB) – “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken.  My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.  My refuge is in God.  Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that].”

(Guest author: Lisa Walkendorf. All photos and materials are hers and used by her permission. Thank you, Lisa! If you want to learn more about Israel, you can access all her trip notes here: WalkendorfsinIsrael.weebly.com

Reflections on Exodus 4: Dealing with our Fears

You can’t listen fast.  At least I can’t.  Especially when listening for God’s voice.man-in-a-race-with-a-stopwatch_1048-1611

 

So I appreciated extended time to listen during our Writer’s Day Away as I read my Bible.  I read Exodus 4, and then I took time to notice the verses that stood out to me … and the cadence of them: 1 … 2 … 12 … 21 as though marching to attract my attention.   pic-dig-clock-12-12 Yes, Lord, I prayed, I want to walk in step with Your Spirit.  What stands out, I recognize as God’s voice speaking.  And with extra time, I prayerfully processed what I heard.  what-ifThen Moses answered, “What if they won’t believe me and will not obey me but say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” (Exodus 4:1 HCSB)

What if?  I thought of a list of what-ifs that come from predicting, fearing, and projecting the future without God.

  • What if they don’t obey me?
  • What if they question my calling?
  • What if they reject me?
  • What if they refute me, saying, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?

I noticed all those what-ifs focused on others, “What if they…”  person-in-crowd-2But there are also what-ifs based only on me:

  • What if I don’t get the desired results?
  • What if I can’t accomplish the outcomes?
  • What if I obey You, God, and it doesn’t work out?  whatisThe LORD asked him, “What is that in your hand?”  “A staff,” he replied. (Exodus 4:2)

God did not necessarily rebut, refute, or reassure Moses, but instead of asking, “What if,” God asked the question, “What is…?”

  • “What is that in your hand?”
  • What are you holding onto?
  • Perhaps, what is the truth?
  • Or, what is it that you believe?

Moses knew what he had:  a staff.  It was ordinary, yet God transformed it into a miraculous and terrifying sign by turning it into a snake, so that Moses and the people would see it and believe God (verses 3-5).

Moses ran in fear at first, but God required him to reach out and grab the snake – that which he feared.  And as Moses obeyed, the snake transformed back into a staff, useful in his hand. god_is-by-lisa-in-israel

  • God is able to use what is ordinary for the extraordinary, including us.
  • God can take our common work and useful possessions and transform them into miraculous signs so that we and others believe and worship Him.
  • God helps us face our fears, and He transforms them to be useful tools to us as we place our confidence in Him.
  • God required Moses to stretch out his hand, and like Moses, sometimes we would rather run from than reach for things that stretch our faith.
  • God can use even what causes fear in us and transform it into something that will cause us to fear Him for the right reasons.
  • God knows the end from the beginning; He is able to do what He says He will do.
  • God requires us to go forward in faith, and we can overcome fear, for He is trustworthy.

israel-lisa “Now go!  I will be with you, help you speak and I will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:12)

  • God will prepare us.
  • God determines outcomes, not us.
  • We just need to obey and step out and speak in faith, trusting He will provide.
  • We’re not responsible for outcomes, but for obedience.

make-sure-by-lisa-in-israel“…Make sure you do all the wonders I have put within your power…”
(Exodus 4:21)

  • God provides the power and the wonders
  • We provide the obedience in doing all He has called us to (and even that with the help of His Holy Spirit!)

sea-of-galilee-by-lisaPrayer response:

Dear Father God, please help me protect time with You, trust You and obey, doing all you have put within my power – and then trusting Your power for the outcome that only You can bring, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalm 90:12)

(This meditation was written by Lisa Walkendorf. Her graphics are from Google images, but the last four photos are hers, taken on a recent trip with her family to Israel in September, 2016. Scripture from the NIV unless otherwise noted. Thank you, Lisa!)

Did You Understand the Message of Arrival Before They Departed?

arrival_movie_posterHave you seen the super highly rated, PG-13, 2016 sci-fi thriller, Arrival?
Or, maybe first I should ask if you watched the Academy Awards last night.arrival-posterArrival was nominated for 8 Oscars (although it’s only win was for sound editing), not to mention 184 other nominations in other venues,
and it already had 34 wins going in to the 89th Academy Awards. trying-to-decipher-language-in-arrivalMy son Joel
(who’s an editor at a local publishing house and is fascinated by language) arrival-dvd-2016enjoyed it so much that he bought a copy shortly after Arrival was available,
and we watched it as a family.arrival-amy-adams-as-linquistics-professorWithout spoiling the end (if you haven’t seen it), I can tell you that the story
is about a linguistics professor, Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams), arrivalwho is asked to leave her position teaching linguistics at a university arrival-jeremy-renner-as-ian-donnellyand join physicist Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner) base-camp-for-studying-aliens-in-arrivalas part of a special army task force assigned to a military base in Montana arrival-space-shipin response to a world crisis, where 12 extraterrestrial spacecraft appear hovering just above the earth at various locations around the globe. arrival-what-are-theyAlthough throughout the world people feel threatened by this extraterrestrial presence, and some nations prepare to attack in hopes of destroying them,amy-adams-in-arrival-2Louise and Ian work together for months trying to decipher the aliens’ language in the hopes of understanding why they have come to the earth. trying-to-understand-the-aliens-in-arrivalAre the aliens friendly or dangerous? arrival-hetapodWhat are they trying to say? arrival-louise-banks-enters-the-sphere-of-the-aliensWill Louise and Ian survive their encounters?extraterrestrial-spacecraft-in-arrivalWill the earth survive their encounters?

arrival-space-ship-landingThere’s a lot of suspense, a fascinating plot with a good twist at the end, and a subliminal message that the viewers are left to ponder for themselves. Without saying too much that might spoil the experience for those who haven’t seen it yet, the message I took from the movie is that of transcendence. To me, God is the timeless, transcendent One who knows the past, present, and future. He sees all and knows all, from the beginning to the ending.

This goes beyond the movie, but I believe we can know some things about the future even in our present if we’ll only study to decipher God’s handwriting on the wall. God tells us in the Bible that He’s the great “I am,” the beginning and the ending.

Is God friendly or dangerous? Although many people fear God as a potential threat (just like many of the nations feared the aliens), God is actually friendly now. God is Love, and God loves us!

What is God trying to say? He has come with a message:  There is a Day of  Judgment coming in the future, for which we need to prepare now.

Will we survive our encounters? Only you and I can answer that for ourselves by trying, but it’s scary to try before you know, isn’t it? Just like Louise and Ian demonstrated, it takes a lot of faith, courage, and hope. God entered time and space in the form of a man, Jesus Christ, who came to die in our place, making reconciliation with God possible if we are willing to repent (change our ways) and accept the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ.

Will the earth survive our encounters? There is an answer in the Bible. Do you know it? (If you don’t, try reading the last book in the Bible, called Revelation.) Finding the answer is a lot more thrilling than watching Arrival! arrival-skyNow unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,  To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

Restoration Over Rest at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

group-of-employees-receiving-5-year-awardsPine Rest just celebrated their annual employee appreciation and award evening, gourmet-dinner-at-pine-restcomplete with a gourmet dinner group-of-people-receiving-employee-awardsand awards for employees
who have served 5, 10, 15, 20…and on up in increments of 5 years. recipient-of-55-year-service-award-at-pine-restOne lady flew back from Florida to receive her 55-year service award!
Can you imagine working at the same ministry for 55 years?!

employee-appreciation-dinner-at-pine-restThis bright, beautiful lady shared that the reason she’s persevered so long is that she has the same heart for ministry as Pine Rest: compassionate Christian care for those with mental health needs.pine-rest-appreciation-dinner-awardsAlan has been working at PRCH (Pine Rest Christian Hospital) for 23 years, so he wasn’t up for an award, but because he’s the CMO (chief medical officer), we’re always invited to enjoy the festivities and honor the faithful employees! pine-rest-ceo-addresses-employeesOur CEO, Mark, is such a stalwart, spiritually-minded leader, and he gave a brief but very memorable message about “Two Holy Moments.” He said the first is when people wake up in the morning and make the decision to go into work, even though they’d rather sleep and are weary of putting aside their own needs to serve others. The second is when they are at work and choose to be present with those who are suffering. Pine Rest ministers to over 50,000 people each year. Like all attempts at intervention, many people are helped, but not all can be healed. However, employees can all express love by their presence and efforts to assist in the healing process. This is a second “holy” moment: Choosing to love each patient and serve them with “compassion and understanding in time of need and offer hope and help through the provision of excellent care.” ceo-of-pine-restThat’s a very high calling, but I think it’s something we can all ascribe to in our daily lives, no matter what our job is, be it leading a company, serving others in hospital or school settings, working as a mechanic, waitress, hairdresser, babysitter, parent, or whatever!

Are you struggling with your job? I’m not saying you should stay in whatever job you have at present, but I would like to encourage you to feel a sense of holiness about whatever job you’re doing. Offer your decision to work as a sacrifice to God, choosing restoration over rest. As an offering to God, choose to love those you serve by providing excellent care. It will tinge what might otherwise be drudgery with the glow of Shekinah glory.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

And, here’s a verse that just struck me this morning as Alan and I were reading together: “ So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12, NIV). When we serve others in love for the sake of Christ, we are literally giving our life so that others may live. But, if we have eternal life within us by faith in Christ, then to give of our lives to bring “many sons to glory” is a supremely beautiful exchange!