Taking A Walk

I am no dog trainer. I’m not sure I’m even a dog lover. Actually, I’m more of a cat person. But for the past month, I have been caring for my furry grand-dog while my son was out of town. We have worked on his manners and not jumping on people when they come to visit, we have played numerous games of catch, we have developed some patience and restraint at feeding time, we have practiced “sit” and “shake” and “down” on many occasions, and we have enjoyed long walks together in the beautiful countryside.

Well, not exactly. We have done all of those things, but the long walks are not always the most enjoyable. I like the idea of starting my day with a brisk morning walk with the pooch by my side, or to savor the cool evening air together with a stroll down the gravel road, but in reality, the dog is the one going for a walk and I’m getting pulled along behind.

I have tried to be patient and consistent with my commands and expectations. I have combed through Pinterest for tips and tricks. I have employed the assistance of a choke chain, a pronged collar, and a shock collar; all with minimal success. The shock collar actually glitched on our walk last week which resulted in a yelping and very submissive dog… for about ten seconds. Then, the pulling resumed.

Our walks are a continuous cycle of me saying “walk”, giving a jerk on the leash, and tapping the button on the shock collar. The dog slows his pace for a few yards until he’s at the end of his leash and pulling me down the road again and the cycle repeats. At least the longer we walk the more compliant the hound becomes and by the time we turn around and head for home he is maintaining a mostly steady pace, but each walk begins with the same struggle.

“I would think by now that you would have figured this out.” Those are the words I spoke to the dog this morning, and the exact same words that the Holy Spirit echoed in my mind. Immediately, it felt like a choke chain around my neck and I wanted to yelp my protest. But in all honesty, I’m a lot like this dog.

I get excited about walking with the Lord and being with my Master, but I’m often not satisfied with his pace. I am sometimes oblivious to everything that God has planned for our walk together. Like the canine in my care, I want to put my nose to the ground and take off running. I want to be productive and get things done. I want to pull away and do things my way. But God says “walk”.

It’s a recurring theme in the Bible. Walking with the Lord seems to coincide with a close relationship with him. We are given examples like Enoch and Noah who “walked faithfully with God” and David who was said to have walked before God in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart. The Bible doesn’t tell us to run around in circles, to strive, or hustle, or pull. God uses words like come… follow… rest… sit… stay… walk. Some of us are slower learners than others. The Israelites wandered in circles in the wilderness for 40 years before God considered them ready to walk in a different direction. I can relate. Sometimes I need to get worn down before I start paying attention. Sometimes I need a spiritual shock collar.

The cool thing is, that God promises to walk with us. The Master of the Universe walking with a rebellious walking partner like me. Wow. May we heed the words of Joshua, “Be very careful to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)

Who wants to go for a walk?

Erin Jacobsma

 


A Day Off

This past Wednesday Vicki and I had the opportunity to go to a Twins baseball game with our son Jonathon and his wife, Chelsey. It was an absolutely beautiful day for a baseball game. Having once dreamed of playing in the majors, I quickly found myself wondering what it would be like to be talented enough to be paid anywhere from $550,000 to $13,000,000 a year to play the game of baseball.  (And even though in our game, only three players got on base).

For those of you who have never attended a game, going to a MLB baseball game is a unique entertainment experience.  Before the game begins, some special person is given the privilege of throwing out the “first pitch.” In our case it was a young high school girl from some town in Minnesota who has set all kinds of pitching records in girls fast pitch softball. It must have been a pressure packed moment for her since her pitch didn’t even get close to the catcher.

A little bit later some lucky young boy gets to bring the first baseball out and set it on the pitcher’s mound. Then after that special moment a veteran from the Iraq War was honored followed by some 70 year old guy who loved to sing in his church’s choir who always dreamed of singing the National Anthem at a Twin’s game. Then finally, another very special little boy, maybe three to four years old get’s the spot light and he squeaks out “wet’s pway baseball!”

Like I mentioned earlier, in this game the Twins couldn’t seem to get a hit so the game seemed fairly boring. I guess maybe that was ok, since I was actually only able to see about half of the game. Yes,  Jonathon found us some great tickets on the lower level about half way between first base and right field and I was lucky enough to have an aisle seat. But the only reason you would want an aisle seat is if you had to go to the bathroom every inning. The bad thing about an aisle seat was that there was a never ending stream of fans walking up and down the steps who either had to go to the bathroom or to get more hotdogs or pretzels or gyros or french fries and sodas.

Then in addition to those people interrupting my view, you have the vendors who are playfully trying to get you to buy their tasty ice cold $10 bottles of Bud light and $5.50 bags of Fischer’s peanuts or $5.00 boxes of popcorn or cotton candy or ice cream treats or raffle tickets. And then just when the view clears and you think you’re going to have a chance to watch the game, a tap on your right shoulder means it’s time to stand up so someone from your aisle can exit or return.  Now please don’t think I didn’t enjoy my experience at the ball park; we had a great time!

And yet the following morning after reading Acts chapter 9, I found myself reflecting on the nature of my entertainment experience. Here I was, sitting and watching a bunch of grown men play a game of baseball with 30,000 fans gorging themselves on food and drink, meanwhile the Apostle Paul was trying to figure out a way to escape those who were trying to kill him because of his bold preaching. Like, how am I supposed to process that?

Who knows, maybe Luke just never told the story of when Paul took the day off to go to a baseball game. 🙂

Grace to you and peace,

Mike Altena

 


Seriously, But Not Literally

Several days ago I received an email from a random web designer in Michigan who was offering his services to help our ministry with our website if needed. In order to display some of his work he submitted three examples of some websites he had designed.

Curious to check out the quality and creativity of his work, I clicked on one of the three links and I found this information on one of the church’s home page. “The UCC tends to be a mostly progressive denomination that unabashedly engages heart and mind; we are non-doctrinal and respectful of other faith traditions. We take the Bible seriously but not literally.” My initial response was WHAT!!!?? What a wretched declaration!

Well, in order to gain clarity about who this congregation/denomination was claiming to be, I had to get out my dictionary:

Progressive = (of a group, person, or idea) favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.

Unabashedly= without embarrassment or shame.

Non-doctrinal= not concerned with the belief or set of beliefs held and taught by the Church

Seriously= with earnest intent; not lightly or superficially.

Not literally= not in a literal manner or sense; not exactly.

As I reflect on their declaration, what I see is adherence to the deception of relative truth. For them, truth is a set of beliefs determined by who has the most power or who has the most votes.

So I wonder, how does a person take something seriously, but not literally. Like, that sounds like my approach to my wedding vow to cherish Vicki when we first got married; I took it seriously, but not literally. (I actually cherished myself way more than I cherished her).

And then I wondered, how do I say to Jesus in my prayer time, “You know that stuff you said in Luke 14 about giving up everything in order to become one of your disciples, well I take that very seriously, but of course not literally.”

With an approach to the Bible like that, then one could also say, “Jesus did say that wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, but he didn’t really mean that small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it—silly Jesus.”

The more I thought about the statement, the more my heart was filled with sadness. And yet the more I thought about the statement, the Holy Spirit convicted me that my heart was also becoming more and more filled with self-righteousness. See because, I would never dare say that “I take the Bible seriously, but not literally,” but a daily review of my life would show there are many occasions when I don’t take the word of God seriously or literally.

Even though the Bible says I am not to engage in idolatry, I find that I have many idols. Even though the Bible tells me not to lie, out of fear I often find myself lying. Even though Jesus said, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full,” I fill my daily planner with so many other activities that I have no time left for seeking the wandering sojourner. What a wretched man I am!

Father, I pray that you open the eyes of the heart of the UCC that they would see that it’s not progressive ideology and relative truth that sets a person free, but that freedom is found in Christ alone, through grace, by faith alone, to the glory of God alone. And may it not be so with me that I would ever think it’s acceptable to take your Word seriously, but not literally. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Reformed and always being reformed,

Mike Altena

 


What’s That Smell?

Since moving to the country this Spring, one of the most noticeable differences has been the traffic that travels past our front door. Not only are there a lot more vehicles on Highway 75 compared to our quiet city side street, but the variety of transportation has changed as well. Jackson Street was mostly graced with cars, pickup trucks, minivans and motorcycles. Our current location sees a daily stream of all of the above, plus 18-wheelers, tractors, farm implements, straight trucks, trailered boats, campers, and more. Some move past without drawing much attention, while others offer a friendly honk, a deafening exhaust, or thundering brakes. One particularly offensive vehicle is actually not very noisy at all, but it exudes an aroma that can make you lose your lunch. The local rendering truck passes by several times each day and if we are unfortunate enough to be outside at the time, it leaves me gasping for fresh air.

There are few things that leave an aroma as pungent as a dead, rotting carcass. I remember this smell from my childhood on the farm, and recently found a dead mouse in our garage and a dead deer on the highway. Thankfully, my hero of a husband dealt with the rotting mouse and I contacted the local authorities about the deer on the highway. I was hoping the rendering truck would have stopped and picked it up, but to my surprise, the shredded animal was kindly pushed off the road into the ditch next to my mailbox.

The first day walking to get the mail was just nasty. The road was littered with blood and guts, but after the overnight rain, most of the residue was washed away. My next trip to the mailbox was awful. Not only did I have to step over a jaw bone and deer teeth mingled with the gravel, but the hot summer sun had been steaming Bambi’s remains all day and the smell was unbearable.

In case you are completely grossed out, let’s switch gears.

When gathering with several different group of kids, I asked them what their FAVORITE smell was. Among middle school girls, I got responses like: fresh baked cookies, chocolate, flowers, coffee, campfires, homemade bread, and rain. I recorded different feedback from a group of mostly farm kids. Their pick of aromas included fresh-cut silage, dirt, the smell of horses, and bacon. Certainly we can all relate to the delight of most of those scents, although some people might be repulsed by the aroma of horses or silage.

The same is true for Followers of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 2, the apostle Paul informs us that God uses us to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere. I can’t imagine anything sweeter than the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ but that’s not the case for everyone. The fragrance of Christ is not an enjoyable scent for all people. Paul clarifies: “15 To God, we are the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings life; to the other, an aroma that brings death.” The Message translation puts it this way. “Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.”

Which brings me to another thought… If we are in Christ, we can be confident that we are a pleasing aroma to God. We remind Him of his Son, a fragrant offering and sacrifice. But for a self-proclaimed Christian who does not walk in the way of the Lord, but has a self-righteous attitude, the Lord says these people are a stench to Him and an acrid smell that never goes away. You can read about that in Isaiah 65.

So how are you smelling? Today is a good day for a sniff-test.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Devoted to One Another

A young man I used to babysit got married recently to a gal from another community. They decided to get married at his church since they wanted to have the reception celebration out at his family farm. The evening before the wedding, the couple stood under the beautiful lights strung through the trees above the dance floor in expectation of the next day’s events. The reception tent for the guests was set up and looked more beautiful than they had ever imagined. In the morning all the hustle and bustle of a wedding began at the bride’s home. When the phone rang, the bride answered and heard the groom share some devastating news. He informed her of a wind storm that had passed through the farm and the mess it left behind. The reception tent had been completely destroyed, leaving the linens and other décor soaked and muddy. As she hung up the phone, with tears in her eyes, she told her mom, “God has a plan.” And that He did…

News of the destroyed reception site spread quickly in the small community and soon everything from the farm had been hauled to a shed by the elevator in town. The day went on and as the bridal party prepared for the ceremony, friends and family, and even a few individuals who were practically strangers, got to work. Someone took all the table linens home to wash and press them, chairs and tables were cleaned at the fire department, a local farmer dropped off a couple massive tarps to create walls like a tent inside the shed. It was truly all hands on deck, and at one time someone counted over eighty people at the site helping. There were others who were out and about gathering items and a woman who was folding and pressing table linens. When the newlyweds arrived at the reception, the groom covered his new bride’s face with his cowboy hat only to reveal the reception looking exactly how it had been left the evening before.

I had heard some of this story on Facebook through the groom’s mom, but was blessed to hear it first hand from the bride’s parents while we were at the fair. I stopped by their show box in the cattle barn to congratulate them on their daughter’s marriage and shared how I knew the family. The bride’s mom couldn’t help but share how complete strangers had helped them in their time of need and she was completely overwhelmed by the love and generosity they had experienced in my little hometown community. As she shared, it reminded me of the community of believers we read about in Acts 2. “42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The early church did everything together and for one another; they sacrificed what they had so everyone’s needs were met, they worshiped God together, and led a life filled with joy – together.

After some reflection, it caused me to wonder how well I’ve been participating in the community I am part of. Have I offered help with an outstretched hand to those in need? How do I welcome a stranger into my community to share in the joys and sorrows of life? I’d encourage you to do the same. Maybe even stop and wonder how we as a congregation are doing. How well have we welcomed the stranger into our community so we can praise God together? Are we a community that shares life with others, no matter the cost, all for the Kingdom of God? This scripture is one of my favorites because it is a beautiful picture of God’s people sharing Christ’s love with all they encounter. I want to be like that, and I pray it would be so of our church family as well.

Blessed to be part of this community,

Becky Ossefoort

PS – The woman who washed the linens lost her house in a fire several years ago. Completely overwhelmed by love and generosity she experienced, she wanted to pay it forward. After some conversation at the reception, it turns out the bride had anonymously sent a few of her favorite toys to this woman’s children after the fire. Neither of the ladies had any idea of this and had never met until they were at the reception and the bride’s mom wanted to thank the kind lady who had washed the linens. Wow! I just love those little stories God leaves for his faithful servants to find!

 


Strength In The Lord

Often times these articles are birthed from an experience that creates an emotional hook. For example, during last week’s little wind storm that blew through the area, one of the trees in the boulevard at the south end of church’s property broke off right at the ground—no, not just a limb, the whole tree broke off. So I thought about writing an article about the tree and making the connection about the importance of being spiritually healthy in your inner being. But no!

And then I thought about writing an article in response to a conversation I had with someone who was extremely angry at God because his plan includes good people being killed in car crashes. But no! (God was not to blame).

And then after spending a little time at the Rock County Fair and looking at the pigs, and the horses, and the kangaroos, and emus, I thought about writing about the creative nature of God. Or after walking by the little food stands, I thought about writing an article in response to how easily I am lured to feed on junk food. But no!

No, this article is written in response to a story I read recently from 1 Samuel 30. It goes like this…

1 Three days later, when David and his men arrived home at their town of Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and Ziklag; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone.

When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, they wept until they could weep no more. David’s two wives, Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel, were among those captured. David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God. Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”

And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”

After reading the story, I tried to imagine the level of discouragement David must have felt when he arrived back from deployment to war, only to find his community destroyed and his family had been kidnapped. And then not only his family, but I tried to imagine the weight of the responsibility he felt towards all the soldiers who were fighting with David whose families were also kidnapped. And then I tried to imagine the fear and the loneliness David must have felt when he discovered his friends wanted to stone him.

I began to think about all the things that have recently caused me to be discouraged. Of course, none of my reasons for discouragement come close to the level of discouragement David felt, simply because most of my reasons for discouragement are the result of “rich people problems.”

But then did you notice how David responded to what seemed a most hopeless situation? It says, “But David found strength in the Lord.” The English Standard Version says, “But David strengthened himself in the Lord.” Don’t you just love that verse!! No matter what it is that causes you and me to lose heart, we can always strengthen ourselves in the Lord.

So then I began to wonder, well how does a person go about finding strength in the Lord? But no! I’m out of room. So give me a call; we can go for a cup of coffee and discuss some ideas.

The joy of the Lord is my strength,

Mike Altena

 


Today

Today has been one of those days that mothers warn you about. A day where nothing has gone right, emotions have run high, and negative thoughts are swirling around like an Oklahoma tornado. A day where it would be tempting to throw in the towel. A day when I’d like to echo the words of Alexander in the children’s book, “The Terrible, Horrible, No God, Very Bad Day” – I think I’ll move to Australia.

Today has been one of those days where an attitude adjustment was definitely in order. A day where in my earlier years, a hand would have been firmly applied to my backside, followed by the words, “That’s Enough”.

Today has been one of those days where the proverbial party was wrapped in pity and sprinkled with a few tears. The cookie crumbled. The milk was spilt.

Today has been one of those days that I’d rather forget. And one that I wish those around me would forget too. If only I had one of those nifty little devices from the Men in Black movie that zaps your memory for a specific time.

Today has been one of those days where “FAILURE” flashes like a neon sign above my head and follows me around like an ugly shadow. In my mind, I’m sure everyone can see it AND is nodding their head in agreement.

Today has been one of those days that Jesus spoke to his disciples about in John 16:33. “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Today has been one of those days where as I wallowed in the mud and muck of my personal pig pen, I was reminded that MY mother doesn’t have cancer… MY daughter isn’t missing… MY husband is not on disability… MY job is not being terminated… MY son is not deployed… MY home is not ravaged by flood waters… MY family is not starving… MY loved one is not incarcerated… MY body is not recovering from surgery… MY father is not breathing his final breath…

Today has been one of those days when I am reminded that what I perceived as my problem is not my real problem. I was reminded that my struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) I was reminded that the battle is real and I cannot afford to leave my armor hanging in the closet. (Ephesians 6:13-17) I was reminded that I have the power to take every thought captive and make it submit to Truth. (2 Cor. 10:5)

Today has been one of those days for which Jesus promised his Presence, his Providence, and his Peace. He is the same yesterday, TODAY, and tomorrow. His love is steadfast. His grace is sufficient. His power is perfected in my weakness. His victory is sure.

Today is one of those days when I lay my head on my pillow, ask my Father for forgiveness, wipe the tears from my face, and be thankful that His mercies are new every morning.

Tomorrow is a new day. Great is His faithfulness!

Erin Jacobsma

 


Talk About Them…

It was very quiet at our house a week ago. Kaylie was on her trip to Florida with the Luverne Cardinal Marching Band (Go Band!) and Austin was at Inspiration Hills Bible Camp with a friend experiencing God’s richness among the rolling hills. This left the youngest, Evan, at home alone with Mom and Dad’s undivided attention – and he loved every minute of it.

One of the highlights of Evan’s week was Josh cutting hay in the field south of our farm. While Evan may be the littlest farmer at our place, he is more than happy to help with the big jobs. I was doing some landscaping one evening when Evan emerged from the barn after feeding his freshly weened bottle calves. From the barn door he naturally fell into step behind Josh who was walking across the yard. They both walked past me and continued several yards out into the hay field looking as though they were on some type of mission. I continued with my work, but kept an eye on the two of them for the sake of curiosity. The big farmer bent down and grabbed a handful of drying grass and just like that the small farmer did the same. When the big farmer bent and twisted the bundle, the small farmer mimicked every move. Eventually the big farmer threw all but one blade down, stripped a piece off and stuck the end in his mouth; and in the blink of an eye, the little one followed suit. As they chewed on their grass they strolled towards me in perfect step with each other. I just smiled as my heart was blessed watching the precious moment. It was as though Josh was teaching Evan the trick of the trade just like he had been taught by his father and grandfather many years ago.

I was reminded of this scene above while I was listening to Ken’s message this past Sunday. We as parents have much to teach and share with our children. As we do this, it is very important we show our children the world through the lens of the Bible. Ken encouraged parents to check out Christian Research Institute to find biblical perspective on science. I, too, recently ran across a little hidden gem on a webpage I have visited several times. On the page is a small, nearly unnoticeable tab about “Creation Vacations” (https://answersingenesis.org/creation-vacations/). The beginning of the page reads this “Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us we are to talk about God’s Word everywhere we go. Vacations should be no exception. Opportunities to see and explore God’s amazing creation abound, whether at a national park, a Christian-themed venue, or a natural history museum. Places with secular propaganda can easily be turned into learning opportunities, as we learn to separate truth from error. With some preparation, you and your family can enjoy a purpose-filled vacation as you gain a better appreciation for the Creator who made all things.” Listed on the same page you will find many articles with information about places to visit right here in the United States – some are even relatively close to home!

So if you find yourself preparing for a little adventure this summer, be sure to do a little research before you leave so you can point out God’s great creation and truth as you travel. Kids are full of questions about all sorts of topics and soak in what they learn. If you do not plan to travel this summer do a little research on one of their interests (i.e. dinosaurs) “from a biblical perspective”. I promise your child’s eyes will light up as you learn together and connect the dots back to the Creator of all things.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Happy Exploring! Becky Ossefoort

 


Our Source of Comfort

A few weeks ago Vicki and I went to the Pizza Ranch for lunch. While I was scoping out all the delicious rations on the various food troughs, I noticed a little boy who was doing the same thing. The little lad walked around the pizza trough, and then around the chicken and taters trough, and then around the roughage trough.

And then suddenly he turned and realized he was all alone. His face immediately was filled with panic as he quickly scanned the room looking for his daddy. Unable to find him, his voice beginning to crack, he cried out in fear, “Daddy!!!” Immediately his daddy stepped forward from behind the pizza trough and reassured his son saying, “I’m right here son, I’m right here!”

As I reflected on what had just happened, I immediately realized how much I am like that little boy. For so many of my days and weeks and months I feel confident as I go about navigating the wide variety of experiences this world has to offer, but then something difficult happens and suddenly I feel very alone. And like the little boy, I cry out to Daddy seeking his presence, knowing he is a source of comfort, help, and deliverance. Much like David did in Psalm 34 when he was feeling lonely and afraid, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

Are you feeling alone, afraid, troubled, and brokenhearted? The Pizza Ranch is not the place to turn to for comfort, but rather turn to God’s word and taste and see that the Lord is good!!

1 I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Radiantly content and at peace, Mike Altena

 


Daily Toil

After replacing the two windows on the north side of our house recently and then looking at all the paint that is peeling, I began to reflect on how much time and money we spend on maintenance.

Changing the oil, rotating the tires, mowing the lawn, replacing the bearing, getting your hairs cut, oiling the roller chains, vacuuming the living room floor, having a body part fixed or replaced, filling the water softener tub with salt, drinking a glass of water, sharpening the blade, trimming your nails, washing the car, meeting with your mentor, washing the clothes, going to the meeting, washing the body, fixing the fence, painting the deck, replacing the light bulb, trimming the trees, replacing the roll of toilet paper, going to the chiropractor, going to the eye doctor, going to the body doctor, and going to the teeth doctor, trimming the lawn and trimming the long hair growing in your ears, sweeping out the garage, trimming the trees and the hair that grows in your nose, eating breakfast, cleaning the barbeque grill, pausing to pray for yourself or with a friend, spraying for bugs, replacing the ink in the copier, picking up rocks, washing the windows, cleaning your glasses, gathering for worship, dusting the end table, greasing the bearings, fixing the gate, repairing the water way, replacing the o-rings in the faucet, taking a nap,         re-siding the house, going on a date night, edging the side walk, emptying the garbage, studying your Bible, cleaning the shower, picking up branches and twigs, getting your vaccine shots, refilling the bird feeder, writing a note of encouragement, running on the elliptical, going to bed for the a good night’s rest (or for whatever sleep you can get in your season of life), pulling weeds, watering the flowers, replacing the shingles, brushing your teeth, eating lunch, meeting a friend for coffee, ironing your dress shirts, re-seeding the bare spot in the lawn, observing a daily office, spraying the weeds, staining the deck, mopping the floor, blowing out the air filter, singing along with a worship song, replacing the furnace filter, enjoying a bonfire with your spouse or family…I’ll let you finish the list.

When I reflect on my list of all that we do to maintain our daily lives, two scriptures come to mind, the first is from Genesis 1:28 where God invites us to join him as co-creators both in word and action.  God has given us the responsibility of managing and stewarding the earth.

The second is a few verses from Ecclesiastes 3. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted,…a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;…What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time….12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

Grace and peace to you as you enjoy the gift of life, even in the midst of the daily toil, Mike Altena