the parable of the parched grass

 

Parched-grass

A man’s front yard was covered with grass. The grass near the center of the yard always did well. It received what it needed on a regular basis – sunlight, moisture, nutrients, and protection from enemies. It needed special attention at times, but only at times; occasionally it suffered for some reason, but only occasionally. It quickly rebounded from any misfortune, for it was easy for the grass to do well there.

However, life for the grass located closer to the street was very different. Whenever it rained, passing cars splashed the chemicals and oil in the street onto the grass. This was hard on the grass and the soil in which the grass was trying to grow. The soil became very different from the soil near the center of the yard. And, given that the boundary for the grass was concrete, the sun always, and quickly, baked away any moisture that was to be had. Consequently, weeds grew in much greater abundance among the grass near the street. Between the weeds, the heat, the pollution, and other troubles, the grass near the street had a very difficult life. Suffering was a daily experience there and the grass there never knew another. And woe to that grass in the brutal heat of summer or if it was scalped!

Now try as it might every day, the grass near the street could never better its lot in life on its own. If it ever did better at all it was solely because it was given special care by the man who owned the yard and those he called to help him improve the life of the soil and grass in need.

These things remained true for the grass near the center of the yard and the grass further away from the center as long as the man owned the yard.

Hear the parable of the parched grass, for the grass is people.

By preachersmith Posted in Links

a prayer of thanksgiving for the distant, but very close friend

 

Father God, thank you for my friend who is especially dear to me, but who is far removed from me in terms of place. And that you know their name and care for them even far, far more than do I, I am very thankful.

Though we rarely speak, when we do so, we pick up the conversation as though we have been together every day all along. I know this is a great and precious gift from you, Father. Thank you.

It has been many years since we have been able to simply be in each other’s presence, but Father, I sense that we are ever present with each other in ways that far transcend geography. This is your work, Father, not mine, and I thank you.

Though we were made of very different material, long ago you wove our lives together. In that apparent weakness, somehow you made great strength. Thank you for gifting us so.

Decades distant you bonded us to each other, closer than brothers. And decades later the bond remains, undiminished, yes, even stronger than ever. Such kinship is rare and so, I know you have given us a special grace.

You have spared their life all this time, given them all of the time they have enjoyed, and so I pray, Father, for them, and I confess for myself, give them still yet much more time here on this earth. Thank you for every drop of time, every ounce of time we know that we are not alone, Father, and remind so with such friendship as this.

You still powerfully speak to me through the memory of their ways that were good, even though I remain ignorant of many of their good ways are today. That you continue to use them to carve indelible marks into my mind through the instrument of yesteryears, well Father, I am deeply indebted to you.

And so, in the name of your Son, Jesus, I would ask. May you give them every good thing that you would give them in your love, Father; lavish your goodness on them. May they always seek you and grow to know you better each day; may their gratitude for you swell with the years. May we never leave each other, Father, and may we ever be grateful, together, Father, for what you have done, and are doing, and will do. Give us this grace and mercy, Father, to spend forever together in your presence.

Amen. And amen.

Q & A with a young theologian

 

Following this past Sunday morning’s worship gathering at MoSt Church, my bride and I ate lunch together at Pipeline Grill with my daughter (Amber Wheeler) and her family (I highly recommend their catfish). In mid-meal, and out of the blue, my daughter’s oldest, five year-old Ethan, posed a direct and very important question to me.

“Dah-Do, where is MaMa?”

Let the reader understand: I am “Dah-Do” and “MaMa” is my mother, now 20 years deceased.

I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts, for I wanted to answer his question as well as I possibly could. It had been asked with thoughtfulness; I wanted to reply with the same.

However, before I could make reply, another interjected an answer, direct, concise, and thoughtful:

“She’s in heaven.”

I like that answer. I like it a lot! And perhaps that is enough on the matter right now for a five year-old.

But, I also know that my mother was not a Christian, not so, at least, in anything like the conventional sense of the term. Now was she a believer in God? Certainly. Did she believe the Bible was God’s communication with people? Absolutely. Was she a virtuous woman? Far excelling the vast majority of Christians I know (for the record, through the years I’ve had a number of Christian women who knew her well describe her to me as “a saint” in their eyes; their words).

And yet, it all comes full stop right there.

And so, the question, and its true depth, remains:

“Where is┬áMaMa?”

Now while my answer is anything but as concise as the one shared, allow me to share the answer here and now that I was forming as we broke bread (and catfish) together. I like to think of me answering that question after having scooped him up, having set him in my lap, and with my arms wrapped around him in a gentle hug, while I whispered this in his ear.

“Ethan, my man, listen to me very carefully: MaMa is in God’s good hands. That’s where she is: in God’s good hands. Much like this hug I’m giving you right now.

God does nothing but good; in fact, that’s the only thing he does do – good! And with his own hands, he made MaMa; he gave her her life. And that was good! With his own hands, he gave her life here on earth for many, many years. And that was good! He took good care of her all that time. And that was good! And she used her own hands to do many good things in her life for other people. And that was good, for God’s good hands were involved in all of those good things she did! In fact, he remembers every one of those things and can’t forget them. And that’s really good!

“And so, when MaMa died, God scooped up her spirit and now holds her close to him with his good hands of love and tenderness. Again, sort of like this hug of love I’m giving you right now. That is where she is┬átoday – in God’s good hands, his good hands of great love.”

“Now you might wonder about death. All things eventually die. But I will tell you this: you need not fear death or worry about it at all, for God has that stuff whipped! God has the last say in everything and whatever he says, and then does with his good hands, is good for her, is the right thing to do with us, and for all. In life, in death, in all things, God always does the good, right thing.

“So, what you and I, what everyone really, needs to do is to live to please God. To live our life here and now like we are walking with God, holding his good, strong hand of love. And then, someday when we are gone, we too will be in God’s good hands. And God will do what is good for us forever and ever.

“You keep loving God and loving people. God’s good hands takes care of everything else.”

And then I’d tighten the squeeze of my hug, “scob his knob” a bit, set him back on his chair, swipe one of his french fries, give him a big grin, and just let him take it from there.

Thank you, Father God, for my young theologian of a grandson, Ethan. May he seek you with all of his heart, all of his days, with all of his ways. May he find you, again and again and again, until the day you scoop him up, too, and take him in your strong arms forever. I ask this in your Son’s name. Amen.

silver ingots from En Gedi

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As a part of MoSt Church‘s Bible reading project today we’re in Isaiah 5-8. Everyone familiar with Isaiah remembers the first portion of the chapter (vs.1-17), especially vs. 14. But, do you remember how the chapter ends (Isaiah 7.18-25)? It is a strong word regarding how God will whistle up Assyria to come and have its way with his people, Judah, for their sin.

“On that day, there will be thorns and thistles in every place where a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels [about 25 lbs.] once grew.” (Isa. 7.23)

While in the Israel Museum in 2013, I snapped these pics of a hoard of silver ingots that was discovered in a jar in En Gedi (in Judah, near the Dead Sea). They date back either to the time of Isaiah, or very close to it.

By preachersmith Posted in Links

Megiddo: grain silo, 8th century BCE

Long, long ago in posts far away from here (June-Oct. 2013), I started posting a series of pics that I snapped on a trip to Israel in 2013. I posted at that time a bit in regard to Tel Aviv and neighboring Joppa (Jaffa; Yaffa), Caesarea Maritima, and Megiddo. However, life got full and the series ceased. However, with this post I’m finally getting back around to picking it up again. [Good things come to those who wait, right?]

Today, we began reading the book of Isaiah in MoSt Church’s year-long Bible reading effort (the ‘Read Scripture’ project). Isaiah opens with these words: “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” (Isa. 1.1) And, in fact, we can date Isaiah’s vision of the Lord (6.1) to “the year that King Uzziah [of Judah] died” – about 742 B.C.

Now the the book of Isaiah deals with far more than just matters pertinent to Judah (the southern kingdom). For example, we don’t read very far into the book before we learn that Isaiah has a message to deliver to Israel, the northern kingdom (9.8-10.4). And Jeroboam II, king of Israel, was Uzziah’s contemporary.

All of which set me to thinking and remembering one of the places I visited in Israel in 2013: Megiddo. There we saw the remains of a huge grain silo excavated by archaeologists. It had been constructed under the direction of Jeroboam II … the very time of Isaiah. A marker there reads: “A public grain silo from the time of King Jeroboam II (8th century BCE). The silo had a capacity of 450 cubic meters. Straw found between thee stones attests to the function of the installation.”

Here are some pics of that silo that I snapped while in Megiddo.