Reading God’s Word

This year, I am using a Bible that belonged to my father for personal devotions. His Bible was one thing I requested for after his death, and my brothers graciously agreed. I enjoy reflecting on his notes and markings as I go through.

Love for God’s Word is one of the most significant ways our father inspired those who knew him.

Father studied his Bible regularly and often. He also memorized a lot of scriptures, that is, entire books and chapters. When my mother was hospitalized prior to her death, Father and I would”read” scriptures to her: me by actually reading, but Father by drawing from the repertoire of verses he had committed to memory. I remember the shock of Kenyan pastors, who he came to teach in the late 90’s, when he would recite entire chapters!

cathedral card

Here in Nairobi, we are preparing for our 4th annual Bible Read-a-Thon to be held from June 26 to July 8. We will read the Bible from cover to cover together. I am very excited about it!

The Bible reading marathon is also a way of raising funds for DOVE Africa missions, and we have a very faith-filled target this year of $3,000. We have identified five projects, in different outreach locations, that need financial support (more to come about those).

We invite you to send a donation of any amount to sponsor this event and support the work of missions in DOVE Africa. That can be done with the donate button on the right or by sending a designated gift to DOVE International.

I am so grateful for the love for God’s Word that my father instilled in us. This year as we read the Bible, it is in honor of that godly heritage.

~ Diane

 

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The Master Builder

Tip – TAP – BAM – pause – tip – TAP – BAM – pause. You could almost use the cadence as a metronome. It was the sound of my father driving nails into a piece of wood; usually a two-by-four used for framing a house. Or, scrape – slish – SWOSH – pause – scrape – slish – SWOSH – pause. This time he would be laying brick.

My father worked as a builder most of his life; he even put up several of the homes that we lived in. Mennonite pastors were rarely salaried in those days, so carpentry was his “tent-making” trade. He could eye-up measurements, angles, quantities and fittings with amazing accuracy. He always did whatever he did well.

The call for builders, good ones, punctuates God’s Word.

Ezekiel 22:30, a classic verse used to highlight the ministry of intercession, indicates that God “looked for a man who could build up the wall and stand in the gap.” God is looking for people who can build—others, the church, the Kingdom. We are exhorted to “excel in gifts that build up the church,”1 even as we encourage one another with words that are “helpful for building others up.”2

Those who build will be those who are made in the image of God, and co-workers with Christ. Because Jesus promised that He would build His church.3 And we look forward to dwelling in that wonderful city “whose architect and builder is God.”4

I remember my earthly father as one who put a lot of zeal and precision into what he built. Our Father in heaven is the Master Builder, “the Builder of everything.”5

Who am I building up today? Are the things I am building set on a solid foundation?

~  Diane

1I Corinthians 14:12; 2I Thessalonians 5:11; Ephesians 4:29; 3Matthew16:18; 4Hebrews 11:10; 5Hebrews 3:3-4

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Time for Bed

My father had very rigid ideas about bedtime and waking up time. Staying up late, for him, was almost as serious of a wrong as other behavior we would typically label as sin: smoking, drinking, or other vices. Sleeping in was also in the ‘evil’ category. I can still hear him shouting from his bedroom or through the hallways, “Get to bed!” or “Is anybody getting up today?”

The only exception for me was during my college years when I was working night shift at our family restaurant, baking bread and cinnamon rolls that would be served fresh the next morning. For that, I was allowed to stay up late and sleep during the day. The only exception.

I’m not suggesting a major moral or spiritual lesson in this story. Except maybe that God certainly knows how to use each and every life experience to prepare us for those yet to come. It is really good I was trained in bed-time discipline early in life, because the man I married holds the same convictions—at least about going to bed. (He doesn’t mind sleeping in, but bedtime has to be strictly observed). Personal disclosure: when he is away for some reason or another and I’m ‘home alone,’ I almost always stay up late—like a little child testing the boundaries of her parents’ rules <:).

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Uh-oh; it’s bed time. Gotta go….

~ Diane

 

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I Told Me So?

I didn’t intend for this “Lessons from my father” series to be about my mother! (But since the two lived together for 65+ years, I guess the overlap is inevitable.) Father often explained to us that his wife had the unique ability to believe things that were not true. That is, she had the capacity to create her own reality, and then fully believe it. Interesting.

Apparently this ability was not unique to her. Greg Elshof writes in his book I Told Me So: “Self-deception is a major part of what defeats spiritual formation. . . (we) refuse to acknowledge factors in life of which we are dimly conscious, or even know to be the case, but are unprepared to deal with.”

The same book cites studies showing that 94% of the college professors interviewed believed that they are better than average at their jobs. Among one million high school students, 70% think they are above average in leadership ability, 60% saying they are in the top 10% and one out of four saying they see themselves in the top 1%. How is that for positive self-image?!

I find this surprising, because my interactions have been more with people who under-rate themselves than those who over-rate themselves. Either can be dangerous. But based on the statistics, it seems that the self-confidence-boosting gospel has been highly effective.

The interesting thing is that what I believe about myself, my situations and others around me does not need to be true in order to be “true to me” and therefore significantly impact my attitudes, habits and actions. That becomes really tricky. A leader who believes that he manages people well might not be willing to take a course in Team Building, even if he really needs it. And in an opposite example, a teenager who believes that his parents do not love him experiences that as reality, even though it might not be true at all.

My parents helped me realize that it is easy to be deceived by my own view of the truth. What to do? Hopefully a healthy dose of honest input from honest friends, and a willingness to hear exhortation along with affirmation will help keep us on track.

~ Diane

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Illusions

My father was not a stingy person. Not by any means. My parents gave generously to many people and many causes, especially the church and Christian education. They were always ready to help someone in genuine need.

But even so, Father did not like spending. One particular scenario played out over and over again in our home. Mother goes out shopping. She finds things that are on sale, and decides that she needs lots and lots and lots of them. After all, they are on sale!

When she comes home, she (of course) has to brag about how much she saved. “You did not save money,” Father would shout. “Why do you think that when you buy all these things we don’t need you have saved money? You didn’t save money, you spent it!” I can still hear him ranting.

It’s no wonder that she really believed she had saved. When leaving a grocery store last week, the final words of the teller were, “Today you saved two dollars and thirty cents.” Really? My ‘savings’ were even printed at the bottom of the receipt. But the real bottom line, the line just above “You saved. . . ,” showed the TRUE picture. I had spent over twenty dollars.

My father’s conundrum about spending and saving reminds me that things are not always what they appear to be. We can be so easily deluded.

This is Holy Week. We are between Palm Sunday and Good Friday; between the day Jesus was escorted into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna, Hosanna” and the day he was condemned to die by the same crowd shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him.” That same Jerusalem crowd. The crowd was apparently full of people who were “following the crowd.” We often live with an illusion that we would have responded differently. I am not so sure.

Then what about Peter? Judas? The other ten disciples? None of them planned to betray Jesus. But they were caught off guard. Judas was the first to repent of what he had done, but could not comprehend that forgiveness could be granted, so he buckled under the weight of his guilt. Second only to Judas, Peter tends to get most of the ‘bad press’ among the disciples. He had been warned that he would deny Jesus, and despite his objections, he did that very thing. Notice also Matthew’s report: “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Mt 26:56).

What about me? Would I also be among those who deny Jesus? Probably, except for His grace.

Have a blessed Easter!

~ Diane

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Keep the Knives Sharp

My father was passionate about the importance of several things: studying the Bible, hard work, integrity in church leadership—and, sharp knives! Though generally even-tempered, if he was given a task that involved cutting and found that the knife was not sharp enough for his liking, he would exclaim, almost with anger, “You have to use a sharp knife!”

Father often worked in the kitchen, even as a child. Whenever a task involved cutting, it seemed that ninety percent of the time he was not satisfied with the sharpness of the blade. He would insist on sharpening the knife before starting the job. . . but not without a generous dose of complaining and reprimand.  I heard from him many times, in exasperation, “Diane, haven’t you learned that you have to keep your knives sharp?”

An important lesson for all of us.

It also makes me wonder why most of us do not approach life like that. Why do we tend to keep working without sharpening the knives?

  • One possible reason is that the dulling of a knife is a gradual process that takes place due to use and/or neglect. It is very easy to be unaware of how dull the knives are getting.
  • When a cutting edge is lost, causing our tasks to be laborious, our efforts less than effective, our impact compromised, we might choose to ignore the obvious(or what is obvious to others) and just keep struggling along.
  • Or maybe laziness. Sharpening a knife requires that we retrieve the knife sharpener from who-knows-where it was last kept (or go and buy one), then postpone the start of the job in order to engage in the sharpening process. Extra work. “Asch, I’ll do it next time,” we reason, and don’t bother to put in the effort or cost that it would take to restore the cutting edge.

Almost to the point of embarrassment, I often ask for a sharpener when using someone else’s knife. So hopefully my father taught me something! But in our kitchen, you will probably notice that knives are in the medium-to-mega dull range. Ouch.

Which knife do I need to sharpen today?

~ Diane

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Eat your Lettuce

Through most of my growing-up years, my parents owned a restaurant. We ate most of our meals there, with a nice salad bar available just about any time of the day.

My father usually made sure that he had a salad along with his lunch or dinner. As long as he ate lettuce, even if it was thoroughly doused with Thousand Island dressing and the rest of the meal was fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, a few vegetables and chocolate pudding for dessert . . . that didn’t matter. He believed that as long as he faithfully included a salad, he would stay healthy and even lose weight.

“No, Father,” we would tell him, “it does not work like that. Just eating lettuce doesn’t make you lose weight if you eat all these other things along with it!” He was never convinced.

This Lesson From My Father is sort of a reverse truth, that is, a way of thinking that is not at all accurate. It makes me think of how some of us handle our spiritual diet. If we have a dose of Bible reading in the morning, or a few minutes of prayer, we think that we can take in whatever is streaming through the computer feed or TV screen the rest of the day. We can listen to junk, look at junk, read junk and even think junk. Because we have done our spiritual duties, the rest doesn’t really matter. We assume that surely God will protect us and keep us healthy in spirit as long as we include something good in the mixed-up heap of what we take in.

Again, “No, it does not work like that.” One insertion of the Word or one chorus of praise does not suffice. We are called, rather, to dwell in God’s presence and cut off anything that contaminates.

Sure, it is still good to eat your lettuce. A lot of it, actually! But what else are we eating along with it?

~ Diane

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