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Reading Books about God

When we read to young children an illustrated children’s book or Bible story, they are not so concerned about what we read as they are by the pictures they see. They see things in the illustrations that we would never observe. They will put their fingers on the pictures. If the book has a little fuzzy and/or anything tactile they will touch it. Vicariously, children will jump into the illustrations in order to explore that world on the page before them. Give them all the time in the world to wonder, wander, and use their imaginations in this way.

We are, in effect, teaching them how to combine right-brain with left-brain activity, how to associate what they are hearing with what they are seeing and feeling. It is important to have good illustrated children’s books on prayer and Bible stories.

Jesus lived when photographs did not exist and actual descriptions of what he looked like were unimportant next to his teachings. However, through the ages, each generation’s artists produced their own idea of his appearance. What we do know, however, that He was a man and was truly human. So different male images are acceptable so long as no one particular static image dominates in all the different picture books you read to children.

Likewise, artists have drawn their interpretation of God as an old man in the sky, as a dove, and/or sun rays in the sky. None of their illustrations can be substantiated and must remain symbolic as no one knows whether God has a body or form. Therefore, stay clear of bodily images of God.

We do not want children to have to unlearn the bad theology some illustrations teach.

It is good to let books on God, as made known to us through Jesus and the Bible, and on prayer be a natural part of their daily routine. These books, unlike television, are not aimed at making our children consumers in a market-driven economy. They are there to teach them about God. They plant moral values and a moral standard that can be built upon. God’s will becomes their standard for the way they make critical life decisions and the way they will live their lives. In this way, we honor God and nurture and cherish our children.

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Lost

LOST
One day while getting ready to take a shower, my doorbell rang. Not dressed to go to the door, I opened my bathroom window to find out who was there. A man probably in his sixties appeared. He said he was lost and wanted to know how to get to a certain highway which wasn’t in the vicinity. I gave him instructions from my house on how to reach a nearby highway. From there I figured he could use his map or GPS on how to reach the highway he sought. He told me he had neither. So he got into his car and drove away. I doubt he ever reached his destination. Why?
Maybe he really wasn’t lost and wanted to get access into my home. Maybe he had dementia. I can’t imagine a person wanting to reach a certain unfamiliar destination without first checking a road map or using a GPS on how to get there. I wonder how many people live their lives without the wherewithal on how to travel the road of life. Instead they may listen to anyone who will keep them stuck in their comfort zone that encourages a closed mind and lack of purpose in life. Is it laziness and/or lack of initiative that causes people to get lost?

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A Real Winner

Dear Nathaniel,
Thank you for calling me to tell me about your ninth birthday party.

It seems you and your friends had a good time. When you told me that you placed only fourth out of ten in your contest, you seemed to suggest that you thought of yourself as less than a winner. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It is how you live life that counts. A winner makes the best of any situation. That means that all winners put forth their best effort regardless of their placement in any competition.

The real test of a person’s greatness is when he loves and cares for the non-winners. You will find in life that sometimes you will place first, fourth, eighth, and even in last place. That is O.K. as long as you put in your best effort and are a good person. Some winners think only of themselves and fail to help the needy. To me, they are selfish losers, not winners. Yet many winners are good people who do not seek self-glory or first place in everything. They are just putting forth their best effort.

Do you remember a few years ago when you were in Boston at Christmas time? You put all the money from your piggy bank into the Salvation Army’s bucket? To my way of thinking you were a winner then. You showed us a better way. You helped the needy out of the goodness of your heart.

God loves those people who do God’s will and who come to the aid of the poor and helpless. That is what Jesus taught us through his self-giving love. Winners have a grateful heart, a clear conscience, and a heart full of love. Their actions speak louder than words.

With my love to my winner,
Grandma

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Spiritual Navigation


Years ago on a beautiful summer day, we set sail from Rye, NY, for Shelter Island in Long Island Sound. Near journey’s end, the fog rolled in, the wind died, visibility dropped, daylight gave way to darkness. My husband turned on the engine and slowly powered ahead. At that time our boat lacked radar and a GPS. But we did have two compasses and a depth finder which my husband used in conjunction with his charts to track our course. I stood on the bow of the boat away from the noise of the engine to listen and look for the entrance bell buoy to Shelter Island. If we couldn’t find it, we could land on the rocks or be hit by oncoming boats . . . Eventually I heard the bell buoy. We cautiously approached it. My relief and sense of safety made me want to circle this bell buoy until the fog lifted. But my husband, a fearless yet cautious man, refused . . . By carefully plotting our compass course and reading the soundings below, we made our way into the safety of the harbor . . . I view the Bible and its revelations about God as my compass, chart, depth finder, GPS, boat, and habitat for my voyage through life. They are like bell buoys and road signs that point us toward our destination. How we use them is our choice.
From Anita E. Keire’s Walking on Water
Think About It:
• What is your destination in life?
• How do you plan to reach it?
• Who or what will help you navigate the dangerous route ahead to an unknown future?
• Who will be your traveling companion?

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Light and Darkness

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5)

A lot of people believe God doesn’t exist, that God is only a fanciful projection of our minds.  That is their choice. But their disbelief does not mean that God does not exist. Some Jews in hiding from the Nazis in World War II wrote on a cellar wall in Cologne the following inscription. “I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining. I believe in love, even when not feeling it. I believe in God, even when God is silent.”

When John says Jesus is the Light of the World, he refers to the divine illumination of a person’s mind and conscience. This light dispels human darkness and continues throughout time. The word Life refers to the function of the Holy Spirit that represents the positive aspects of life and existence. Life represents the authentic existence God wants us to have. Life and salvation are associated with light.

Darkness is symbolic of disbelief as well as total evil that cannot overcome the Word. Jesus comes into the world as a human being to have a flesh and blood relationship with us. Jesus partially reveals to us the mind of God. As the Word, Jesus brings light into our midst to dispel the darkness; but many turn their backs on the light.

Walking on Water: Skeptics and Believers Discuss Whether Jesus Matters, pages 148 & 47.

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Descent of the Holy Spirit on Mary

Six months after the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zachariah announcing that his aged wife Elizabeth will conceive a son, Gabriel visits a Jewish peasant maiden named Mary. He tells her that she is favored and blessed among women and has been chosen by God to conceive and bear a son whom she will call Jesus. Gabriel’s visit to Mary is known as the Annunciation.

Of course, Mary wonders how this can occur as she is a virgin. Gabriel tells her “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. (Luke 1:35) Mary then says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

The term overshadow does not refer to divine sexual activity as found in Greek myths of gods impregnating women. By using the Greek term for overshadow, Luke emphasizes the miraculous circumstances of Jesus’ conception and removes any thoughts of sexual intercourse. The emphasis here is that Jesus has human and divine origins.

In other words, the entire birth story is not a matter of biology. It is a matter of religious truths and beliefs. Mary represents the faithful of Israel who respond to God’s call for humble loving service.

Whatever your belief or acceptance or rejection of these birth narratives, all gospels want to make it clear that Jesus is God who comes to us in the flesh. His incarnation is a new creative act and revelation by God.

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A Refugee’s Thanksgiving – My Husband’s Story

Click to enlarge

All my life, God has been with me. Sometimes I did not realize what God was doing; but as I grow older, I know God, God’s people, and our hard work carried us through some pretty tough times.

We left my home country of Latvia in late 1944. The Soviet bombers were dropping their bombs on certain parts of the capital city of Riga. We could see the smoke spiral upwards from the fires the bombs started. We understood the Soviet Army was about ten miles away.

Our Nazi German rulers for the past few years were retreating and taking all Germans with them. My father had died 10 years earlier. He and my uncles were well known and politically suspect by the Soviets. If we stayed, we would be either killed or sent to Siberia.

My mother decided we should leave while we could. Because she spoke German fluently and because of the chaos of the German retreat, the Germans did not ask to see our papers. We were allowed to board the last troop ship leaving Latvia. We each carried a couple of suitcases and that was it. Everything we owned was left behind.

As soon as we disembarked from the ship in Germany, the soldiers assigned us to work details. My mother, younger sister, and younger brothers were sent to work on a farm. I had to work in a shipyard. Within a year, World War II ended and all non-German people were put into Displaced Persons’ Camps by the American and British forces. We were put in the American camp with hundreds of other Displaced Persons.

We couldn’t return home to Latvia because we would be persecuted by the Soviets. Our family was on their wanted list. We decided to seek refuge in the United States and out West where everything was still new and opportunities existed.

We put in our application for permission to settle in the United States. It took about four years before we could emigrate. We had to have a sponsor. The United States’ Resettlement Office paid for our sea voyage, and the Lutheran Church paid for our train fare to the West.

Our hopes ran high as we entered New York harbor and saw the Statue of Liberty standing so tall. When we turned to the tall buildings in New York City, it was almost as if the Statue of Liberty said, “See what opportunities I have given immigrants like yourselves.”

We had finally reached the Promised Land, our new country. My younger brothers and sister were excited, too. But my mother was sad and anxious. Her English wasn’t very good. This was an unknown part of the world for her. What lay ahead for her family and her? Where was God leading her?

We were put on a passenger train to the West Coast and the state of Washington. We bought sandwiches or bread and peanut butter and jelly at every train stop because we could not afford to buy the food on the train. Day after day, our train kept moving west.

When my mother saw the vastness of the United States, with field after field of crops and no one to be seen and the empty vastness of the dry land, prairies, and even deserts, she began to wonder whether she had made the right decision to go to the West Coast. You see, my mother was a city woman.

Finally, our train reached Olympia, Washington. Our sponsor met us. He took us to his farm in Lacy, Washington, where we worked for three months. All of us had to work from dawn to dusk picking vegetables, broccoli, squash, and pumpkins. And at night all we had to live in was a converted railroad boxcar. My mother worried about what would happen to us when winter came. She knew we could not survive on what little money we had earned and live in a boxcar.

Pastor Milton Nesse from the Lutheran Church in Aberdeen, Washington, went to the local Resettlement Office to find an immigrant family that his church could sponsor. He met with us. My mother poured out her heart and her worries to him as best she could in her broken English. He told her not to worry, that he and his congregation would help us.

Soon thereafter, those Christians came to get us and took us to Aberdeen. They found us a small house in which to live and helped us to find jobs. I worked in a furniture factory for a few months. Then the Korean War broke out, and I was drafted into the Army. I had just turned 20 years old.

I served in the United States Army and was discharged in 1953. My service time gave me the opportunity to learn English and needed money to go to college with my G.I. Bill of Rights. I studied hard, learned to be proficient in the English language, and went through the University of Washington’s engineering school. During the summer, I earned money working on highway construction. After I graduated from college, I went to Washington, D.C. and worked in the Patent Office of the United States during the day. At night, I went to law school. Ever since I graduated from law school, I have made my living as an intellectual property/patent attorney.

I tell you this story for a couple of reasons. One, you cannot own possessions. You can use them, but you cannot really own them. Circumstances may and will cause you to abandon them as my family and I had to do if we wanted to live. Your most precious possessions are a good attitude, belief in and obedience to God, trust, love, a good education, and practical knowledge. These essentials are all you need to survive. No one, no government, no person can take these from you.

Good health and loved ones are needed also. But sometimes wars or divorces or illness and death take these from you. Faith and belief in God in Jesus Christ can help you survive these valleys of trouble.

Immigrants come to this country every day. They may be in your town. They may need your help. Would you do for them what Pastor Nesse and the Lutheran Church did for me? For my family and me, the help we received from God’s people is what Thanksgiving is all about.

My husband died in January 2011.

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Lessons from the Tree of Life

It’s November. Wind blows leaves off their trees. Yet they lack the beautiful variation and colors of past years. Why? Could the severe drought of last year and the moderate drought of this year be the cause?

We could say out lives are like the leaves on the trees. If the trees are watered, fertilized, and free from invasive vines and insects, chances are their foliage is a beautiful gift to those who lift their eyes from their smart phones and observe the beauty in nature.

We, too, have a similar life cycle to a tree. How we nourish our spiritual lives that influence not only our life but the lives of other people will be displayed in the fruit we bear. We may or may not provide others with shade as well as protection from the dysfunction in society if we fail to nourish our own spiritual lives.

Will our life’s end be a dried up colorless leaf or a vibrant multi-colored one?

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The Parable of the Lightbulb

God speaks to us in many different ways. But are we listening and aware of God’s presence and message?

A beautiful, old tall night table lamp began to flicker occasionally when it was turned on. The householder paid no attention to it so long as it functioned and provided the necessary light. Then one night, the householder was reading in bed when sparks ignited a fire around the lightbulb’s socket. She reached to turn off the lamp’s switch but realized she would burn her hands. So she pulled the plug and the power behind the fire was extinguished.

The next day, she looked on the internet to purchase replacement lamps. In her search, she learned that lamps had maximum proscribed light-bulb wattage. Perhaps the light bulb she was using exceeded the limitations built into the lamp. Perhaps her home was almost lost for violating the lamp’s creator’s restrictions which were forgotten or ignored for years.

It took more than a week for the stench of the fire to dissipate.

Think about it:

  • Are we like a lamp with built-in limitations?
  • Are we aware of them and their importance to our lives?
  • Should we let these limitations govern our lives? What happens then?
  • In a dire circumstance has the plug ever been pulled on you? What happened then?
  • If you believe God is the creator of the universe, what are the consequences if we do or do not observe and/or restrict our behavior in accordance with God’s will as conveyed to us through Moses, the prophets, and Jesus?
  • What will happen to the old table lamp?