She is stronger than she thought she was.

I’m talking about my mom, of course.

Yes, I lost my earthly father, but she lost her best friend, her companion of over forty years. Just like me, she assumed that Dad was going to be here for her to grow old with. I cannot imagine how this feels for her, to have the other part of her (because a husband and wife are one, correct) gone from her presence, and so abruptly.

I think of how hard she tried to take care of Dad–trying to make modifications around the house so he could function (such as sitting a folding chair in the bathtub so he could get a good shower); buying a wedge pillow that would elevate him when he slept (he never got a chance to use it); being fully committed to preparing food that would adhere to his diet (low sodium and low fluid intake). She said, “he wouldn’t have been a burden”. No, he wouldn’t have. We all would have gladly taken care of him. But God saw fit to just remove Dad from his pain.

I’ve watched Mom deal with all of the visitors with grace; I’ve watched her carefully and lovingly make Dad’s arrangements; I’ve watched her deal with the frustrations of “finalizing” (if you will) his estate. There are a lot of hoops she has to go through just to get what is already rightfully hers. I tell you, I assumed all a person had to do was have a will and that was it. So did she. None of us could have known how complicated the process is.

On top of that, things in the house have all of a sudden been falling apart. First the faucet in the kitchen sink. Then it was discovered that the bush (I forget what kind of bush it is, flowers bloomed on it every spring) that has been in front of their house for about a decade died and needed to be pulled up. One of the shelves in the closet in the back bedroom collapsed, as did a shelf in Dad’s closet. The carpet in the basement continued to show signs of damage from when their basement flooded on June 29th (the day we left for the Poconos, also when Dad went to the hospital for the first time he passed out). Something is wrong with the dishwasher.

In the midst of it all, Mom has been trying to pick up the pieces of her life. “Moving on” isn’t a good way to describe what we are doing… “continuing to exist” is more like it. At this point we are still emotionally stagnant. We both know that one day it might get easier, but that time won’t be soon, and things will never be the same again. Yet, she has gone back to Jazzercise, spent several hours visiting with a beloved high school classmate and childhood friend on Saturday, and plans on taking a train trip to Chicago with my sister and her family next month. She returned to church, although she had vowed not to go back until Dad could go with her–now she carries him in her heart. She even returned to her position as an usher. She made Dad’s famous salmon salad for men’s day on Sunday, and her special banana pudding. She does the same things she used to do for her grandkids now that they are back in school–she braids hair, irons clothes, fixes breakfasts in the morning as needed, and does drop-offs and pick-ups. She has done quite a bit on her own and is able to see that she has tons of people just ready to help her. Her older brother and my husband put in a brand-new faucet. A neighbor who owns a landscaping business pulled up the bush. She hired a company to come in and remove the old carpeting from downstairs and plans to replace it with vinyl flooring. She has been busy taking care of the house–the beloved house that she and had built for them to grow old in. I doubt she will ever leave, and I am glad she is staying. This house is important. It is the culmination of a lifetime of the hard work done by a poor country boy from Alabama.

She is truly a little soldier.

I think of her pain more than my own and some times it brings tears to my eyes. It bothers me to look at pictures of the two of them together, their prom, their wedding, their vacations–and think that now all she has left is those memories. I’d be dying inside if I were her.

Mom and Dad Vacationing Mom and Dad Pfizer Ball Dad and Mom at Niagara Falls Mom and Dad Lounging Mom's Graduation from Cleary

Mom and Dad 70s fabHe would want her to be happy. I am doing my best to help her figure out what her new happy is going to look like.

I’ve encouraged her to attend Bible study or Sunday school, because I know for me, whenever I am down, there is nothing like a good Word.

So that leads me back to Deuteronomy. We were in chapter four, beginning at the 44th verse. However, chapter four actually ends with an introduction, if that makes any sense–this begins the portion of the book where Moses recites the laws the people were given. Let’s move on to chapter five.

It begins with a rendering of when the people received the Ten Commandments. Since we have already discussed these Commandments, I won’t repeat them. However, I do like the warning given in the last couple of verses in this chapter, because they can so easily apply to our lives as believers today: “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess” (vv. 32-33).

That brings us to chapter six. In this chapter, Moses encourages the people to love God, and allow those Commandments to be imprinted in their hearts. We can also take heed of that today. Think about that in terms of how you worship. If we truly love the Lord, it reflects in our lifestyle. We don’t just attend Sunday services and act holier than thou there–we live our lives in a manner that reflects the God that we serve. Why? Because if we are truly walking with the Lord, His Word becomes imprinted in our hearts. When we read the Bible, we don’t just read to be able to say that we have read it, or to be able to point out other people’s faults–we read so that we can be closer to Him and further establish a relationship with Him. For those of us who really love Jesus, the Word becomes internal. Moses further encourages the people to make sure that their children know the Commandments. I’ve gone into several tangents about how people these days don’t take their children to church or properly teach them about God, so I guess I won’t do it again today. Moses warns the people not to get complacent int he Lord once they have reached their destination. You know how it is–you pray for something that is really important to you–say, a new job–and when you get it, you forget about the Lord. You don’t even bother to say thank-you. What happens? Over time you forget the job is a blessing from the Lord and look for every reason there is to complain about it. Now, if you are truly being mistreated at your job, what I just said does not apply to you. But for those people who think they are going to go to work and set their own rules within their first few days or months, if the shoe fits…

On a side note–I think work would be a lot easier for a lot more people if 1) employers/companies stopped treating their employees like expendable garbage and 2) people did their work and stopped acting like they were still in high school. I’m sure I’ve also done plenty of ranting on this blog about how terrible employers are in America–not wanting to pay a livable wage or providing as few benefits as they can, or piling on unrealistic demands, trying to stretch employees to work more than they ought to–so I’ll keep that rant brief as well. All I know is, from personal experience, that if companies treated their employees better, their bottom line would reflect it. Happy employees will stay with the company, reducing turnover, and bring the company in more business. And I’m sure everyone knows an office gossip or an office crier. I always tried to stay away from those types. Unfortunately, I’ve more often had to deal with bad management than problems with any of my other co-workers, and that has been a nightmare in and of itself.

Anyway…

Moses implores the people to fear God only and refrain from following any other gods. In verse 16, Moses warns the people not to tempt the Lord, as they did at Massah. Massah is Meribah, where the people cried out for water and questioned whether the Lord was among them or not. (The same time when Moses struck the rock).

The people are always to be mindful of from whence they have come. The Bible says In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors” (vv. 20-23).

Not only should they be mindful of where they have come from, they have to be mindful that their victories have been fully secured by God and God only. It was the LORD who brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand. As good a job as he has done, the credit does not go to Moses. Sure, he gets credit for dealing with the Israelites, who were definitely something else, but ultimately Moses had nothing to do with the plagues, the implementation of the Passover, the giving of the Law, the manna, the parting of the Red Sea, nada.

The Israelites are to teach their children about everything God has done and to obey all of his decrees so that they will always prosper and be kept alive. I like the last verse (25) of the chapter, which says “And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness”. But of COURSE the Word of God keeps us righteous, because God is the very definition of righteousness! God is the author of perfect moral conduct. If we are following Jesus, we become righteous.

In chapter seven the people are reminded that they must drive the pagan nations out of Canaan. The instructions are, in my opinion, super-simple. They are not ambiguous–God told the people exactly what they were supposed to do: “…you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire” (vv. 2-5).

For the Israelites to fail to do this was flat-out willful disobedience. It was laid out for them, plain and simple, what they were to do, and not to do. Why do people do the same today? We have plenty of carnal Christians who know exactly what the Word says. Or maybe they don’t… I’ve heard of preachers who haven’t themselves read the complete Record from cover to cover, taken any kind of classes to further their knowledge, etc. That makes me question their motives and their commitment. It seems as though a preacher who has truly been called by the Lord would take their calling extremely seriously, by reading their Instruction Manual (the Bible) and getting the appropriate credentials and education. How can one claim to preach the Word if they haven’t read and fully digested ALL of it? Or, we have Christians, not just preachers, that pick and choose the Scriptures they like and ignore the ones that convict them. I cannot, for example, understand something like this right here…

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Don’t rub your eyes, because what you are seeing is real. This is an openly gay pastor and his “first gentleman”. So apparently they have decided to ignore any passages in the Scriptures that prohibit homosexuality. And for those who claim there are no Scriptures in the New Testament that discuss homosexuality, look no further than Romans 1:26-28 or 1st Corinthians 6:9-10. For some reason, people think they only need to pay attention to what is said in the Gospels. “Jesus never said homosexuality was wrong”, they argue. But ummm—the entire Bible is the God-inspired Word, so what makes people think they only have to abide by what is written in red??

Moving on…

The Israelites are reminded that they are to be a holy people; God’s treasured possession (for my saved brethren, this is us–we are to be a holy people, the light of this dying world, God’s treasured possessions) and that the love God has bestowed upon them is not due to anything they have done. It wasn’t because they were large in number–at the beginning of it all, they were the fewest. God built them up because of his love AND because he had a promise to keep. As I told the kids in Sunday school, when God makes a covenant with man, it is up to man to keep his end of the bargain. It goes without saying that God is going to hold up his end. God will keep his promises throughout thousands of generations to those who love him, but those who hate him will surely face destruction. If the people are only careful to follow the laws they will be blessed in every way–they will be numerous, their crops will be plentiful, they will be disease-free. But they HAVE to destroy all the people in Canaan. If not, those people will be a snare to them.

I couldn’t help but think about the use of the word “snare”. I remember seeing snare traps quite a bit as a child watching Looney Tunes (LOL) and also on hunting shows. Snare traps are sneaky–they are not something out in plain sight. They have to be kind of hidden, or people wouldn’t fall for them. The same can happen in terms of sin. Something may appear in our life that doesn’t seem to be too harmful, yet when we get involved in it we see that there is no easy way out. I think of extramarital affairs or drug use, for example. A little flirting here or there leads to an exchange of phone numbers or emails, which leads to illicit contact and eventually a sexual relationship. Or how harmless does it seem to just try one hit of a drug? You’ve seen other people do it casually and they end up fine. However, you take one or two hits and end up hooked. People were most likely to walk into a snare trap when they weren’t being careful or watching where they were going. The same is the case for us today. If we are not careful to heed the words of the Lord, and if we don’t follow the direction given us by the Holy Spirit, we can easily end up ensnared in sin. God is the only way to live a free life, free of any bounds or chains.

The people are told not to worry about the enemy nations that may seem bigger or more powerful.They must remember what God did with Pharaoh. After all, as I’ve reiterated numerous times, they’ve seen with their own eyes God’s magnificent power. God will drive those nations out before them, little by little.

I often wondered why God didn’t just send a big flood or a big fire to clear the people out? He says that if he rid the land of the people too quickly, the wild animals would multiply. But we all know God has the power to keep that from happening too.  God could have snuffed out every last inhabitant of Canaan with a word if he wanted to and kept the Israelites from having to physically fight and remove them. But he decided not to. There had to be a reason behind this. I think it was to test the nation’s obedience and faith. Would they go forward and fight boldly, knowing God had their front, back and sides? Would they ignore the temptation of the beautiful pagan women or the potential bribes from the men and completely remove all the people from the land? It remained to be seen, and I think God is testing them. Will they completely rid the land of all of the silver and gold gods, or will they destroy them as required? They aren’t even to use the gold and silver from gods in their homes–it is detestable. God is not playing, but unfortunately, we find out later that the Israelites are not taking him as seriously as they ought.

In chapter eight, God comes at the Israelites with a directive that he shouldn’t even have to say: He tells the people not to forget him. After all they have seen, after all that has been done for them, it is preposterous to think that they would ever forget about it, right? I mean, who would forget seeing a sea part into two walls? (Hint–the Israelites). In this little (and I mean little because what God has done for Israel is waaaaay more than what is included here) God reminds the people that it was HIM who led the people in the wilderness for forty years as he humbled them and tested their hearts; provided manna for them, a food they had never seen before; enabled them to wander in comfort–their clothes never worn out and their feet never swelled. EVEN THOUGH God had to punish his people, that did not mean he removed his love from them. Can you imagine if God stopped loving us each time we sinned? He’d probably have his back to us for the vast majority of our lives, don’t you think? (Remember–thoughts can be sinful too. That’s what screws me up. I’m a lot better at keeping my mouth shut, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking expletives in my head sometimes. SMH at myself).

I like in verse 5 where God draws a parallel between himself and an earthly father, because I often make comparisons and say that our relationship with God is similar to a relationship between a parent and a child, in that when a child acts up, a parent disciplines them–out of love–and when the child does wrong, the parent does not leave him: “Know then in your heart that just as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you”.

Discipline is never intended (or it shouldn’t be intended) to tear a kid down. It is intended to correct. When your child does something wrong, you discipline him to correct the behavior. Our model of discipline comes right from God. He “spanks” those whom he loves, always hoping to restore us to correct behavior and to build us up. If you have gotten to the point where God has stopped trying to correct you, perhaps you have quenched the Holy Spirit one time too many and need to do some serious repenting.

Here is where God tells the people exactly what kind of land they are getting, one that will make their forty years of wandering worthwhile, so long as they do what they are supposed to: The water is plentiful, and there is wheat, barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; there will be plenty of bread and the people will lack for nothing. It sounds as close to Eden as people can get on earth.

The people have to be careful not to eat and get satisfied and forget what the Lord has done for them. If so, that opens them up to the possibility of becoming prideful. We’ve all seen it happen. The Lord blesses someone, but they begin to think that whatever they’ve gotten, they got on their own, and they get a big head. Having a big head makes it easier to look down on other people. Unfortunately when that happens, the Lord will bring them crashing down.

Chapter eight ends with a warning: “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God” (vv. 19-20).

As I read these chapters of Deuteronomy, a few observations popped into my mind. I have many accomplishments for which I am very proud–my work in the church, my family, my degrees, being a student of the Bible, etc. But although I am proud I am not prideful or boastful. I give credit to God for all things in my life. And out of respect for God and what he has done for me, I like to help other people to bring out their best. I enjoy lifting people up and helping build them up. Unfortunately, success perverts some people. It is always a matter of spiritual maturity and ongoing spiritual maintenance, if I may. Being a Christian requires spiritual maintenance, spiritual upkeep. The world is going down and we see worldly practices being brought even into the church. Why? Because people think going to Sunday services and hearing the reverend preach from a small section of the Bible is enough. We don’t even pick up the Bible throughout the week. We’ve never read it or gone to Sunday school or Bible class. Reading the Word, praying about it for enlightenment, is spiritual maintenance. We have to connect with God through prayer and the Word EVERY DAY. That is the only way to stay truly humble.

We as Christians also have to be careful not to be complacent. How have worldly practices managed to creep into our churches? Because we have grown complacent. A lot of us are ambivalent that our churches are not growing. We won’t go out into the community and witness. We don’t even talk to our families about Jesus. We’re far too busy throughout the week at our jobs and going about our various to-dos to work toward the advancement of God’s kingdom. It doesn’t make any difference to us whether or not other people are getting the Gospel message–we know that WE are saved, and don’t care whether anyone else is or not. But if we really love the Lord we will have a sense of urgency about our work. We ought to be quick to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ if something is out of order at our church. I cannot tell you how many videos I have seen of pastors or churches doing things that in no way, shape or form bring glory to God or have anything to do with spreading the Gospel message.

Praise and worship is to lift up the Lord, not ourselves. It is easy to let the ways of the world interfere in our relationship with God. The world will puff us up and have us thinking that we’re really doing something when we come up with those entertaining charades such as what is above. Key word there is “entertaining”. Christians are not in the business of entertaining people. Our lives have to be about more than that. People need us to do what we are supposed to do–lift up the Lord, so that men can be drawn to Him. There is no room for self-aggrandizement in this Christian life. Look at the people cheering in the first video. Were they cheering for God, or for the pastor on the Hoverboard??

(videos are from kevonstage–he has a youtube channel bearing that title, and he has some good videos–he is a young married father who was raised in church, and does not use explicit language or have vulgar subject matter in his videos. Give him a look 🙂

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