Pictures

As I continue to scan the vast collection of photos and documents (17,000+ pictures so far!), some themes have begun to arise. My extended family – across 4 generations – has had an apparent fascination with a number of photogenic topics. Enjoy browsing!

Costumes are not just about Halloween. Whether it be for playtime, dramatic events, or just dressing up for the fun of it, we’ve been a family that seems to love dressing up for things. Too many stories to tell for these, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

 

We are an educated bunch! Graduations have all come and gone, but there were a fair number of them.

 

My family didn’t really live much on farms or ranches, but there still seems to have been an attraction to horses, whether they be real or pretend.

 

Music has always been a big part of our lives.

 

Pets have come and gone as well.

 

We’ve had many discussions with Santa over the decades.

 

Uniforms – whether they represent musical organizations, sports teams, military associations, social or dramatic activities – have also been a big part of our lives.

 

There have been quite a variety of modes of transportation in our lives as well, and we seem to enjoy having our picture taken alongside or in/on these various vehicles.

 

Finally, weddings are always great reminders of the strong family commitments we share.

Just to finish up with a Watchmaker tie-in, just as it’s been interesting to browse pictures with theming in mind, it’s also very helpful to study the Bible with themes in mind as well. If you haven’t done so, take time to consider some of the major themes that course through the entire Bible – themes such as Grace…. Atonement…. God’s Love…. Coming Judgment…. Eternity…. These are the truly important things in life.

 

 

Monthly Musings: Reflections on Marriage and Divorce

I’ve been rather lax lately in providing updates. I’ve been traveling a lot for business and frankly, there just hasn’t been much to report. I have 50 days left until I retire and perhaps then I’ll be able to make more frequent reports on progress toward our Watchmaker’s Pulse RV adventures.

Countdown

For this post, though, I’d like to reflect a little on marriage and divorce. My wife and I were discussing this yesterday (not divorce !!! … just the topic in light of today’s casual cultural views on the subject).

I want to discuss several Biblical passages which deal with these topics. First, in Malachi 2:10-16, the Bible says

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts! And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

God rightly points out that the covenant relationship of marriage is intended to be a faithful, continuing one. He uses the word “faithless” 5 times in this passage, describing divorce as being a lack of faithfulness to your spouse. Notice also that he says that the marriage covenant (making them one) includes a portion of his Spirit. In other words, their is a spiritual bond taking place (think of it as a sort of “glue”) which, when divorce happens, is broken.

Notice also that the passage seamlessly flows between two topics, really. It talks about marriage and divorce in human relationships, and the unity between spouses and God which is an inherent part of the covenant, but it also talks about these same principles in terms of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. He links their idolatry to adultery and faithlessness as well. This is a common theme through scripture. Look at Leviticus 18:18-23, a passage speaking primarily about unrighteous sexual relationships.

And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive. You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her. You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.

There are more verses before and after these about sexual prohibitions. But did you notice the statement right in the middle… “You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech…”? Why is idol worship mentioned in the middle of a passage on illicit sex? Godly sex is that which occurs in a marriage relationship between a husband and wife. Ungodly sex, therefore, represents ungodly (e.g. unmarried) relationships and thereby represents non-covenantal, faithless relationships, just like idolatry. Sex and marriage go together as a representation of faithfulness to a covenant and must not be separated.

That brings me to a passage in which Jesus was tested by local religious leaders, described in Matthew 19:3-12.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry. But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Here, Jesus explicitly confirms that marriage is between male and female, and is intended as a life-long commitment. Divorce occurs because of our sinful hearts and unwillingness to keep our commitments. I know… there are a lot of divorces that have happened for justifiable reasons, but ultimately, they happen because one or both of the individuals involved have hearts that have been hardened by sin and have chosen to be disobedient to their commitments in some form or fashion.

This is a hard truth to swallow, and the disciples even acknowledged that as such. After Jesus made these statements, his disciples pulled him aside and basically said “that’s not reasonable! It’d be better never to marry, then.” Jesus doesn’t contradict that statement, but even says that if God has given you the ability to stay unmarried, then do so. This thinking is born out through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:1-11).

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Similar to the disciples’ objection to Jesus about this, the Corinthians had made a similar objection statement to Paul, and Paul clarified several things in this passage. First, he points out the importance of sexual activity in marriage and its usefulness for providing pleasure and companionship, as well as a deterrent to sexual temptation. However, notice that Paul’s statement includes the concept that a person no longer maintains exclusive control (authority) over their own body. This is critical to a covenant relationship. You are bound, by covenant, to exercise your will in deference to the other person. That’s why Paul goes on to say that if a person can remain unmarried, they will be able to focus entirely on their covenant relationship with God. It’s not saying that being married is wrong, but it acknowledges that things become more complex.

This complexity is explored a bit further in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (5:25-32).

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

There are two thoughts I want to point out from this passage. First, marriage is important because it’s intended to be a PICTURE of the covenant relationship between Jesus and Christians (the church). People are supposed to be able to look at our marital relations and say “Oh. That’s what it means for God to love me and give Himself for me.” God says to us “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5, Joshua 1:5) and our marriages should reflect that kind of commitment. My wife and I committed to each other long ago that we would never consider divorce an option for us. We are in it for the duration of our lives.

Another thing this passage reminds me of is the fact that God did not HAVE to enter into covenant relationship with us. Just as Jesus and Paul taught (as discussed above, regarding marriage) that if one can deal with it, it’s easier not to marry. Being married is wonderful, exciting, fulfilling, etc., but it is also hard work and can be frustrating at times. This is how our relationship with God is. He didn’t have to do it, but it is wonderful that he did. He and we can find it wonderful, exciting, fulfilling, but also frustrating. The fantastic thing about it, though, is that we are in it for life, and that gives us a blessed assurance through the ups and downs.

This brings me to my final scriptural passage, which is really not about marriage, but has definite application here. It comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:21-23).

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Who are these people that Jesus is referring to? One way to think of them is the people who claim some aspect of Christianity, but have never truly entered into a covenant relationship with Jesus. He has paid our “marriage price” by dying in our stead for our sins and then defeating death for us. However, we must accept that offered gift by saying “yes” to him and entering into a forever covenant with him. To all who receive Him, and believe in His name, He gives the right to be called children of God (John 1:12). There are people who “go through the motions” of Christianity, but never commit their lives to living in obedience to Jesus’ teaching and trusting him to follow through with his covenant promises to us.

Regarding marriage, this is what happens when a man and a woman choose to live together and/or have sex together outside the covenant commitment of marriage. Some would argue that marriage is just a piece of paper, but that piece of paper represents a public acknowledgement that the two of you have entered into a committed lifelong relationship that God has joined together will not be separated. Without that marriage covenantal commitment, there is always the possibility that one spouse could say to the other, “Depart from me. I never knew you”.

In conclusion, the main points I wanted to get across are these:

  1. Marriage MUST NOT be entered into lightly. It’s a commitment for life and should not be viewed as anything other than that.
  2. Marriage is a covenant between two parties who must always keep seeking how to fulfill their responsibilities and show love to the other. It also includes self-awareness of those commitments and continual introspection of how you are doing on fulfilling your relational responsibilities.
  3. Christian marriage partners must always keep in mind that they are God’s pictures and representatives of His desire for relationship with His created image-bearers (people). With this in mind, we should be constantly aware of how our marriage is perceived by others and how we can use our marriage as an evangelistic tool to bring others into a covenant relationship with God their creator.

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

I was reading in Psalms the other day (actually I read this one quite a few days ago, but I’ve been thinking about it and revisiting it several times since). As Christians we hear a lot about Jesus’ Great Commission to us to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). This is a very clear directive intended for all Christ-followers to obey. Indeed, it has been in God’s plan all along for His people to reveal Him to their world through both words and actions. In the Old Testament, Moses told the Israelite nation “See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8

This brings me to Psalm 107. It is a psalm which very clearly calls God’s people to testify to the world about Him. I’ve broken the text down into its individual stanzas with a few thoughts listed after each one.

Psalm 107 (ESV)

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

The psalm begins with a call for those God has redeemed (according to one dictionary this means to “gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment”) to verbalize this fact. Note that the all-inclusive compass directions indicate that this is a word to everyone across the planet who has been bought back by God and for God, through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the sacrificial payment for our sins who was provided for us by (and as) God himself.

The next four stanzas identify several examples of what kinds of words and actions might constitute the “saying so” of the redeemed. They each follow a similar formula:

  • Identification of the needful condition or situation in which the redeemed might find him/her self.
  • Recognition of that condition and then acknowledgment to God of their need for salvation.
  • God’s action in bringing them out of (or through) their situation.
  • Their response to God in praise and gratitude for His redemption. Notice the recurring phrase encouraging both general praise – “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!” – followed by more specific praise for what God has done in specific answer to the situation the redeemed was in.

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

This is a depiction of those who were lost and searching for meaning. There are many people who recognize that something eternal exists beyond them (e.g. a city to dwell in). They seek answers in a variety of places but recognize that they haven’t found anything satisfying. God is faithful to reveal Himself to those who seek Him. In Romans 1:20, the apostle Paul assures us that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Anyone who is seeking God will ultimately be able to find him. However, the seeking must lead to the obeying. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” This is not a general statement spoken to anyone, but specifically to those (the exiled Israelites) who seek God with desire and intent to follow and obey Him. Jesus made a similar statement in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7) when he said “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” This is not a general statement applicable to anyone anytime. It is in the context of Jesus talking about the importance of obedience and choosing the narrow obedient path, rather than the broad “easy” path that most people follow. This stanza of the psalm concludes with the indication that true satisfaction comes through obedience (following God down the straight way).

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

This stanza reflects the experience of one who once followed God, but rebelled against Him. They have suffered the consequences of their choices and have come to the end of their rope. They recognize how dependent they ultimately are upon God and seek Him to free them from the life of misery that they have incurred. This is very reminiscent of the story of the prodigal son told by Jesus in Luke 15. In it, the son rejects his Father’s house and demands to be given freedom (and his inheritance) to go off and do his own thing. When his life falls apart, he comes back in repentance and is welcomed home.

Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

This stanza seems similar to the previous one. Iniquity leads to suffering leads to despair leads to repentance. The big difference is found in the word “rebelled” (in the previous stanza) and the word “fools” in this stanza. One openly rebels against God and rejects His ways. The other simply does stupid stuff, still rejecting God’s way but perhaps claiming that “I’m fine. I’m a believer. God’ll take care of me.” Jesus told another parable which follows this line of reasoning in Matthew 21:28-31. He was speaking to religious leaders who thought they were fine with God and didn’t recognize their own sinfulness: “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” This is the danger with fools, as this Psalm points out. The fool has rebelled just as much as one who openly does so, but the fool doesn’t recognize (or acknowledge) their “hidden” rebellion, and therefore are often much more resistant to actual repentance, because they just don’t see the need to repent.

Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Some people just go about their daily lives without any thought of God at all. They see the world around them not as an outpouring of God’s creativity, but simply as something that just exists. However, when tragedy comes in whatever form, they are suddenly faced with the reality of their mortality and frailness and they don’t know where to turn. This opens a door for God to reveal himself to them in a mighty way. I find it interesting that this group seems to have more of a compulsion to tell others about God’s salvation (e.g. they extol him in the congregation…). It’s almost as if they discovered God and weren’t even looking for him, and hence the greater impulse to tell others what they’ve found.

He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants. He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield. By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish. When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

At this point the psalm takes a bit of a different direction. It talks generally about how God controls His creation and how this interacts with humanity. It reminds me a bit about Paul’s statement (Acts 14:15-17) to the residents of Lystra. Paul had just healed a man whose feet had been crippled from birth, and the people immediately assumed Paul and Barnabas were gods and started to worship them. Paul said, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Paul encouraged, as the psalmist does, that people need to consider the world and look for God’s work in it. However, as Paul found out, and as the psalmist notices, there are many, especially those who are prosperous and don’t see a need for God, who have contempt for God and refuse to humble themselves before him, but those who recognize and acknowledge their need for Him will certainly find him.

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

The concluding statement is an admonition for us all. Be wise and consider God’s work and love for us. When you do so, you will find Him and desire to serve him. Then, let the redeemed of the Lord SAY SO!

 

 

Update for Week (-) 21

I haven’t written an update in a while mainly because there’s not much to report. We’re 21 weeks out (from retirement) and 5 weeks out from our upcoming Alaska land and sea adventure.countdown1

countdown2

Most of our recent activity has been focused on small preparations.

  • We signed a contract with a general contractor to remodel our kitchen and 2 bathrooms. Work will commence in mid-September.
  • We purchased several items to help with Watchmaker updates, including a Nikon DSLR camera, a GoPro Hero, and a good quality tripod.
  • We’ve also purchased a set of books called The Mountain Directories, which will aid us in route planning. We’ll use the electronic apps and maps, but these paper maps, along with a regular road atlas, will be useful for good overview planning. books
  • The digital scanning project continues as well. So far I’ve scanned over 4000 individual pictures, as well as over 2 dozen photo albums and about 100 travel books. More left to do! We want to keep all of these, but we don’t want to take the space and weight in our motorhome with them.
  • I’m in the process of preparing Watchmaker’s Pulse signature items. For example, I’ve registered the WMKRPLS license plate with the state of Colorado (for our motorhome). wmkrpls I’ve also redesigned a logo…  WPlogo3 and ordered business cards… bcdistributable stickers (4 inch diameter versions of the logo) and a decal (2 foot diameter) for the back of our motorhome. MHback_logo This is all for the purpose of establishing (hopefully) name and brand recognition while we’re on the road.

I’m also working on a “canned” or signature Bible study I’m tentatively calling the Watchmaker’s Story which is intended to outline the whole story of scripture in a relatively short sequence (1 or 2 hour version for Bible studies in campgrounds and other venues, 20 minute version for a video, etc.) The intent is to lay out the main elements of the Bible for those who have little to no exposure to it, and to demonstrate how the gospel fits within the whole message and theme of the Bible. In other words, similar to what Jesus did on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection.

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:13-27)

We’re headed out this weekend for our second “shakedown” excursion. I’ll have more to report after that. Pray for us!

Well, as Tigger would say, “TTFN”

Monthly Musing – Looking Back

Wow! It was a really good day at church today. We heard the chaplain from an active duty naval ship speak on the text from Genesis in which Jacob wrestled with God and survived, receiving a name change (Israel) to reflect the fact that he had been humbled and was now ready to be used by God to continue the promise of blessing given to Abraham to bless all nations of the earth (Jesus) (Genesis 32).

We also heard a powerful testimony in Sunday School from a man who has been rescued from substance abuse and financial destruction simply through God’s outpouring of love and discipline in his life, similar to the story Jesus told of the prodigal son (Luke 15).

Both of these stories tied in well with a topic that has been on my mind the last few weeks. In both cases, the stories depict people who, through the decisions they’ve made over the course of their lives, have been at odds with God, seeking to steer the course of their own lives. The navy chaplain used a pen as an illustration of this. We often try to “write our own story”, only giving token acknowledgement to God and even refusing to let Him have control of a part, or parts, of our life. The chaplain challenged us to hand the pen to God and let Him write our story from here on out. This is a beautiful picture that all of us should take to heart.

However, another friend of mine has correctly pointed out that it’s one thing to give the pen to God… and another thing still to actually take our hand off of it and truly let God take control. This is a struggle that is real for any human being seeking to live the life that God intends us to. We need to be honest about what it means to “keep hold of the pen”. John Piper has a sermon titled Christ’s Power is Made Perfect in Weakness, based on 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 in which Paul talks about his supplication to God to remove the “thorn in the flesh” that troubles Paul, and God responds by saying “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Piper points out that the weakness Paul is experiencing is NOT sin, but rather various forms of persecution and trials. We must be careful not to claim that God’s power is magnified through our sin. The truth is that our sin must be acknowledged and repented of and THEN God’s power will be revealed through His grace in our lives and manifested in miraculous ways.

Jacob had to acknowledge the fact that he had continually resisted God and tried to steer the course of his own life through deception and thievery. Hence God’s question to him… “Tell me your name”. Jacob’s name literally means “deceiver” and he had to own up to that fact and repent of his choices.

Likewise, the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable had to come to point of acknowledgement that he had sinned against his father. The man in our Sunday School had to acknowledge his own deceptiveness and reliance on substance for satisfaction before he could experience the miraculous forgiveness and healing that only God can provide.

This is the crux of all our sin, no matter what it is. Ultimately, our choice to rebel is the same one that Adam and Eve made originally – to choose our own desires and take action on them in spite of God’s clear commands. We make ourselves the god of our own life by holding on to that pen and writing our own story. We must let go and say “yes” to God and let Him direct the paths of our life story.

Throughout scripture, God continually invites His people to look back at the things He has done and be stirred to repentance for forgetting Him and rebelling. He reminds them of His acts of deliverance. He also reminds them of their acts of rebellion. It is important for us to maintain a perspective that similarly looks back at our own life blessings and rebellions in order to properly look forward to following God’s direction and control.

These last few weeks, as I’ve had time, I’ve been scanning old documents and pictures as part of our downsizing efforts and it’s served to remind me of the blessings God has given me. This in turn has reminded me also of the many choices I’ve made, both good and bad, that have framed my life story and served to encourage me to continue to rely on Him going forward. Here are a few things I’ve revisited lately:

  • I am grateful for the wife God has blessed me with. Proverbs 5:18-19 says “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.”  God prepared her for me (and me for her) from the outset.Darlene babyOwenspics20325Mothers Day 2015
  • I am grateful for her family for the daughter and household they produced. Her family reminds me of Joshua’s family in the Old Testament. As Joshua neared the end of his life as Moses’ successor and leader of the Israelites, he challenged them with these words (Joshua 24:14-15) – Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Darlene’s family have been faithful servants of God.                                                                           Darlene baby0096.jpg2017-07-02_16-28-14
  • I am grateful for my parents and siblings (but I haven’t scanned many of those pictures yet). One of God’s commandments is to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). I remember my Dad telling me once, “Son, I am grateful that you have never been a rebellious son”. This was on the occasion of having done something that hurt him very deeply and had caused some tension between us, but we were mending things and re-affirming our love for each other. It meant a lot to me.

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  • I’m grateful for my children. Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

    are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” I look back at my children (and at them presently today) and I am immensely proud of the young men they have become. Owenspics20297.jpg

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All of this is to say that as we move forward with our plan to downsize and live/travel full-time in our motorhome, we are determined to let God lead us in the direction(s) we should go. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. That’s a commitment that you don’t just make once. It has to be a daily/continual choice.

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Week (-) 27 Update – Roughing it (not so) Smoothly

(YouTube video is at the end of this post. Please consider subscribing to my channel on YouTube.)

Tiffin Motorhomes has a byline they place on the emblem they use for their motorhomes. It reads “Tiffin Motorhomes – Roughing it Smoothly”.

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Well, our maiden voyage was a bit less than smooth! We took our motorhome up to Rocky Mountain National Park for a few days of camping at Moraine Park Campground. We’ve camped there before in a tent and in our older Class C, but it’s been a few years. It’s really a beautiful campground, but things didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped:

  • We drove without incident up highway 36 to Estes Park, but chose to avoid downtown Estes by taking highway 34 to the Fall River Entrance. Next time I’ll remember to use the lane that’s NOT constrained between two buildings. I didn’t hit anything, but it sure was a tight fit!Narrow Entrances
  • The Fall River Entrance road must not be used by large motorhomes as much because I hit an overhanging branch that apparently hadn’t been clipped before.Tree Branch
  • Our site (26A) at the campground was pretty, but while it is listed as appropriate for a rig our size, it was NOWHERE NEAR level. I had to fully extend the hydraulic stabilizers to raise the front wheels off the ground and it still wasn’t level… also leaving us with a HUGE step up/down at the doorway. highstep
  • We have a residential refrigerator (110V) and thus a power inverter to convert the four 6-V DC house batteries to 110V AC. I need to research this set up a bit more to understand it. Basically, things were fine the first 24-hours. We ran the generator for an hour after that to top off the batteries, but they went down overnight the second night so that we woke up without sufficient power for the furnace (it was 53 degrees in the coach that morning) or even to start the generator. We started the engine and then started the generator and ran it for about an hour and a half to recharge things.
  • The BIG problem occurred after noon on that second day. We had arrived with only a partial tank of fresh water and partially full waste tanks, because I wanted to also try out the filling/dumping process. We drove down to the campground dump station and did all that without any problem. The problem came when I needed to return to our campsite. To turn around, I needed to make a left turn to go around a campground loop to head the other direction. You can see in the picture below the dump station on the left. I needed to head out of there straight across to where I’m standing taking this picture, then swing left to go up the loop road. Note the orange cones. They aren’t just cones. The one on the right is actually sitting on a protruding PVC pipe (for underground wiring). My exhaust pipe caught that cone and got pulled off its bracket and onto the ground. The rear wheel caught on the exhaust pipe and I was stuck. I couldn’t lift the pipe and couldn’t go forward. A ranger and another camper helped me (along with a bit of rope) to keep the pipe elevated enough to make it out the exit and onto the side of the road.20170614_095222.jpg20170614_100900
  • I called Tiffin’s wonderful roadside assistance and they arranged for a tow truck (semi-size) to come up. Unfortunately, the tow driver got called to an emergency semi roll-over before he got to us and was unable to come that night. Se we packed everything we needed in the convertible and went home (an 90 minute drive away). We returned the next morning to meet the tow driver (Kevin from Reliable Towing in Longmont). He was absolutely wonderful. He looked at the pipe and told us he thought he could fix it and save us (and him) the stress of getting towed. He took the exhaust pipe off, straightened it, removed the bent bracket, and wired it solidly back into place for us. He then followed us down Highway 36 to Lyons at which point we parted company.

We decided that since we were so close to Loveland, and we had seen a nice RV park in Loveland on the way home the previous night, we would call to see if they had any openings. They did and enabled a wonderful two-night stay for us to finish out our first excursion and try out camping in a park with hookups. The folks at Loveland RV Resort were very helpful with “first-timers” and made us feel very much at home and successful with our first RV park stay in our new home. Some of the park sites are a bit close together, but there are lots of shady cottonwood trees, the park is very clean and well-kept, and the staff is unbelievably friendly.

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We also got to visit the Benson sculpture garden in Loveland. It is a fabulous “walk in the park” featuring over 150 sculptures.

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As this week comes to a close, I’ve thought a bit about all the events that transpired. In the moment, several of them seemed almost overwhelming, but in retrospect, we were always safe, we were surrounded by friendly helpful people, and we were able to accomplish our goal for the week, which was to learn what we don’t know about our motorhome. We met a very nice retired couple from Aurora (but originally from Illinois) who had some great stories and advice (in Moraine Park CG). We had a very nice lunch with my sister and brother-in-law, who came up to visit on our first full day. We met a very nice couple in Loveland who are from Albuquerque. The rangers, campground host, Tiffin customer service, tow driver, insurance agent, RV Park hosts – all served as reminders that God does not leave us alone but surrounds us with the help we need in the time that we need it.

When Jesus sent the twelve apostles out in Matthew 10, he said,

“Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13” href=”https://www.esv.org/Matthew+10/#f4-“>cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

This reminds me that I need to be willing to (1) receive help from those we encounter, (2) always treat them with gratefulness, honor and respect, and (3) make sure that every action and word of mine allows the peace and kingdom of God to be revealed. These people would not have crossed my path had not all the events of this week transpired exactly as they did! Thank you, God, for the opportunities you gave me, and forgive me, Lord, for the opportunities I missed! Help me to be aware, and make others aware, of your awesome glory!

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