Divine Connections

2 Cor 2-14

I don’t normally write articles during the wee hours of the morning. In fact, I don’t normally write articles. But since I can’t seem to sleep, this seems a good use of my time. It is 3 a.m. and I am still reviewing in my mind some events from last evening and pondering with awe at how God uses divine connections and timing to meet the needs of people. Let me explain.

I suppose I should begin by explaining the events that are still fresh in my memory. Picture this: It is Sunday evening. I have just finished teaching at my home church, something I have done for the past three years. The service went well, the people have dispersed, and I am planning to take my husband out for ice cream – sort of a “date night”. Then the pastor asked to talk with me, and we talk – for 30 minutes – while my husband waits patiently in the car. My schedule has been delayed. This is not how I pictured my evening going. When I get to the car, I find my husband comfortably reclined and listening to the radio. Time to leave; he turns the key and, you guessed it, dead battery. Good thing the pastor has not yet left. He helps us get the car started. Another delay to my schedule. Finally, we are off. My plan is to visit a new ice cream place in a neighboring town – about a ten minute drive. Nothing noteworthy about the drive, just normal conversation between a couple married for 28 years. As we enter the neighboring town, I glance down a side street and notice that someone appears to have a bonfire inside their garage. Wait! A bonfire INSIDE their garage?! This is not right. In an urgent voice I ask my husband to turn around. Once parked outside this garage, I exit the car, race up the steps to the house and start pounding on the door. The owner comes to the door, sees the flames, and rolls into action. In less than five minutes, he has moved his car out of the garage, my husband has moved a trailer out of the driveway, a garden hose has been used to douse the flames, another passerby has dialed 911, and the fire is almost out before the first responders arrive. It happened so fast.

Reflecting on the events, I considered the following things: Lots of other cars drove down the same road as we did and no one stopped. If we had not been delayed by the pastor and the dead battery, we would have passed that area before there were ever any flames to notice. If we had taken much longer to stop, the small propane tank surrounded by those flames would have exploded spreading the fire to neighboring houses. If we had gone to the closet ice cream place, we never would have been on that road. My point is this: I believe God put us in the right place at the right time to make a difference. We are not heroes, my husband and I. We are ordinary people like you. I just happen to believe we serve a God who delights in using ordinary people to positively impact the lives of others.

Needless to say, the owner of that garage was very thankful that we had stopped. We were able to give the glory to God, and then we parted ways. We will likely never see that man or his wife again; yet, during those few minutes on a Sunday evening God orchestrated a divine connection for the man’s benefit. I doubt the man will forget that God showed up on his behalf.

God is in the business of intervening on man’s behalf. He always has been. Take a minute to consider the number of times a “coincidence” with no reasonable explanation has occurred in your life. God is alive and well and looking out for people just as he has been since the beginning of time. 

~Patricia

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The Call

The Call a poem

The Call

by Patrica Austin

“I’ve been waiting,” he said. “What took you so long?”
I slowly stepped forward and stared at the ground.
“I sent for you child, I’ve been calling for years.”
I picked up my head, my face stained with tears.
“Did you not get my message? Didn’t it reach you at all?
What took you so long to answer my call?”

“I’m sorry,” said I to the Most Holy King
“I was ashamed to come forward. I have no gift to bring.
My hands, they are empty. I have no gift for thee.
No riches, no treasure for your Majesty.
My hands can’t make music. My voice cannot sing.
I’m a disgrace to you Sir. I have nothing to bring.”

“So this is what kept you from answering my call?
I required no riches, no treasure at all.
But only your presence, humble and willing;
Empty hands, empty heart for these I’ll be filling.
My grace is sufficient; my love is complete
And I, Christ the King, lay these gifts at your feet.”

I had come empty handed. I hand nothing to bring.
I stood trembling and terrified at the throne of my King.
And He offered me gifts and treasure so rare;
Not gold, jewels or silver, but hope in despair.
And forgiveness from sin, and a world that’s complete
If I would simply come forward and lay my life at His feet.

The Proverbs 31 Woman with a Western Twist

Proverbs 31-28-29

Once upon a time I had the privilege of living on a working cattle ranch in Montana. I loved the life and learned so much from it and the people who made up that small ranching community. It also provided much in the way of inspiration and application of God’s word. The following is a translation for the Proverbs 31 woman that we all know so well, but with a little more practical flare. And as Mother’s Day is just behind us, I wanted to take a moment to honor all women who choose daily and (importantly to note) over a life time to serve God by serving their families in all the various ways we can. 

(Oh and if you are interested, you can read the origianl version straight out of the NIV HERE.)

The Virtuous Wife
Proverbs 31:10-31

10  A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than a thousand acres of grass land.

11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

13 She selects Tags & vaccines
and works with eager hands.

14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar. (At least 50 miles)

15 She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for the ranch hands

16 She considers a section and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants an alfalfa field

17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.

18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.

19 In her hand she hold the branding iron, and
the calf bander, and the tagging gun.
.
20 She opens her arms to her neighbors
and extends her hands to the needy.

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in Carhartts

22 She makes quilts for her bed;
she is clothed in Denim and wool or Polar fleece

23 Her husband is respected at the  water board meeting
where he takes his seat among the Ranchers of the land.

24 She makes wild rags and mecate’s and sells them)

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27 She watches over the affairs of the ranch
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:

29 “Many women are ‘good hands’
but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

31 Give her the reward she has earned,
let her works bring her praise in the branding corral.

~Rita

The Encounter

Cowboys, in silhouette, against a dawn sky in Montana
DO NOT JUDGE LEST YE BE JUDGED.
Those words ring loud don’t they. And they are true words. Found in Matthew 7. 
And it is the cry of the culture: Don’t Judge me! 
It is our own cry: Don’t judge me!
We are a culture on defense. We don’t like being put on the spot. We don’t like to be examined. 
I don’t like it any more than you do. Seriously, it’s no fun to have someone (even a well meaning someone) pick at my faults or worse, point out my sin.
And so we cry, DON’T JUDGE!
And we command, DON’T JUDGE!

And we preach grace and we claim grace. But it really begs the question: In a culture changing so rapidly, in a world so desperately trying to hang on and so quick to let go of what has always been known as good or bad. How are we to respond? How do we love like Jesus loved? How do we follow the perfect God-manJesus? How do we stand for right and not compromise? Yet, (and this brings us back to the question) how do we really love like Jesus?

And, grace. What about grace? Does it mean we only love? But what about righteousness? If God is righteous, if He is Holy, if the salvation plan is to make any sense at all, we have to admit we sin, don’t we? We have to judge and confront, don’t we?
It feels like a trap. Like the world wants to catch us in some great hypocrisy. Even within our own hearts we fear it. 
What to do, what to do?

John 8:1-11 says:

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

You know, I am so grateful that Jesus came to earth. That we have his very words. Can I get an, Amen?!

Jesus walked this dusty, dirt, grime and sin laden earth long before us. He truly experienced the culture war and dance that takes place every day. In this passage we see how he navigated the trap. How he walked the fine line.
First we see that He was just minding his own business. Just doing his thing. He was doing his job. Teaching. He wasn’t asking for a fight. He didn’t place himself in position as judge. He was just sitting there talking to people, helping them learn. 
It was those other guys. The Pharisees and those “Teachers of the Law.” 
Well, these dudes had taken upon themselves to make sure that everyone knew what was kosher and what wasn’t. They had elevated themselves to a place where everyone could hear them. And they were loud enough you really didn’t dare argue. And here was this Jesus, just a carpenters son (as far as they knew) who was getting a little more attention than them. He was preaching more powerfully and yet more quietly than them. And they had had about enough of it.
So, it was time to do something. It was time to expose this Jesus for the fraud that (they supposed) he was.
And so they brought him a woman. Who up to this point had been living her own life. Just trying to find her place, to be fulfilled, to be happy. Whatever the cost. She may or may not have known or thought she was in the wrong. But, in any case I think she was just trying to fill that empty spot we all have and be happy.
Well, apparently she was found out. And apparently, it was still not cool to have an affair back then. Even if it made her happy.
So, here she is, facing the death penalty for her attempt at fulfillment. And Jesus is supposed to be the judge.
What did he do? He agrees she can be stoned, BUT, only the persons who had never done anything wrong can throw the first rock. And then, He starts writing in the dirt!
Can you imagine the silence. I doubt a single person was breathing. And that girl? She probably just shut her eyes waiting for that first pelt. Because, after all, everyone had made it pretty clear she was in the wrong. Perhaps even she resigned herself to her fate knowing she was in the wrong too. 
So, Jesus was writing in the dirt. Waiting.
Now, what he was writing we don’t know. But some scholars have supposed he was writing The Ten Commandments, others the sins of those in the crowed. Whatever it was, He seemed to make his point. One by one
, each one of them left.
Essentially what Jesus reminded them is that unless we ourselves are sinless, we have no business joining the noisy, angry mob and convicting someone else of their sin.
Why? Because it would do nothing to save the soul of the one.
It’s not about the mob, it’s about the one! It’s about you and me and every precious human being. It’s about winning the heart of one. 
That girl was just trying to be fulfilled. She was searching and coming up empty. Coming up condemned. And everyone agreed she was in the wrong. Everyone was loud and willing to shame her and I’ll bet she was just a bit on the defense about the whole thing. Sure she was still scared for her life, but that group of people airing her faults in the temple court, they sure weren’t drawing her to repentance. They just basically were saying, you are a screw up. you don’t even deserve to live!
And Jesus reminded them that not one of them was perfect either, and that’s where the Do Not Judge is needed.
But! When everyone was gone and it was just him and her. He didn’t walk away from her. He didn’t leave her in her sin. He challenged her to change her life. Not only did he save her life, he offered her the opportunity of a New Life.
He still does that. That woman had an encounter with Jesus, the savior of the world. And he didn’t judge her and shame her in front of the crowed. No, first he saved her, and then he offered her a new life. A free life, a fulfilled life.
What a sweet gift. 
~Rita